The humble home-grown Fruit Ninja is poised to be transformed into an all-singing, all-dancing marketing machine, as Halfbrick co-founder and CEO Shainiel Deo capitalises on the popularity and riches generated by the smartphone game.
Millions around the world have downloaded the game Fruit Ninja, where users slice-and-dice airborne fruit and vegetables by swiping their fingers across the screen, and Deo plans to leverage this brand and reach to derive larger revenues from mobile advertising and merchandise sales.
The key plan in this strategy is a games distribution network — working title: Bricknet — where third-party developers can publish and distribute games to Halfbrick's large existing customer base.
"It's probably not going to be as fully-blown as Facebook, but it will still have a lot of that personal interaction," Deo said. "It will revolve around playing games with your friends; whether competitive in terms of leader boards, or sharing user-generated content or asynchronous play, like Words with Friends, and just being able to chat and communicate.
"We've dipped our toes in it one or two times, and published one or two games already, but we're just building out our back-end infrastructure, so we can support external developers a lot better."
"I think, towards the end of this year, we'll start to bring on more third parties and publishing in earnest."
The vision materialised earlier this year when Halfbrick acquired Spanish developer Onan Games for its "Mandreel" distribution technology; simultaneously planting a beachhead for the company's European expansion. The company currently employs close to 60 people, located in its Brisbane headquarters and offices in Sydney and Spain; Deo expects that this will grow to almost 70 people by year's end.
Paid downloads contributes over 50 per cent of the company's revenues, followed by micro-transactions and then mobile advertising, he said. Over the next two years, Deo hopes that mobile advertising, along with paid downloads, will become the biggest revenue contributors — between 30 and 40 per cent each — with the remainder from licensed intellectual property.
A US-based licensing agent has arranged merchandise deals for Fruit Ninja and Jetpack Joyride — t-shirts, plush toys, lollies, socks, tracksuits, hoodies and board games — and it will soon hire similar staff in Brisbane.
"There's all sorts of crazy things," Deo said. "We're now starting to take that global, and trying to roll out that licensing program worldwide … You'll see more and more of that stuff becoming available in stores."