SAN FRANCISCO — Publisher Kixeye has generated big revenues from hardcore social games on Facebook, and it’s a new phase of investing heavily in mobile games as players shift to tablets and smartphones and away from playing PC-based games on Facebook or the web.
But it hasn’t shipped any mobile games yet because it is being very deliberate about how it moves into mobile, said Alan Patmore, vice president of product at Kixeye, in a talk at the Login Conference, an event that focuses on the video game industry.
On Facebook, Kixeye launched free-to-play games like Backyard Monsters, Battle Pirates, and War Commander, getting relatively small but loyal audiences that spent money on virtual goods. Basically, the company became very good at “monetizing revenge” as players launched counterattacks on those who attacked their bases.
Now the company wants to follow those gamers as they move to mobile. It’s late in doing so, as some competitors like Supercell are already making millions of dollars a day with games that are not so different from Kixeye’s strategy of giving players “combat in your pocket.” And that has given the company even more reason to be deliberate. Kixeye isn’t giving up on the existing games, and the revenue from those games enables it to move slowly.
But Patmore said that you can’t just take a game designed for the web or Facebook and move it to mobile. You have to redesign it to take advantage of the touchscreen. You have to simplify the user interface so that players can see it on a smaller smartphone screen and touch the various buttons.
“You have to get these things right and then iterate, iterate, iterate,” said Patmore.
Developers also have to simplify game mechanics. Play sessions have to be open to interruptions, Patmore said. But he said the company’s designers aren’t trying to create deliberately shorter “snack-like” sessions. Rather, Kixeye believes that its players will play for longer sessions that can last hours.
“One of the first things the team discussed when we started moving into mobile was session length,” Patmore said. “We kept hearing that on mobile you had to shorten the play session. That play sessions and game loops needed to be snackable. Mobile gamers don’t want to play anything longer than a few minutes We think this is BS.”
He continued, “Our hypothesis is that players will sit down and play a game on their tablet for hours at a time just like they consume movies or tv on their tablet. Players are becoming increasing sophisticated in their appetites and expectations and are demanding a more immersive, polished, high quality game experience. Our players want to play longer. As a matter of fact this, is one of the key ways we monetize.”
Patmore said that the company has taken its time in getting these concepts right by continuous iteration. But it’s not just spinning its wheels. Kixeye plans to ship three mobile games in the next quarter or two, he sad.
“We are taking minnows, the light touch unengaged players and getting sharks out of those players,” Patmore said.