In Search of Next Killer App, SweetLabs Partners with Kabam on Games
SweetLabs co-founder Chester Ng tells me a new class of intense social network games are threatening to disrupt some of the established players in the desktop gaming business, such as Activision Blizzard’s World of Warcraft and Electronic Arts’ Star Wars franchise.
Today, as EA releases its much-anticipated Star Wars: The Old Republic, San Diego-based SweetLabs and Kabam of Redwood City, CA, are launching new Pokki desktop apps for four popular Kabam games: Dragons of Atlantis; Edgeworld; The Godfather: Five Families; and Thirst of Night.
As we reported in June, SweetLabs launched Pokki as a new platform (for Windows PCs) that gives desktop users easy-to-access apps with an “always on” experience more familiar to smartphone users. After creating a number of utility apps, Sweetlabs is now expanding its Pokki product line by introducing game apps for Pokki that enable users to quickly get into Kabam’s massively multiplayer, synchronous strategy games.
SweetLabs, which got $13 million in venture funding three months ago from Intel Capital, Google Ventures, and Bessemer Venture Partners, also announced a “Pokki 1Up” contest. The company is offering a total of $50,000 in cash prizes for developers who create new Pokki game apps.
SweetLabs ran a similar contest, the “Pokki Challenge,” just a few months ago as an incentive to encourage programmers to build out the Pokki app catalog. Before launching Pokki six months ago, SweetLabs developed a variety of apps for its own platform, including apps that enable users to easily access Facebook, Rdio, Gmail, Twitter, and other websites.
At the end of November, SweetLabs said developers submitted more than 60 apps and its Pokki judging panel selected Mixtape, an app by Mohamed Tedjani Meftah, for the $30,000 grand prize. Chess by Jeet Singh received the $13,000 second prize, and Instagrille, a photo app by Denis Denisyuk based on the popular Instagram service, took third place with a $7,000 prize. The contest enabled SweetLabs to make all the winning apps, along with a number of additional apps created for the Pokki Challenge, available for downloading at www.pokki.com/contest.
Creating game apps that are available without the inconvenience of launching a Web browser is an extension of what SweetLabs set out to do with Pokki, according to Ng, who says SweetLabs’ move into online games will be a killer app.
“These games are highly addictive,” Ng says. “It’s pretty crazy how much time people are playing on social networks like Facebook. We just wanted to make it really easy for users to access their favorite games right from their desktops.”
For Kabam, “This partnership with Pokki expands Kabam game distribution to reach more gamers and provides unique value to our players,” Kabam COO Chris Carvalho says in a statement released today. “It has the potential to usher in a powerful new chapter in core social game distribution.”
The games Kabam customized for the Pokki platform are free, Ng says. Some players, though, acquire virtual goods that can help them score extra points. “It’s free to play,” Ng says, “but as you start to play, you might want to speed up the game.”
SweetLabs’ Ng declined to describe how the partners will share revenue from the new Pokki game apps. “We’re experimenting on revenue-sharing models with all of our partners,” Ng says, “but I really can’t go into any details.”