GamesBeat

PlayPhone enables instant multiplayer across Android and iOS devices (exclusive)

PlayPhone is announcing a technology today that will enable instant multiplayer gaming across iOS and Android devices. The technology will be part of the company’s mobile social gaming network and is now available for developers to implement in their games.

San Jose, Calif.-based PlayPhone will enable fast-action multiplayer games, even between players on different platforms and carrier networks, with only 250 millisecond delays over 3G and 4G networks, chief executive Ron Czerny (pictured) told VentureBeat. That’s fast enough to enable fast-action multiplayer games, he said.

“We consider this a major engineering feat,” Czerny said. “This is just one part of a multiple layered gaming network. It’s not easy to copy. It is like what Yahoo did for web games in 2000 and what Microsoft did for console games with Xbox Live. This new infrastructure is a major event for mobile game developers.”

Doing multiplayer gaming right is hard because mobile phones have limited data bandwidth and it often takes a good connection to do multiplayer action properly. Flying, racing, or shooting games are particularly hard to do right, but Czerny says it will be possible with his technology.

PlayPhone has launched the InstaMultiplay capability as part of its latest free software development kit (SDK). Developers who implement it will be able to more easily implement cross-platform multiplayer gaming and player matchmaking. Developers won’t have to worry about building their own back-end servers because PlayPhone handles that for them. When players initiate a game, they are connected to PlayPhone’s servers. The cloud-based platform supports Android, iOS, HTML5, Adobe Air, Unity, and in the near future Windows Phone 7 (Mango). PlayPhone does not plan to add cross-platform play with PC players, as the focus is all on mobile.

“The platform is so big on mobile, why play on anything else?” Czerny said.

PlayPhone’s social layer provides developers with better game discovery and community features. It also has a virtual economy, with a virtual payments system that allows users to buy virtual goods within games. The company has around 5 million monthly users for its current mobile games and hopes to make money from the social platform by taking a cut of the virtual goods revenue.

The mobile InstaMultiplay is working in a test game that PlayPhone created called Pipe Bomber Max. I played it yesterday with Czerny, with cross-platform play between an iPhone and an Android phone. It worked fine. One phone quickly located the other after Czerny logged into the game. With a single button push, each of us joined a multiplayer game, where we had to tap on the screen rapidly to send bombs to the other player. The game play was instantaneous and there were no hiccups. At the time we were playing, 37,000 players were online on PlayPhone’s social network.

The system can connect players with random live opponents or computer-managed robots. It lets friends challenge each other instantly over 3G or better connections. You can add or invite friends via email or Facebook. And you can hang out in a game lobby waiting to be challenged. Developers can self-publish on PlayPhone’s platform, or PlayPhone can publish for them. PlayPhone gets developers the advantage of preferred distribution in the AT&T app store.

PlayPhone’s backers include Menlo Ventures, Cardinal Venture Capital, Coral Group, and Scale Venture Partners. On Friday, VentureBeat reported that PlayPhone bought mobile marketing firm SocialHour for $51.5 million in stock. Rivals include DeNA/Ngmoco, Gree, and PapayaMobile. PlayPhone has more than 2,000 developers and is adding 15 – 20 a day, Czerny said.

[Photo credit: Dean Takahashi]

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