GamesBeat

Howard Marks' Gamzee will focus on social-mobile HTML5 games

Howard Marks has developed pretty good cred in video games. Over the course of 25 years, he helped revive an ailing Activision, which is now the biggest video game publisher. He bought the Acclaim name out of bankruptcy, started working on a number of online games, and sold the company to Playdom in 2010. Now he has turned his focus on a new game start-up, Gamzee.

Gamzee (pronounced game-zee) is focused on making cross-platform games using the HTML5 language for the web; the open standard works with JavaScript and can be used to make apps that run on any device. Marks thinks this is a big opportunity because it means that programmers can create a game once and have it run on a wide variety of platforms, from the web to mobile devices. In an interview, Marks said he expects the company to launch its first game by October. By that time, fingers crossed, he believes that Facebook will shift to the HTML5 standard, eventually getting rid of Flash-based software.

And that means that a social game designed to run on Facebook should also run on all mobile devices and the web as well.

“We are building our entire company around that vision,” Marks said. “Given that HTML5 is cross-platform, we will be both social and mobile.”

That’s a risky and bold move in part because HTML5 is in its beginning stages. Some observers (such as the startup Sibblingz) say that HTML5 games, which run inside a web browser, run slow compared to native applications, or those that are designed to be downloaded to a device and take advantage of that device’s special characteristics. But Marks believes that the universality of HTML5 will eventually overcome such objections, and that HTML5 will get faster over time with the adoption of new standards such as WebGL.

With HTML5 games, there are advantages. Marks says that if you share a link for an HTML5 game with someone, the person you shared it with can simply click on the link to start playing the game, regardless of the device they are using. You can also pick up where you left off easily. You could start playing on a PC and resume playing on a tablet or on a connected TV.

At first, Marks said the company will focus on simpler games that don’t require extremely fast real-time graphics or lots of 3D. Most Facebook games don’t use such features and they are still very successful.

Marks is funding the company himself. Based in Los Angeles, it has five employees, including vice president of games Josh Levitan. The veteran staff comes from companies such as Playdom, Acclaim and Meteor Games. They have started work on a new game which is a twist on a popular social gaming genre. It will blend game mechanics, innovative design and location features. While many Facebook games emphasize casual fare and sharing, Marks believes that game play will get more attention in the future.

The title will be free-to-play, which means users can start playing for free and pay real money for virtual goods in micro-transactions. It also expects derive a revenue stream from location-based features. Marks acknowledged that its late to be starting a game business that competes with the likes of Zynga in social games. But he said his company is focused on the HTML5 disruption in the market and that could be an advantage for a start-up. That’s why there are more mobile game companies getting funding now, such as Pocket Gems and TinyCo.

Marks started the company a few weeks ago. Rivals include Zynga, EA-Playfish, Disney-Playdom, Game Closure and CrowdStar. Marks said Gamzee is raising a round of funding.

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