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Kabam Looks to China in Pursuit of a Billion-Dollar Video Game

Kabam wants to compete worldwide in mobile games, and China is the natural place to start.


Last year, Kabam took a $120 million investment from Alibaba. Now, says COO Kent Wakeford, “we’re really going all in in China.”

The San Francisco-based gaming company has operated an office in Beijing since 2011, but today it announced plans to reorient the studio toward making games for China, rather than just for the West. That change, to focus on China’s 700 million mobile devices, is one component of an ongoing restructuring that will result in the net loss of around 25 jobs, taking Kabam from 850 employees to “more than 825,” according to a spokesperson.

The stated goal of the restructuring: Preparing the company to one day make a mobile game that can pull in $1 billion in annual revenue.

Last year, the company’s sales topped $400 million, up from $360 million the year before.

That’s a lot of ground to cover. But Wakeford said the gap between the top-grossing game in the world (currently, Supercell’s Clash of Clans, which makes an estimated $80 million per month) and the game at No. 100 has widened significantly in the past few years.

“The real opportunity is what’s happening at the top,” he said. “Kabam is only one of a handful of companies positioned to go after the top of the market.”

The company plans to cut its output from 12 games in 2014 to four new games this year, investing more in each of those four in the hope of building them into “AAA mobile games.” What that means in English: Games that look and feel highly polished, like what you’d expect from a console publisher such as EA, Activision Blizzard or Ubisoft.

Under Kabam’s new structure, studios president Nick Earl will oversee four studios: RPG, led by Aaron Loeb, with offices in San Francisco and Vancouver; Strategy, the new LA office stemming from its acquisitions of TapZen and Magic Pixel, led by Mike Verdu; China Region, led by co-founder Mike Li; and Platform and Studio Operations, an internally focused tech and business service unit headed up by Paxton Cooper.

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