Former Microsoft games chief joins Zipline Games board

Zipline Games, creator of the Moai game development platform, announced today it has recruited former Microsoft game studio chief Shane Kim to its board.

Kim ran the internal game development studio at Microsoft until 2009. By that time, he had put in 19 years at Microsoft and left to spend more time with his family. He took some time off and more recently said that he was getting back into the game business as an advisor to startups. It shows how the talent from the traditional game industry is becoming useful in the new game industry where startups focus on mobile and social games.

Kim told me at the recent Casual Connect game conference in Seattle that he became interested in Seattle-based Zipline Games, which was a finalist at our GamesBeat 2011 game startup competition, because of its cool technology for making cross-platform mobile games. Zipline created its Moai game development platform with tools based on the Lua scripting language and a back-end system for running mobile games. The system promises rapid development of iOS (Apple iPhone) and Android mobile games and cloud-based game services.

“I’ve looked at a lot of companies but this is the rare case where I decided to join the board,” Kim said.

Todd Hooper, chief executive of Zipline Games, also said at the time that he appreciated Kim’s deep knowledge of the game business and his advice about the Moai strategy. Jordan Weisman‘s new game, Crimson, is being built on the Moai platform. Bungie Aerospace will publish the game from Weisman’s Harebrained Schemes.

At Microsoft, Kim joined the PC game division in the early days when Microsoft’s only big properties were Flight Simulator and Golf. With his boss, Ed Fries, he helped grow the division with games like Age of Empires. Then he helped the game group get ready for the launch of the Xbox game console in 2001.

Kim got his big chance after Fries, the longtime chief of Microsoft Game Studios, resigned in 2004. Kim was appointed to that job and helped the company develop its all-important line-up for the launch of the Xbox 360 in 2005. Among the titles Kim and his lieutenants had to manage were Halo 2, Gears of War, Fable, and Forza Motorsport. While Fries had to commission a lot of new games for the original Xbox, Kim had to pare back, cutting a lot of unprofitable game projects such as Microsoft’s various massively multiplayer online games. Still, he had budgets in the tens of millions for dollars for some games and ran studios with more than 1,000 employees.

Shane has recently taken advisory roles with several gaming technology companies, including Jambool and GameStop. As an aside, Kim has never forgiven me for outing him as a player who gets motion sickness from playing first-person shooter games — even though he funded the development of Halo and Gears of War titles, he never got to play them. Truthfully, it’s not such a bad admission. And it might make him more likely to play some cool social and mobile games instead.