Games giant Zynga quietly launched its first title for a mobile messaging app last summer when it brought One Word to Kik, and now it’s followed that up with its second game, Words With Friends, built exclusively for the Kik platform.
Zynga used Facebook’s platform to grow quickly in its early days, and it is betting on messaging platforms with Kik. Words With Friends for Kik is essentially a ‘lite’ version of the existing standalone app, and we understand it was built from scratch specifically for Kik’s HTML5 content platform. It leverages the user graph and other APIs to let Kik users play with friends or be assigned random playmates, share scores, etc.
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Unlike One Word, there’s no in-app purchase option for Words With Friends, although the Kik version of the app does feature a prominent banner that leads players to download the ‘full version’ for iOS or Android.
Kik is fast approaching 120 million registered users, half of whom are based in the US. The app has grown strongly over the past year, although it doesn’t report active user metrics. It has nearly quadrupled its userbase since November 2012 thanks to its popularity among youngsters, many of whom appreciate that they don’t need to provide a phone number to register.
Kik’s potential for anonymity has helped it become a popular way to connect on a range of services, such as Instagram — a search shows more than 20 million Instagram photos are tagged with Kik.
It’s notable that Zynga is opting to test the messaging waters with Kik rather than the competition, despite their successes.
Japan’s Line made $338 million in 2013, 60 percent of which came from games, while Korea’s Kakao Talk games grossed $311 million in half a year — but both of these companies, and a third big messenger from Asia — WeChat — connect with standalone apps and switch out a developer’s branding for their own. Kik, on the other hand, delivers content (and now even a Web browser) inside its app, meaning users aren’t redirected or made to wait for a download, while developers retain their branding and identity.
Equally, by using an HTML5 platform, developers can easily customize their games as they please. In the case of Zynga, that means a preview version that may drive users to download and use its existing standalone apps.
It’s a far smaller bet than its recent $527 million NaturalMotion acquisition, but Zynga’s continued focus on Kik might help it find new fans, engagement and revenue among the chat app’s young userbase.
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