Indie game website portal Kongregate has announced Konduit
, a new application platform enabling developers to integrate the site's community features, like achievements and virtual goods, into their own standalone browser-based games.
Underserved Core Social Gamer Market
The company admits the architecture is similar to what social game outfits work with on Facebook and other platforms, but describes its site as a social portal targeting core gamers.
Kongregate believes browser-based games created for the hardcore gaming audience are often too complex to succeed on what it calls "mass-market social networks", leaving an underserved segment in the free-to-play gaming space that it hopes to capture with the Konduit platform.
CEO and co-founder Jim Greer points to popular Facebook developers Zynga and Playfish as having effectively leveraged social networks like Facebook to attract casual players, but then argues that those same social networks aren't suitable for MMOs and strategy games, as they require higher skill levels and aren't as immediately accessible as their casual counterparts.
"Some developers are more focused on depth of gameplay than virality," he admits. "That’s great, because our players want to play the very best games, not just the ones in their newsfeed. They still want to play with their friends, and they really want to earn achievements. With Konduit, we’re bringing all this together and letting developers make money through our popular virtual currency system."
The San Francisco-based company notes that industry analysts estimate the free-to-play MMO and strategy game space as a $400 million market, one made up of mostly hardcore players, males aged 13 to 34. Though larger social networks tend to focus on a more casual games, Kongregate directly appeals to that demographic, counting a "passionate audience" of more than eight million unique players each month engaged with its 20,000 games.
Kongregate Not The Place For FarmVille
Asked if he believes Kongregate and sites like it could eventually transform into portals that Facebook MMOs will want to mirror their titles at, Greer tells Gamasutra, "I don't think Kongregate is the place for FarmVille
, but I can see mafia games, ninja games, etc. doing quite well. If you look at the games that have succeeded with core gamers off
of Facebook, I think that's a clue of what would do well on Kongregate."
He continues, "Travian, Dark Orbit, Adventure Quest Worlds, Gladiatus, Seafight
, etc. These are primarily persistent strategy games or MMOs. They currently live on their own destination sites, and the operators do a pretty significant marketing spend per player. Some of them have tried to go on Facebook and other social networks, but they're really just a little too daunting for the average user."
The CEO says Konduit not only gives developers access to its audience with no upfront cost, but also helps them tap into players who are "motivated by their achievement addiction, and the desire to team up with or crush their Kongregate friends and rivals." There are few obstacles hindering users from jumping into games and buying virtual goods, too, as the platform offers single sign-on and one-click payments.
He attributes that ease of purchasing for Makota Online's success implementing a preliminary version of Konduit into its fantasy MMO Sacred Seasons
. The game sells virtual goods using Kongregate's Kreds currency and brings in an average of $.10 each time it's played, making around $100 per 1,000 users. "That's not bad for a team of three people that spent nothing on marketing!" comments Greer.
Diversifying Revenue Streams
Up until now, the portal has relied on advertising for its primary revenue source. Developers also earn cash through the company's revenue-sharing model, taking in a percentage of advertising revenues. "The ad business has been good to us, and to our developers," says the CEO. "We have far higher CPMs than any other game portal. A big reason for that is we've found ways to bring advertisers into our community in ways that our players enjoy."
"Having said that, the ad business is cyclical, and even at its best it can't rival what you can make from an engaged player who's willing to pay for an enhanced experience. We've got enough addicts spending enough time that it's actually a pretty good value for them - especially if you look at it at dollars spent per hour of entertainment. And of course that pays for bigger, better games."