SponsorPay Industry Interview Series #1: Sebastian Funke, CEO at Smeet
For this first installment of SponsorPay’s Industry Interview Series, we spoke to Smeet CEO and co-founder Sebastian Funke. Smeet is a free browser-based 3D social game with many virtual worlds where users compete in quizzes and other integrated mini-games to move up the levels. We were curious to learn about Sebastian’s take on the current trends and main drivers in our industry.
Where do you see the virtual goods industry in 12 months?
I think that 2011 will mark the next step of a broad acceptance of virtual goods and new models of usage will develop – within as well as outside the games sector.
What are the top 3 major trends in the games industry that you predict will develop over the next 12 months?
One trend I see is that social games will spread to a lot more places online and will reach new audiences on websites and portals. Many platforms have only just begun implementing social games, for example Tuenti in Spain, so there is still a lot of growth potential worldwide. There will be also more sophisticated 3D-engine-based browser games.
The free-to-play model with monetization over virtual goods and microtransaction will continue to gain traction whereas the subscription model will further decline.
One of the biggest trends is of course the rise of the mobile platforms which have become extremely attractive for games and are capable to generate a lot of revenues. Many developers are currently making their move towards mobile platforms but it remains to be seen who will actually succeed.
Speaking of the mobile and tablet market – are you planning to bring Smeet to portable devices as well?
It’s definitely an interesting market, but I won’t comment on whether or not we plan to get involved.
What kinds of virtual goods, premium services and monetization strategies are resonating especially well with your users?
We see that developing and interactive objects are more sought-after than static ones. Items that users can care for and can interact with, like plants or animals, are very popular among our user base. Also, items which function as boosters for our users have a very high demand.
Which are the biggest revenue opportunities that you believe have still not been fully exploited?
At Smeet, we distinguish between three basic forms of virtual goods – first: objects of self-display like decorations for a house, second: relationship items like virtual gifts for friends, and third: functional items that help achieve in-world progress. Currently, we are working on more functional items because we see a lot of potential there.
For this, what are the major challenges or hurdles you are facing?
Virtual goods demand a storyline to support them and a clear motivation or need why users should want to obtain them. Integrating these storylines and corresponding virtual goods naturally is one of the next steps of our further product development.
As an international publisher, do you see strong cultural differences in how users from different parts of the world use Smeet?
Actually, we don’t see significant differences in usage. Smeet offers a quite universal experience for our users from all over the world – you meet your friends, hang out, play games and watch movies together – obviously these are things that people from all kinds of cultural backgrounds enjoy.