Disney acquires Tapulous, driving its strong engagement on mobile

Disney has acquired Tapulous, a Silicon Valley start-up that makes music games for Apple’s App Store. The acquisition is aimed at strengthening Disney’s mobile games division, which is already seeing strong growth driven by the mobile apps market explosion.

Tapulous is a fairly new company that was founded in 2008 and its flagship mobile game “Tap Tap Revenge” is believed to have been downloaded by over 30 per cent of iPhone/iPod touch users, making it one of the most successful games on the iPhone platform.

Disney is now experiencing a very strong growth in customer engagement on mobile and believes that by 2012, 50 per cent of its total customer engagement will be via mobile phones. In June this year, at the Mobile Marketing Forum in New York – AJ Rhodes, director of mobile strategy & marketing for Disney Online, mentioned that the company is already actively engaging with customers on mobile using SMS, free Disney mobile app, premium mobile content (mostly games) and via mobile web.

Disney is now seeing strong customer engagement on mobile with over 240 million users interacting with it on their mobile phones. Of this, over 150 million users send SMS to Disney every month, around 73 million users access the company’s content on mobile web, and 18 million customers use the Disney mobile app.

Disney has been trying to achieve growth in the mobile industry for a number of years now. Its MVNO launch in the US was a failure, but it has achieved more success with the Disney-branded mobile phone service in Japan, in partnership with SoftBank. Earlier in June this year, Disney invested in Playdom, an online game company that makes games for the iPhone and Facebook. In Apple’s App Store, Disney already has a number of popular games including JellyCar 2, which it claims to be its most successful paid-for game to date.

The acquisition of Tapulous, and investment in Playdom in particular, also signals a growing focus of Disney towards mobile social gaming. A key barrier to the growth of the mobile games market has been that kids and teenagers, who in many cases are the biggest users of a mobile game, often don’t have the means or ability to pay for mobile games. That’s why increasingly mobile games publishers are introducing and promoting the concept of mobile social gaming, which includes games with community features that are targeted at a higher age group (20-40 years) of mobile subscribers, who are capable of paying for mobile games.

The growing focus and investments in mobile by leading media and entertainment brands including the likes of Disney, BBC, Sky, and ESPN is also slowly starting to provide the much needed momentum to the mobile marketing and advertising industry.

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