Gameloft Company Profile

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Mobile entertainment is rapidly expanding. Developers have flocked to recent sessions on mobile gaming at conferences such as the Game Developers Conference, and consumers are increasingly discovering mobile gaming. Sure, gamers can play solitaire or bowl on their phones, but they can also play games based on major licenses, closer to the quality of a Game Boy Color game. Read on to learn more about Gameloft, an established company with access to Ubi Soft's licenses.

Kyle Ackerman

Founded by the same group that created Ubi Soft, Gameloft was created in 1999 to make mobile games for the emerging mobile entertainment market. Gameloft is a publicly traded company, listed on the Paris Stock Exchange, but their close relationship with Ubi Soft affords them tremendous advantages in the mobile gaming marketplace. As of April 30, 2003, 59% of Gameloft was owned by the Guillemot family, 14% is owned by Ubi Soft Entertainment S.A. and 15% is owned by Guillemot Corporation S.A. If the Guillemot name sounds familiar, that's because five brothers with the last name of Guillemot started Ubi Soft in 1986, and Yves Guillemot led the company and its expansion outside of France. Only 8% of Gameloft's stock is publicly traded.

A Close Relationship

As a sister company of Ubi Soft, Gameloft has staff in place near Ubi Soft's development centers, and has negotiated licenses to most of Ubi Soft's intellectual property. Gameloft's strategy is to release cell phone versions of the big games Ubi Soft releases, simultaneous with the launch on major console platforms and the PC. That's in addition to the games they develop in house. Originally, Gameloft was developing games for mobile platforms including Brew, Java and Symbian as well as Pocket PC and Palm OS. While nothing is ruled out, they are now primarily making games for Java and Brew.

The vast array of handsets and platforms can only draw your attention to a major challenge in developing mobile games – porting games from one platform to another. Gameloft has about ninety employees, but nearly seventy of those are in design and programming. According to Mathieu Rolland, the General Manager of North American operations, it takes around three months to code a solid title (such as the mobile version of Splinter Cell). The challenge is to weigh the popularity and market presence of various handsets to decide which platform will yield the best results. Then, porting the game from the original platform to a different phone can take a team another two weeks to a month, depending on the changes required by different graphics and capabilities. That means a substantial portion of the programmers are porting games from one platform to another, and that Gameloft is hiring even more for future projects. (Mobile gaming programmers, take note.)

The Games

The games they make include a wide range of titles such as Rayman Golf, Siberian Strike and Rainbow Six: Broken Wings. While release dates vary by platform and country, North American customers will see the major titles as their console equivalents are released. For example, Prince of Persia: Harem Adventures will be released in November for U.S. phone owners (around the same time as the new console game is released), but has already launched in Korea. A mobile version of XIII will launch in October, and will be a mobile first-person shooter. As you might expect, the graphics are simpler, and the action is slower than the upcoming console version of XIII, but the game is surprisingly good when compared to other mobile games.

All of Gameloft's games are priced in the impulse-buy range of $3 to $7, and they really noticed game sales take off last December. That's around the time they released Splinter Cell for many mobile platforms, and it did really well. So well, in fact, that they reported turnover for the first half of 2003 of €3.3 million (around $3.7 million), compared to turnover of €1.1 million in the first half of 2002. Though they showed no operating profit at the end of 2002, revenue is growing exponentially and some of their past expenses were related to acquisitions, so there is hope for the future. The company currently has a market capitalization of €95.6 million (around $106.5 million). Keep in mind that such a valuation is based on only around 8% of the shares trading, and those on fairly low volume. Still, Gameloft is well-positioned in an emerging field with enormous profit potential, so there is every reason to expect that the Guillemot family and Ubi Soft will continue to support it.

As things stand now, Gameloft can boast a wide presence. They have marketing personnel in nine countries, and distribute games in more than thirty countries. In the U.S., they have contracts with most of the U.S. carriers, and are negotiating relationships with most of the remaining carriers. That's part of the glory of cell phone games – the carrier can distribute them directly, so users just have to choose their game, download it, and pay as part of the bill. As mobile phones become better standardized, the field can only improve for companies and consumers alike.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on August 20, 2003 4:29 PM.

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