Friday, April 18, 2008

Bunchball raises another 4 million bucks.

Mashable broke this a few days ago, but I missed it amongst the SGN acquisition news (which I have yet to comment on). Anyway, Bunchball raised 4 million in its series B. Seems kinda low, considering Zynga and SGN both raised 10 million in their Series A.

But then again, Bunchball isn't fighting to become the dominant social game network. However, in many ways, Bunchball is much further down the path than either Zynga or SGN. Bunchball has an amazing product, a complete game platform and analytics suite, complete with avatars, currency, leaderboards, etc.

Rather than focusing on attracting eyeballs with hopes to get acquired by EA, Bunchball has sold their services to large media brands like NBC. Check out the customized games site they've created for the Office, it's really impressive.

With a team of 11 developers, I imagine they're profitable, so why the need for more money?
I suspect they're going to push into the social games space in a major way. Their first foray failed: Karma Games and Avatars was the first game launched on Facebook, attained a massive install base and now has only ~4000 active users. That's a fail, if you ask me. However, the social games space is too hot for a company with great technology to not take a second chance. Besides in the current climate I'm sure they got a great valuation.

Recently, they've joined the Zynga network, which suggests they're trying some new approaches to the Facebook market. However, I think as long as they're focused exclusively on real-time games, they're going to be stuck with low daily active user numbers.

Having said that, their games are much more engaging then those of Zynga. The average visit length for Bunchball is 10:40 minutes vs 2:40 minutes for Zynga. (thanks, Compete!) That's the thing about real-time games, they keep users around longer.

It seems to me that the key to the whole enchilada is combine asynchronous with real-time games (like Zynga wisely has done with Scramble). The asynchronous part gives you the virality, and the real-time part promotes longer periods of engagement.

Just my two cents. In any case, good luck to Rajat and his team at Bunchball, they truly are pioneers in the social gaming space, having been at it since 2005, and have taken many arrows in the back. I encourage you to read Rajat's post on the history of Bunchball if you want to see what it's like to enter a market that just isn't ready yet.