Social Gaming Going up on Hype

With the booming of social networking sites worldwide and the maturity of technology that enables browser-based games to offer players with marvelous experience on a par with client-based online games, social gaming area is crowded with small and young startups which are lured to the nascent waterfront for its profitability and potential.

According to a report by market research firm iSuppli, the global market for social networking games amounted to US$ 1.4 billion in 2010, up a whopping 116.4% from US$ 636 million in 2009, and the market is still aggressively growing. iSuppli estimates that the market will expand at a compound annual growth rate of 15 percent from 2010 to 2015.

No wonder big names including EA and Disney all tapped into this lucrative market by acquiring social game vendors Playfish and Playdom separately. With the social trends going up on hype, the leading social gaming brand Zynga which had a profit of US$ 400 million on revenue of 850 million last year was valued as much as over 10 billion, making it the second largest game vendor in terms of valuation that towering over EA and only second to Activision Blizzard, both are long-established gaming brand with a history of nearly 30(EA, founded in 1982) and 20 years (Blizzard, 1991). While Zynga which was founded in 2007 was only 4 years old. Some aggressive observers even remarked that Zynga is the role model for future gaming.

Game Developers’ Pitfalls

Inspired by Zynga’s sensational success and aroused by the fruitful market, uncountable social game initiatives sprang up in China.

For Zynga, its secret recipe of success definitely includes 1 tsp of innovative game design, some slices of smart marketing and 2 cups of fast duplication of its peers’ idea. But many tend to ignore another important but invisible factor that also affects the company’s success. Without appropriately addressing it, even innovative design or smart marketing may not paying you off.

The thing is, how to distribute your portfolios into all the other social networking platform around the world without too much hassles, by hassles, it means you need to cater for every different sns site, for different payment solutions they adopted and for different operating environments, be it browser-based, PC client, iOS or Android system. Besides, you need to keep an eye on the server loads 7X24 in case anything unexpected happens. This is usually too much for a startup to take.

Bothered by the same itches, Chinese social game developer ELEX curated its own solution and eventually turned it into an offering that aiming at helping other social game developers to avoid all these inconveniences. Hence comes the birth of XingCloud, which means smoothly floating cloud in Chinese, a Beijing-based innovational startup with an aspiration of bridging the gap between social game vendors and social networking sites worldwide.

XingCloud to the Rescue

Incubated by Innovation Works, a Beijing-based startups incubator founded by former Google head Kaifu Lee, XingCloud has raised US$ 3 million from IW, and is currently in funding talks. The Zhongguancun-based company now has a headcount of over 60 while nearly 50 of them works in the tech division. XingCloud to date offers developers with three flagship products, including cross-platform game distribution initiative, cloud servers and operating management platform.

According to the tech leader at XingCloud, leveraging its cross-platform game distribution, developers can easily have their game portfolios instantly distributed into over 100 social networking sites around the world, including Facebook in the U.S., Renren and QQ in China.

On top of worldwide circulation, another problem constantly bothers developers is, sever operating and management. As to social game startups, they’re usually ill-equipped both in terms of headcounts and servers. That’s where XingCloud to the rescue. Harnessing its cloud server, startup can take it easy on server-related issues, since XingCloud’s cloud server offering can automatically and intelligently scale up or scale down server capacity according to server loads. With cloud server at hand, game vendor can make a new game server whenever they see fit in less than 60 seconds versus more than one week if the developers taking care of everything on their own. Also, XingCloud cloud server can recover from an unsolicited disaster – such as server down – without human intervention.

Besides international circulation and intelligent cloud-based server offerings, XingCloud can also do good to developers with detailed statistics and analytics which can be served as a reference or an indicator for further improvements and redesign. For example, you’ll get to know at which game level do players quit mostly, or even have access to data refer to a single user’s in-game behaviors. Those can be leveraged for future crank up.

As Renren’s open platform attracting more users, and Tencent recently announcing its all around open strategy including QQZone, one of the largest social networking initiative in China, more and more social game developers have been crowding into the promising market. In such a highly competitive market, it seems that doing the right thing while let someone else do your chores as well as harnessing the power of cloud would be a smart choice for standing out and surviving.

Listener of startups, writer on tech. Maker of things, dreamer by choice.

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