Parks Associates Blog

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Big Fish Getting Bigger

Big Fish Games, a leading casual games company, today announced that it had acquired Thinglefin, an MMO developer also based in Seattle. More precisely, Big Fish is acquiring the team of talents, including company founder Toby Ragaini, who was the lead designer for Matrix Online and Asheron's Call, and co-founders Jeremy Friesen and Ryan O'Rourke, who worked on MMOs for Monolith and Sony Online Entertainment. Thinglefin was founded to develop a casual MMO game, which will be free to play, microtransaction-based web game.

Big Fish Games has been in super growth mode for the past two years and all the growth so far has been organic. Apparently company executives are trying to find some good use of the pile of cash they've accumulated from innovative games and business models. Big Fish Games is one of the few vertically integrated casual gaming companies in the space, with development studios, publishing divisions, and its own game portal. In our recent report, Casual Gaming Market Updates, we mentioned that the casual gaming industry is diversifying along several dimensions, including game genres, target audience, and business models. This will be a good acquisition for Big Fish. They cannot just rely on the traditional try-before-you-download and web-based advertising models, which are still growing and generating a lot of revenue for them, partially due to their new affiliate models and growing audience reach; they need to invest in new growth areas, such as f2p MMOs. Several f2p MMOs are already having success in the United States, including Korean exports such as Maplestory and local online gaming companies such as K2 Network and Gala-Net, which are importing Korean content. MMOs tend to have appeal among both male and female gamers, which will help Big Fish tap into new demographics. Also web-based f2p games are cheaper to develop and can grow audience very quickly due to its accessibility. In the post-WOW era, it has become extremely difficult to develop a competitive subscription-based MMO and f2p MMOs are becoming more popular.

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