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商业 - 科技

一家移动游戏公司低调发财的秘密

Adam Lashinsky 2013年12月16日

短短四年里,Kabam从旧金山的一家籍籍无名的创业公司一跃发展成一家在全球举足轻重的游戏公司,年收入超过3亿美元,而且已经实现了盈利。它成功的诀窍是什么?

    Kabam公司的团队在工作。图片来源:Kabam公司

    总部位于旧金山的移动游戏公司Kabam乍一看去怎么都不像一家能成功的游戏公司。

    这家公司的CEO凯文•周今年只有33岁,既不是志得意满的天才毕业生,也没在哪个知名大公司当过高管。这家公司的核心客户是游戏玩家,而不是家庭主妇,因此一向不是很出名。而且它的业务也不依赖于Facebook等任何一个社交网络平台,也就意味着媒体不会把它当成哪个行业兴衰的风向标来炒作。

    它的背景虽然简单,但成就却让人刮目相看。

    Kabam公司所有的游戏一开始都是免费对用户开放的,但它的收入正在呈均衡的、爆炸式的增长,而且已经成为移动游戏领域的重磅选手之一。凯文•周介绍说:“四年前,我们公司还在一家点心铺的楼上,公司只有25个人。今天,我们在全球已经有700多名员工,其中一半在旧金山,其他人分布在奥斯汀、北京、首尔、温哥华、柏林等地的办公室。”

    地域化差异对于游戏业来说非常重要,尽管所有的所谓“电子游戏”本质上都差不多,但玩家对他们的青睐却呈现绝对的地域化倾向。因此kabam公司在它的柏林办事处对旗下的所有游戏进行了“本土化”,把这些游戏翻译成16种不同的语言,而且针对各国文化和“国情”对游戏做出适当的修改,其中只有韩国是个例外。凯文•周表示,韩国虽然只有6000万人口,但它的移动游戏玩家的人数基本上和美国持平,因此这家公司特地在韩国建立了专门的本土化工作室。

    Kabam是一家风投注资的私营公司,主要有三大业务。其一是制作自家品牌的游戏,比如《亚瑟王国》( Kingdoms of Camelot)等。其二是与好莱坞的大电影公司合作,比如该公司与华纳兄弟公司(Warner Bros.)合作制作的《霍比特人》(The Hobbit)系列游戏【华纳兄弟公司同时也是电影《霍比特人》和《指环王》(Lord of the Rings )系列的制片方。华纳兄弟的负责人凯文•苏吉哈拉最近加入了Kabam的董事会,华纳兄弟公司还对Kabam进行了一笔不小的投资。华纳兄弟和《财富》杂志的母公司时代公司(Time Inc.)一样,也是时代华纳集团(Time Warner)的一家子公司】。算上独立开发和合作制作,Kabam一共已经开发了11款游戏,平均每款游戏的制作成本大约在500万美元左右,其中大量的设计、编程、动画和制作都是在北京的工作室完成的,Kabam的北京工作室目前有250名员工。

    Kabam的第三项业务则充分显示了它的聪明和头脑。它专门在美国设立了一个部门,帮助美国以外(尤其是中国)的游戏开发商开发、发行游戏。然后,Kabam再把这些游戏针对美国市场进行翻译和本土化,也就是像凯文•周说的那样:“我们把这些游戏和我们自己的游戏互相推向对方的市场。”

    如今的游戏业已经发展得非常复杂,有些大厂商推出了专门的游戏机,有些游戏公司专门主打面向Facebook用户的简单游戏。相比之下,Kabam的战略可谓独树一帜。Kabam的游戏都是免费下载,赚钱主要靠销售游戏道具,比如宝剑、盔甲等道具以及各种“消耗品”(比如补红、补蓝的“功能饮料” )。Kabam把营收重点放在了所谓的“核心”游戏上,也就是那些叙事庞大、难度越来越高的复杂游戏。几乎所有的Kabam游戏都能在智能手机或平板电脑上操作。这一点与主打“休闲游戏”的Zynga公司形成了鲜明对比,因为那种休闲游戏主要是为台式机时代设计的。另外凯文•周还说:“我们的用户平均每天会在线玩两个小时。”因此,这家公司的一些热门游戏的收入一直相当可观,尤其是已经上线了整整四年的《亚瑟王国》。

    Kabam, the San Francisco mobile gaming company, has all the wrong things going for it.

    Its 33-year-old founder and CEO, Kevin Chou, is neither an arrogant new college graduate nor a high-profile former big-company executive. The company's core customers are gamers, not housewives, giving Kabam a certain dog-bites-man quality about it. And its fortunes aren't tied to any one social media platform, such as Facebook, which means that members of the press do not use Kabam an example of any single goliath's rise, fall, or re-birth.

    The narrative's simplicity is rather refreshing.

    Still, the "free-to-play" gaming company -- all of whose games are initially free to users -- is ringing up explosive, balanced growth in a new field where it is one of the major players. "Four years ago, we were 25 people above a dim sum restaurant," Chou says. "Today we have 700 people worldwide." Half of them are in San Francisco. The others are spread out in offices in Austin, Beijing, Seoul, Vancouver, and Berlin.

    This geographic diversity is key, because while the ethos of what used to quaintly be called "videogames" is universal, the adoption of them is overwhelmingly local. From Kabam's Berlin office, the company "localizes" all its games (save for the Korean market) by translating them into 16 different languages and making cultural adjustments that please local users. (South Korea, with a population of 60 million, has an equal number of mobile gamers as the U.S., Chou says, which is why it gets its own localization studio.)

    Privately held and venture-capital backed Kabam has three distinct businesses. One is to create its own games, like Kingdoms of Camelot. The second is to co-produce with big Hollywood studios. It is responsible for The Hobbit game, which Kabam developed for and financed with Warner Bros., producer of the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings films. (Warner Bros. head Kevin Tsujihara recently joined the Kabam board, and the film studio invested in the company -- an investment that sits on the balance sheet of Warner Bros., Chou says, as opposed Time Warner. Fortune's publisher, Time Inc., is a subsidiary of Time Warner (TWX).) Between its own games and co-productions, Kabam has developed 11 games. Production costs average about $5 million, and much of the designing, coding, animation, and engineering takes place at its 250-person studio in Beijing.

    The company's third of line business shows its dexterity. It has started a unit to develop and publish games in the U.S. for non-U.S. game developers, especially in China. "We cross-market those games with ours," after translating and localizing them for the U.S. market, Chou says.

    Kabam's take on mobile games is distinct in a complex gaming world that includes major releases for dedicated gaming consoles to simple games targeted at Facebook (FB) users. Kabam's games cost nothing to download, but the company makes money by selling users in-game tools like swords and armor and "consumables" like food and drink. Kabam identifies its area of focus as "core" games -- that is, relatively complex games with narratives and increasing levels of difficulty. Nearly all of the action happens on smartphones and tablets. The approach contrasts with Zynga's (ZNGA) focus on "casual" games that were designed to be popular in the desktop web era. "Our average player plays for two hours a day," Chou says. As a result, he says, some of the company's top-performing games remain at peak revenue, particularly Kingdoms of Camelot, a four-year-old franchise.

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