'DancePad' springs from CAA, Qualcomm venture
Jennifer Lopez is dancing her way into the mobile app biz with “DancePad,” the first product released by Moonshark, the entertainment startup co-founded last year by Creative Artists Agency and Qualcomm.The downloadable app, similar to “Dance Dance Revolution” but played with fingers on tablets, will include 20 levels that last 30-45 seconds each. Moonshark has also brokered deals with 30 artists, including Mayer Hawthorne, Vintage Trouble, Nabiha, the Whigs, Saint Motel, Shu Sho and the Bangerz, who provide the soundtrack behind the Jabbawockeez dance crew. App “combines all the elements of dance and music in a cool way on tablets that’s never been seen before,” Moonshark CEO Matt Kozlov told Variety. Idea for “DancePad” was conceived by nine students from USC’s game design program. “The same way that ‘Dance Dance Revolution’ created a culture in arcades, we felt that ‘DancePad’ could create that same kind of culture for mobile,” said Kozlov, whose resume includes having developed Web and mobile products, including the first branded artist app for Pink and a successful line of rock-themed pinball games while at Sony Music. He also oversaw media and entertainment strategies and product development at Yahoo. Looking to turn the game into a franchise, Moonshark acquired the rights to “DancePad” from the students and introduced it to Lopez and her team to develop. The students remain onboard as consultants. Moonshark will work with Lopez to promote the game, marketing “DancePad” to her fanbase across social media platforms, as well as through her concert tour with Enrique Iglesias and performances by the Jabbawockeez. Moonshark also aims to encourage players to record themselves playing the game and post the videos on YouTube. “It’s really about self-expression,” said Kozlov, who is known for drawing a smiley face on his hand — something he did so often that he now has a stamp of the image at the ready. YouTube star Philip DeFranco, whose channel generates over 5 million views each week, and another with director John Woo, set to launch later this year. Moonshark does not produce the games but develops the concepts with creators, finances them and handles the marketing, taking the projects to independent game studios to make. To monetize the titles, it’s selling additional levels rather than focusing on advertising. While the initial version of “DancePad” is free, players can unlock 80 more levels at $2.99. Moonshark will continue to be updated with new music tracks from new and established artists, as well as dance levels. “We want to grow this over time,” Kozlov said. “We don’t just want to put them on a shelf and walk away.” Moonshark is part of CAA’s incubator program, which also counts Funny or Die and WhoSay. The tenpercentery co-founded the venture last year as Creative Mobile Labs to tap into the mobile gaming industry, which has grown considerably as the likes of “Angry Birds,” “Draw Something,” “Words With Friends” and “Where’s My Water” have caught on with a variety of gamers.
Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more