Friday, September 10, 2004

Conclusion #1: I’ll Never Have That Recipe Again

This blog is about learning from JAMDAT and peering into the future of mobile games based on JAMDAT’s S-1. But an S-1 is a history as well as a prospectus: JAMDAT was born in unique circumstances, and the simplicity of JAMDAT’s mission is unlikely to be repeated by new entrants to the mobile games industry.

JAMDAT was created using strategic money. JAMDAT was charged with going forth and publishing mobile games. JAMDAT’s management understood this mission as an analogy of their experience in the console games industry. JAMDAT’s execution has been excellent, with the exception of cases where JAMDAT tried to put games into markets or technologies that never delivered, such as WAP.

Can there be more JAMDATs? Yes. The mobile games industry is growing at such a fast pace that multiple JAMklones will each grab a slice of market share. But few additional JAMklones will get funded from this point forward.

JAMDAT and its close cousins succeeded without having to find a breakthrough product. There is no game that is uniquely mobile, except for the failed experiments in location-based games. With no product unique to the medium, the mobile game publishing business is still open to being turned upside down by new products and technologies.

Every other publisher in mobile games operates under different circumstances: Investors demand patent-protected IPRs (as well they should); Channels demand a greater emphasis on both brands and originality; Competitors crowd in and force publishers to specialize, seek unique angles, and outthink rather than out-power competitors. The next stage of mobile games will be different from what JAMDAT is today. Perhaps it will be what JAMDAT becomes.

JAMDAT does provide a lesson that can be duplicated in areas other than mobile games: Find an application of the mobile network that equipment makers and network operators think will drive use of the mobile wireless network. Seek out the strategic VCs, and ply them with pitches that conform to industry projections of how mobile wireless could extend its reach. Combine strategic money with non-strategic VCs convinced they can ride along to a happy conclusion. Voila! Now all you need is to be as good at executing your mission as JAMDAT.


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