Eric Johnson

Recent Posts by Eric Johnson

With First U.S. Game Launch, Playtox Bets the Farm on HTML5’s Potential

If mobile platforms were “Brady Bunch” kids, HTML5 would be Marcia: Just as she’s best-remembered for getting hit in the face with a football, HTML5 is best known for its high-profile flops, like getting publicly excommunicated from the core of Facebook’s mobile plans. But a handful of gaming companies still clap their hands and believe in HTML5, and one of them, Playtox, is about to find out just how true-to-life its faith is.

This week, Playtox will announce that it is officially bringing the mobile browser version of its HTML5 title My Farm to the U.S. The free-to-play game, which is already live as an app in the Google Play store, will test the waters as Playtox prepares to bring more of its titles first launched in Eastern Europe stateside.

MyFarm_Item-11Despite its troubled past of inconsistent adoption by browser makers and complaints of bugs and crashes, HTML5 does have one big advantage — in theory — over native apps. The ability to run a game in any browser means a much broader potential audience, including the 41 percent of Americans who don’t yet own smartphones.

In Eastern Europe, the much lower penetration of smartphones has served Playtox well. The company, recently funded to the tune of a $3 million Series A round from Runa Capital, has attracted 45 million players for its free-to-play games over the past four years, though CMO Bogdan Grishin cited only one million of those as monthly active users. Some 70 percent of its players, Grishin said, use feature phones, primarily those made by Nokia.

Whether the same advantages afforded by HTML5 can translate across the Atlantic remains to be seen. Since few consumers have need for both a smartphone and a feature phone, the questions are whether the smartphone owners need another way to play mobile games, and whether feature-phone owners are hungry enough for games to monetize as well as mobile gamers do. Just like many native apps, My Farm is supported by in-app purchases.

Grishin said Playtox currently makes $4.50 per month per paying user in Eastern Europe, and retains them within My Farm for three months to six months. However, the company expects to do better in the U.S., where the most devoted/addicted free-to-play gamers sometimes drop hundreds of dollars on their favorite titles. If My Farm succeeds, the next step for Playtox will be to port over its more hard-core titles (also mobile browser-based), which retain players for much longer.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik