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Jawfish launches real-time multiplayer game tournaments on mobile devices

Jawfish Games has launched what some very big rivals haven’t been able to do. The Seattle startup is announcing today it has released two of its own real-time multiplayer tournament games on multiple platforms.

jawfish wordsThe new social-mobile games Jawfish Poker and Jawfish Words allow players to compete against each other in real time for virtual currency and bragging rights. The games are built on a proprietary technology that enables players to chat and play 15 or 20 hands a minute with real friends. Since the poker title launched a week ago, players have already played a million hands.

Jawfish previously launched the technology in the market in a partnership with Big Fish Games. Those companies released an iOS game called Match-Up! by Big Fish. It enables up to 16 friends to compete against each other in live tournaments within the app’s Word, Match-3, or Mahjong minigames. Now Jawfish, headed by former poker star Phil Gordon, is launching games under its own brand name.

“We’re now showing our chops in real-time multiplayer tournaments,” Gordon told GamesBeat.

Gordon said that players will be able to compete against each other across platforms, including iOS, Android, and the web. Jawfish Poker, available now on Apple’s iTunes App Store, focuses on the most important decision at a poker table: “all-in or fold?” It rapidly cycles players through hundreds of opponents in a fast-action game that is meant to look like a game on television.

Gordon led the design of the game. He is known worldwide as one of the best professional poker players. His team includes the engineers who built the hit title Full Tilt Poker, which was a hugely popular online poker game until the federal government shut it down in a regulatory battle in April 2011. A big legal battle ensued, and eventually the government changed its attitude about real-money online gambling. The app finally reopened last November, after rival PokerStars bought Full Tilt Poker. The team, however, moved on.

Jawfish Words is a real-time word-search game. Players compete in three objectives per round, such as High Score, Corners, Longest Word, or Diagonals. The game launched on the Amazon Kindle in May, and it has generated nearly 500,000 tournament entries since its debut. In June, Jawfish Words will debut on iOS, Android, and Facebook. All players will be able to compete in the same field of play.

That’s important so that the game can reach “critical mass,” Gordon said.

“If there are no players, it’s not fun,” he said. “By going cross-platform, it opens it up more and makes critical mass easier to achieve.”

The poker game is a virtual-goods game, where players can purchase extra chips with real money but can’t cash their winnings out.

The company started in January 2012 with eight co-founders, including Gordon. He finished fourth in a worldwide tournament, the World Series Main Event, in 2001. He was also the lead commentator in Bravo’s TV show Celebrity Poker Showdown. And he was the poker analyst for ESPN.com for five years. Gordon has written four books on poker, and they’ve sold more than 500,000 copies. His earliest accomplishment was entering college at age 15.

Gordon said the technology wasn’t possible 18 months ago, but with faster 4G data networking speeds on smartphones, it is quite doable now. The platform sits upon Amazon Web Services. With more than a million tournaments, the entire bandwidth cost has been less than $20, Gordon said.

Jawfish has $3.59 million in funding from Right Side Capital and Founders Fund. The company has 25 employees and is in the midst of hiring 25 more engineers.

Zynga announced last year that it would release real-time multiplayer game tournaments. But it still hasn’t launched those just yet.

“Our job is to take the games you know and reinvent them as multiplayer tournament games,” Gordon said.


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