Established in January 2008, socialDeck was founded with the vision of enabling “anywhere, anyone, anytime” gaming – enabling players to consume their games wherever, whenever, and with whomever they seem fit. Founders Anish Acharya and Jeson Patel left their respective positions at Amazon.com and Microsoft to fulfill their ambition of starting a technology company.
Their initial idea was to build disease management software for diabetics. However, they soon realized that the regulatory challenges associated with the health care space were prohibitive for a small startup like theirs and decided to go down a new avenue. The founders’ experience with Scrabulous, a model well suited for smart phones, laid the foundation for socialDeck. Acharya and Patel saw that the majority of mobile games were still single-player games. socialDeck is focused on delivering a truly mobile social gaming experience and developing games that are inherently social.
When the company was founded, the mobile gaming space was largely stagnant and the social gaming space was nascent. The mobile application space has seen explosive growth since then, with games being the most successful application vertical. Although the web social gaming space continues to see strong growth, with companies such as Zynga reportedly driving over $100 million in revenue, the mobile social gaming space is still largely underserved.
socialDeck feels that there is a significant opportunity in bringing social games to the mobile phone — web social gaming companies have largely not made the transition, and mobile gaming companies are still focusing on single-player, disconnected experiences. The company believes that entrenched web social gaming players such as Playfish, Zynga, and Social Gaming Network (SGN) will soon enter the mobile social gaming space. While all the others have launched mobile titles, SGN in particular seems to be leading the charge with a shifting focus from web to mobile social gaming.
SocialDeck feels that these companies have both the technology expertise to build successful mobile games and the domain expertise specific to social gaming (i.e. how to optimize distribution and monetization). They also have large existing user bases to draw from, which can seed their mobile efforts.
However, socialDeck is competitively positioned as it is the first company to release a Facebook–iPhone connected game, SocialLine Connect, and most recently, the first to connect a game, Shake & Spell, across the BlackBerry, the iPhone, and Facebook. The games lets players on different platforms compete against each other in real time. So, for example a Shake & Spell player can use their BlackBerry to compete against a friend who is playing the game on their iPhone or Facebook on their desktop computer. The company’s infrastructure has a focus on cross-platform gaming as this is necessary to support multiple smart phone platforms to address the issue of mobile fragmentation.
socialDeck’s business model includes generating revenue from three sources: ads within free games; premium game sales and micro transactions within games. Premium games are priced from $0.99, while the company has yet to announce the price for micro transactions within games.
The company views its total available market (TAM) as the total installed base of smart phones and estimates that in 2009, approximately 180 million smart phones will be sold. For Shake & Spell, socialDeck’s flagship game, there are 550,000 iPhone users, 75,000 BlackBerry users, and 20,000 Facebook users. While 20% of users are driven through viral channels, each registered Twitter user generates 140 click-throughs per month, and there are 220 minutes of engagement per connected user. From a gender and age perspective, Shake & Spell is extremely popular with women, who make up 68% of its user base, particularly among the “soccer mom” group (mid 30s and older).
socialDeck was bootstrapped for the first year of operations and seed financed by BlackBerry Fund Partners in mid 2009. The company plans to finance its next round in the second quarter of 2010. socialDeck believes in the strong growth potential in the mobile social gaming market and plans to capitalize on that growth while continuing to examine exit opportunities.
This segment is a part in the series : Deal Radar 2009