TeaMobi: Building virtual worlds
Posted on January 31, 2014
Three colleagues, an idea and a little help from Nokia – that’s all it took for Nhat Nguyen, Minh Nguyen and Lam Vo to form TeaMobi and create one of Vietnam’s most popular apps for Nokia Asha devices, Avatar World. The free-to-play social game is a fun way to chat and play games with friends and make new ones. Players can create their own unique avatar characters with hundreds of different clothes, special items, and gifts to best fit their personality. In Avatar World, players can meet friends in the park, work on a farm, fly to Hawaii or go fishing, for example. Right now, the company is approaching 10 million registered users with more than 2.6 million playing daily.
Avatar World, which started as a side project for the three founders about four years ago, was able to reach a broad audience due in part to Java. “Many developers are looking at iPhones or Android and they’re bypassing Java,” said Scott Brewer, marketing director, TeaMobi. “That’s a mistake because Java-based phones, like Nokia Asha devices are incredibly popular in Vietnam. Java enabled our founders to reach the majority of the phone users without a lot of time-intensive development.”
In fact, Nokia devices themselves have been critical to the game’s success.
“We found that online game play dwarfs typical offline gaming in total time spent playing. We believe the future of gaming is online,” said Scott. “And that’s why the Asha series and the Windows Phone Lumia devices are very important to us. These devices are enabling more dynamic functionality at affordable prices for Vietnamese users. This additional functionality makes the game play so much better – HD graphics, faster connection times and an overall better user experience.”
The company also embraced local support from Nokia to help boost downloads and grow their business. Nokia provided the company with numerous testing devices, strategic advice and has given them the confidence to expand internationally. TeaMobi is currently planning its expansion to more than 100 countries.
“We’ve been working with Nokia for three years now and as our relationship with them grows, so do the opportunities,” said Scott. “With Nokia’s support, we believe we have the tools in place for international expansion. When you’re going overseas, we can’t physically go to these countries to carry out testing and marketing. Instead, Nokia has connected us with their local teams to help ensure that a Avatar World user in France or Brazil will have the same high quality gaming experience as someone in Vietnam. Nokia’s regional teams as well as tracking tools in the Nokia Store will help ensure users worldwide will have a great experience.”
As another part of their plan for international expansion, TeaMobi is using another game, Ninja School, as part of their testing process before launching Avatar World in other markets.
Right now, Ninja School is TeaMobi’s best performing app globally, and it relies on Nokia In App Payment (NIAP) to generate new revenue streams outside of their core market in Vietnam. (More information about NIAP is available from Nokia Developer.)
As for advice to other developers, Scott recommends reaching out to local Nokia teams ASAP to get the conversation started.
“Connect with Nokia local support. A great place to start would be on a local Nokia Facebook page or an online forum – it’s a quick and easy way to open up that communication link,” said Scott.
Additionally, he recommends looking into the various programs and contests Nokia offers to encourage developers to add new features to their apps and get them into the Nokia Store. The company took advantage of AppCampus, a mobile application accelerator program managed by Aalto University in Espoo, Finland. The program is an 18 million euro joint investment between Microsoft and Nokia to foster mobile application development on Windows Phone and any other Nokia platform and create a new generation of self-sustaining mobile startups.
“We read about AppCampus on a mobile phone forum and contacted our local Nokia team,” said Scott. “A couple of games we were developing met their criteria so we submitted them for consideration and one was named a finalist – earning us 20,000 euros to put towards the game’s ongoing development. But more importantly, once the game is launched, it will be highlighted in the Nokia Store, which is more valuable than the financial award itself.”