TreSensa CEO Bets On Games Built For The Mobile Web

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Rob-GrossbergWho will win the mobile race – native or Web apps?

Mobile game publisher and distributor TreSensa is betting on the latter. The New York City-based startup, which is behind games like Mad Cab and Scooby-Doo and the Race to WrestleMania, raised $2 million last month, bringing its funding total to $3.5 million. Its clients include HBO, World Wrestling Entertainment and Progressive Insurance. AdExchanger spoke with CEO Rob Grossberg.

AdExchanger: What problem does TreSensa solve?

ROB GROSSBERG: It’s very challenging today for developers if they don’t have a big marketing budget to get their games played within the existing app stores. If you’re not on those lists, you’re not going to get easily found. And so, developers are forced to use cost-per-install models. The average cost per install is about $3 and it puts a lot of pressure on developers to drive revenue.

Typically games make about a $1.50 per month. If you have to pay $3 to get the user, you have to get that user to constantly use your game to recoup your money. That model was broken and we saw an opportunity for solutions that allow game discovery and monetization in addition to the app stores.

We built technology to support mobile Web gaming and a distribution platform to take a mobile Web game and get it across channels so game developers can get plays without relying on cost per downloads and pushing people to the app stores.

Can you give me a use case?

We did a game last spring with HBO. It was to promote the sixth season of True Blood and they wanted to prep their user base. So they asked us to create a mobile Web game that they promoted to their Facebook followers. WWE is another partner that asked us to help them develop and launch a game. We made a  Scooby-Doo WrestleMania game in conjunction with Warner Brothers.

How do you measure success rates and how did you measure the success of those games?

Our benchmark for success is tied most closely to a cost-per-engagement model. Not only do mobile Web branded games earn a ton of engagements for brands within a targeted demographic, but the time per engagement far
exceeds other branded content types like video or rich media with an average engagement time of over 10 minutes.

In the case of HBO, the goal of the campaign was to create social buzz and awareness about the upcoming new season of True Blood. The game drew facets from each of the previous five seasons but also teased the plot line of the upcoming season. This fostered social chatter and speculation amongst the fan base.

We also included a Facebook-powered leaderboard where users could share their scores and challenge their friends. HBO and [the media agency] PHD were both thrilled with the results of the game, which was nominated later in the year for a SAMMY award. For WWE the goal of the campaign was to generate awareness and sales of their "Scooby-Doo WrestleMania Mystery" DVD.

The game showcased art and plot aspects from the movie and included a link to the trailer as well as a link to Amazon where users could buy the DVD. We aren’t able to share specific stats from our brand partners, however we can say that the DVD sold out on Amazon within the first week of the game going live and that WWE was very pleased with the campaign.

What are the advantages of games created on the mobile Web?

One is that it doesn’t matter if you’re on mobile or desktop, these games can live anywhere. Also, creating native apps is very expensive. You have to pick Android or iOS and if you do both, you often need two separate development teams. The development work can get expensive and there are the issues of discovery.

The beauty of the mobile Web also is it just takes the tap of a link or an icon and you’re playing a game. When you take away the friction of that download, it becomes a much easier opportunity for these brands to reach millions of people.

What opportunities do you see in HTML5 apps? Mark Zuckerberg famously bashed HTML5 for its limitations.

Two years ago, there were a lot of holes in HTML5. I think a big challenge for HTML5 was that 2.3 versions of the Android browser were very weak. It did not provide a lot of power for games and they were the bulk of the Android market. When Zuckerberg made his announcement, 2.3 was half of the market. What has happened since then is devices have become more powerful and mobile browsers have gotten much better.

The biggest thing that has affected this is people are turning over their devices a lot quicker. As people upgrade their phones, the 2.3 versions are now under 20%. Most users now have the Android 4S version and those browsers are extremely well suited for HTML5.

How do you distribute your games?

We have about 70 distribution endpoints, which include social networks like Facebook, game portals and app stores. We have all our games in Apple’s App Store and Google Play. We also use Amazon’s Appstore and Mozilla’s Marketplace. An area that we think is interesting is carriers are launching game stores themselves. Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and SingTel are all launching their own game stores.

Another big area is mobile messaging apps. Every native app has access to browsers and so games can be supported within native apps. We work with Kik Messenger, a mobile messaging app that’s about a quarter of the size of WhatsApp but it’s growing and they have a budding HTML5 gaming platform.

What is your pricing model? How do you earn revenue?

Our distribution partners are in charge of bringing in the audiences and they get a revenue share that is about 30% of the revenue, and we split the net revenue with our game developer and game studio.

How many clients do you have? 

We have three sets of clients. We have 35 game studios and are signing about five each week. On the distribution side, we have about 40 clients. The other set are brands. We have around 10 different brands that we’re working with on custom-made mobile Web games.

Is it common to see targeted ads on mobile Web games?

There are ways to do advanced targeting using information that’s passed on the mobile browser like location or other info the user has volunteered, but we haven’t seen much of that yet.

Would you build an exchange for ads?

That’s where the market has gone on the online side. It would be relatively simple to do from a technical perspective for the mobile Web. We’ll do it when the demand picks up and clients ask for it.

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