Kabam Raises $85 Million to Build the Zynga of Hardcore Gaming

Published on May 26, 2011
by Tricia Duryee

Redwood City, Calif.-based Kabam has quietly been building a sizable social game company only miles away from industry leader Zynga.

However, unlike Zynga, which is known for such titles as CityVille and FrontierVille, Kabam is building social games for the hardcore gamer looking for a little more grit and challenge.

Today, it’s driving a stake into the ground by announcing it has raised $85 million in a fourth round of venture capital. What’s more, the round closely follows a $30 million third round of funding raised in January.

To date, Kabam has raised $125 million, which still doesn’t compare to the roughly $1 billion raised by Zynga, which is now also rumored to be filing for a public offering any day.

“We are targeting a different segment,” said Kevin Chou, Kabam’s CEO. “It’s the hardcore gamers, who are spending their time on social networks, and discovering the games that Kabam makes. It’s very different from the social games that are out there today. We are seeing incredible growth and excitement in our business.”

The company has grown from 25 to 400 employees in the past 16 months and expects to release at least four more game titles this year. The funding will be used for international growth and to make more acquisitions following the purchase of a company called WonderHill in October.

The funding was co-led by Google Ventures and Pinnacle Ventures. Also participating was Performance Equity and SK Telekom Ventures, as well as previous investors Canaan Partners, Redpoint Ventures and Intel Capital.

While Kabam’s games fit the typical profile of social games on Facebook because they are free to play and are supported by virtual goods, the plots and competitive nature are more reminiscent of games on the Xbox 360–and less like Zynga.

“You aren’t buying a decorative stadium or stable,” Chou said. “You are buying things that are giving you a competitive edge against the other players in the games.”

The round of funding is large compared to other social game companies in this space that have recently announced rounds. Also this week, CrowdStar, which is arguably the largest independent social game company after Zynga, raised $23 million, and Finland-based Supercell, which also says it is making hardcore social games, raised $12 million.

Some of Kabam’s more popular titles that are available today include Dragons of Atlantis and Kingdoms of Camelot.

Chou said ultimately they might be going after a smaller audience than Zynga, which attracts 250 million players a month and a mass market, but the players are more dedicated.

He said 83 percent of their gamers are also playing console or PC games and that 55 percent are now spending less time on other platforms because of their games. In addition, social is a critical component. Up to 70 percent of their players say that the most important feature of their games is being able to form alliances with players, who are either friends on Facebook or those they can connect to anonymously.

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