Interview: Kongregate CEO Jim Greer On The Move Into Android

Kongregate is launching its 'Kongregate Arcade' app for Android devices, and Gamasutra talks to CEO and co-founder Jim Greer about discovering opportunity on that platform. [UPDATE: Google pulls app from Marketplace.]
[EDITOR'S NOTE: Hours after the app discussed in this story went live, Google pulled it from the Android Marketplace for unknown reasons. Kongregate Arcade is still available via the Kongregate website - and the company says "Tens of thousands of users successfully downloaded" it before it was pulled.] [UPDATE: Google tells Joystiq the app was removed for violating a provision in the Android Market Developer Distribution Agreement that prohibits apps that distribute other apps, but clarified that Flash apps bundled in individual packs are all right.] With its presence already well-established in the Web space, Kongregate is branching out into the world of mobile. The GameStop-owned game portal on Tuesday announced the launch of the 'Kongregate Arcade' app for Android devices. With an initial library of 300 games, the app represents one of the biggest collection of games on the platform. And Jim Greer, CEO and co-founder of the company, says Kongregate plans to build that number rapidly - conservatively estimating the company will add "dozens" of games per month (versus the 1,500 or so that the desktop client sees in the same amount of time). For Kongregate, the appeal of Android was the freedom the platform allowed the company to create its app and determine how it will ultimately make money from the venture. "Our background is all about the open web," says Greer. "The nice thing for us about Android is it's very open, too. iOS is a great platform, but its very much controlled by Apple, which mandates what developers can and can't do." Additionally, Android is a system that is struggling somewhat as a gaming platform right now. While there are plenty of choices, there haven't been any real standout titles to date. Kongregate hopes to assume a leadership role in that space. "There's a market opportunity," says Greer. "I think Android is a tremendous platform - but game discovery is problematic. That's something we've gotten very good at in the desktop space, and we can use that skill set in mobile as well." Mobile phones are certain to get the lion's share of the initial focus, since their installed base is so much larger than any other Android devices right now, but Kongregate Arcade is optimized to work on the slew of forthcoming tablets as well - and is already up and running on the Samsung Galaxy Tab. The company has high expectations for the app. In terms of user engagement, Greer estimates the mobile space will catch up with the desktop in just one year. "If you look at the numbers from Nielsen, in terms of time spent, the desktop is still larger than mobile, but mobile is growing much, much faster," he says. "So we expect that mobile and the Web will be even within a year." Given how high the company expects engagement for the app to become, it doesn't seem overly concerned with monetizing that audience at present. Kongregate Arcade comes with no advertising and no microtransaction opportunities. "Obviously revenue is an important goal," says Greer. "But our immediate goal is to provide a great experience for our users and to extend the reach. ... On the desktop side, virtual goods and ads are an equal part of our strategy. Our goal is to have an offering that is adapted for mobile, but stick hand in hand with our desktop strategy." While the focus is on Android and the advances Kongregate can bring to the platform, Greer says the company does not plan to permanently ignore Apple's devices - despite the obvious hurdle of those platforms not supporting Flash. In fact, he hints, future offerings are already being planned for those. "Kongregate is a cloud-based service, so we're pretty agnostic," he says. "I think there's certainly a place for somebody who aggregates games and makes them social in the iOS word." "The freedom we had to make our own model on Android - and the fact that it's outselling iOS - made us want to focus on this one platform for launch. [But] it's fair to say that GameStop overall - and Kongregate, specifically - have a strong interest in iOS that will take a different form." And the expansion isn't likely to stop there. Mobile, after all, is only a part of the app story these days - as connected televisions are making a major push into the field. Gaming services like OnLive and Oberon Media are already aligning themselves with television manufacturers to get in on the ground floor of the connected TV market. And given how crucial those sets are to GameStop, don't expect the retailer to sit the battle out for too long - and when it does leap in, expect Kongregate to be at the forefront. "I think the connected living room ... is something of great interest to GameStop," says Greer. "Most of their business is selling console games, so the next generation of what happens in the living room is of tremendous interest. We don't have anything specific to announce at this time, but the connected living room is very important to them."

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