GamesBeat

Mobile startup Fun Machine believes games can do social good

Fun Machine, a new mobile entertainment software company based in Austin, Texas, was founded in early 2011. So why did it wait until today to let the world know it was officially open for business?

Fun Machine CEO Patrick Curry“We decided that launching our first game was more important than telling the world that we existed,” CEO Patrick Curry (pictured) told GamesBeat via email. “Anyone can say they’re switching gears and leaving consoles behind to make mobile games. It’s something else altogether to actually go do it. So we launched Awesome Eats and were totally blown away with the response!”

A free app for iOS devices, Awesome Eats has gained over 800,000 players and has been featured by Apple in over 100 countries. The company made the game for the Whole Kids Foundation, a non-profit organization that seeks to improve children’s nutrition and wellness at home and in schools. “The Whole Kids Foundation and Whole Foods Market are both headquartered here in Austin and happen to be good friends of ours,” Curry explained. “We were starting up and looking for a pilot project, and they approached us about the idea of a game that encouraged healthy eating.  That was a perfect fit for us as Disney vets (and parents). We really like the idea of reinforcing positive messages back into the world with our games.”

Besides Curry, who was formerly vice president and creative director at Wideload Games, three other video game industry veterans are behind the startup: Michael Hadwin and Neill Glancy, former directors at Disney Interactive’s Junction Point Studios; and Stephen Palmer, former lead producer for Gearbox Software’s Borderlands.

“We believe that games can do social good, so we are always looking to put positive messages into our gameplay,” said Hadwin (pictured). “But that’s not to say that we’re going to shy away from other genres that we love. You don’t work on Stranglehold and Borderlands without a serious action-gamer streak!”

Curry said the team’s experience at Disney working on games like Epic Mickey, Avengers Alliance, and Guilty Party taught them how to create content for a broad audience, but they were still surprised at how much larger and broader the mobile gaming space was. “We had a lot to learn about making mobile games, and actually to unlearn about making console games,” he said. “For the last 10 years, we’ve been dealing with teams of hundreds of people, budgets in the tens of millions, and high-res graphics on computer monitors and HD televisions. In many ways, mobile gaming is a return to form, where the right five or six people can make something phenomenal, so long as they aren’t afraid to embrace this new audience and marketplace.”

Curry said smart phones, smart TVs, and tablets are changing the video game industry in fundamental ways, creating an ecosystem that lets you play across small, medium, and large screens. “The next generation of gaming isn’t going to come on a disc or be bought in a store,” he said. “It’s going to be downloaded and streamed to every screen in your household — and in your pocket — in the blink of an eye.”

Hadwin added that the team is building some “really cool technology” for this ecosystem that it can’t talk about just yet. “As we get closer to announcing our next game, people will completely understand where we’re going, our mission, and what we are looking to accomplish.”


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