While social games companies like Zynga, maker of FarmVille, get all the attention these days, casual games companies have been quietly chugging along and seeing steady growth. The biggest of these in the US, Big Fish Games, made more than $100 million in revenue in 2009 off of its bite-sized games. Big Fish chief Jeremy Lewis says that an estimate of 30% growth in revenue this year is "conservative," hinting that the company's 2010 revenue will be at least $130 million if not more.
Compare this to its 2005 revenues of $8.6 million, and you can see that within five years, the company has grown its revenue by more than 15 times. Again, it's no Zynga: that four-year-old social games company is estimated to make more than $500 million this year, according to research firm Inside Networks. But it's not too shabby either. Lewis adds that the latest third-quarter results for Big Fish saw "record revenue and profit."
The Seattle-based casual games publisher, founded in 2002, has nearly 500 employees and boasts more than 2,500 games in its online catalog. It relies primarily on a subscription-based business model. Players can download and access Big Fish's games by paying a monthly $7 fee. A vast majority of its players (more than 75%) are women aged 25 to 65.
Research firm NPD Group listed Big Fish as the top casual digital retailer in the US in the first half of this year. Big Fish says it distributes around 2 million games per day in more than 200 countries. But the company's no slouch in retail outlet sales either. It says that in 2009, it sold more than 1 million games at stores like Target, Best Buy and Walmart.
The international market is very important to Big Fish: more than half its revenues come from outside North America. Just last week, the company announced that it was adding five language portals in Brazilian Portuguese, Danish, Dutch, Italian and Swedish, with fully localized games and native-language customer support - bringing the company up to 10 languages total. Big Fish also added 12 currency payment options, so that the company now supports payments in 16 different currencies. Besides its Seattle headquarters, the company also has offices in Ireland and Vancouver, Canada.
Lewis says he's happy to see social games take off, claiming that Big Fish's online data shows that games like FarmVille (whose users are also predominantly women) drive many users to its own games. In addition, the company launched some Facebook games this year to test the waters.
But, like many across the games industry, the company is really bullish on mobile games, seeing a fit with its own catalog of titles. "Mobile is a very natural extension to just about everything we do, and in particular, tablet devices" Lewis says. The company has around 30 games on the iPhone and iPad and plans to increase the number substantially in the future.
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