CrowdStar No Longer Developing Social Games for Facebook

CrowdStar’s CEO Peter Relan said in an interview that the longtime social games maker is no longer developing for Facebook.

Instead, the company is focused on building games for smartphones.

“We are maintaining the old games, like Happy Aquarium, but we don’t build new Facebook PC games any more — we are 100 percent focused on mobile,” Relan said.

Last year, he said, 90 percent of the company’s revenues came from Facebook, but he predicts that this year 90 percent will come from mobile.

CrowdStar’s decision to leave Facebook is bad timing for the social network it as nears its public offering.

A platform must have both a lot of applications and a lot of users in order to be successful, but if the perception is that the platform can be profitable only for a few, developers will go elsewhere. Today, the reality is that Zynga dominates the charts and makes far and away more money than anyone else. Meanwhile, fledgling developers are seeking financial alternatives.

Founded in 2008, the Burlingame, Calif., company was one of the first to feed off of Facebook’s social graph, which allowed companies to endlessly post messages on players’ walls to get the word out about their games. Since those viral channels were shut down, Crowdstar has had a difficult time keeping up with social game leaders, such as Zynga, Electronic Arts, Wooga and King.

A year ago, the company raised its first round of funding totaling $23 million, but since then, its games have slipped in the rankings as its focus has shifted to mobile. Today, it attracts fewer than 8 million monthly users, down from 29 million a year ago, according to AppData.

Since then, said Relan, they have discovered an attractive audience on mobile, consisting of females age 13 to 30 who are not interested in sitting in front of a PC or a console to play games. “They are very mobile and communications-oriented,” he said.

For example, Crowdstar’s Girl franchise, including Top Girl, Social Girl and Modern Girl, has collectively hit 20 million downloads across both iPhone and Android. Modern Girl alone surpassed two million downloads within three weeks of its launch.

The Girl franchise includes role-playing games where users dress up avatars and are judged on their outfits as they walk the runway.

Relan said Zynga has done a good job serving the females, aged 35 and over, who grew up on PCs and enjoy playing games online. But the slightly younger demographic is looking for a different kind of game play on a different platform. Relan said they still will leverage the Facebook platform on mobile.

The decision to pull away from Facebook on the PC is new since the company announced a three-prong strategy in October that included Facebook games, mobile games and an emphasis on Asia.

Relan said that even if the company weren’t targeting a niche that gravitated toward mobile, he’d still be wary of developing games for Facebook. That’s because he believes the audience for Facebook games has plateaued or started to decrease.

“If I was going after an older audience, I might focus on tablets,” he said.

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