Social Gaming in Latin America is far from being a weak trend… Game users have been growing steadily over the past couple of years, due to the fact that internet access and usage in most of Latin American countries have expanded considerably.
Players in the region are increasingly embracing social and mobile gaming. Even though the penetration figures are not as high as in the United States yet, the social media and gaming market is blowing up. According to Daniel Kafie, CEO and founder of Vostu, the global advertising market for social gaming is expected to rise to US$ 1.6 billion in 2012. In Latin America, the social gaming advertising market actually reaches US$ 350 million, according to the executive at IAB Now Argentina.
Two giants of social gaming in Latin America…
Vostu: Vostu is a game producer and developer based in New York and also has offices in São Paulo and Buenos Aires. Vostu has around 20 million weekly active users on social networks. Daniel Kafie co-founded Vostu with classmates Joshua Kushner and Mario Scholosser from Harvard University. Jim Breyer, a partner at Accel and Facebook board member, will join Vostu’s board.Daniel Kafie, chief executive of Vostu, said to VentureBeat that his company will remain laser-focused on the large Brazilian market as it expands its social game business.
Mentez: Mentez is a game publisher, not developer, that focuses on localizing and distributing pre-existing titles for Latin American audiences. While most popular social games in North America end up on Facebook, Mentez releases its games on the Google-owned Orkut, leading social network in Brazil. Mentez currently publishes four of the top five games on Orkut, including Happy Harvest (Colheita Feliz), which bears resemblance to Zynga's FarmVille.
Across its 21 titles, Mentez sees also 20 million active users each week, and has signed deals with Chinese development studios, as well as U.S. developers like Playdom.
In November 2011, Vostu closed a USD 30 million round from Accel Partners and Tiger Global Management. Vostu has recently acquired MP Game Studio, a specialized company in developing games for licensed intellectual property. Some of its partners are Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, TNT, Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Unilever, National Geographic, Clarin Group, and Miniclip.
New York-based Insight Venture Partners has invested an undisclosed amount of money into Miami-based Mentez. This round follows an investment of USD 200,000 last year from angel investor Mauricio Bejarano, a former executive of Los Angeles startup XDrive (now defunct).
Last week, gaming startup PlayJam raised a new USD 5 million round of funding to bring games to smart TVs and set-top boxes. The new round includes participation by GameStop Digital Ventures, Adobe Ventures, Endeavour Ventures, London Venture Partners and others. PlayJam is known for producing games on internet-connected TV platforms from Samsung, LG, Sony and Panasonic.
Also small companies are growing, as an example; Argentina-based Three Melons was acquired by Playdom in March this year. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Zio Studios, a 45-person animation and gaming startup based in Bogotá, Colombia, received early this year from local venture capital firm Promotora, USD 1.3 million in a first round of institutional funding.
Latin American social gaming growth is bolstered by the high growth of the Latin American economies during the last decade.