If you, dear reader, used the Internet in the first decade of this century, surely you had among your trusted portals one of the icons of the early 2000s: Miniclip.
This portal of flash minigames, addictive and ideal for killing time, saw how his fame was falling in direct proportion to the rise of the smartphone. The mobile snacked on the computer for many tasks, and the application stores were the new source of light entertainment. Portals like this began to decline.
And although its website, which came to catalog more than 600 games, now only offers a couple… Miniclip is still alive. Different, but alive.
600 games in your browser
Miniclip was founded in 2001. Its creators, Robert Small and Titan Presbie, only needed £40,000 to launch it, according to the Financial Times newspaper archive. 34,000 were put up by Small, and the other 6,000 by Presbie. That is why the company was divided between 85%-15%.
Their first headquarters was a flat in London, and although the original idea was to launch a portal of small video clips —hence the name—, they finally decided to bet on short, casual games, from the browser, for quick games… minigamesas opposed to complex games that required installation, dedication and a lot of hard drive space.
Some of the “games”, in fact, they had more interactive viral clips than games. For example, one of George W. Bush, then President of the United States, dancing or exercising with the steps that the user chose. We all have a past and that was funny to us in 2003. Bush’s body was that of Presbie, one of the creators, with the president’s face superimposed. It was absolutely viral. The two thousand.
The concept of the minigame succeeded. During his first eight years of life, everything was growth. It came to exceed 600 games in its catalogue, the vast majority of which are free., and the company was worth 275 million pounds in 2008. Its growth was supported by the rise of home computers … and corporate. The figure of the office worker who takes advantage of dead time, today in Telegram groups or watching tiktoks, was linked to Miniclip at that time.
That web traffic hit allowed him to consolidate its business model around advertising: the banners that populated the perimeter of the game financed such an expensive infrastructure for those times. In addition, they played with the trick that, unlike in the media or forums, the content that shared the screen with advertising was 100% controlled and was not generated by users, so they could provide security and control to the advertiser. In its second year it was already a profitable company. In 2009, it had a turnover of 25 million pounds with a net profit margin of 32%.
The continuous addition of new games served to keep the user hooked, who by the time he got tired of one already had an alternative ready. Miniclip also pioneered a trend that the following decade ended up twisting: fun offices, with billiards and beer coolers.
Captures from the Miniclip website in 2001, 2004 and 2007. Image: Internet Archive, Denamorado in Freepik, own edition.
By the time the 2008 crisis arrived, Miniclip was already sufficiently established, and was also already looking for alternative sources of income, such as strategic agreements with large publishers in the sector, or licensing its own characters to develop merchandising, as well as launching sponsored games for companies like BP, Unilever or Gillette. “A lot of blue chip companies have realized that this is a fantastic way to build their brand,” Small said at the time on this last point.
And although they also started developing mobile games early on, just before the smartphone began to go universal… nothing was going to be the same for Miniclip anymore.
transition and sale
The early years of iOS and Android dominance began with turbulence for Miniclip, which began to face what seemed like a crisis of the 40: looking in the mirror is difficult because you are no longer who you were and you do not know what awaits you. Complicated questions and existential doubts arrive like an abyss that can only be overcome by starting to build the future: accepting that the past is past, that counting gray hairs doesn’t help at all and that you have to find a way to feel happy with yourself.
Miniclip saw how interest in its portal fell, Flash games began to be frowned upon, as something anachronistic; and Apple’s iPad came with the proud promise of not support Flash, something that more than a lack was a message: we don’t want you here. App stores had been a game changer and their brand had become strong within a browser, not some third party store where they simply had no experience. But it was time to row.
This is how their real mobile games began to arrive. Miniclip fired several shots into the air and hit only a few. One of them was 8 Ball Pool, a billiards simulator released in 2010 and that still exists today to the point of being one of the only two games that can be played on the Miniclip website. The other is Agar.io, a massive browser game.
After a few years moved by inertia, Miniclip It was sold in 2015 to the Chinese giant Tencent, who has ended up becoming the largest video game company in the world. This operation was done quickly and without the cultural differences between China and Europe being a problem, since both companies shared a good part of the business vision.
Although its catalog began to increase leveraged by this operation, in 2022 it reached 4,000 million mobile downloads… and 25% was still the work of 8 Ball Pool.
With a market that was already dominated by mobile and increasingly scarce for the game from the browser, a few months ago the company announced that his website was being profoundly reorientedgoing from being an online gaming portal to a place focused on technical support and promoting its titles, maintaining only the two aforementioned online games.
The Miniclip website today. More corporate information than browser games. They are other times. Image: Xataka.
It was something you could see coming. The logic of the times said it and the one who has been its CEO for almost two years, Saad Choudri, said: “We have always followed the players wherever they have gone, and the players go to the mobile,” he told City AM
Indeed, that was where Miniclip had gone, especially after the purchase by Tencent and its spectacular checkbook to invest and grow. Today they are the fourth company with the most downloads of mobile games, but they have a trick (wink wink): they have created their empire by buying large established franchises, in the style of what Tencent itself did with console games.
In recent years, the activity of Tencent’s daughter Miniclip has been to buy small and medium-sized mobile game development studios.
Eight Pixels Square (2020). Undisclosed amount. UK studio creator of the game Sniper Strike: Special Ops, with more than 35 million downloads.
Gamebasics (2021). Undisclosed amount. Dutch studio author of the Online Soccer Manager saga.
Green Horse Games (2022). Undisclosed amount. Romanian studio author of games like LigaUltras or Football Rivals.
Sybo (2022). Undisclosed amount. Danish studio author of the game Subway Surfers.
This latest purchase has allowed it to take off in the number of downloads and its presence on mobile phones, although other operations have allowed it to position itself in the market for soccer managers.
And so we have gone from a Miniclip founded by a couple of friends with their own funds, which put its brand in front of the user and bet on casual games in the browser, to another that has a giant like Tencent behind it, which has focused in mobile games and strip checkbook to swell its catalog. Miniclip is not the same because it cannot be, because we are not the same either.
Featured Image | Reddit, Wikimedia Commons.
In Xataka | I have played PC Soccer 5.0 again almost 25 years later: the nostalgia of someone ahead of his time.