GPS Business News interviewed with Kristof Van den Branden, founder of La Mosca, an editor of location-based games located in Ghent, Belgium.
GPS Business News: Kristof, can you tell me how you started your game company La Mosca?
Kristof Van den Branden: I started on my own in May 2005. The first game I began programming was The Target in December 2005. In October 2006 I founded La Mosca and our first game was launched in May 2007. The Target is a multi-players location-based game. It is a pursuit game. A dangerous gangster has just escaped from prison. Three policemen are sent to catch the man before he manages to commit enough crime, collect â‚¬1,000,000 and leave the city. The gangster has to steal virtual objects that are located all over the city to be able to commit the crimes: a knife, a rope ladder, explosives, etc. Every time he steals an object or commits a crime, however, the police find out. This ensures the gangster leaves a trail of his activities in the city that can be followed. It is a very advanced game with real time positioning using the internet connection of the phone. But The Target is not the only game we have developed. We have launched four other games in 2007: Codecrackers, CityTracks, Treasure of the Monk and City Team Conquest.
GPS BN: How do you distribute these games?
KVdB: Our approach is that people go to game centers (where people play videogames on PCs) and Internet cafes and they can rent devices with the game. Right now we rent Nokia 6110 Navigator handsets and our Java games (J2ME midlets) are preloaded on the phone. Our customers rent them for 2 hours to play with their friends. A lot of games are played on Saturdays and during the week in the evenings.
We started with two cities in Belgium and now we have expanded to two other Belgian cities, then in Holland in five cities. We got a lot of media coverage, attention and word of mouth. Now we have an average of one game played every day in every game center. We are also expanding to France and other European countries. In February we will have first: a game center opening in Leuven, Belgium — a city with a lot of students — entirely dedicated to location-based gaming.
GPS BN: who are the players?
KVdB: There are two types of customers: the first type is individuals: a bunch of friends that want to have fun for a couple of hours. But we also have event agencies that integrate our games in their offer for team building and other corporate activities. The game is a part of the events they organize for big companies such as IBM, Kodak or Canon. These days most of our revenue comes from event agencies. We add a new agency to our customer portfolio almost every week. As an example, last week we had a group of 130 people from the same company playing our game “code crackers” in Paris.
GPS BN: How much does it cost to play?
KVdB: If you go to a game center it is â‚¬90 per group and per game. A group is about 10 to 12 people. Event agencies do not have the same pricing: they invoice about â‚¬45 to â‚¬50 per player, but they manage devices, the game and have people on-site, this takes them more resources that the game itself.
GPS BN: How does it work for the devices, do you buy them?
KVdB: Not at this time. Nokia has become a sponsor since August 2007, so they give us devices to get visibility. We are now in talks with Nokia France and Lithuania to extend this partnership. If we do not have this kind of partnership, then we let the game center buy the devices.