In mobile gaming, a company is only as valuable as its users

Contact: Ben Kolada

A pair of mobile gaming acquisitions in the past half-year has proven that an ability to monetize an audience is just as important as the audience itself. In the latest deal, GREE is paying $104m in cash for OpenFeint. While that’s certainly a handsome payout for the startup’s investors, it’s a considerably lower price-per-user valuation than competitor ngmoco caught from DeNA in October. From our perspective, the disparity in valuations seems primarily due to each firms’ ability to generate revenue from their audiences.

At a macro-level view, OpenFeint and ngmoco should theoretically garner similar valuations. Both companies are mobile gaming startups founded in 2008, based in the Bay Area and backed by blue-chip investors. For the most part, they seem to have shared the same recipe for success.

However, their per-user valuations are markedly different because of their abilities to monetize their audience. OpenFeint managed to attract some 75 million users, but was only able to turn that into $283,000 in net sales in its last fiscal year. Meanwhile, ngmoco touted just 50 million downloads before its sale to DeNA, but managed to generate just over $3m in revenue in its calendar year before its acquisition and was reported to be on a $30m revenue run-rate. That led to a roughly $6 price-per-downloaded-user valuation for ngmoco – more than four times the per-user valuation OpenFeint received from GREE.