Social Gaming Network: On Puzzles, Mobile Apps and New Business
Cube Crash, Bouncing Balls, Word Drop—you may have dabbled with these or other social games on Facebook. They’re developed by MindJolt SGN, a social-gaming platform lead by MySpace co-founder and former CEO Chris DeWolfe. In April 2011, the company (then referred to as MindJolt) took its passion for social gaming and made it mobile with its acquisition of SGN, or Social Gaming Network. And this month, MindJolt SGN officially boasts its new name, Social Gaming Network (SGN), after its acquired company and new business focus.
SGN is cranking out grade-A mobile social games like Fluff Friends Rescue (released in a partnership with the Humane Society) and its newest gem, Jigsaw Mansion 2. Not to mention, the company is enjoying some major bragging rights: 25 million active users, 45 million mobile downloads and more than 70 million installations on social platforms.
Michael Ritter is the Senior Vice President of Licensing and Distribution at SGN, and he played a key role in acquiring SGN last fall. Also overseeing mobile publishing at the company, Ritter knows a thing or two about social game apps, including the company’s recent Jigsaw Mansion 2. That’s precisely why we caught up with him.
- In April of 2011, you facilitated MindJolt’s acquisition of SGN, a developer and publisher of social mobile games. How has the company evolved since this acquisition?
SGN opened the door for us to get into mobile. Our strategy from day one was to build a diversified game business, distributing and developing great games across several verticals (social, mobile and online).
SGN has a fantastic team in Buenos Aires, and the acquisition has allowed for us to move quickly into the mobile space. Together, we have released 18 titles and expanded SGN’s business to include games in the Amazon Appstore and Android Marketplace [in addition to the Apple App Store]. People want to be able to play their games wherever they are on whatever device they own. Moving forward, you will start seeing a lot more of our games across multiple platforms.
- Jigsaw Mansion 2 boasts the ability to be played on an iPhone in addition to its original iPad-only optimization. What are the major factors your team has to consider when creating two versions of a game—one for iPhone and one for iPad?
We generally produce universal apps, which means the same game can be played on both the iPad and iPhone. But for this particular title, the iPad allowed for such a great experience that we didn’t want to limit iPad users to the same version as the iPhone.
For Jigsaw Mansion 2, the screen size is the biggest factor, and we wanted to make the game so that whether you play it on a large or small screen, you get the maximum experience and fun of solving a puzzle.
- What is your personal favorite feature in Jigsaw Mansion 2?
My favorite feature is being able to create puzzles out of my own pictures and share with friends. It’s a unique feature that we have been really excited to bring to our customers. I also find the game relaxing; it’s a good break from the “flick” games and running-style games.
- What was the biggest hurdle to overcome during Jigsaw Mansion 2’s development process?
Not too many people can say that their biggest hurdle in making a particular game was the result of snakes and alligators in the streets! Sounds like a cool game idea, but it was the reality for our developer partner, Extend Interactive, who is based in Bangkok.
When the large floods hit Thailand last November, they couldn’t go to work because there were literally snakes and alligators in the streets and water up to their knees. This unfortunately delayed the game, but the team worked off site and at home to continue the progress.
- What advice do you have for young app developers?
You need a plan, more than just making a game and releasing it into the app stores. It’s very hard to just release a game and have it take off like Tiny Wings did.
I would also say that a game is a living and breathing product—you need to iterate on the game, provide updates, listen to your users and build upon the asset.
Apps I Love
Eating Healthy is a Snap with Dr. Oz’s App Pick
Photo credit: Getty Images
Dr. Mehmet Oz, famous cardiac surgeon and star of TV’s The Dr. Oz Show, spends much of his time giving nutritional guidance to his show’s viewers and patients. But we bet he never thought advice could get as simple as “take a picture of your food.”
Dr. Oz told USA TODAY that he likes the Meal Snap app. Just use your smartphone to take a photo of your food in front of you, and the app calculates how many calories you’re consuming. Bam—food recording is done.
Of course, the app is not always 100 percent accurate, but we still think the simple act of recording our food helps us be more conscious of what we’re eating. You can share your meals on Twitter, Facebook and foursquare if you want some extra motivation, and you can even view your eating patterns over time.