Jam City, Set to Launch Another ‘Family Guy’ Mobile Game, Eyes IPO in 2018

Jam City - Family Game mobile
Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

Jam City, the fast-growing mobile games publisher, loves Seth MacFarlane’s “Family Guy” so much, it’s teed up another title based on Fox’s sarcasm-fueled animated TV series.

The new match-three puzzle game, aptly called “Family Guy: Another Freakin’ Mobile Game,” is set to launch early this summer. The game — which is not for kids, Jam City noted, or people who are easily offended for that matter — revolves around helping Peter Griffin get drinks by matching alcoholic beverages.

That will join “Family Guy: The Quest for Stuff” from TinyCo, the studio Jam City acquired last year, which lets fans create their own versions of the show’s town, Quahog, and has been downloaded more than 50 million times. All told, Jam City has six titles set to debut in 2017, including another title developed with Fox, “Futurama: Worlds of Tomorrow,” and a game based on “Peanuts” characters.

The new games, along with existing franchises like “Cookie Jam” and “Panda Pop,” put L.A.-based Jam City on pace to generate $450 million in revenue for 2017 — up 25% from last year — according to CEO Chris DeWolfe. He added the 500-employee company is “extremely profitable” without providing details.

Given its growth trajectory, DeWolfe said Jam City is prepping for an initial public offering in 2018. That’s going to require “lots of blocking and tackling” to hit financial targets, he said: “There’s a lot of front-loaded costs associated with launching six games this year.” In the fourth quarter, DeWolfe said, Jam City is targeting the release of a game based on a very large British entertainment franchise, and is in talks to license other Hollywood properties for game adaptations.

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Jam City’s prospective IPO comes as one of its major investors, South Korean game developer Netmarble Games, earlier this week filed to raise as much as $2.4 billion in a public offering this spring. The mobile-games sector has gone through a wave of consolidation: China’s Tencent acquired Supercell, Activision Blizzard bought “Candy Crush” developer King Digital, and Netmarble bought Kabam’s Vancouver-based studio, the developer of games including “Marvel Contest of Champions.”

DeWolfe is betting the free-to-play model will continue to pay off for Jam City’s titles, which generate more than 90% of their revenue from users’ in-app purchases. “If we don’t have a game that makes $100 million a year that’s an opportunity cost for us,” he said, noting that “Cookie Jam” alone has generated more than $500 million revenue to date.

“What’s really changed in the industry is that games no longer go up and down [in terms of revenue],” said DeWolfe. “They look less like movies and more like TV shows, because you’re adding new, updated content all the time.”The latest “Family Guy” game is the fourth title under the partnership between Jam City and Fox Interactive, which produces games and apps based on 20th Century Fox’s film and TV properties, along with “Family Guy: The Quest for Stuff,” “Sugar Smash: The Book of Life” and the forthcoming “Futurama: Worlds of Tomorrow.”

Fox has “become a very special partner for us,” said DeWolfe. “It’s a different skill set to take content from one format and port it in a very authentic way to a game. What we are really the best at is taking third-party [intellectual property] and creating great, casual games.”

Jam City will cross-promote “Family Guy: Another Freakin’ Mobile Game” with the TinyCo-developed “Family Guy” title and the “Futurama” game, also is slated to be released this summer. (According to DeWolfe, the No. 1 request from the “Family Guy” fans was for a “Futurama” game.) The company is looking to diversify its appeal across demographic groups and geographies, and one reason it bought TinyCo was because its user base skewed more male thanks to “Marvel Avengers Academy.” The new “Family Guy” game, unlike the mostly “saccharine” puzzle games in the market, will target males, who have been largely underserved in the category.

Created in partnership with MacFarlane’s production team, “Family Guy: Another Freakin’ Mobile Game” will let players interact with fan-favorite characters from the show (for example, you can deliver a knockout blow to Ernie the Giant Chicken) and feature original animated content. Users can preregister now on Google Play or at FamilyGuyAnotherFreakinMobileGame.com.

Says “Family Guy” executive producer Rich Appel about the new game: “My children tell me many young people own smartphones, so this seemed like a good idea.”

Before his career in the games industry, DeWolfe was a co-founder of ill-fated social service Myspace. He cofounded Jam City (originally called SGN, for “Social Gaming Network”) in 2010 with Aber Whitcomb, another former Myspace founder, along with ex-20th Century Fox exec Josh Yguado.

One of DeWolfe’s key takeaways from Myspace was that user experience is critical – and said the problem for Myspace was that the pages eventually got cluttered and overburdened with ads, driving users away. “When I started this company, I vowed that it was always going to be users first,” he said. “If you do that, you can always find a way to make money.”

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