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London Calling

Future Games of London talks stats, the value of a promotional network and publisher strangleholds

UK mobile developer Future Games of London hit it big on iTunes last year with its survival action title Hungry Shark, which fast went on to spawn two sequels. FGOL also did well out of Snooker Club and Pool Bar: Online Hustle, and all-told its userbase is now big enough that it's launched The Future Games Network, an in-app promotional system designed to tempt players into trying other games on the network - whether from FGOL or from various indie devs who've joined the platform in the hope that it'll lead to greater awareness without having to run the traditional iTunes gauntlet.

Here, GamesIndustry.biz chats to FGOL's MD Ian Harper about the thinking behind the Network, hot-from-the-presses figures on how it's performing and why something like this is necessary due to the marketing strangleholds big publishers increasingly have on the App Store charts.

GamesIndustry.bizHow's the network going? You put out your first game very recently...
Ian Harper

Yeah, Say What?, the music app. It's doing really well - we're 14 in the free games chart in the UK already. Haven't checked the US yet, but it seems to have been a great launch actually.

GamesIndustry.bizWhat led to it placing that high in the iTunes chart? Is that the effect of the network at play, or did you get highlighted by Apple?
Ian Harper

Yeah, we've been talking to iTunes about it quite a lot, because it's music-based and they're quite interested in that sort of thing. So we've been keeping them in the loop on everything we're doing, and we sort of held back the launch date a bit so they could have a look at it a bit more. I don't know if they actually have featured it though. Mainly the promotion comes from our Hungry Shark series of games. They're all free at the minute, so if you download any of those you'll see a little pop-up for Say What? come up. We've got about a million daily active users, so we've pushed quite a few links.

It sort of works well as a launch promotion, that's the most critical moment really. It works fine as a one-off promotional boost sort of thing, but after a couple of days it drops down pretty quickly because the message only comes up once - we don't want to spam our users and that sort of thing. So that's where the main drive comes from, but as well as that we also used Free App A Day to promote it, so they've been pushing a lot of links as well. They're pretty good, it depends on what sort of game you're launching but they are very good.

We don't guarantee to publish anything that anybody sends us - we're very much cherry-picking what we want to promote

GamesIndustry.biz How do you get those guys on board?
Ian Harper

Well, our Hungry Shark Part 3 has been one of the most wished-for games on Free App A Day, so they were very keen us for us to do that. We did that recently, and for some of the Future Games Network we're using them as well. So we get on quite well with them, they're very happy to have our games there so that's the great. The Shark game part 3, which we just turned free, did about a million downloads in about a week and got to number three in US games chart in 48 hours. Say What? looks like it's tracking about the same volume as well, which is brilliant.

GamesIndustry.bizDo you expect the network to go beyond your games at some point - putting those pop-ups in third-party apps?
Ian Harper

Hungry Shark and Snooker Club is basically the base that we're seeding it from, but all the apps that we put out through Future Games network do include our messaging technology and things like that. So every new app we put out sort of increases our install base. The more we put out there, the more we can promote our own apps and other people's. It should work quite well - we did about 21 million installs with the Shark one last week, so there are quite a few out there. We're looking to do about 50 million by the end of the year.

GamesIndustry.bizDo you have any sense of what kind of proportion of those 20 million are looking at the games recently and regularly rather than just when they first install them?
Ian Harper

Yeah, the 21 million is overall install figure across iPhone and Android. In terms of active users, we're looking at about two million a week and monthly it's about six million. So there is a decent amount of volume there. Hungry Shark Part 3, there are about 300,000 people a day playing it on iPhone. So we're getting a huge number of links from that going to Say What?

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Alec Meer

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A 10-year veteran of scribbling about video games, Alec primarily writes for Rock, Paper, Shotgun, but given any opportunity he will escape his keyboard and mouse ghetto to write about any and all formats.

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