Spil Games CEO: Games will be less important for Facebook [Interview]

Spil Games CEO Peter Driessen
Spil Games CEO Peter Driessen

Did you know that people play social games elsewhere than Facebook? Yes, it's crazy, but true. While many of you living in the states wouldn't know it, the social gaming landscape is vastly different even just across the Atlantic. Spil Games, a social and casual games platform launched in the Netherlands in 2004, brings over 50 different social and casual games websites under a single umbrella. Through this, the company reaches a cool 130 million monthly players.

While that's half of what Facebook reigns in, it's nevertheless impressive considering what Facebook has at its disposal. Spil Games CEO Peter Driessen, who just oversaw the company's games distribution partnership deal with German online game developer and publisher Bigpoint (known for Battlestar Galactica Online and RamaCity most recently), has big plans for his European alternative to Facebook. But if you ask him, Facebook isn't even a concern.

"We are not so much competing with Facebook, because we do offer a variety of different user experiences," Driessen tells us. "For example, people nowadays are playing many more social games, but still in that there are a lot of single player or real time multiplayer games. These kinds of games aren't possible on Facebook, because they don't have a very strong [virtual goods] business model, and without that you can't survive on Facebook anyway."

The company first started out as strictly a casual games publisher and developer, but around 2007--the dawn of the social game--Driessen had to make a choice. Would Spil Games ride on the success of Facebook, and bring its then 80 million players there, or would it grow on its already healthy legion of gamers? Of course, the company went with the latter, and added more features to its platforms like cross-game avatars, leaderboards and friends lists. As for Bigpoint, it's one the first big time developers to join the Spil Games platform, and Driessen has no intention of stopping there.

But while Spil Games has a different strategy than Facebook, it's only a slight difference. For instance, the company will handle the payments that come through all of its developers' games. Though, compensation is handled in a revenue sharing model rather than the rigid 30 percent cut Facebook takes from all Facebook Credits transactions. Driessen tells us that Spil Games will bring in 60 percent of net revenues from its developers, though it offers services that Facebook does not like community management and localization. If developers choose to handle those services themselves, then that revenue percentage decreases. It's because of this distinction that Driessen sees Facebook as less of a games platform than what it started out as: a social network.

"I really see Facebook as a social network first and foremost," Driessen says. "I'd guess that in five years most of their money will come from that payment option. I think that maybe they will do Facebook Credits outside of Facebook. It could be that they're really transforming into this social network into one of the biggest payment platforms in the world, which would give them a tremendous position. I reckon that games for them, in the future, will be less important than it is nowadays."


Zoomumba, the first Bigpoint social game brought into the Spil Games family

The difference, according to Driessen, is that Spil Games only focuses on games. That's all the company knows, and that's all it's concerned with. And it's thanks to that focus that Driessen sees the company becoming a consolidator in the games space, and that its reach could grow even longer and wider in the future. But how?

As it turns out, Spil Games's future strategy isn't far different from other online game developers and platforms. Mobile games are going to be a large focus for the company moving forward, as is HTML5 gaming, the unofficial messiah for mobile and social gaming. But having been around not much longer than three years, social gaming is still a nascent genre, and Driessen thinks this is just the beginning.

"I think [this is the] natural path in how that world is evolving," Driessen says. "Mostly you see some things start like a mixed market, but as developers come out, you see companies positioning themselves in some niches." Driessen may be right, but one question still remains: If Facebook will not provide that niche for American social games in the future, then who will? With companies like Japan's DeNA and Tencent in China on the rise, perhaps the next big battle in social games doesn't concern the U.S. at all.

[Image Credit: Spil Games]

Do you think that Spil Games could eventually surpass Facebook? And with companies around the world garnering numbers close to Facebook's reach in social gaming, where does the U.S. fit into the future of social gaming? Sound off in the comments. Add Comment.