Glu Mobile, Inc. (NASDAQ:GLUU)
8th Annual Citi US Small/Mid Cap Conference Call
November 16, 2011 1:15 PM ET
Niccolo de Masi – Chief Executive Officer
Niccolo de Masi
Many of you may not be intimately familiar with Glu yet, but my aim is to make you all expert in the next 20 or 30 minutes. I’ll be pausing everyone for a while to show you few demos by video of our games, which I think, all of you will enjoy, because many of them are as yet not released.
So who is Glu? I’ll start there? We are trying to build, what we call a gaming company of tomorrow. We are focused on two big rising tides. The first is the growth in gaming on mobile devices. We define a mobile device to be anything from a tablet on down whether it’s an iPhone, an iPad, an Android device, all of that very much in a real house and we are actually the only North American listed business with the pure-play mobile gaming focused company.
Second big rising tide for us is the growth in the freemium business model. And the freemium business model, I’ll talk more about in the few slides, but fundamentally it’s about a free download model whereby we are getting players invested in our games over time and they then gradually pay for virtual goods, which allow them to accelerate their gameplay, as they get into the experience.
Management team was new at the start of 2010. I joined Glu January 4, 2010, and it’s my third mobile company. So before this I ran private competitor of Glu called Hands-On Mobile, before that I ran a public company in the U.K. called Monstermob Group PLC that did mobile music. So this is my third mobile company, second game company, second public company in the mobile space.
And I look back in the past 18 months or so, 20 months at Glu. When I got here, we were a business it’s been around for seven years predominately focused on older phone, the feature phone gaming space that you all maybe familiar with the few, had have downloaded a phone on your cell phone, it would have been an old Java Glu game and it would have been something pay for fun.
There were three big changes that we’ve set out to make when I joined. The first was to these developing games for feature phones. So we move rapidly to focus 100% of our development effort on smartphones. Very much playing the game, I’d like to put it but where the Torque, Torque is going I suppose to where it was.
We also looked at the same time to change our business model. We’ve seen the raise of free to play Anamosa in Asia, we’ve seen the rise of companies like Zynga Online and I believe that mobile was a next place the freemium business model would migrate. So we also start making games for the paid model and we started training ourselves on how to make the economy balance and work in this freemium model.
And the third we change was we stop licensing other people brand. So rather then paying a royalty and licensing the same brand or some other property, we recognized that the freemium business model provided us with the opportunity to build our own brands pretty quickly.
We launched our first freemium titles in October 2010, second batch in March 2011 and we have a bunch of great titles coming for this Q4 as well. In between there you can see we grew smartphone revenues at a handy clip between Q3 and Q4 2010, Q4 and Q1 2011, Q1 and Q2 2011.
We made a couple acquisitions, raised some financing, strengthen the balance sheet. So today Glu finished Q3 with $35, $36 million of net cash, which is up a long way from where it was at the start of 2010.
Take a moment to show you a couple of our biggest successes in the Q4 through Q2, namely Gun Bros and Contract Killer, which many of you may had played, if not I want to show you the style of gameplay that Glu has been building and succeeding with.
Things I would call out as you look at a couple of these are the high production values, visually rich games, often these are games for experience yield, you’ll only see on console platforms or PC. So we’ve had many of the first 3D games they were ever live on a mobile device and also the first freemium action-adventure title, Gun Bros was rated a pocket gamer, one of the top five most influential game of 2010 because it was the first freemium action-adventure game. You can also see we had Mini First, first title with Google in-app purchase launch and Android first title on Honeycomb.
So I’ll forward here, the Contract Killer, this has been one of our top two franchises as well. We found out with Deer Hunter that people like shooting deer in the head, but they preferred shooting other people on the head. So Contract Killer has been significantly more successful than many Glu titles. Again, you can see, what I call action-adventure high production values this title still going strong after six months or so.
So let me move now on what our market looks like and the growth opportunities that in front of us. Glu has been in the gaming space on mobile device system since started and for the first two years it very much look as if gaming on mobile devices was something which was for situation when you didn’t bring your PSP with you or your DS with you or you weren’t in front of your PC, didn’t have your console to hand.
What of course happened with smartphones and tablets is that this device has gone from being compelling only in relative terms now very much compelling in absolute term. So people are ditching their PSPs and DS’. They are spending less time on PC, less time consoles and we are cannibalizing much of the overall gaming market as consumers drop other devices and spend more time on mobile devices.
Other thing I’d point out here, is that, you can see the vast revolution really that’s happened with processing power, hardware power, you have more memory, faster processors, better screen resolution, bigger hard drives, these are really little computers in your hand. And the latest iOS and Android devices in many ways are as powerful as probably the last generation of console devices.
And we very much the company believes in capturing and taking advantage of that. We know our consumers like to see visually rich games, the latest and greatest a demonstration what their hardware can do and we expect that trend to follow more as well. So we have a doubling in hardware power, having a price probably every 12 to 18 months at least for the forceable future.
Moving to on our space, two big inflection points, the first one is the 2011, 2012 is the year when there were more mobile devices getting shipped than PCs and desktops combined. And for Glu that’s right in the real house floor. The biggest growth opportunity in digital gaming and in probably digital payment is in mobile devices, iPad’s are cannibalizing PC, people still need a phone and that’s great news for us.
Second big inflection point is the upgrade of smartphones, there are about 4 billion people in the world that have a feature phone, only about 400 million of those or 10% of those have a smartphone right now. So there is a factor of 10 growth to be have in the next couple upgrade cycles globally.
Our consumers getting new phone and from your own experience, that most consumers get a new phone everyday, one to three years. In developed nation, so you can see there, let’s take Japan, Britain, Western Europe, by the end of 2011 this probably 40% plus of the populous with the smartphone.
Emerging markets, however, are a fraction of that probably 5% and so this great growth that we had in international markets, global markets. And overall in this market as you see the consumers will very soon have little choice but to upgrade to a smartphone when they want a new phone. Right now in the U.S. you can get a free Android phone with the contract that will soon be the case in many other markets as price point come down.
Our markets right now is very much two horse race, you have the Apple, iOS ecosystem with about quarter of billion devices and Apple is installing about quarter of million new devices everyday. You then have the Android ecosystem which is powered by Google and this is an open operating system, which multiple handset manufacturers can use, it’s installing at a rate about twice what Apple is, over half a million new devices a day. You can obviously extrapolate that exceed in the next year or so, you’d expected to be more Android devices then the other smartphone platform out there and our example Glu is to make sure we are capturing the totality of that market opportunity.
Totalling that up, we and almost any publisher in this smartphone game space is making the majority of the revenue right now on iOS devices. But we expect that to change in 2012 and beyond. Many of you may have heard of Microsoft and Nokia’s alliance, they will probably be a third platform as well in the shape of the Windows Phone 7, Windows Phone 8 ecosystem, which we expect is one to two years behind for Android is in terms of installed handsets. But also its makes the opportunity for Glu to branch out extended game coverage.
We move on to our business model and the run through how the freemium model work, how games of service work. So Glu launches every title with an eye to making it a perpetual service. We update our games every month, sometime more frequently than that, sometime a bit less frequently. But fundamentally we are building a company with a very, very efficient model for game development, publishing and managing lifetime revenue cycle.
So utopia for Glu is having all of our team fully focused on supporting title that are already successful and live. We like to update current services. We don’t launch lots of new incremental titles. And to give you an example of that, title like Gun Brothers have been going for more than 12 months and still going strong, Contract Killer six, seven, eight months. We’ve updated both those games every month, every month we deepen the experience for tried and tested battle harden players. At the same time, we try and improve the investment period any monetization lifetime of new users.
So we are cautiously looking every few weeks at what level players are stuck on? What weapons they buy? How they spend their money? How many sessions per day they play? How long they spend in our games everyday. All these metrics help us quantitatively improve the overall revenue life-cycle of the title.
Comparing us for the consoles space, you see a structurally different situation, we do not go for multiple years investing in a model which looks a lot like the movie business. We don’t run up, use it all our budget, our games cost us under $1 million to make before they like.
We launch early, typically about six months after breaking round, on development we will launch the title. We then able to make an ROI decision every month, so we can plough more resources, fewer resources or no resources under a title, which is not succeeding in the first few weeks, this allows us over time to break-even sooner and have a structurally more profitable business, because you’re matching revenues and costs over the majority of the life-cycle of the title as appose to front loading them.
Good titles will still return capital in the first quarter and after the first quarter they will be something which is nicely profitable as you match very precisely everything from teams to even marketing spend.
Why the freemium business model? Why do we move away from freemium? There is a few things that we saw happening and when we embark on this in early 2010. The first was a price point for freemium games were coming down quickly in the iOS ecosystem. We also recognize that the global economy would be somewhat weak.
And in the long run like with the internet I very much believe that’s open this and choice would lead to free being the successfully long-term sustainable business model and so we very much sure, thought about to move forward rapidly and aggressively, and moving our entire company to the freemium model.
What we have found in the past year? Is that this is a win, win, win situation for Glu. We make just as much money if not more in the short-term with advertising and microtransactions. But in addition to that we get to build two great long-term pieces of equity value in Glu. Big brand very quickly because there are at least 10 times more people that will download a free game as they will a paid game and we are also able to build up a permanent marketing asset at Glu.
On other things that paid business, paid download business doesn’t have, they don’t have an enduring audience, people pay. We don’t have a relationship with them. We don’t know who they are? Glu has a done over a 130 million installs of our games cumulatively on smartphone platform and we have something like 21 million monthly active users as of on average in the month of September. Over 2 million people play our games everyday.
That marketing asset is something we can use to cross-sell all of our new title, means, that every new launch can be more successful and it would be without that audience assets. And so over time whose long-term value comes from a course being profitable business but those profits are underpin and supported by long-term marketing assets, and brands we can build quickly, 10 million people or more downloads some of our biggest game, it’s very, very exciting.
We make our money exclusively through microtransactions and some form advertising. The super majority of revenue come from in-app purchase or microtransactions, consumers parting with cash and they pay for a virtual currency or a virtual good, like a power-up or portion or sword or piece of armer. And fundamentally we are taking that cash from parties such as Google, Apple, Microsoft or Carrier.
Advertising we aggregate about half a dozen or more different ad networks and we still an order of priority. So we fill our ad inventory with whatever pays is the highest CPM. The constant optimization game for us but you can see that about 5% of the overall audience will actually part with cash and conductive microtransactions, the rest of the 95% are monetizing through some sort of advertising.
Original IP was the third leg of our new strategy couple of years ago and you can see that the growth has been terrific and we’ve launched many, many new franchises so far and we’ll finish the year with at least 20 that go live, if you four title I will show you a couple demos of that later on. Gross margins have obviously risen as we’ve actually moved away from license IP to original IP.
Next, I’d like to talk about is Android. Many of you may have heard about the Android ecosystem, you probably heard that is complicated for publishers and it is for many publisher, but for Glu, we’ve had historic advantages in addressing every level of fragmentation, it means we can capture more of the Android ecosystem potential revenue and it means we can also ensure that our games are working across platform regardless of which device you choose to use. We were one of the first publishers on Android. We were the first to support many of Google’s new technology initiatives. We also have a Broad number in common with Google. With great OEM and carrier relationships as well and it’s all part of the overall Android ecosystem, which is just taking off.
I’ll show you briefly, what that fragmentation looks like, and I’m showing you here many conversations of the Android iOS there are per device relative to the (inaudible) of Apple ecosystem, exponential complexity overall and trying to address every layer of the Android ecosystem, if you want to maximize the number of consumers that can play your game and pay for your game.
If you compare the Apple and Android ecosystem, you can see that on the Apple side of the equation, Apple controls the operating system to store billing, even have their own social network game center. Lot of companies can build games that work on the Apple ecosystem and work for most devices pretty well.
On the Android side of the equation, you have not only typical content and gaming differentiation in terms of audience size and production values which you have on iOS, but you also much more complexity, you have many handset manufacturer, making many different form, formats and form factor for the devices, different screen size with different resolution, different version of the operating system and most importantly different stores.
There’s everything from an Android marketplace store that ships with the Android OS to carrier specific store, to handset manufacturer stores and third-party stores such as Amazon. New Android marketplace which they actually allow you to download in any Android device in addition to now shipping of course on its Kindle Fire.
Glu supports all new stores that we think have a global potential and so we were one of the first people to support the Amazon store and the Kindle Fire, also the first support things like the Window Phone 7 ecosystem. Overall this is a challenge for smaller publisher who are less efficient than we are and we are able to take our games from the iOS ecosystem to the Android ecosystem, so probably only 10% or 15% incremental additional effort.
So as soon as the Android ecosystem becomes more than 15% or 20% as big, as the Apple ecosystem their revenue Glu gets incrementally more profitable. We Glu -- the percentage of Glu smartphone revenues from Q2 to Q3 from about 12% to 34% of total from Android, which is really substantial. We’ve almost tripled it in a quarter.
Now move on to our Freemium product strategy and I am laying out for you guys here, how I look at the ecosystem personal, which is I compare myself two freemium companies and I look at gameplay depth and I look at things like file site clients and fundamentally Glu is differentiating position as to fit with big plant sizes, big rich gameplay, most of our success has come from action-adventure game, high production value fixed clients.
Games that have 100 megabytes and in Europe is 300-megabyte actual download size. Fewer people can download these games because you can’t over carrier network, you need Wi-Fi or you just sync with your PC. But we know that our consumers really play our games if they’ve already download them.
And what this means for us is we’re not competing with all the casual stuff with small thinner clients initial site. We know that we’re evolving as the consumers will want big rich production value games and we’re marrying higher production value with the freemium business model and this is pretty unique. We were early to freemium. We’ve always had good action and thanks for DNA. We’re showing that you can make action-adventure title, social and freemium.
Titles like Gun Bros have not only a synchronic social features in them, just like most Zynga games do or you can look at your friends ecosystem. So we also have synchronic social features. You can play with your friend multi-player, realtime multi-player, voice chat, realtime voice chat. And overall, we think that’s link in the lifetime values and it’s proving to be yet more differentiation for the Glu overall ecosystem.
Deep gameplay, deeper virility and of course, big clients means supporting your game across devices is a substantial challenge that will not go away, it will not go away in the world directional size, it will not go away in a world where most law is making hardware expand capabilities much faster than network bandwidth which takes probably 10 times as long as double in speed.
So our roadmap for next year will be largely about deeper gameplay, action-adventure game, fix clients. On other things we do at Glu is we have storefront initiatives both in China and the U.S. where we are making a big effort to retain Glu gamers across our title. And we do this through a storefront and community merged offering, which is actually a mobile website. So this is something which overtime will become a bigger part of the Glu story. Audience, game success, game brand building.
Take a moment now to show you some of what our Q4 titles look like. So you see high production values in all these games, taking advantage of the hardware but still that they are free-to-play business model. This game launch simultaneously on Android and iOS, it’s the first to Glu and probably at first for the mobile ecosystem at large.
I’m going to fast forward here and show you one of our Q4 launches which we think it could be simply very exciting, this is the first free-to-play racing game, which we believe has production value that will match, many of the other big racing franchise that have done in the past. So in this game you’re of course paying to personalize your car, you’re also completing head-to-head with the players and you are bedding parts on you car or your whole car, fulfilling that pink slip fantasy.
Some of you may have followed us last year and seen that we have a partnership with James Frey who is an author, this title the night world is actually coming out as a digital mobile simultaneously with the iPhone launch around Thanksgiving. So this is the first title of its kind that’s actually a transmedia mobile game, freemium game, as well as digital mobile.
Obviously it’s got a very deep back story. This game was built actually using the unreal engine, so you can see high production values again. In fact it is maybe one of the most social games that we’re launching this quarter. It’s actually how our defense mechanic and you’re trying to work with your friends to infect other groups of player and the things I am avoid being infected yourself.
Mobile games are design to very much cut through clutter of the app store, many games are similar, ours are all very differentiated. Frontline Commando, we believe that will be the first fully freemium high production value in modern warfare type title. Its visuals largely speak for themselves. We believe competitive with every other freemium games that’s out there expect that ours will be freemium, so expect to build a long-term audience at least a 10 times the size, our paid audience. Helicopter will keep you moving at all times one way the other.
Let me just touch on our financials now for a couple of minutes. We cross delivering Q2 become a majority smartphone revenue business for the first time in our history, that’s the yellow becoming bigger than the black on that graph, continue to grow in Q3. Fundamentally now that we have turned the corner, it’s a lot easier to grow total revenues when the new platform is growing faster and decline on the older revenue stream, I’m sorry, Q2 is really momentous milestone for this company, shows that the freemium product strategy work, showed that our early focus on smartphones is paying off.
Gross margins decline for last few quarter as original IP strategy become to pay off. Monthly active users and daily active users have grown for past year and have come a long way, we use to have no audience a year ago. Today we’ve got over 20 million people but we can cross the most, a new launch to from our existing audience.
And I’m also showing you by the way this presentation are on our website glu.com/investors can download it, go on each slide, the company at our Q3 earnings release. Showing you also where we make our money in-app purchase versus advertising.
In terms of Q4 guidance, we’ve shown $11.5 to $12 million on a smartphone front, $16 to $17 on a revenue front. Those who have follow us you know we made a couple of acquisition in August, this were down to approximately double total Glu output and capacity for 2012. So we’ve guided toward financial revenue in H2 2012 growing by at least 90% versus H2 2011. Substantially increase our overall topline opportunity, as well as the rate at which we will build to grow margin once we get profitable.
And our long-term model which is really 2013 beyond, you can see that we have software like margins, once we cross over it become profitable business. We’ve guided toward that happening in early 2013. We finished Q3 with about $36 million in cash, net cash. We said that we will burn cash in Q4, Q1 and decline that rate of cash burn in 2012 through the profitability. We’ve also said, we don’t need to tap the capital and that we will reach profitability with double-digit million of cash.
So, before I move on to question, I have a little treat for you. This morning part of the press, we launched our first title on Android before iOS which is the real milestone I think for the industry, as well as for Glu. So I am going to just show you this little clip and then we will move on to Q&A.
This is a Blood & Glory, the [gladior] theme game, obviously catering for the younger female demographic. And fundamentally it is probably the highest structured value games we’ve made. So this is live right now on Android. It will be going live on iOS as soon as possible and obviously we have relatively high hope that this title will be coming quarter or two. So please check that out if you’re on on Android device, if not look out for it on your iOS device.
All right. So over to you guys now.
Thanks Niccolo. And what actually gives you that advantage to publish on Android without attraction besides having kind of an early more advantage? And then, secondly, as you think about a game released, how do you get it up to the top of the app store and as more and more games kind of crowd the space, how do you make sure that that game is going to prompt out in that top 10 or top 15?
Niccolo de Masi
So, that’s a great question. The Android confidence for Glu is probably the greatest competence of all that we carry through the feature. So in the feature phone space Glu is, I would argue the most efficient business that getting games to work on all different combination of storefront offering system, handset size and carrier billing. And we use to cover maybe 1000 different feature phone devices very efficient.
Today that team is smaller but nevertheless has managed to carry forward all of the middle ware technique, all of the experience human capital and we have great process. So it’s a combination of those three things. We are very, very efficient, if it takes us a 100 man month to build the iOS game, we can do the whole left side 100 man months, the right side another 10 or 15 man months to do it. And there is no individual factor other then really I’d say compounding being a good partner for Google, getting early access to new technology, new features, new software and new devices.
Being a good partner for handset manufacturers, getting the devices early, making sure that you build out families of devices both by process, by people and by middle ware, so you don’t have to recreate things that you fixed once already. So it really is kind of common sense to a certain extent, but it’s years of institutional knowledge and if it takes you 10 or 15 people to build the game six month, our Android teams are doing all that with one to three people in under a month. So very efficient, it will extend to Windows Phone 7, Windows Phone 8 when it gets there.
And I think it’s really a combination of building the right middle ware tools, so that once you do a billing integration with the new store everyone can use it. Once you crack that buzz on that device all games learn from that, you don’t have to recreate it. Otherwise you’re doing it by group force, which is what most of our competitors do and it can take them three-month, a slogging way to the one title.
Now in terms of the discovery, it’s very much like the internet, I mean the app stores are now so full of apps, say, 4, 500,000 things in the Apple store, that you should think about a very much like mobile internet. First thing that Glu does is support our partner’s technology, if you support Apple and Google and Microsoft early, and you support all their initiative, they tend to feature your game in their store prominently.
So we like a 95% track record of getting our games featured, that’s helps, it’s free marketing, right. People are quite lazy they go to these stores and either look at the feature of categories or they look at the top 10. Those things helps us obviously to rebuild differentiate games, they stand out. Few people can even build games like this in the mobile ecosystem, so it cuts through the clutter naturally and that word of mouth reality is important.
Lastly, we’ve got a big audience space, so we can cross, promote new games with our $20 million monthly active users, unless a lot of people that see games by virtue of just advertising other Glu games in Glu game.
And finally, to the extend that, we don’t do a lot of this because our competitors but we do have the option always of direct marketing spend, ad sense with Google, brand on Facebook ad, promote your game and other applications, that kind of thing. There’s a combination of all of those. Finally, live updates, like I just add this, updates are important, new content brings people back into your game. So keeping your ranking as a combination of just kind of five things intend them, merchandising, sales and there’s a host of kind of e-commerce things you can do as well to make your economy look more attractive, the same way what a retailer would.
You go through. Also one more and the Kindle Fire that launch and what’s been your attraction so far a bit early and what do you think you’re expectation are for the Kindle Fire?
Niccolo de Masi
I am excited by two trends in Android, by one, people like video pushing the -- possible with the hardware up rapidly, so they have quad-core tablets coming out for Christmas, if not Q1, that’s really exciting in one hand. Other hand you have people like Amazon recognizing the price points are important.
So that’s a great device the price point and it’s a dual-core device. We have a couple of tiles already lies there. We’ve announced we’ll have about half a dozen by year end. It will become part of our stable of the Android ecosystem that we support for all Android title and we’re very bullish about, I mentioned what the Fire 2 will be and the Fire 2 will come out, we price the device, the same price or probably lower the price point of Fire 1 even more next year.
So, yeah, we’re very bullish on Amazon. They have a great ecosystem, they have billing relationship with their customers already. They have a big audience, big brand. And most importantly they have count an ecosystem that can match Apple, books, movies, e-commerce, games, et cetera. So we expect them to be one or more interesting third-party storefront, they don’t do an offering system, but they are doing the rest of the ecosystem well. I think [Steven] had one.
Can you just talk a little bit more about the strategy to launch on Android first with Blood & Glory, do you expect that to be the future for your next game launches, will you always launch on Android first going forward or mix and match how?
Niccolo de Masi
So for -- Android has come a long way in the past six, nine months actually. We went from being a minority revenue events, where if we had a really big title we’ve sort of experiment with it, that’s where we were at start of 2011. Titles, we take their two or three months after it is on iOS, if there was a big success just to see how Android was growing.
Android marketplace had a lot of challenges in the ecosystem. They had the fragmentation plus they had billing issues, plus they have storefront discovery issues. We work closely Google, we’re great partner of their, we’ve -- their storefronts improved. We’ve been actively helping them to improve the layout of that, they’ve taken down the pirate copy content. They’ve added more and more carrier billing and carrier billing has meant that more people without credit card and don’t implement them and the Google checkout environment can actually pay for goods. And of course, purchasing will be deal for us.
So the Android rather potential is grown exponentially, we have been shortening the time period between iOS to Android porting from three months to then, one months to then two week and the CKZ was the first title with simultaneous. Blood & Glory, it may be mere simultaneous subject to an iOS goes out. For now I think simultaneous for the title that seems to have the most legs will be the way we roll, overtime, year from the day. I would never discount the ability for us to take advantage of the Android ecosystem for testing, stabilizing, getting titles live, quickly because they don’t have a two week submission process like Apple does and two weeks in our industry is long time.
And therefore any issues with getting the featured slot on iOS if you’ve launched on Android first?
Niccolo de Masi
So far not. Things like that are possible trend. However, we focused every hard on supporting, each platform with unique technology, focus on making differentiate games. I think we will able to get feature on both for a long time to come. I mean more things are going to come into play, localizing, languages, supporting new Apple devices in new country, et cetera.
Okay. I think my time is up. Thank you very much. I will be out in lobby moving around if you have any more questions. Thanks so much.