MXit set to broaden base

2010-10-29 22:27

Cape Town - Instant messaging service MXit on Friday announced that it would be launching a new programme to expand its audience.

By launching an Application Programming Interface (API), MXit hopes to go beyond an instant messaging service into a fully-fledged social networking site with strong international ambitions.

"There's a huge opportunity in the value-added space to be unleashed," CEO Herman Heunis said in Stellenbosch.

"We started as an IM (instant messaging service) but today we're much more than that.

"People have shared galleries for years now and when we started data was about R50 a megabyte, compared to today’s R2.17 a megabyte.

"We had no chance to let users share photos and so on."

Forced to make adjustments

The API will allow third parties to develop games for the MXit platform which has the potential for exponential growth because it’s a closed system, said Adrian Frielinghaus, CEO of Blue Leaf Games.

"Once you're in MXit, you don't want to close it. You want to be in contact with your friends all the time; the mobile environment is linear - you don't have the multi-tasking environment as on a PC," said Frielinghaus whose company developed Moonbase, which boasts millions of users.

But MXit's development wasn't always planned from inception and Heunis said that the company has been forced to make adjustments to challenging conditions.

"It's a tough industry and we've burnt our fingers many times. But it's taken on a life of its own - we started with an open mind, like I say, we don't compete, we create."

Revenue generation is one of the keys in developing games, especially in the mobile space, said Frielinghaus but acquisition of users was only the first step. Retention proves more difficult on an open mobile platform than in the closed environment of MXit.

"MXit is a different category of acquisition. There are opportunities with a captive market.

"They will find you and tell all their friends - with no SEO (search engine optimisation) or banner ads. MXit is a circle of trust, Facebook is for everyone else," he said.

Golden opportunity

Frielinghaus said that despite users spending long periods on MXit, they were often bored and looking for something engaging while maintaining contact with their friends. The Moonbase game fits into this market well because it was inherently social.

"Moonbase is a deeply social game. Playing it alone is pointless and that's important for our business. Your success is linked to your friend who is in your alliance, and so even if he gets bored or doesn't play, you'll find one kid saying to the other at school, 'Why didn’t you play last night?' "

"There are few applications listed on MXit, he golden opportunity is now," said Frielinghaus.

- Follow Duncan on Twitter

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