RealGames today announced the Federation of Studios (FoS), a solution designed to give small and mid-sized mobile game developers the ability to port their games across more than 1,700 different mobile handsets, eight different operating systems, and 130 carriers at no up-front cost.
Developers get access to Real’s proprietary EMERGE development platform, which the company received as part of its acquisition of Finnish mobile game studio Mr. Goodliving in 2005.
EMERGE enables porting to multiple device platforms including iPhone, Windows Mobile, BlackBerry, Android, Nintendo DSi, Flash J2ME, and BREW. In addition to porting capabilities, the service also provides game developers with training, marketing, quality assurance, localization, sales and distribution services.
All games developed in the EMERGE platform will be optimized for touch screen and tilt-enabled handsets, such as Apple’s iPhone/iPod Touch, while existing games can be automatically ported to newly profiled handsets to enable easy backfilling for every new handset on the market.
According to Charles Harper, Head of Biz Dev for Social, Mobile, PC Group, RealNetworks, the Federation of Studios is designed to address the challenges facing small and medium-sized mobile developers who risk getting squeezed out by larger players and losing their direct relationships with carriers. Not even app stores, like the one powered by Apple, guarantee a return on investment for developers.
“iTunes, for instance, is so hit-driven that you can have a great title, but if you don’t have the relationship with Apple or some kind of hook, great titles are being left by the wayside,” Harper explained. “Developers are not making back the money on their investments. It’s becoming increasingly difficult in a very crowded market for these smaller players to be able to make a living, quite frankly.
“There’s huge handset OS proliferation, which is also making it basically impossible for a lot of these people to even do the porting necessary to get onto a deck anywhere.”
Developers who sign up for the partnership work with Real to develop games in EMERGE. The finished game is then put through a semi-automated EMERGE system that spits out 1,700 handset profiles, which Real, acting as publisher, takes out to the carriers to distribute globally by leveraging its relationships with carriers across North American and Europe.
“Working with us will not only give developers access to traditional mobile, but through things like Facebook Connect it’s also going to give them access to the social gaming marketplace and the social marketplace in general, which is growing so quickly,” Harper added.
Revenues are split with the developer, and Harper stressed that Real was not looking to recoup. “We’re providing services at no upfront costs whatsoever, in fact at no cost whatsoever, to the developers,” Harper said. “Any work that we put into this, which is considerable, will come out of our share. So, when teh checks start showing up, they start getting checks from us immediately.”
Real wouldn’t comment on specific royalty rates, but Harper said that rates could be different depending on whether partners have existing direct relationships of their own.
The agreement is non-exclusive, meaning partners are free to create titles outside of EMERGE as well. “We’re not locking these guys up; we’re just giving them an incremental revenue stream by being able to reach out and get distribution across traditional mobile, which is something they wouldn’t be able to do without us,” Harper said.
Even so, Harper says that many partners are talking about giving Real their iPhone games anyway.
“We’ve got a marketing team here focused every day on optimizing placement and revenue results from every iPhone game we’ve got out there. A lot of the time these developers don’t have the kind of time or relationship necessary to be tuning these games on a day to day basis, and by sharing revenue with us, they actually in letting us market those games, they’ll actually see more revenue. A lot of these guys just want to create a game, drop it into iTunes and forget all about it. The problem is when you do that they don’t generally return very well. It’s about marketing that game, tuning the pricing to keep it in the top 10 or top 100.”
The first developer partner to sign on for the FoS mobile publishing program is Sonic Boom, a New York-based company whose portfolio includes the mobile version of Last Day of Work’s Virtual Villagers, Animal Planet Pix, Name That Tune!, ToneMaker, and Kill All Bugs.
“At Sonic Boom, we’ve watched the mobile games market become increasingly complex, with App stores, handsets, and OS proliferation growing rapidly,” said Lou Fasulo, SVP of Publishing at Sonic Boom.”By joining RealGames’ Federation of Studios and tapping into the EMERGE platform, we’ll be able to simplify the process of delivering our games to more mobile consumers around the world, while increasing our bottom line in the long run.”
Today, Real’s mobile games portfolio consists of more than 90 titles published under the RealArcade brand, including hits like SCRABBLE Mobile, Sally’s Spa, Tiki Towers, Collapse! and Cake Mania. Since debuting on iPhone late last year, RealArcade has published five top 20 iPhone games including two number one titles.