We at YourStory.in recently caught up with Lalit Patel, co-founder of BitRhymes, makers of social games, to know more about their innovative venture. Below are the edited excerpts:
What is BitRhymes all about?
We make social games at BitRhymes. We develop games that make experience of playing games with friends more interesting and enjoyable.
Interesting. Tell us more. How are you different from similar players?
Our team has years of experience about how to make games which people like and how to make them grow virally on various social networks. We also entered this space very early. So, what the traditional gaming companies are going through now, we went through three years back. Then there’s the team. We hire the very best to join us, and we are very agile and data driven in our approach. Virality is baked in as integral part of the game play. We have consistently achieved high viral factor in our games achieving upto 50,000 installs per day at times. Our Cross network framework allows us to develop once and publish on multiple networks. That’s why probably we have a high product success rate, 1 out of 2 games are hits.
How did the idea for your venture come about?
The idea of the venture came about when Facebook released its APIs for developers to make apps on their platform. Our first idea was to make a social virtual currency to help application developers monetize on Facebook. From that we pivoted to making casual games on Facebook and Myspace and other social networks online.
How much capital was required to implement the idea?
We are self-funded. As soon as our apps got traction on MySpace, we started making revenue and used it expand it from 3 people to a 25 people team in Bangalore.
Tell us about some of your success stories.
Our idea was very well received in the target community. We were one of the first few developers which were launch partners for MySpace.com when they released their platform. We got a very good first mover advantage on MySpace and we rose up to an install base of 20 million users in a span of couple of years. We iterate on our games and decide on the new ideas purely based on customer feedback. We have very agile development studios. Iterations on our games happen almost on a daily /weekly basis making sure our users enjoy playing our games.
Tell us a little bit about your background and the story behind how the co-founders came together to start the venture.
Sumit has many years of experience in web based start-ups. Vikas is very strong technically, previously he worked at Yahoo, where he wrote search middleware and custom databases handling more than a billion queries a day. I am good in web 2.0 technologies, UI and flash. When we decided to start the venture, all three of us had regular day jobs. That was in Nov 2007, when we decided to work on ideas on the Facebook platform, and so the company was born. Since then we have already matured through several pivots across multiple social platforms.
Let us know about any tie-ups that you have.
We currently have revenue share and distribution deals with many leading gaming sites. But, primarily our games are launched on social networks, among those Facebook and MySpace are the most popular.
Where do you see your venture three to five years from now?
We see ourselves as one of the top social gaming companies on the internet growing to 50 million users playing our games by 2012. We plan to have about 10 popular game titles in various networks and languages.
What is the company’s revenue model? Have you been funded?
Our primarily revenue source is sale of virtual goods and currency in our games. Part of the revenue also comes from advertisements. The ratio depends on the type of the game and social network. We have been self-funded from the start and started generating revenue pretty early so we have not yet taken any funding yet.
Tell us about your team. Are you looking at hiring?
We are a 25 people team primarily based in Bangalore Studio with business development office in US. Like every startup, we make sure we hire the best talent. Almost everyone who joins us is surprised by the chaotic and flat hierarchy culture we espouse. I guess there are not many companies who have Silicon Valley like culture yet in India. We are agile and we iterate very often. Our team comprises of LAMP engineers, Flash Designers, Flash Game Developers and game designers/QA. We are actively expanding our team as we create new games and are looking for hiring at all our teams.
What are your expansion plans for BitRhymes?
We will be looking to expand to mobile social games by the third quarter of this year. It’s a hit-driven business. You have to make good games. We plan to create 4 parallel studios by the first quarter of 2012 specializing in different genre of games targeting difference audience set. These studios will apply leanings from past games and improve with every title. As we create and release new game titles we actively require new additions to our team not only to help manage the current games and also help in development of new titles.
Anything else that you want to share with the readers of YourStory.in?
The Social Gaming Market is growing exponentially. Over 300M users on facebook have played a social game, about 60% of them are active on at least one game. Another interesting observation is how advanced China, Japan, Korea are in this industry when compared to even western markets. We hope India will join the bandwagon soon. Especially as web and mobile users converge. That is definitely the trend for next couple of years. Today Facebook already has 600M active users and MySpace 100M active users. Our main revenue has been from US market where market for virtual goods is around $1B (from $300M in 2008). Revenue from other parts of world is going to increase exponentially in next couple of years and we plan to be there when that happens.