GamesBeat

Overwolf opens its in-game app store to publishers and code-savvy gamers

Gaming startup Overwolf is launching an in-game app store that allows players to contribute their own in-game apps to their favorite titles while giving publishers the opportunity to make virtual-transaction revenue from existing releases.

The new offering from the Tel Aviv-based company provides a novel way to retrofit existing games so that they can support virtual goods and micro-transaction-based business models.

It also shows how any company can marshal the resources of its community to generate more commerce for existing applications. You could, for instance, launch a site. Then, months or years later, you could bolt on an app store to it with user-generated content and start making more money from the existing site.

“This in-game app store is a core part of our strategy,” said Uri Marchand, chief executive of Overwolf, in an interview with GamesBeat. “It enables gamers to create apps that are related to the games they like to play. The difference between us and other app stores is that we open it up to the community.”

Overwolf already adds features to existing titles that the original publishers might not have created. Those features include video and screenshot capture, Skype, TeamSpeak (for multiplayer voice communication), chat services, and an in-game browser. All of these things help make a game more social and enjoyable.

Overwolf launched its free-to-use overlay for online games a year ago. Now that product has more than 1 million users. And with the new in-game app store, it will enable user-generated and third-party in-game apps.

Publishers can add all sorts of new functions to their releases without touching a single line of code, Marchand said. Developing in-game apps, howerver, will require integration of the Overwolf software-development kit (SDK) into their games.

Players can create their own in-game apps for fellow community members. They can do so with Web technologies such as Javascript or HTML5. Clearly, experienced developers are likely to contribute items that are commercially appealing, but every gamer can contribute something as well. Overwolf reviews the items and approves them if they meet standards.

During the past year, Overwolf has signed deals with more than 20 game publishers. The company received a lot of feedback and usage analytics.

“The next challenge for us is to allow gamers to utilize our technology to develop in-game apps and publish those apps in our in-game app store for the benefit of the gaming community,” Marchand said.

Overwolf started its closed beta test for its SDK two weeks ago, and hundreds of developers have signed up.

“We are always looking for a better gaming experience for our users,” said Peter Zhalov, vice president of marketing and advertising at Wargaming.net. “And so far we were mainly focused on superb game content and playability. We do bear in mind that our users enjoy such social-media tools like Facebook, Twitter, or Skype, and we believe it is a great experience to have all that stuff in game as well.”

“Overwolf offers everything we originally planned to introduce to Brick-Force,” said Andreas Weidenhaupt, CEO of Infernum. “That’s why the decision to partner with Overwolf was so easy for us. Now we can equip Brick-Force with social and viral features while placing an extremely strong tool into the community’s hand.”

So far, the app store has been used to publish in-game  items such as “respawn notifications,” which tell players when a monster has respawned in a game for potential killing.

Overwolf’s app store is free for publishers to add to their games. Marchand thinks that most of the apps in the store will be free, but the contributors can charge a fee if they wish. In those transactions, a developer could charge a small price, maybe 99 cents, for an app. The developer gets 70 percent of that amount, and Overwolf gets 30 percent.

Users will also be able to upgrade to premium services, get advanced customization possibilities, or get a full monthly pass to all apps. The exact pricing for that is up in the air.

Publishers pay Overwolf a fee for the services it provides such as embeddding social media in games. Overwolf will share revenues with publishers.

Overwolf has nine employees, and it has raised $940,000 to date from Israeli angels such as Yossi Vardi.


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