Last month, GSN Games debuted its Sparcade app that let consumers play classic arcade games like Pac-Man and Tetris on mobile devices with a chance to win real money in contests of skill with friends. Today, GSN is releasing Centipede on Sparcade, and it will soon launch the popular mobile game Two Dots.
The initial games on Sparcade on iOS have been a great success, said Greg Canessa, senior vice president and general manager of Sparcade at GSN, in an interview with GamesBeat. It appears that GSN has found a new way to monetize classic arcade games.
“We’re doing something really ambitious,” Canessa said. “The opportunity is nothing short of creating a new monetization category for mobile apps. This is esports for everybody. There’s a tremendous opportunity there. When you talk to developers and publishers, they want communities around their games.”
GSN modifies the original titles for skill-based gaming. The San Francisco division of Sony believes this kind of skill-based gaming, where you can wager some money against a friend in a duel, is legal in about 40 states. Fanduel and Draftkings thought they had that right as well, but a bunch of states came after the fantasy sports companies and classified them as illegal gambling. But GSN believes that the games it is using are clearly games of skill.
Kenny Shea Dinkin, vice president of design at Sparcade, said in a blog post that Centipede has been re-imagined from the old classic, under license from Atari. The company did the same with the previously launched competitive mobile versions of Pac-Man, Scrabble, Tetris, and Wheel of Fortune.
Two Dots is coming in the near future. Canessa said he believes publishers are concerned about the free-to-play business model, where it’s so hard to succeed against all of the competition in mobile. And it’s very hard to crack the top 20 top-grossing games. And Canessa believes consumers are tired.
“Having a little skin in the game makes it interesting,” Canessa said.
Sparcade has a meta layer where you can compete to get more tokens, and it has a social layer too. If you want to play for free, you can. But you can also play for real money.
“It’s super cool to see Centipede and Two Dots standing side by side in the world of Sparcade,” Shea Dinkin said. “We drew much of our inspiration for Sparcade from the old coin-op arcades of the ’80s. Like those arcades, Sparcade is at its core a social experience. Everything in Sparcade is done in the context of playing against an opponent – it wraps players in the pulsing beat of an energized community and lets them rip into their favorite games, competing, challenging, and basking in the glory of their victories.”
He added, “In the 1980s the video game arcade became a social mecca for a generation, but it was also a hotbed for innovation in design and storytelling, giving birth to lots of new characters in popular culture. Sparcade pays tribute to that legacy by bringing together different story worlds players can enter across many games spanning multiple genres, with lots of ways to take part in the community, show off their skills, and experience new challenges to master with each new release.”
Centipede challenges players to compete in the ultimate bug battle, destroying waves of centipedes, spiders, fleas and more, to score the most points in four-minute matches. Each wave brings with it a new objective, testing a player’s dexterity, accuracy, and strategy.
The team from the internal Sparcade studio as well as from Joju Games (the development partner on Centipede, as well as Pac-Man), remade Centipede for competitive play for four-minute matches.
“With so many classic games in the Atari library, some dating back more than forty years, we understand the importance of sharing arcade experiences with future generations,” said Todd Shallbetter, chief operating officer at Atari, in a statement. “Partnering with GSN Games on the release of Centipede in Sparcade has given us a great opportunity to live that philosophy. Kenny and his team, along with Joju Games, have demonstrated a great understanding of Centipede’s core appeal, and have managed to remake this masterpiece in a way that doesn’t sacrifice any of what made it great in the first place. Thanks to Sparcade, Centipede today is just as thrilling as it was in 1980.”
The Dots’ CEO and cofounder Paul Murphy, also said in a statement, “We specifically designed Two Dots to provide a zen-like experience, but when Sparcade wanted to turn things up a notch and add a tournament twist, we knew our fans would be game. The Sparcade team struck just the right balance between highlighting Two Dots’ inherently soothing state and adding a competitive edge. We can’t wait to see how the Dots’ community embraces the launch of Two Dots in Sparcade in the coming months.”
Sparcade has added notifications for Friend Challenges and a new way to review the Token and real-money transaction history.
As for the legality, Canessa said, “We’re on very solid ground. Games of skill have been legal for over 100 years. There’s precedent for it.”