The recent trend for consolidation in mobile social games continued with Research In Motion's (RIM) acquisition of German mobile social games community Scoreloop.
Founded in Munich in 2008, Scoreloop has raised more than $2.8m funding and started out with a plan to offer multiplayer challenge games with a focus on iPhone. Since then, it shifted its focus to offer a cross platform community that enabled developers to offer social features in their games such as high scores, messaging and virtual currency. Android quickly became Scoreloop's primary OS following Apple's launch of its Game Center in 2010. Scoreloop claimed it was adding 1m users per week in January 2011 and currently works across Windows Phone, iOS, Android and Samsung's Bada operating systems.
Scoreloop will join RIM's BlackBerry Developer team and will be tasked with bringing its games expertise to its BlackBerry Social Platform, built out of its popular BBM (BlackBerry Messenger) instant messaging service. Scoreloop's founder and CEO becomes RIM's Senior Director, Gaming Platform. Scoreloop has indicated that it will continue to work on cross-platform services.
Scoreloop was an obvious potential acquisition target for any company seeking to establish a footprint in mobile social games. In recent months, three leading companies that offer competing services have all been acquired. DeNA (operator of leading mobile social games network Mobage Town) acquired US-based iOS publisher Ngmoco and its Plus+ network in a deal worth over $400m. Shortly after, Electronic Arts acquired UK-based iOS games publisher Chillingo and its Crystal network for $29m. DeNA's leading Japanese competitor GREE acquired US-based OpenFeint (which counts more than 75m users) in a $100m-plus deal.
Despite its current lack of focus on BlackBerry devices, RIM's acquisition of Scoreloop makes sense as it needs to boost its gaming expertise in the face of strong competition from iOS and Android devices.
Games have historically struggled to make much of an impact BlackBerry devices. Hampered by the technical limitations of its OS, tepid success of touchscreen BlackBerry handsets and its legacy corporate audience, IHS Screen Digest research indicates that games accounted for only 16 per cent of downloads from BlackBerry App World in 2010 (and 18% of revenues). Meanwhile, Games have been the strongest driver of growth for Apple's App Store, making up the majority of 2010 downloads and revenues.
RIM's successful BBM service, which has proved popular with the teen target market, forms the basis of the social platform that Scoreloop will work with. However its competitors have already moved to offer competing services. Apple announced its BBM-like iMessage service at the unveiling of its latest iOS 5 operating system and already offers its own Game Center platform.
RIM's acquisition of Scoreloop and focus on games is a step in the right direction. It gives RIM access to Scoreloop's large network of developers (many of whom may not have considered working with BlackBerry devices in the past). However, it will need to move quickly to offer the highest quality content and remain competitive with its iOS and Android competitors.
IHS Screen Digest will provide further analysis of the mobile social games business in its forthcoming Mobile Social Network & Games report.
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