Narr8, a publisher of motion comics and other digital content on tablets, is announcing today it is embracing a freemium business model and launching on the Amazon Kindle Fire soon. The company takes paper-based comics and brings them to life in a digital world using the easy user interface of touchscreen tablets. It is the latest platform to take advantage of the free-to-play (or, in this case, free-to-read) business model, where users play for free and pay real money for extras.
Narr8’s content includes motion comics — books in which you can tap the screen to see animated sequences — as well as interactive fiction and nonfiction. The company has more than 700,000 users from its previous launches on the iPad (where it got 200,000 downloads in the first two weeks) in November, and more recently on Android. The app hit “top free entertainment” downloads in Apple’s web site, and it has a rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars on Google Play. The digital content aims to capture users who are making the shift from paper entertainment to tablet entertainment.
Narr8’s content is in four languages and has stories from a variety of genres. The app stories include fluid animations, original music, and interactive features. Narr8 is also introducing updates today for its iPad and Android versions that include an in-app purchase system. Users can unlock episodes of content after they try the initial offerings for free. This kind of business model has worked out well in games and it will be interesting to see if it works with motion comics and other media.
“We are very excited to be launching on Amazon devices. As one of the leading e-book reading devices, we know the importance of being compatible to Amazon products, especially Kindle Fire,” said Alexander Vaschenko, the president and founder at Narr8, in a statement.
Narr8 seeks to be a bridge between the analog world — of TV, comics, movies, and books — and digital content on tablets. Others have done this, but not necessarily with the free-to-play model and an ally in the game market to boost awareness.
The Moscow-based company shares investors with Russia’s mobile firm, Game Insight, which is helping Narr8 get exposure on mobile devices. Narr8 is a single platform you can use to log in and enjoy different content, including games, educational material, and digital videos. You can purchase Narr8 currency, dubbed NARRs, in order to buy content or unlock additional content. The first two episodes of every series will be free, and you can pay for more content. The Narr8 motion comics also have a new autoplay feature, which lets you continuously stream episodes of motion comics with one tap.
Narr8 will let you accrue a weekly bonus of 120 NARRs per week. One new episode will cost 100 NARRs, which can also be purchased for 99 cents. You can buy bundles of 100, 300, 500, or 1,000 NARRs. These features are available in Russia, English-speaking countries, and a variety of others.
So far, the most popular content includes Jam, The Secret City (from Russian fantasy/sci-fi author Vadim Panov) and Paradigm (an education series).
Narr8 has 10 internal studios developing content, and it is encouraging third-party content makers to use its upcoming applications programming interface. Narr8 hopes to become a hope that spans digital content for games, sports and education. Game Insight and Narr8 are cross-promoting each other. If you are in the Narr8 app and tap on a Game Insight game, the app will take you to an installation screen so that you can install the Game Insight game. Narr8 is also working on getting licensed intellectual property for its digital publishing platform in a variety of regions. It is seeking deals in cartoons, comics, sports, and education.
“We’re happy to host an innovative application such as NARR8, we believe that their content will do well with our current readers. Looking forward to seeing the success of NARR8 on Amazon,” said Dave Limp, vice president at Amazon’s Kindle division.
The platform is based on HTML5 as well as Narr8’s own technology.
Narr8 was founded in October 2011 by Alexander Vaschenko, formerly of Moscow-based Mail.ru and Astrum Online. It has $4 million in funding from IMI.VC Venture Company, based in Moscow. That firm is led by Igor Matsanyuk, who is also on the Game Insight board and is a former executive from Mail.ru and Astrum Online. Narr8 has more than 170 employees. Rivals include Madefire and Comixology.