Facebook’s Julien Codorniou On How To Make Your Game An App Store Star

Julien Codorniou, a scheduled speaker at Le Web London 2013, is head of EMEA partnerships at Facebook, overseeing partner relations for gaming companies building on the Facebook Platform and managing platform marketing activities in EMEA. He recently spoke with Informilo Editor-in-Chief Jennifer L. Schenker about how Europe’s gaming companies have ended up playing starring roles not just on Facebook’s Web platform but on mobiles and tablets.

Codorniou formerly headed up Facebook partnerships with media, commerce and mobile partners in France and Benelux.Prior to joining Facebook, he was director of business development at Microsoft, where he led the global launch of the Microsoft BizSpark Program and then managed the team responsible for creating and managing strategic partnerships in France. He started his career in the venture capital industry.Codorniou, who currently serves on the boards of Le Monde and Avanquest Software, is the author of the book, "The Kelkoo.comSuccess Story," published by Pearson in 2005. He recently gave Informilo Editor-in-Chief Jennifer L. Schenker a preview of what he plans to discuss at Le Web London.

Q: These days a lot of the focus in the gaming sector is on how to become a star on the iOS and Android app stores. What does it take to get to the top?

A: Some 80% of the top ten grossing apps on iOS and Android — such as King.com’s Candy Crush Saga and Supercell’s Clash of Clans and Hay Day — are connected with Facebook. There is clearly a pattern happening now with social and gaming. If you want to be big on mobile you have to be big on Facebook first. Look at Candy Crush Saga, which has 66 million daily users. It became big on Facebook and when it launched on mobile within three days it was a top-grossing app, both on iOS and Android.

Q: What other companies have top ten grossing worldwide games on Facebook, iOS and Android?

A: From Europe, in addition to King’s Candy Crush Saga there is Nordeus’s Top Eleven, Playtika’s Slotomania, Social Point’s Dragon City.

Q: What role is Facebook’s mobile app install ads playing in all of this?

A: Everybody wants to be big on mobile and our mobile app install provides high-quality installations to help gaming companies to reach the right and qualified audience. Facebook represents 23% of the time spent on mobile; it’s a very natural place to discover great apps and we just happen to have a new ad for that, used by companies like Deezer, Expedia, King.com and Spotify. In the last quarter 3,800 developers used these ads to drive over 25 million installs. Forty percent of the top 100 iOS and Android app developers bought these ads in the last week of Q1 alone.

Q: Hasn’t it also proved to be a big revenue earner for Facebook?

A: In less than a year, mobile has gone from being zero percent of our revenues to almost 30% in the last quarter so this is a very important play for us and for our ecosystem.

Q: Dozens of European start-ups such as Rovio, Wooga, and King.com are thriving by putting their IP on Facebook. They seem to be better at monetizing on Facebook than the once mighty Zynga and other U.S. digital start-ups. Why is that?

A: It is due to the talent of local developers and the fact that unlike Zynga, European and Israeli gaming companies like King, Wooga, Nordeus, Playtika, Social Point and Plarium embraced Facebook and mobile at the same time. This is key in the gaming industry. People want to be able to play games all the time: when they are home on their PC and when they are on the bus using their iPads or Android devices. Being cross-platform drives engagement, re-engagement and ultimately, monetization. To succeed you need the ability to propagate the experience everywhere and Facebook offers the cross-platform platform that can make that happen.

Q: What, in your opinion, is Supercell’s secret sauce and are you seeing some other interesting tablet-first gaming companies?

A: Mid-core and hardcore tablet gaming is the hottest space in gaming right now. Supercell helped lead the way. The latest figures we are hearing is that Supercell — which has just 80 employees — is making $2.4 million dollars a day on iOS and they launched on that platform less than a year ago. We have never seen that in the history of entrepreneurship in Europe. Now that all the frictions in the global distribution of software have been removed a couple of guys in Finland with a very good piece of IP can become a global success overnight. They know how to build and monetize good games. The same is true of Social Point in Barcelona, which was started by two very young guys. They started a totally new genre — social hard-core games — raised VC funding, and became big on Facebook and then a big success on IOS overnight with their hit Dragon City.

Q: The French company Pretty Simple seems to have come out of nowhere to become one of the top ten players on the Facebook platform. What’s the key to their success?

A: Great IP, again, and hard work. Pretty Simple, which offers games focused on finding hidden objects, is one of the — if not the — fastest-growing French start-ups, ever. It grew from zero to 25 million monthly active users (and 7 million DAUs) in less than six months. Its mobile app is coming soon, of course, because you have to be on Facebook and mobile at the same time and they perfectly understood that.

Q: Beyond ZeptoLab what sorts of exciting gaming companies are you seeing coming out of Russia?

A: Social Quantum in Moscow, the gaming company behind Megapolis. It was on VKontakte, the Russian version of Facebook. It was only big in Russia but we met those guys and told them if you want to be really big and go global you have to be on Facebook and on mobile. They are now one of the top-grossing games on Facebook and iOS. Most of the traffic they get is from Facebook, on the web and on mobile, with our mobile app install ads. All of the other Russian companies saw that and are now moving over to Facebook. Gaming InSight is coming, Crazy Panda is coming. I expect there will be 20 to 30 new and high-quality games created by Russian start-ups on Facebook in the next three months.

Q: What about Israel?

A: Half of our top ten partners in Europe are coming from Tel Aviv. Slotomania developer Playtika, which is partially owned by Harrah’s (a casino brand in the Caesars Entertainment Corporation), is big on Facebook and big on mobile. So are Plarium, Diwip, Pacific Interactive and 888. It seems easy to monetize games and to build highly-profitable companies but cross-platform development and building massively multiplayer games involves solving very complicated problems so the sector attracts a lot of talent there, just like in Russia.

Q: Do you think any of the European gaming companies will exit soon?

A: Europe has a lot of strong cross-platform gaming companies so I would not be surprised to see some IPOs or significant exits in the coming months. Interestingly, VCs do not really like gaming as a sector because they see it as a hit-driven business, but thankfully when you make that much money, so easily, you don't need significant VC funding. I just met a company in London that is building one game on iOS, well integrated with Facebook, already making $20,000 a day, mostly from South Korean users. How great a business is that?

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