社交游戏产业现在处在一个有趣的时期，两个星期前迪斯尼收购了Playdom，上周Google 又收购了Slide，最大的社交游戏发行商中的两家从而成为了更大的公司的一部分。而上一次类似的收购发生在去年年底，艺电 (EA) 收购社交游戏公司Playfish。
这些收购案显示了以下3个共同点。首先是强有力的管理。Playfish由克里斯蒂安·塞格斯特罗勒（Kristian Segerstrale）执掌，他是著名手机游戏发行商Glu Mobile的联合创始人。 Playdom的约翰·普莱森茨（John Pleasants）曾是艺电的首席运营官。Slide的首席执行官马克斯·莱文奇恩（Max Levchin）则是PayPal的联合创始人。因此在这3起收购案中，被收购方领导层的经验都不仅仅限于社交游戏，他们在其他领域中也有成功的经历。
这 3起收购案也有不同之处，其中之一是每个买家都来自不同的类别：艺电是传统的游戏发行商，迪斯尼是传统媒体公司，Google是互联网巨头。这可能会提供一些线索，让我们了解其他哪些公司可能对社交游戏领域感兴趣。未来的潜在收购者可能是来自游戏领域的Ubisoft和Activision，也可能是来自传媒业的维亚康姆（Viacom）、哥伦比亚广播公司（CBS）、Comcast/ NBC和新闻集团，也可能是互联网公司如AOL、IAC、微软和雅虎。
虽然很多大公司都有可能收购社交游戏开发商，但目前仍然保持独立的、营收规模足以吸引收购者（每月超过100万美元）的美国社交游戏商只有4家： Rockyou ，Crowdstar，Watercooler和Zynga。
Zynga 是社交游戏业界巨头，根据业界人士估计，它每月的营收超过6000万美元。Zynga支持多个可以开发高品质游戏的大型工作室，有大笔营销预算和无与伦比的交叉促销方式进行游戏推广。其每月2亿的活跃用户，是最强大竞争对手的4倍。这让Zynga在推出新游戏数天之内就可以吸引到上百万的用户（它最近推出的两款游戏Frontierville 和 Treasure Isle就是证明），这是目前其他任何社交游戏公司都无法与之匹敌的。
还有大量的小型社交游戏开发商，他们每家至少拥有一款月营收超过10万美元的游戏。这些开发商包括Booyah、 Casual Collective、 50 cubes、 LOLapps、 Meteor Games、 Metrogames、Slashkey 和 ZipZapPlay。其中有些是新晋公司，在过去几个月表现突出，而另一些较老的公司仍在继续从早前成功的游戏中获利。
These are interesting times in the social gaming industry. Two weeks ago Disney acquired Playdom, and last week Google acquired Slide. Just like that, two of the largest social game publishers have become part of larger companies. This activity all comes on the heels of EA’s acquisition of Playfish late last year.
Social gaming, as a category, has grown incredibly quickly, becoming one of the dominant drivers of usage on FacebookFacebookFacebook, and an increasingly core component of people’s entertainment.
This growth represents a real threat to other forms of entertainment, and has precipitated the three deals that we have seen so far.
3 Factors in Social Gaming Viability and AcquisitionThe acquisitions show three commonalities. The first is strong management. Playfish is run by Kristian Segerstrale, a co-founder of Glu Mobile, a leading mobile game publisher. Playdom is run by John Pleasants, formerly COO of EA. And Slide’s CEO is Max Levchin, a co-founder of PayPal. In each case, the leadership brings real experience, not just in social gaming, but also from previous successes.
The second is revenue scale. Each company was generating millions in monthly revenue at the time of acquisition, with valuations on exit being driven higher for the companies with the highest revenue at time of exit. To move the needle for companies as big as GoogleGoogleGoogle, Disney and EA, an acquisition needs to show the potential to drive hundreds of millions in annual revenue within a few years.
The third is capacity for repeatability. Games are a hit-driven business. While it is valuable to have a hit game, it is much more valuable to have a game factory that can repeatably produce more successes. There is uncertainty about the chances of any given game being a hit, so part of repeatability is about a company’s ability to take many shots on goal. The more studios and game developers that a company has, the more shots on goal it can take at any given time. At time of exit, each company had hundreds of employees building games, and had multiple games at some level of revenue or usage scale.
However, the ability to take a lot of shots on goal is not enough. The other key driver of repeatability involves helping a game reliably find a scale audience. This can come from a large installed base of players, or from the ability to justify paid customer acquisition through high monetization. Each company had one or more of these abilities when they were acquired.
Social Games Have Value for Different Types of Companies
The three acquisitions also differ in some meaningful ways. Each acquirer comes from a different category. One is a traditional game publisher (EA), one a traditional media company (Disney), and one a large InternetInternetInternet company (Google). This gives us some clues about what other companies may have interest in the sector. Potential future acquisitions might come from companies like Ubisoft and Activision from the game side, Viacom, CBS, Comcast/NBC and Newscorp on the media side, and companies such as AOL, IAC, Microsoft and Yahoo!Yahoo!Yahoo! from the Internet side.
In addition, given the success of free to play games in Asia, there are a number of potential Chinese (Shanda, QQ), Japanese (Mixi, DeNA) and Korean (SK Telecom, Nexon) companies who could look to one of these social gaming companies to establish a market in the U.S.
Which Acquisition Will Be Next?
While there are many entities that might be in the market to buy a gaming company, there are only four still independent U.S.-based social game publishers that have the revenue scale (more than $1 million each month) to be attractive as a target; Rockyou, Crowdstar, Watercooler and of course Zynga.
Zynga is the industry powerhouse, and we’ve estimated in the past that they are doing more than $60 million a month in revenue. They benefit from the ability to support multiple large development studios building high quality games, and to launch those games with significant marketing budgets and unparalleled cross promotional reach. Their 200 million monthly active users is four times the size of their closest competitors. This allows Zynga to quickly hook millions of users on its new games within days of launch, as they have recently demonstrated with Frontierville and Treasure Isle. This is something that no other company is currently able to match.
But given estimates of Softbank’s investment in Zynga at a $4 billion valuation range, they may be too big an acquisition for many of the potential buyers. While many companies might wish to own them, they may be more likely to be on a track to go public themselves.
On the other hand, the other three companies may see a lot of interest over the next 12 to 18 months. In this game of musical chairs, there are far more players than there are chairs, and when the music stops, many of the potential acquirers may find themselves with no where to sit.
There has also been a lot of activity at a smaller scale as well. Playdom and Zynga themselves have both been acquisitive, buying Acclaim, Challenge Games, Hive7, Lil Green Patch, Metaplace, MyMiniLife, Offbeat Creations, Serious Business, Three Melons, Trippert, Unoh, XPD Media and several others between them.
That still leaves a number of social game developers that have at least one game at scale and revenues greater than $100,000 per month, including Booyah, Casual Collective, 50 cubes, LOLapps, Meteor Games, Metrogames, Slashkey and ZipZapPlay. Some of these are newer entrants who have burst to prominence in the last few months, while others are older companies that are continuing to milk the success of an earlier game launch.
If we believe that value in social games is being attributed to management, revenue scale and repeatability, we may well see more consolidation at this level as well. Although these smaller companies may not be big enough to form the core of a social gaming group inside a big acquirer, they will be strategically valuable to the four bigger independent game developers who are continuing to build their scale and repeatability.
Furthermore, putting together some of these smaller players could create new “at scale” independent publishers with revenues greater than $1 million per month, and the core elements of repeatability, a multi-studio structure, cross promotional scale and know-how in virality and monetization.
This industry is exciting because of its dynamic nature, and I don’t expect that to change over the next 12 months. We will likely continue to see new game publishers burst onto the scene. At the same time, there will likely be further consolidation activity on three dimensions from giants buying the scale independent social game publishers, from the scale independent social game publishers buying smaller developers, and from some smaller developers coming together to create scale players.（source：mashable/tencent）