Even if you haven’t heard of Kongregate, there’s a very good chance you’ve played one of the many games they’ve had a hand in. The mobile publisher and online gaming hub boasts tens of millions of downloads and hundreds of millions of sessions. Since our last publisher spotlight on them, Kongregate has continued to go from strength to strength, so we thought it was time for another look!
What is Kongregate?
Kongregate prides itself on being more than just a normal publisher. While the company started out exclusively as an online hub and gaming social network, Kongregate now has its fingers in many pies today. Additionally, they continue to uphold their mission to help creators make better, more successful games, while also giving users a better experience.
On top of helping developers get their games published and promoted on mobile, Kongregate still maintains its web portal of over 100,000 free games, played by “tens of millions of players per month.” With over 60 apps on the App Store, Google Play, and upwards of 100,000 games using it as a hub online, where did Kongregate come from?
Built from Scratch
In October 2006, siblings Emily and Jim Greer started the alpha testing phase of Kongregate. Unlike today, where alpha and beta terms are often thrown about by AAA studios as other expressions for demos, the Greer siblings and team really worked to test and refine the site’s interface and functionality.
In December of that year, Kongregate opened to the public and users began to poke around, with official beta testing beginning in March 2007. By the time the site moved into beta, it had monetary votes of confidence from a number of Silicon Valley’s most famous angel investors, including LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman and Richard Wolpert, an early investor in GameSpy and the former president of Disney Online. By July 2007, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos (well before he was the richest person on the planet) had also joined as an investor.
What made Kongregate a leader for the web gaming revival was its real-time chat ability for all users playing a given game, even though they might not be playing together — a feature major platforms had yet to implement at the time.
Several other features made Kongregate a tightly integrated, well thought-out gaming community; points and leveling up as a user, unlocking special powers, and accumulating collectibles made the act of just being on the site a meta-game of sorts.
All of this made Kongregate’s online presence successful and unique.
Constantly Improving Others
From the beginning, Emily, Jim, and their team placed an emphasis on treating developer partners fairly, something they still emphasize heavily on their website. Even early on, Kongregate built itself around opening opportunities for smaller developers, inviting independent game developers to upload their games, earn revenue, and become integral members of the community.
Kongregate began helping developers make better games as soon as they could. In late 2007, the company announced they were searching for some premium flash games and would invest around $100,000 in each title. The project was tied to Kongregate’s APIs and was really designed to raise the bar for online games at the time. In the void left behind by NewGrounds relative decline at the time, the opportunity was huge.
Kongregate developed its APIs to make multiplayer and pay-per-play games easier to develop. In many ways, Kongegrate was ahead of the game with in-app purchases, allowing micropayments via their API and Kongregate tokens. By making what was once the realm of single publishers open to multiple developers, Kongregate changed the way small creators could monetize.
In 2010, console gaming retail giant GameStop purchased Kongregate for an undisclosed sum. At the time of the acquisition, the move was seen as a positive move by GameStop to diversify as the physical console gaming space continued to shrink, as players moved to digital console purchases and mobile apps.
Kongregate joined Jolt, an Irish online gaming company purchased by GameStop in 2009, as part of “The GameStop Network.” It would later be joined by Impulse, a PC digital distribution platform, and Spawn Labs, an early streaming gaming company. With these acquisitions, GameStop planned on getting ahead of the market on new technologies, and go truly multichannel.
Like Jolt and Spawn Labs, Kongregate was given a high amount of autonomy within GameStop’s larger network. The company flourished under the leadership of Emily, who took her brother’s place as CEO when Jim moved on to angel investing and political action initiatives with technology. Under Emily, the company saw YoY growth of 123% from 2013 to 2014, continuing the upward trend.
With mobile apps and games continuing to grow, Kongregate jumped into the mobile publishing space with a $10 million fund for mobile developers in early 2013. They also hired former Zynga exec Pany Haritatos, to help guide Kongregate’s new mobile division.
Even through GameStop’s closure of Jolt in 2012, the absorption of Impulse into the GameStop.com, Spawn Labs in 2014, and the continued shift from console to mobile gaming, Kongregate continued to be a bright spot for Gamestop. Kongregate’s autonomy within GameStop has always been an asset. As GameStop continued to struggle with brick and mortar in an ever-more-digital world, the multi-national began to look for options.
In June of 2017, Kongregate announced it had closed a deal to be acquired by Swedish entertainment company MTG for $55 million. The Swedish media conglomerate had acquired 51% of Hamburg, Germany-based online game developer InnoGames in 2017, and saw games as one of the key media outlets of the future. Kongregate was a natural choice.
In a press release announcing the sales, GameStop placed most of the emphasis on the revenue they would derive from the sale. “We believe the sale of Kongregate to MTG is good for both Kongregate and GME,” GameStop said. “It allows Kongregate to receive additional investment they need to continue to grow and thrive in their market segment. It allows us to use the proceeds from the acquisition in shareholder friendly ways.”
Emily Greer was excited about the move. “We’ll be deepening our investment in several areas, from marketing/marketing tech to platform engineering. We’re also going to be investing in first-party development and potential acquisitions of our own within the games space,” she said in an interview with PocketGamer at the time.
The Developer’s Mobile Publisher
As part of its even larger emphasis on driving game development post-MTG acquisition, Kongregate continues to be more than just a publisher for its mobile developers. By knowing what it takes to make a game flourish, they offer a guiding and an experienced hand to developers they work with.
An open application process starts with a simple online form that collects raw information from a developer or studio, allowing Kongregate to start the process of evaluating what will work, what won’t and coaching those that show promise towards success.
“We offer a unique combination of expertise in game design and monetization, and an ability to get your game in front of millions of gamers,” the mobile information page boasts, and they’re not kidding.
Developers who work with Kongregate can get advances, receive help with user acquisition costs, and cross-promotion on across Kongregate’s other mobile titles. Other advantages include analytics, QA guidance, beta testing, and the opportunity to tap into some of the best F2P minds in the business.
Smaller or less developed titles can also apply for Kongregate’s Launchpad and Launchpad X, which function as a sort of game jam on steroids. It allows smaller or hyper-niche titles to launch on Kongregate’s booming web portal with the possibility of graduating to the App Store and Play Store down the road.
One great example of Kongregate’s success with mobile is Little Alchemist, developed by Chinzilla. In an interview with GamesIndustry.biz, Greer explained how Kongregate was able to help after the release of the game in August of 2013.
“It was a really good game with good metrics, but they couldn’t scale it,” Greer said. Kongregate stepped in in January 2014. After 6 months with Kongregate, the daily revenue was up ten times. How? “A combination of advice on game design and really being able to put the marketing behind it, as well as getting it some additional Apple features,” Greer explained.
Kongregate’s success didn’t stop after working on Little Alchemist either. Other titles blossomed with the aid of Kongregate including Adventure Capitalist, Tiny Dice Dungeon, and Tyrant Unleashed. All three apps performed well and have even been featured by Apple and Google.
Last year, fabled game designer Peter Molyneux and his current studio, 22cans, announced a partnership with Kongregate last year. The fact that the creator of Syndicate, Black & White, Fable, and more works with and trusts the team at Kongregate is the kind of ringing endorsement that carries weight with the studios and creators Greer and her team want to help succeed.
Congregate with Kongregate
As befitting a company born online as a community site, Kongregate maintains a very involved social media presence on both Twitter and Facebook. You can tweet to @Kongregate or follow them on Facebook.
While most of Kongregate’s social presence is aimed towards end users, as they promote the best titles on its site and mobile, there’s a bevy of methods for getting a professional relationship started with Emily and her team. Most resources can be found on their developer site, and applying for to be a mobile partner web page, or for their Launchpad programs, is as easy as filling out a Google form.
About Publisher Spotlight
The AdColony Publisher Spotlight series showcases the finest publishers in mobile gaming. To nominate a publisher to be featured, tweet to @AdColony. To feature your studio, fill out the Publisher Spotlight Questionnaire. For the latest AdColony mobile news and updates, follow @AdColony on Twitter, like us on Facebook, or connect on Linkedin.