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Kabam CEO says targeting core gamers on mobile was the key to its success

by Mike Rougeau

February 18 2014

Kevin Chou believes free-to-play games on smartphones and tablets are the future.

Of course, the Kabam CEO and co-founder would be in the wrong business if he believed otherwise. But he told The Wall Street Journal that Kabam's success is thanks to hardcore gamers, not casual mobile players:

"In the early days of free-to-play online social games, we were one of the first companies to really go after core gamers who traditionally played games on dedicated consoles or personal computers…Looking back, our decision to target core gamers when others weren’t focusing on that area was the key to our success. If you try to get into the same market today, it will be much more difficult because there’s so much competition."

Kabam is most well known for licensed games based on The Godfather, The Fast and the Furious and The Hobbit. In 2013 the company doubled its revenue to $360 million, and it's shooting for revenue between $550 million and $650 million in 2014.

Asked for his views on the future of game consoles like the Xbox One, PS4 and Wii U, Chou didn't hedge:

"As a game developer we want to make sure that our games can reach the largest audience possible. And where is the growth in hardware today? Last year, over 1 billion units of smartphones and tablets were sold around the world. I think the future of gaming is the free-to-play model, and it’s very clear that consumers are using smartphones and tablets that they already own to play games."

He also touched on the possibility of making games for Google Glass (Google is an investor in Kabam), the business of localizing other developers' Asian games for Western markets, and the growing trend in Asia of games being offered through mobile messaging apps like Line and WeChat. He said he expects that trend to come to Western markets eventually, though it shows no signs of doing so yet.

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