The Argentinian Martín Spinetto had the idea before everyone else: facing a massive family boardgames culture in his country wouldn’t it be a great business to take those games to the digital platforms? his idea, was encouraged by the reality of the huge amount of downloads games have in app stores. Given that there are hundreds and hundreds of options, only a few become popular in the stores. So, How to join both ideas? That’s how Widow Games was born.
“The challenge to us from the beginning wasn’t the development of the games themselves, but to find a way of making us different from other games, and what we found was the possibility of getting together with recognized brands of board games that hadn’t taken the digital step yet and didn’t know how to. We didn’t ask them for money but we invested in the development and then we shared the royalties” says Spinetto, who was once at an executive position in the Direction of Communications in Latin America of Microsoft.
After contacting the main players of this market in Argentina, the time came to get the project going, after going through NXTP Labs they were incubated by Wayra and then they received an investment of USD 250 thousand with the goal of consolidating the business model.
The first game to be developed was Carrera de Mente (A Race for the Mind in Spanish), one of the classic Argentinian boardgames, afterwards came TEG, a game with a golden popularity in the country, both had a major impact in the downloads charts. “The most important thing to us is the capacity to create a community that every company has, to us the community is made of all the active users, an indicator that has been growing since we first started. There are seasonal peaks, for example in december lots of people give these games as gifts for the holidays. We have around 70 thousand active users a month and we keep adding 20 thousand new users a month” said Spinetto.
How did you solve the challenge of migrating from the physical world to the digital platform with these games?
There is a bottom line, never modify the base idea of the game: “The mechanics of the game have to stay the same because what we bring to the virtual world is familiarity, we want people to know how to play the game the moment they see it. Once this is defined, the tough part comes: What to do if you have to deal cards? How does the pile of cards look like? These are technical limitations that we get form going from the physical world to the digital, and we solved with the team. Then the third stage comes where we have to see what we can add to each game, for example a multiplayer feature, the possibility of playing with other people from around the world, the chance to save ongoing games, to record accomplishments, and to make the game keep statistics… a bunch of things that can only be done in the digital world” he explains.
Spinetto tells us that he is now working in several games: “In the updates of Carrera de Mente and TEG, but also in the first online multiplayer version in HTML 5 of Burako (Rumi) and in another Argentinian classic: ‘Mill Millas’ (A Thousand Miles in Spanish). Every user will be able to enjoy these games through the portal we are about to launch with ‘Telefonica Group’: juegosdesiempre.com where the user will be able to play for free as a single player, and for a monthly fee, he/she will enjoy the platform to its full capacity from any device and against other people” Spinetto said.
Talking about the importance of the agreement with Wayra, Spinetto highlights the fact that it surpassed his expectations because it allowed them to have a much more fluent conversation with the Telefonica GroupL “We managed to get benefits such as a distribution and promotion contract with Speedy for online games (every Speedy user has a discount on the games available in the platform) and agreements with Movistar in Argentina and Spain which allows Movistar users to pay for our mobile phone games through their phone bill, a very important feature in Latin America because credit cards are not as popular yet” he explained.
The most drastic change they had to make as a company was not only innovate in the platform but in the business model. “Close to 95% of the game apps nowadays are making money through the freemium model (which allows users to download the game for free but makes them pay for extra features) it is a valid model but we believe there is something more to it. If we want to make the company worth more in the future we need to reach more markets, then this means the value of the company isn’t in the promotion and development of individual products but in the capacity of creating a community that for sure enjoys all of our products. With this in mind we decided to change the model to a monthly subscription type that grants users that pay a monthly fee, access to all of our games from any device they have” he highlights.
The plans of Widow Games include getting this part of the business in the whole area. “We want to expand outside of Argentina. Not in every country the games market takes the same shape. In Chile it is not as big, the culture of boardgames is more in a niche, as it happens in Europe, games are more expensive, and not as familiar or massive as in Argentina. In Colombia, Brazil and Mexico there is a culture, it is a tradition from a long time ago, they are more popular and for the whole family. In all these markets we have identified the main player of the industry” he clarifies.
Finally and in this way, he tells that they just signed and agreement with the most traditional board game company in Mexico, Novedades Montecarlo, with the goal of starting to digitalize big Mexican classics, online and for mobile phones: “we will connect them to our multiplayer and multi platform networks in JuegosdeSiempre.com” he concludes.