Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, and games like ‘Angry Birds’ are some of the most popular applications on smartphones today, but it is only recently that we have started to see a critical mass of children’s social networking games entering the mobile business, too. Today, Club Penguin, the Disney-owned social gaming world, is announcing its first foray into mobile, with its app for the “Puffle Launch” game — an “Angry Birds”-style affair that lets users “blast” pet Puffles through different challenges — for the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad.
Considering that Club Penguin was one of the first, big social networks developed for the 6-14 year-old consumer segment — it started out back in 2005 and was acquired by Disney (NYSE: DIS) for $350 million in 2007, after it had picked up 12 million users — and given how popular smartphones are with younger people, it’s a surprise that it has taken so long for Disney to launch Club Penguin’s first mobile product.
But it doesn’t look like it will be the last. Robin Wyatt, head of marketing and distribution for Disney Online Studios, says that today’s launch of “Puffle Launch” is part of a broader strategy to launch more mobile games spun out of the online product.
“We are looking at different games that we can move into the app store,” she said.
That sounds like a turnaround: before, there were some signs that Club Penguin has lost its way: in May 2010, the company was reported to have missed its earnings targets, thereby missing its $350 million earnout. Then, this year, Disney forgot to re-register the domain name for the site, resulting in a temporary loss of the site.
The huge success of apps like Angry Birds and other games, as well as the many story-telling apps and other educational and entertainment content, has helped to make children very early adopters of smartphones. If anything, that looks like that popularity has made Disney especially conservative with this launch:
The app, which will be sold for $0.99, will be ad-free, just like the Club Penguin site itself. Unlike the site, there will be no virtual goods sold in the “Puffle Launch” app — at least at first. Virtual coins that users collect in the app can be transferred to be used in the online game.
Mainly, “Puffle Launch” will be banking on word-of-mouth marketing among an existing base of Puffle fans: Disney says that in the online edition of the game, some 20 million Puffles have already been adopted.
A recent report from Nielsen found that nearly 40 percent of social media users are accessing social media content from their mobile phones (compared to 97 percent via computer). It also found that social networking apps were the third-most used category of apps among smartphone users, with games the most popular.