Consoles from Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony may still rule the living room, but Aurora Feint (and OpenFeint) founder Jason Citron has his eye a time on when tablets will take over. Hardcore tablet gaming is the purview of his latest game startup, Phoenix Guild, for which he’s raised $1.1 million in funding.
In an interview with GamesBeat, Citron said that he plans to build hardcore social games for tablets in the “post-PC world.” PCs aren’t quite dead yet, but Citron wants to be on the leading edge of technology, and he believes that that means tablets such as the Apple iPad.
“Apple is going to ship more iPads than [Microsoft will for] the Xbox 360,” he said.
Citron founded Aurora Feint and launched his first game as the App Store opened in 2008. He expected maybe 100 people to play the game that day, but by the time he woke up, more than 2,000 had downloaded it. He then morphed that company into Aurora Feint, which created OpenFeint, a mobile social network platform. Gree bought it for $104 million in April 2011, and now the platform has more 200 million users. YouWeb, headed by Peter Relan, incubated OpenFeint, and Citron said he teamed up with Relan again because he is “a mentor to me.” Citron said he also went with Accel and General Catalyst because the partners were smart.
Phoenix Guild investors include YouWeb, Accel Partners, and General Catalyst Partners. Together, they’re a well-known bunch, and it shows that the idea of making games for new platforms is a popular one in Silicon Valley.
Phoenix Guild has just three employees, but Citron wants it to be the “Blizzard of the post-PC era,” a reference to Blizzard Entertainment, the developer of the successful Diablo, StarCraft, World of Warcraft, games. Citron thinks mobile touchscreen devices will replace consoles as the primary medium for hardcore gaming. While Microsoft has shipped more than 67.2 million Xbox 360s since 2005, Apple shipped 52 million units with iOS in the first quarter of 2012.
“Post-PC devices are growing faster than any consumer electronics category in history, and gaming is the killer app,” said Citron. “It’s obvious to me that fantastic, engaging games need to be built for these devices, but instead, everyone’s building these lame free-to-play sims.” That’s a not-so-veiled reference to Zynga’s FarmVille.
Phoenix Guild plans to push the tablet hardware to its limits and make games that take advantage of touchscreens and other characteristics that are unique to the devices. The company plans to hire a developer, a 3D artist, and a game designer. Citron said that the company hopes to ship its first game this year. Phoenix Guild is exploring using the Unity Technologies development platform.
“This is an opportunity to get in on the ground floor and contribute significantly to everything: culture, team, design,” Citron said. “It’s not often you get to build something you’re incredibly passionate about, but I believe that’s how greatness happens. You’ve just got to pour your heart and soul into it. That’s what we’re doing with Phoenix Guild.”
How’s that for swagger? Citron is speaking on a panel at the MobileBeat 2012 conference in San Francisco today.
[Image credits: Phoenix Guild, Dean Takahashi]
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