Glu Mobile Management Presents at Wedbush Securities CA Dreamin' Consumer Conference (Transcript)

Dec.10.13 | About: Glu Mobile (GLUU)

Glu Mobile (NASDAQ:GLUU)

Presentation at Wedbush Securities CA Dreamin’ Consumer Conference

December 10, 2013, 8:00 a.m. ET


Eric Ludwig - Chief Financial Officer


Michael Pachter - Wedbush Securities

Michael Pachter

Good morning, I’m Michael Pachter, research analyst at Wedbush Securities. We’re fortunate to have Glu Mobile here. It’s ticker symbol GLUU. We do not cover it. If we did, I think I would probably like it a lot, mostly because I like the CFO a lot, Eric Ludwig. Welcome Eric, and thank you for being here.

Eric Ludwig

Thank you, Michael. Thanks for those words. So Glu has been doing games, mobile games, for 12 years. And we’re the only, today, pure play NASDAQ listed company doing mobile games, social mobile games, only.

At a high level, all of our games are on iOS and Android phones and tablets. As I talk through this, you’ll hear that we’ve got a big presence in Asia. About a third of our revenue coming from Asia-Pac. We’re well capitalized, and have 500 employees across the globe.

About a year ago, we hired a new management team at the studio and publishing levels, and we’ve spent the last year retooling and refocusing the business. And I’ll talk about the crescendoing of that, culminating in our big title, Deer Hunter, which launched in September.

But at a high level, the mobile gaming market is large and getting larger every single day. Today, there’s 5 billion mobile phones out there. About 1.5 billion are smartphones. And this transition from feature phones to smartphones is underway, but still early. There’s still a lot of meat on the bone in terms of people transitioning to smartphones.

And also, as you track the mobile traffic, you can see that consumers are getting onto their mobile devices, onto the internet, and engaging significantly at a very fast pace. And what’s interesting, everything we do we do on phones and tablets. And you can see with the launch of the iPad, there’s more units on tablets launching than there even was on iPhones, so we play in the two fastest growing markets where consumers engage with content.

But this is a very complex industry. Everybody seems to think that since anybody can launch a game on the iPhone and Google Play store, there’s zero barriers to entry. The opposite is the truth. It’s a very complex industry in terms of the technology integration, in terms of the number of devices.

There are over 800 devices on the Android today. To try to get your games on all of those devices, in 10 languages, and getting it features across all the various app stores is massively complex. And that’s why you’ll see the big guys are getting bigger in this sector. And that’s also why we have a 90% plus track record of getting our content featured, from Apple and Google and the various app stores.

And then also, some of the arguments people have been making over the last couple of years is that mobile gaming is very small. I think there’s some big public companies in the video game space, who still have yet to make a play in mobile because of the supposed size of the market.

This is a huge market. There are games out there that are making $1 billion a year of revenue plus. There’s at least two of those games. There’s a lot of $100 million games. And Glu’s got our first really big, substantial title, with Deer Hunter. And we believe that we’re the leader in shooters. Shooters on console are close to half of the console industry. Today about 5% of the revenue on mobile is shooters.

So we think those two are going to converge. It may not be 50%, but certainly 15-20% of revenue long term we believe can come from shooters. And we are the absolute leader in shooters today on mobile devices.

So talking through some of our recent product strategy, we are an action adventure gaming company, on mobile devices. We have four big franchises, all owned IP. These are games and content franchises that we’ve created. The Contract Killer franchise, the Frontline Commando franchise, the Eternity Warriors franchise, which is a dungeon crawler/slasher in Asia. And then most recently, the Deer Hunter.

We’ve been doing Deer Hunter titles for over seven years. It used to be a brand that Atari owned. We bought the brand off of Atari about a year and a half ago, when they were on financial crisis. And we’ve just recently launched Deer Hunter.

So these are some great stats that you’ll see. Kind of an eye chart. We launched Deer Hunter 2014 in September. We’ve seen over 40 million installs in the first two and a half months. I think one of the things you’ll see here is that 7% of the population of Vatican City downloaded this game. So who knows? Pope Francis himself might be hunting zombie deer out there, and exorcising their demons.

But also, you see some of the engagement in terms of hours of game play. If you added up all of the cumulative hours of game play that we’ve seen, you could have built the Empire State Building 17 times over, from how long it took them to build.

And this title’s done better than any title we’ve ever seen before. This is the outstanding, top grossing chart for iPhone in the U.S., and you can see Deer Hunter, since its launch in September, has been sitting at top-ten grossing pretty much throughout. So we’ve had a very, very substantial launch. We’re very, very pleased about this.

And then this is not a one trick pony. We believe that over the last year we’ve really made a lot of improvements. We’ve talked about this a lot on our earnings calls and IR calls, about improving live operations, improving monetization, improving the cadence of our games and content.

And two titles that we have coming out this quarter remaining, Eternity Warrior 3 launching at the end of December. This is obviously an owned IP franchise extension from Eternity Warriors 1 and 2. It’s doing quite well in beta, up in Canada, Singapore, Sweden. Also, we just launched or third-party publishing title, Gun Zombie 2, from Pnix, which is a Korean company.

I think right now it’s number 15, top 3 in the U.S. app store, so it’s jumped up the charts, seeing lots of download opportunities. And then on the back of that is our Q1 lineup. We have kind of a combination of our own franchises as well as a license IP.

So we’ve done a deal with MGM, the movie studio. They’re coming out with the second franchise extension of RoboCop. For those of you in the room that are a bit older, you might remember that from the 80s. RoboCop is coming out in early February, and we’ll be launching the premium social game for RoboCop on the backs of that.

We’ve got another game engine [re-use], Defenders and Dragons. And then two franchises, Motocross Meltdown, launching in February, and Frontline Commando 2, which is our own take on the first person shooter category.

There are a couple of growth drivers that I think are very important to our story. One is APAC. As I mentioned before, we have a little less than a third of our revenue coming from Asia Pacific. All of our games are localized in Japanese, Chinese, Korean. We have a studio in Beijing, China, and have seen very, very substantial growth in that region, because of the work that we do there.

Additionally, we did a bit of a fundraise back in September. And with that fundraise, we talked about getting into the third party publishing business. Gun Zombie 2 being the first of many titles that we’re coming out with, where we can get more shots on goal, leveraging our sales, marketing, and G&A.

And you can see our title volume will be increasing, close to doubling, next year, at the high end of our range, from 17 overall titles to 28-34 titles, leveraging both our first party internal studios, which will be flat year over year, but with second and third party publishing titles ramping up substantially.

The other really interesting opportunity, and we’ve now started to prove this out with the Deer Hunter launch, is the amount of money we’re making from advertising. As you may know, mobile advertising, right now the eCPMs are lower than they are on the internet. However, the volume of mobile traffic is exploding.

As the networks get better, as more and more advertisers come into the mobile space, we believe these eCPMs will get closer to parity with the internet, which would then be incremental revenue for the sector overall. And we’ve already started proving this out with Deer Hunter. We’ve talked about this on our earnings calls, how we’re seeing double the money from advertising on Deer Hunter, within the Deer Hunter game, than we have seen on other titles.

And then more longer afield is the quad screen future. So today, we’re on phones and tablets. All of our games are Retina display for the iPad, so therefore you can play them on phones and tablets, iOS, Android. We do launch some games on the Mac OS app store. So we do have kind of three screens today.

But our games being Retina display for the iPad, there’s more pixel density on that iPad than there is on the 65-inch home screen TV. So once Apple and Google figure out what the app store will be for the home theater, and once they figure out the controller to play games in the home TV, we will be there at launch when those do come out.

And then lastly, and this is certainly farther afield, but it’s something that we are at the forefront of, is the wearables market. You know, whether it’s Google Glass, whether it’s games for iwatches. We announced about two weeks ago that we were the first game to be on Google Glass. We demoed it at the Google presentation, Spellista, which is a word spelling game that you can send and created user-generated content to your friends who also have Google Glass, so you can play the game together and engage with them.

So we’re at the forefront of everything that Google does. And we think once they get tens of millions of addressable market devices, we think that becomes a very interesting opportunity as well.

So kind of going through the financial summary, we’ve been a business that has gone through a very very big platform transition, from feature phones, dumb phones, to smartphones. And you can see we peaked revenue, $90 million, back in ’08, and then we saw substantial revenue declines in ’09 and 2010 as the overall market transition from feature phones to smartphones.

We had to reinvent our business, and we did so, growing smartphone revenue from zero in ’08 to where now our feature phone business is, we’ll be $2 million next year, in 2014, and our numbers in smartphone are over $100 million this year. So have reinvented the business.

And then also, slide 27 really shows what the leverage of a hit can do. We had, in Q3, our worst quarter in eight quarters in terms of revenue. My guidance for Q4 is our biggest quarter ever, on the backs of Deer Hunter being 50% of our revenue in the fourth quarter.

And for those who don’t know the story that well, how we make our money, 64% of our revenue comes from iOS, about that, about the other third coming from Android. And in terms of how we make the money, about 75-80% of our revenue comes from consumers spending money for in-app purchases. So they buy the virtual currency, they buy the bigger weapon, the upgrade, etc. And the balance, 20-25% of our revenue, comes from advertising, whether it’s they watch a video ad, look at a banner interstitial ad, etc.

And this is really a tale of two quarters. So in Q3, we had a very, very diverse revenue, our biggest title was a little less than 20% of revenue. Obviously, with Deer Hunter and our guidance that Deer Hunter would be half of our revenue in Q4, we’ve really kind of shown the hits-driven nature of the model and the leverage with that model as well.

But you can see here we have franchises. This is not the video game industry where opening month is half the revenue. It’s not the box office where opening weekend is half the revenue. Our titles generate meaningful revenue still six to eight quarters after launch. So our titles have a two to four year long tail life, given the fact that our addressable market is increasing every quarter as they get new devices, as well as we update the content, so our games are persistent. We add continuous content with these freemium social games.

And then this slide you can see really shows the growth of revenue from Asia Pacific. You can see the big jump about two years ago in Asia Pacific. And that trend continues every quarter.

And then this is our freemium business model, give the games away for free, get tens of millions of people to play the games, engage with the games. And then a small percentage, 0.5% to 0.75% actually spend money within the game, and we make 75% of our revenue from that 0.5% of people. And the rest we serve up ads.

This is a big business. So we get 50 million downloads of our games every quarter. We have a very engaged user base. We had, in the month of September, and this is with half a month of contributions from Deer Hunter, we had 4.3 million people that played one of our games each day in the month of September. We had 45 million people in the month of September that played one of our games at least once in the month of September, and this is with half a month of contribution from Deer Hunter. So very, very big user base that we can address with our games and our content.

And this is our Q3 revenue. Strong balance sheet. We have no debt. We did a small fundraise back in September. We have $27.7 million of the balance sheet and no debt. And then our guidance. This is our guidance as of the last earnings call, October 30. You can see coming quarter over quarter, increasing revenue over 50%, on the backs of Deer Hunter, guiding to $31.5 million to $32.5 million on the top line, guiding to adjusted EBITDA profit of $1.25 million, at the high end.

And then full year guidance, year over year, pretty much flat year over year in overall, from our guidance. This is because the feature phone business continued to decline from 2012 levels, from $13 million to $5 million. And then we grew smartphones only slightly as we made that transition. And as we’ve chronicled, we had a challenging release slate in the first half of the year, and this was a rebuilding year. And Deer Hunter is the first title of that rebuilding to come out from our new team, and the [unintelligible] numbers.

And then we did give, back in October, some preliminary guidance for 2014, saying that, from our guidance back in October, that we felt confident that we’d grow 15% to 20% year over year. But to be mindful, and we said this back in October, to be mindful that we’re still at the early stages of our 2014 growth. And the stock trades a lot of shares, so it’s a very very liquid stock, 3 million shares on average trading every single day.

So I’ve got a lot of time for Q&A, but at a very, very high level, we are in the biggest growing platform for gaming. We’ve talked about the last year, substantial things we’re going to do about new improvements in modernization, improvements in our games. We’ve been talking, over this last year, as we had data points to talk about those improvements, and Deer Hunter is the first of what we believe could be many titles coming out and really leveraging our [unintelligible] service.

And with that, we’ve got a lot of time for Q&A. Michael?

Question-and-Answer Session

Michael Pachter

You’ll have to repeat the questions. Can you talk about Android versus iOS and what your strategy is to address the Android market [unintelligible]?

Eric Ludwig

So the question is about Android, how are we addressing it and being mindful that the market has more devices but lower revenue from us on that. So we have been working with Google since day one on Android. We were the first game ever on Android, first Google Glass game recently, first game leveraging [beam] technology. Everything we do, we do with Google as an alpha and beta partner.

And obviously there are [5 to 6x] devices on Android in emerging market countries. We make half our revenue, or 60% of our revenue, from iOS. So the average Android user spends less money, given the economic demographics. But everything we do, and we bring all our content to all of the various Android platforms. We localize our content in 12-plus languages at launch. And we work very, very tightly with both the Google Play store plus the 10-12 relevant app stores in China, plus the multiple app stores in Korea and Japan as well.

So we’re very, very tight with that ecosystem, bringing our content at launch, working with the billing and API partners, to make sure our content is relevant. And obviously as Southeast Asia comes online with more and more consumers, we’re seeing the benefit from that with our APAC numbers.

Michael Pachter

Is it more expensive for you then to attract [unintelligible], because of the multiple app stores? You make less money on Android, [unintelligible].

Eric Ludwig

So the question is do we make less money or do we invest a lot more money to support Android. Well, it’s very interesting. The way we build our games, we build games for the iPad Retina display. And then we port that to all the iOS other devices, and then we port that as well to all the Android devices. Glu has been doing porting in the mobile industry for 12 years.

Back in the dumb phone days, there were only three players, Glu, Gameloft, Electronic Arts, who had a global presence across all the various devices. We took that and took a very technology approach to getting that content back a long time ago, ported to all these devices. So the amount of work that we have to do, of our 500 developers, we have 30 people that do Android porting.

And when we launch a title, we submit the title out to Apple, Apple takes two weeks to review that title. While it’s getting approved by Apple, we give that title over to two people in the Android department. It takes them two weeks for two guys to get that relevant on all of the Android devices across all the app stores.

So for us, it’s very easy, because we’ve had 12 years of learning in this industry. For others, it’s a very, very complex nut to crack, given the fragmentation, given also how few of these devices are having the latest version of Android on the device. Not only are you dealing with 800 different handsets, they’re all running various versions of the Android OS, so you have to know all the nuances of which titles and which handsets support which OS.

Michael Pachter

Can you talk about your cost structure? How much of the IP do you own, and how much of the IP do you actually [unintelligible]?

Eric Ludwig

Two questions, one about original IP as a percentage of revenue, and the other was about how much of our IP do we develop internally. So our most recent quarter revenue, 95% of our revenue came from original IP. And that’s been a big transition that we’ve made over the last five years. That number used to be flip flopped, 90% plus in the feature phone days were from licensed content. That has flip flopped completely to where we are today.

We are doing a bit of third party publishing, so we are starting that. So you’ll see that overall number coming down as we add in titles like Gun Zombies 2. And that’s really to help leverage our fixed sales, marketing, G&A, that I don’t need to hire any more accountants to cash a bigger check from Apple and Google. So we are going to leverage that, and that’s one of the numbers.

So that was in terms of percentage of revenue. And then up until the third party publishing we have 14 development studio teams across our five development locations. And so all of those titles that have come out on a first part have been developed internally by our internal teams.

Michael Pachter

I think you mentioned that in the first half of ’13 [unintelligible]?

Eric Ludwig

No, it was the last half of ’12 and the first half of 2013 were challenging quarters for us, absolutely.

Michael Pachter

So can you give us [unintelligible] how the first half of ’14 is looking?

Eric Ludwig

Let me address what did we do. So, a year ago, in Q3 and Q4 of last year, we had seven titles that had come from an acquisition that we were training and teaching the social and mobile games that came out [unintelligible]. With that, we hit the pause button and really rebuilt the team and the studio, hired a new head, and then over the past year he’s hired 70 plus people, focusing on monetization, live operations, advertising, etc. We also replaced our head of sales and marketing. He’s also replaced most of the user acquisition and advertising team underneath him as well.

And we’ve talked and chronicled that from early Q1 through early Q3, talking about those data points on what we’re doing, how it’s improving, but we never have one title where that team had greenlit the title and used all these improvements. So Deer Hunter 2014 is that first title from the new team, leveraging all these improving points that we’ve been talking about.

So I’m not going to talk specifically about 2014 and the titles. However, we think that this Deer Hunter is not a one-trick pony. We do think that we’ve systemically made improvements under the hood of our game development, our greenlighting process, our monetization, our live operations, and so we think that you’ll be seeing the fruits of that labor coming within our titles. Eternity Warrior 3 will be the next data point for you to look at. It’s doing quite well up in Canada. You can go check the app [unintelligible] charts. So we already think we have systemically improved our game development to help monetize things.

Unidentified Audience Member

Just to follow on to that, I don’t know the game cycle, how long it takes and all. Are you anticipating a new release [unintelligible] in the quarter or the year?

Eric Ludwig

So the question is about how long and how often are we developing games. We have about 14 development teams across the globe, which allows us to put out about 12 titles a year. So the cadence, it takes about 12 months to develop a title. But we’ve been doing this now for the last 12 months with the new team. So titles like Eternity Warrior 3 were developed under this new regime, from over a year ago. That title is launching end of December. You’ve got titles like Motocross Meltdown in February, Frontline Commando 2 in March. So I think you’ll be seeing our cadence as a couple of titles a quarter on average, and you’ll be seeing that into 2014 as well, from the internal studio teams.

Unidentified Audience Member

How do you guys think about the [unintelligible], whether it’s the holidays or [unintelligible] coming up? Is that a dynamic that you guys [unintelligible] when you [unintelligible]. [unintelligible]

Eric Ludwig

The question is referring to Deer Hunter in particular, our persistent adding of content. And the question was about how are we doling out that content when engagement drops or some of the fixed schedule. So you’re exactly right.

One of the reasons why Deer Hunter has been in the charts for the last two and a half months, sitting at top 10 grossing for that period, has been a very methodical approach to releasing new content. Regions four, five, six, soon to be seven. Also, we had Halloween content. We had Thanksgiving content. You can probably guestimate that we’re going to have some Christmas content, maybe even shooting down red nosed reindeer and some snow men as well.

So I think you’re seeing from us about a three week cadence of additional content. And we believe, whether it’s 2.5 to 3.5 weeks of data, that that seems to be about the right cadence of content, and that’s what we’ve been doing, and you can go back and look at the charts. That’s how we’ve been doling out content, about every three weeks, to get people reengaged, to get people to come back and buy the new content.

Michael Pachter

A few years ago, you guys had a [unintelligible], can you talk about that [unintelligible] and how [unintelligible]?

Eric Ludwig

Sure. So this is a question about engine reuse and franchise sequels. Just like any other gaming company, when you have a great hit title or even a decent hit title, you look at two things. One, can we come out with a sequel to that specific title? And the answer has typically been yes. Contract Killer, Contract Killer 2, Contract Killer Zombies.

But then there’s also how can I leverage that game engine, not creating another game from Contract Killer, but leveraging the game engine. So yeah, we have employed and continue to employ that strategy. Front Line Commando 2, Eternity Warrior 3, Deer Hunter 2014 are all franchise extensions.

Plus, in addition to that, we have a title like Defenders and Dragons, which is launching in January, which was a title leveraging the game engine from Samurai Versus Zombies, which was a title we did a year ago. An okay title a year ago, but I believe we did three people for six months, so a very, very low cost effort for us. And that title will be coming out. It’s doing quite well up in Canada as well. The Canada beta test of Defenders and Dragons has been doing quite well.

So it’s definitely a strategy. We have probably seven or eight game engines of the shooter or action/adventure, dungeon crawler categories within our studios. And things like Robocop as well. We’ve talked about Robocop. It’s a franchise from MGM that we’re coming out with in January. Given there’s a licensing fee that we pay for that, we try not to make that as big of an investment in terms of R&D. And that’s a title that’s leveraging the Front Line Commando D-Day engine and reskinned with Robocop look and feel, etc. So definitely a strategy we employ.

Unidentified Audience Member

Asia’s grown to about a third of your revenue today. Can you talk about how fast that [unintelligible]?

Eric Ludwig

The question is about Asia, what inning are we in in Asia, and confirming that it’s a substantial amount of revenue. So absolutely, when you look at each of the countries, China, Japan, Korea, I’d say when you look at the top charts on the iOS store in China, on any given day, in the top 100 grossing, Glu is either number one, two, or three, in terms of total volume. Certainly not in terms of revenue, because our titles are usually in the top 20, 30, 40, not in the top 1 to 10.

But we will have more titles in the top 100 grossing in the China Apple app store than almost anybody, if not being the number one leader on any given day. So that’s been a big focus for us. We’ve been in China for over seven years.

Japan, we are very under-indexed, so we’ve been investing this past year in hiring country managers in Korea and Japan. So I would anticipate we’re probably in the third inning, fourth inning maybe, in China. We’re in the first half of the first inning in Japan and Korea, is how I would frame that up.

And Japan is humongous. I mean, you’ve got a company like Gung Ho Entertainment doing $1 billion plus from Puzzles and Dragons. 90% of it’s coming from Japan. So it’s a very, very big, engaging social mobile gaming market that we’re just in the early stages of.

Unidentified Audience Member

And advertising, about [unintelligible].

Eric Ludwig

The question is about mix and advertising. Today it’s about 15% to 20%. Deer Hunter, I think, is much higher for the first two and a half months it’s been live. You know, long term, I haven’t given it a full long term number, but it’s certainly above the 15% to 20% we’re at. But we believe the whole market is going to grow substantially.

So you’re not going to see it being 50-50, but it might be something in the 25% to 30% of overall revenue, given the ad units and the eCPMs being driven up over time as more and more advertisers get comfortable with it, as the ad networks get better at monitoring and showing the effectiveness of campaigns on mobile as well.

Michael Pachter

Can you talk about user acquisition costs? How do you go about [unintelligible]? Where do you spend your money, and what [unintelligible]?

Eric Ludwig

The question is about user acquisition costs. How much money do you spend? We spend about 20% of our revenue on variable marketing. Of that, 100% is spent on on-device user acquisition. We don’t do anything else. No print campaigns. It’s all about on-device.

And when you look at a quarter like our third quarter, where we acquired 49.9 million users, and we spent $3.2 million on variable marketing, and we spent about between $0.75 and $1 to acquire users, that kind of the cost per user, what you’ll see from that is about 7% of our users in the third quarter came from classic paid acquisition, and 90% plus came from organic. Either organic from the featuring, because we have a great relationship with Apple and Google, etc., or the cross-promotion.

Or things like right now Deer Hunter is number eight top three in the U.S. We are spending tens of thousands a day to keep it up there, but we don’t spend money when it’s number six top three. We don’t spend more money to get it to number four top three. It’s already above the fold. So our guys are spending and dialing up and dialing down to try to keep it at the right optimal place, so that users find it on their own, but we keep it up there above the fold, above the top ten fold. And it’s been about 7% of our users come from paid acquisitions.

And I think with that, I am done. Thank you, Michael. Thank you, Wedbush, for having me here. It’s been a great event. Thank you, bye.

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