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8Apr/100

8bitrocket Interviews with Jameson Hsu from Mochi Media

"Many people ask why we put GAME in all caps (in the name Mochi GAME Development fund -ed)and it's because the fund is ajoint effort between our parent company Shanda Games (stock tickerNASDAQ:GAME) and Mochi Media."

-Jameson Hsu

 

We've heard back from a lot of developers about their experiences with the mochi Game Development fund, and nearly all of them have been disappointing. I believe that is because many developers are missing the point of what Mochi is trying to accomplish with their $10,000,000. This interview with Jameson Hsu, head of Mochi Media might give a little insight into the Mochi Mind-Set and what kinds of games they want to spend their money on. The quote above should give you a hint. There is also some fascinating history of Mochi Media here. We met Jameson at the Flash Gaming Summit this year. He seemed like a top guy to us, and very interested in the success of Flash Developers. We are very happy that he agreed to this interview.

8BR: How did the idea for Mochibot come about?

JH: The event that sparked the idea for MochiBot started back in 2001 whenBob and I were building Flash games and noticed them spreading to various Flash portals. We didn't really do anything at the time
because we were too busy building games. Then in late 2004 I started noticing Flash games becoming more and more popular. Meanwhile developers were facing the same issue where their games would be
spread to multiple sites. That's when we started thinking about a
solution to help game developers better understand where their games
were being played.

8BR: How popular was Mochibot?

JH: When MochiBot was first launched the product was warmly received by
the game developer community. We had real time analytics and whenever
we gave live demos people would 'oooh' and 'ahhh' over how quickly the
data came back. There were no competitors when we launched so product
adoption grew very quickly.

MochiBot is still very popular amongst game developers and we track
over 2B game plays per month around the world.

8BR: What was the size of the company at that time?

JH: Mochi Media had only two full time employees, Bob and I, and two or
three contractors from 2005 through 2007. We had plenty of months
where all we ate was Cup-o-Noodles for each meal.

8BR: What prompted you to start Mochiads?

JH: We built MochiAds because we saw that games were spreading everywhere
but developers didn't have a good way to make money from their games.
Bob and I used to get paid by clients to make games for advertising
agencies so we figured that if we could connect the same types of
clients we worked with in the past with the existing ecosystem of game
developers then magic would happen.

8BR: Were you surprised at the response to Mochiads when it was first released?

JH: We were definitely surprised at the response when we first launched
MochiAds. We never expected to have such a positive reaction. I
guess that's what happens when you help people make money though.

Some of the best moments were when people would send us pictures of
the things they bought with their new found money. Some people sent
us pictures of their kids and the new toys that they used their
MochiAds money to buy. Those kinds of customer feedback emails never
get old.

8BR: Can you tell us a bit about how you work with advertisers?

Not sure what the question is. We sell them ad space, they give us money. =)

8BR: The same as above, but for Portals?

JH: We work with game portals by providing them a continuous flow of games
and features within those games to make their sites more engaging.
Acquiring games can be quite a daunting task so we try to make it as
simple as possible for game portals to get good content for their
users.

Not only do we provide over 15,000 games to publishers but we also
provide a share of the advertising revenue that is generated on their
sites. We saw a need to reward everyone contributing to the game
ecosystem so that's why we started the Publisher revenue sharing
program.

8BR: Do advertisers or portals like or request specific games or game types?

JH: We often get requests for specific games but we don't make games so we
can only choose from what's in our catalog. For example we've had a
gas medication company request the game Puzzle Farter
(http://puzzlefarter.com/). Or we've had several publishers request
sports specific games.

For some portals we've run themed game development contests to get a
greater variety of a specific type of game. For example we had a
great outcome from the word game themed contest
(http://mochiland.com/articles/dictionary-com-word-play-winners) that
we ran with Dictionary.com.

8BR: Looking back, what kind of games have been the most popular (i.e. made
Mochi the most cash)?

JH: The games that have been the most popular, and thus profitable, are
usually games with greater depth. For example, a shooting game with a
story line or an platformer with multiple character upgrade features.
Tower defense games usually do quite well because there's a high
replay value.

As we see games now start to use MochiCoins the same rule applies.
The deeper the game the more money it generates. That's not to say
that just adding 100 more levels makes a game deeper. We define depth
as a game that gives players the feeling of progression and/or
improvement so that they want to play over and over again.

8BR: Why do you think you guys have survived and while other competitors
have not been so fortunate?

JH: I think we have made it thus far because we were early in the space
and we also had a very laser-like focus on what we wanted to
accomplish. Bob and I both started our careers making games so we
understood what developers needed.

Another key aspect to our success is that the developers we've worked
with have been wildly successful in making great games. We owe a lot
to the community of game developers and publishers so that's why we
continue doing so many things to give back to the community.

8BR: It's been just about 2 years since the Mochi Score API was released.
Was that "watershed" moment for you guys, knowing you could expand the
Mochi services out to actual in-game servces that expanded game-play?
In a sense, you stopped "augmented" games and became part of the game
development process.

JH: We've always been part of the game development process starting with
MochiBot, but releasing the Mochi Score API was definitely a landmark
moment for us in understanding that value we could provide both game
developers and portals. Building high scores showed us that we could
build services that add value to games so that people would play more
often.

8BR: Can you tell us anything about relative success of Mochicoins? Do you
think consumers are ready to spend their money on "free" games?

JH: MochiCoins has been a tremendous success that has well surpassed our
expectations. Consumers are definitely ready to spend money on 'free'
games and we're not the only company proving this. All of the social
games on Facebook are clearly making money from free-to-play games.
The misconception in the Flash games industry is that many people are
stuck in the mindset that Flash games have always been free and
therefore people won't pay to play them. However, the data shows that
people are spending lots of money and those who are learning from the
social gaming space are profiting from this evolution in games.

8BR: Are there any new services on the horizon that you can talk about?

JH: Our most recent announcements have been the launch of the Mochi Social
Platform (http://www.mochimedia.com/developers/social.html) and the
Mochi GAME Developer Fund
(http://www.mochimedia.com/developers/fund.html).

The Mochi Social Platform is designed around the concept we touched
upon earlier in that we are trying to build features that can benefit
both developers and publishers in getting people to play more games.
The success of social games has revolved around the inclusion of your
social graph in the games themselves. Unfortunately the social graph
hasn't been readily available to Flash game developers so that's why
we built the Mochi Social Platform. We hope to enable Flash game
developers with the ability to make their games more personalized for
their players to drive more game plays and a greater willingness to
spend money in their games.

The Mochi GAME Developer Fund is our answer to developers who have
been wanting to make MochiCoins enabled games but haven't had the
resources to take on the increased production efforts and risk. Many
people ask why we put GAME in all caps and it's because the fund is a
joint effort between our parent company Shanda Games (stock ticker
NASDAQ:GAME) and Mochi Media.

8BR: Have you ever considered "white labeling" your service offerings for
"enterprise" customers who might need a "private" version of the Mochi
system? (kind of like the way a company like Ning, OneSite or Pluck
has White labeled social networking into a set of services)

JH: We had considered white labeling some of the Mochi Media services but
in the end the effort involved was greater than the potential return
so we passed on the project. We still have companies that ask us to
provide a white label solution but for most of them we are able to
find a solution in our current product set that meets their needs
without having to white label anything.

8BR: What do you guys think of the HTML 5 Canvas?

JH: I think HTML 5 is very exciting and will improve our experience on the
web. However, I don't think that HTML 5 is going to outright replace
Flash as a multimedia platform overnight. It may happen over the
course of many years but we'll definitely be preparing ourselves for
when that transition happens.

8BR: How about Silverlight?

JH: Silverlight is a great technology but they don't have a strong
developer base creating great content. Without great content adoption
will be low. We definitely keep up with Silverlight in case there's a
need to support the platform but we don't have any plans as of yet.

8BR: How do you think Flash compiled to ARM/iPad/IPhone will affect Mochi?

JH: Flash compiled to the iPhone will not affect us since we don't operate
in the iPhone spectrum. It may lead some developers to build games
for the iPhone instead of sticking with Flash but the barriers to
success in the iPhone space are so high that I believe many will
return to Flash for the wide open opportunities that are available
now.

8BR: Any plans to support Multi-player?

JH: We don't have any plans to build a multiplayer service at this time.
It's something we would like to do but the complexities of building a
high quality service that suits the needs of everyone is not something
we have figured out yet. Maybe with some more tinkering we'll find
the sweet spot.

8BR: In what ways do you think the merger will will enhance your ability
to deliver your products?

JH: The obvious enhancement can be seen with the Mochi GAME Developer
Fund. Shanda Games believes in the value of developers and is willing
to invest in the community. That will inherently help us build better
products.

The other great benefit that Shanda Games brings is their
understanding of the gaming ecosystem in China. There are over 1B
people in China and games are a very popular form of entertainment.
Having a strong partner in China such as Shanda Games will help us
build better products that can enable developers to generate greater
revenues from this vast and growing market.

8BR: Any worries about it?

JH: We're confident that the merger with Shanda Games will only help our
business grow. If we had any worries then we probably wouldn't have
done the deal.

8BR: Finally, Do you guys still enjoy Flash games? Do you guys have favorites?

JH: I still love Flash games and play them all the time. I sometimes play
too much and don't finish my work. I think I can justify it though.
=)

My favorite game right now is Knight Elite by Ninja Kiwi
(http://ninjakiwi.com/Games/Action/Play/Knight-Elite.html). They've
done a great job in building an engaging game that I've been playing
almost every night.

8BR: Thanks Jameson! We really appreciate you taking the time to answer our questions.

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