Kabam pivots toward China with hopes of a $1 billion game

The San Francisco mobile studio which took a major investment from Alibaba is shedding a small portion of its staff and developing far fewer games -- with bigger ambitions.

Kabam has shed around 25 staffers as it pivots toward the Chinese market. The company's COO Kent Wakeford put it to Re/code like this: "we’re really going all in in China."

"The opportunity to create a $1 billion annual mobile game franchise is real," CEO Kevin Chou writes in a blog post discussing the company's restructuring plans.  

China's Alibaba, one of the country's most successful internet companies, invested $120 million in the San Franicisco-based studio last year -- presumably with an eye toward the execution of this strategy. Two more "undisclosed" Chinese companies have also invested in Kabam, Chou's writes.

The company's goal is now to reach the top of the mobile charts in the Chinese market. "The real opportunity is what’s happening at the top. Kabam is only one of a handful of companies positioned to go after the top of the market," Wakeford told Re/code.

The studio will release only four games this year -- down from 12 last year. It's also expanded the development cycles of the games, according to a Cnet report: 18 months, on average, up from 12 last year. The goal is "triple-A mobile games." The company has also cancelled games "that were not triple-A quality," according to Chou's post. He also writes that the company wants to strengthen its ties with Hollywood; it has already released games based on The Fast and the Furious and The Lord of the Rings.

The company has been restructured to assist with this move: RPG and Strategy studios, as well as a China Region studio and Platform and Studio Operations, an internal-facing prong of the company. Even after the layoffs, Kabam will have over 825 staffers.

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