The Story Behind PlayPhone
By: Claudia Repsold
Ron Czerny left Brazil when he was very young and dreamed about of becoming a world famous tennis player. Well, things did not go the way he expected. You can’t change the direction of the wind, but you always can adjust the sails to reach your destination. And that is exactly what he did.
Czerny became the master of another game. He is the founder of Playphone, the global leader in mobile social gaming that develops and operates social game stores worldwide, providing the mobile gamers with a leading-edge social gaming experience. The PlayPhone Game Store is an engaging app where gamers discovers, download, play and share thousands of popular games with their friends ; challenging them, invite them to play, bragging about leader-board ranks and more.
Founded in April 2003, PlayPhone is a pioneer in the concept of direct-to-consumer mobile content distribution. Its technology powered the first off-deck downloads of mobile games in U.S. Initially, PlayPhone was sold through retail stores as prepaid phone cards that offered two mobile games, two polyphonic ringtones and two wallpaper options for $9.99.
The company quickly expanded to a subscription-based service that provided games, ringtones and wallpaper for mobile phones. By 2007, it was acknowledged as one of the top 10 most visited mobile phone entertainment websites in the world.
In the follow years, the company promoted a strategic shift that made the leap from feature phones to smartphones. It was a mobile social gaming platform for smartphones and tablets called PlayPhone Social Gaming (PSGN).
The new platform was launched in December of 2011, as an advanced cross-platform, with a multiplayer-network that connects smartphone and tablet gamers to a worldwide social gaming. The system gives the gamers the ability to play with their friends at any time regardless of their operating system.
“Social interaction is a crucial aspect of mobile gaming as well, which is why social network integration is so important. We’ve found that game engagement increases exponentially with the increase in number of friends a player is playing games with”, says Czerny
In just two years, PlayPhone’s Social Gaming Network had 4.1 million monthly active users, 12 million game sessions, 3.5 million play hours and over 3,000 developers.
Restlessly, the company tried to stay ahead of the curve. In 2013, PlayPhone created a platform that allowed carriers such as Verizon, Sprint AT & T to offer their own mobile gaming store as well as social networking services. This enabled games to spread in a viral fashion reducing the cost of advertising to acquire new users. After that smart business move, Playphone gained access to 83% of smartphone and tablet subscribers in the U.S. Today, the platform reaches to as many as 800 million mobile device owners worldwide and offers those players more than 3,000 games.
In 2014, GungHo, the Japanese giant online video game company known for its Puzzle & Dragons games, acquired a 70 percent ownership stake in Playphone. The details of the deal were undisclosed.
Czerny explained at that time: “We are a technology company with a sophisticated social gaming platform and game store. We are in a race to become the leader in Asia, and that represents a shift in our business. Our vision is the same, but it is much more focused in emerging markets.”
PlayPhone is focusing on Asia because there is no dominant mobile store, like the Apple App Store or Google Play there. Actually, Google Play is not even available in China because Google doesn’t do business in the country. As a result, there are more than 300 Android app stores available in China. Czerny said that his company has learned that a business can’t succeed in Asia without local partners. GungHo and its parent SoftBank, are helping with that. Beyond Asia, PlayPhone is also targeting the Middle East and Latin America.
“The only thing left is Eastern European markets, which we’ll put on hold for now,” Czerny said.
Claudia Repsold is the Editor-in-Chief of Brazil & USA Biz. She is a Brazilian international award- winning journalist with twenty years of experience in editing, research, coordination, production and reporting news on Brazil and U.S.