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For game companies, nirvana is being able to make a game that runs on a bunch of platforms. And social-mobile game publisher SGN believes it has just that with the announcement today of MasterKey.
The Los Angeles company has created a cross-platform game development platform that allows it to create a social game on Facebook with Adobe’s Flash technology and then publish the title relatively quickly on mobile platforms such as Apple’s iOS (iPad, iPad Mini, iPod Touch, and iPhone), Android devices, and the web.
Chris DeWolfe, the chief executive of SGN, told GamesBeat that MasterKey took the company 18 months to create. The aim is to streamline development and reduce the time, cost, and manpower required to publish a game across the four platforms. The company has already used the platform to launch its successful games Panda Jam (pictured at top) and Bingo Blingo (pictured right).
“Consumers want to be able to play our games on every device and platform, so it’s a top priority for SGN to execute a cross-platform strategy effectively,” said DeWolfe, who was one of the original founders of social network MySpace. “MasterKey enables us to do so efficiently while creating multiple revenue streams for each game we develop.”
For users, the benefit is that they can start playing a game on one device, such as the PC, and then switch to another, such as an iPhone. The gamer can pick up where they left off. On top of that, the cross-platform games are monetizing 70 percent better than the non-cross-platform games.
DeWolfe said the new proprietary technology allows the company to cut the time it takes to convert a title to a new platform by up to 80 percent. In the past, he said, SGN has learned painfully that games created in the old way had to be re-created from the ground up for each new platform. SGN has applied for a patent for the technology. DeWolfe said it takes a week or two to move to a new platform.
The company is using the technology to publish its own games at first, but it will also make it available to third-party developers who publish their games through SGN.
DeWolfe (pictured right) formed his game company a few years ago with the acquisition of MindJolt and funding from Austin Ventures. He acquired SGN and Hall Pass. And he kept the SGN name for the overall company, and he has been busy moving beyond the MindJolt game portal on Facebook to mobile games. To date, SGN games have been installed more than 200 million times on both mobile and social platforms. SGN is growing its revenues and is profitable, said DeWolfe. But watching Zynga’s declining performance this year taught DeWolfe that he had to diversify beyond one platform.
“We had to do this once we started acquiring companies on different platforms,” said DeWolfe. “We had several development groups with no way to pull the intellectual property together. It was incredibly frustrating.”
DeWolfe said his company studied HTML5, the lingua franca of the web, but concluded that it wasn’t ready for games. MasterKey, by contrast, allows the team to create games that function as if they were developed with native code for different platforms.
“The benefit is you can make money in four places instead of one or two,” he said. “If you draw a parallel to movies, you take it for granted that you don’t have to make a different movie for theatrical release, DVD, or Netflix.
Facebook is still a great platform to launch on because it is good for quickly acquiring new users, said DeWolfe. SGN has game studios in Buenos Aires and San Francisco. Rivals include Spaceport I/O, Zynga, and a variety of other companies trying to do cross-platform games.
SGN has 85 employees and 35 million monthly active users. DeWolfe said that the company is still considering growing through acquisitions.