Mangatar.net is a massive multiplayer online role-playing social card game in the manga universe where players can fight against each others.
Below is the full interview that we have conducted with Mr. Gaito regarding his start-up “Mangatar.net”;
1. What is it exactly that you do and what “Mangatar” is all about?
Mangatar is a social game in the manga universe. It is a massive multiplayer online role-playing card game where people can fight against each other.
Players create customized characters, prepare their game deck, improve their avatars’ skills, collect special cards and powerful items and challenge other users in one-to-one clashes or in group missions.
2. When has “Mangatar” been founded? And what stage is “Mangatar” currently at?
Mangatar has been founded at the beginning of march 2012 and currently it’s in open beta version with the first version of the one-to-one clashes. We already scheduled important releases in the next months and we are already working on the group dynamics to increase users interaction and to encourage team up.
3. What is “Mangatar”’s business model and how does it work?
Mangatar business model is freemium. It means that people can sign-up and play for free and they can pay for premium features or to buy virtual goods. The virtual goods we sell are, usually, cards with special powers, items to increase the avatars skills, etc. Payments are done with classic system like paypal, credit cards, etc.
4. How did your team meet? And who in your team does what?
Our team has been working together for over three years. Some of us met during the university and the others just after the degree. We are 6: Andrea Postiglione, CEO and web designer; Raffaele Gaito (me), web developer; Enrico Rossomando, web developer; Michele Criscuolo, mobile developer; Alfredo Postiglione, manga illustrator; Alessandro D’Aniello, SEO and front end developer.
5. What, exactly, makes you different from existing options, what will make your product and/or service stand out in the marketplace? In other words what’s unique about you and what’s new about what you make?
Mangatar differs from other players on the market for several points:
1. we have a cool manga style;
2. we want to actively involve users’ friends in the game, not just invite them;
3. behind the system there is a powerful tool to draw your avatar and a gamification layer;
4. we think that opening up to the rest of the world represents a marketing opportunity. So all the characters are released under a creative commons license and we also offer a set of API for third-part applications.
6. What is your growth like? And what milestones has “Mangatar” achieved so far?
We released a first beta version in October 2011 just to test few features and to collect feedbacks from users. In that period, with absolutely no marketing, we reached 26000 registered users.
Currently we have 26000 registered users, 45000 avatars created and 13000 clashes. Moreover in the last month we won two european competitions (Startup 2.0 and European ICT Challenge) and an italian startup contest (Wind Business Factor).
7. Who are your competitors? And what is your start-up’s competitive advantage over them?
This is a very big market with a lot of competitors. The most importants ones are, surely: Zynga, Gameforge, Travian Games, Urban Rivals, Big Point, PopCap, Play Fish, etc.
We have several competitive advantages:
- we don’t only invite users friends to play but we involve them in game dynamics;
- we represent the users history (clashes, missions, etc) like a manga comic, a kind of facebook timeline but with illustration;
- our users can create their own extremely customized characters and not chose them in a small fixed set;
- our users can play with several characters at the same time and not just one.
8. What obstacles did you face and how did you overcome them?
For a game like Mangatar it’s necessary to have a good infrastructure and it’s important to be ready to scale fast in case of unexpected success.
Cloud services providers (like amazon) make this process very easy and fast and also affordable even for startups.
It’s also important to have as many as possible payments methods to enlarge the potential user base of paying users. We started with paypal but we are going to make agreements with the most important micro-payments companies in the near future.
9. What are the key things about your field that outsiders don’t understand?
For outsiders is usually difficult to understand why people should spend hours online to play a game. And it’s even more difficult to understand why people should pay for that!
And, lastly, for many people it’s difficult to unserstand what manga means. Many of them don’t know how manga are mainstream and how influential they are for the entertainment industry.
10. Why are you going to succeed?
The main reason why we are going to succeed is because of the team. In our team there are all the figures needed for the development of the project (and this is also a competitive advantage) and it’s very heterogeneous: we have technical figures and creative figures, good developers with a lot of experience and manga experts with a deep knowledge of this amazing culture. And, finally, we are Italians…headstrong and creative by nature
11. If “Mangatar” succeeds, what additional areas might you be able to expand into?
We don’t want to just build a game, we want to build a games company!
If we succeed with mangatar we are going to develop other games based on our platform. This means that we are going to go out of the manga genre and we will cover also other ones.
Talking outside the online games market it could be interesting also start with merchandising based on our characters. This could be an interesting secondary market to explore.
12. Why did you choose this idea and concept to build “Mangatar” based on?
We have chosen this idea first because we wanted to work on something that we like. So we abandoned the boring software development for b2b and we joined the dark side of software: video games .
In our team, we are all fans of manga comics, anime cartoons, video games and movies so, at some point, the choice was quite natural for us.
13. What have you learned so far from launching your idea?
We learned a lot. At the beginning we don’t even knew what a startup was. Now with participation in many events and the help of good mentors we are growing a lot: both as startuppers and as company.
We made a lot of mistakes at the beginning but thanks to them we pivot a couple of time and then we have found the right path and the right product.
14. Six months from now, what’s going to be your biggest problem?
I hope our biggest problems will be the improvement of our network infrastructure and to enlarge our team. This means that our project is going well; that we are growing fast and, lastly, that we are ready to hire brilliant people and give them an opportunity. It means that our startup is becoming a company!
15. What’s the benefit for the customer/user?
Our users find in our platform not just a game but a complete social environment that allows them to play a better and emotionally immersive experience. The environment is full of social features well know like: personal profile, private messages, chat, comments and votes.
Furthermore they have a freedom of customization that nobody offers in a card game.
16. How did customers/users find out about you?
At the moment we have three main users sources: Google, Facebook and blogs.
The traffic from google was very important in the first time but now is decreasing. The traffic from facebook, instead, is growing a lot and we expect it will still grow after the open graph integration. Last but not least there are blogs! We receive a lot of traffic (and new users) when a blog writes about us.
17. Who are your current customers/users? Who are your target customers/users?
Our user base is actually very large. We have both very young people (14-15 years old) and not so young ones (35-40 years old). About 60% of our users are male and 40% female.
Our target is 15-25 years old, both male or female, passionated of manga comics, cartoon and cinema with a strong inclination to social games and online games.
18. Where do new customers/users come from and what makes new customers/users try you?
We have new users coming from all over the world. The main Countries are Brazil, France, Indonesia, Italy and USA.
In this moment, where we have no started yet with marketing, they usually try us thanks to the word of mouth and the facebook integration. Some of them try our game after reading a review on a blog or a website.
19. What do your customers/users say about your product and/or service?
We are very lucky. Despite we are online from a very short time, we already have a very passionate user base. Users send us a lot of feedbacks using email, facebook and twitter. We are receiving both good feedbacks/congrats and suggestions for new features. They are appreciating a lot the possibility to talk with us and, mostly, to be influencing for the game development.
20. How are you going to scale?
The scalability problem, in a system like Mangatar, has to be approached from two aspects: infrastructure and game dynamics.
From the infrastructure point of view, the modern cloud systems offer the possibility to scale fast and without the need to have dedicated server farms.
From the game dynamics point of view, it’s important to be addictive and to keep involving users in the long time.
21. What’s the biggest missing feature? The one thing customers/users keep asking for?
Users ask for a lot of features
We listen a lot to our user base and we continuously release new features on a weekly base, based on their feedbacks. This for the small features or the bug fixing.
Talking about main features, they are asking a lot for the possibility to have group fighting and we are already working on that!
22. Are you going to internationalize? And if yes how are you planning to expand your start-up’s operations accordingly?
Our game is already localized in three languages: English, Italian and Portuguese. We are already working on the spanish and french version.
The social game market is a global market so our game starts directly with a world wide user base. We already have users from all over the world: Brazil, France, USA, Indonesia, etc.
Moreover, internet based startups, don’t need to physically cover differents places in the world; at least, not at the beginning.
23. How big do you think you can get? Why? And how you are planning to achieve your goals?
We want to become the first Italian company in the social game market and a big player in the European scenario. As I said before we are going to reach this goal in two steps: first succeeding with the first game (mangatar) and then reusing our plattform and our know-how to start developing other games.
Than we will have an interconnected network of social games that will cover all the different needs of different users.
24. Are you looking to hire a new workforce? And if yes, what job vacancies do you currently offer and where can potential applicants contact you at?
Our team is currently complete but we could be interested in the near future to hire a manga illustrator and a marketing guy (with experience in social networks and online communities).
25. Are you looking for partnership opportunities or funding from Venture Capitals (VC) or other funding sources? Or your business is self-sustainable? And if the first option applies where can potential partners / investors contact you at?
Yes we are looking for Venture Capital funding and we are ready to talk about that with anyone who is interested.
You can contact us in several ways. In this page (http://www.mangatar.net/contacts.php) you will find all our contacts and official pages; in the about page (http://www.mangatar.net/about.php) you will find all the team informations also with email addresses.
26. What advice do you have for fresh entrepreneurs?
I have just a couple of suggestions for fresh entrepreneurs.
First: always listen to your users. Sometimes they are giving you the solutions to your problems and you are missing that.
Second: do not fall in love with your product. Always be open to change your mind and, if necessary, to change your product.