The Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences is an elite professional game group that puts on the annual Dice Summit gaming event in Las Vegas and selects the winners for the equivalent of the game industry’s Oscars. So it’s interesting that the academy is adding two new board members from Nexon and Zynga.
Min Kim (pictured below), vice president of Live Games at Nexon, and Brian Reynolds (pictured right), chief game designer at Zynga, have joined the board. The appointments signal that the game industry has changed and the AIAS is changing with it. And they mean the makers of social and online games, once considered the second-class citizens of gaming, now have a seat at the board table.
It’s no surprise the seats went to these two companies — both Nexon and Zynga raised more than $1 billion in initial public offerings and are considered to be the pioneers of the new game business. The board, after all, has to consist of the movers and shakers of the game industry. Reynolds is a veteran of the traditional game industry who made the leap to Zynga, which has more than 235 million monthly active users playing free-to-play games on Facebook. He created Zynga’s FrontierVille, which hit a peak of 35 million users, and gave a talk at a past Dice Summit talked about metrics-based game design.
Kim is one of the executives at Nexon who helped create the free-to-play business model. Aiming to deal with piracy for games in Korea, Kim pushed more than a decade ago to create free-to-play games where users play for free and pay real money for virtual goods. Kim co-founded Nexon America, bringing the model to the U.S., and launched the global edition of Nexon’s flagship game MapleStory. He helped get retailers to adopt prepaid game cards in stores and helps the industry deal with the risks of cyber attacks. And as you can see from the picture above, Kim will do anything to promote a game.
These appointments are a big deal because the AIAS, which has 22,000 members and a board of 16 industry leaders, considers its task to be the advancement of artistic values of the game community.
“As one of the earliest advocates of free-to-play online games, Min has been instrumental in bringing this business model to gamers worldwide,” said AIAS president Martin Rae. “Their introduction of free-to-play, giving players free access to games in favor of generating revenue from microtransactions, has quite literally been a game changer. Nexon has been quite involved already with Academy activities and we’re really excited to have Min’s input at the board level.”
Reynolds is a 21-year industry veteran who played a key role in founding the game studios Firaxis, Big Huge Games, and Zynga East. His games, ranging from Civilization II to Alpha Centauri, have sold more than 6 million copies.
“Zynga has been leading the charge for delivering quality social gaming to an ever expanding demographic,” said Rae. “And they have been at the forefront of one of the major shifts in our industry. Brian’s work at Zynga has helped redefine how people enjoy and interact with the medium of gaming, and we are proud to have his experience and deep insight on the board as gaming further becomes a part of everyone’s everyday life.”
Since Zynga has been under attack lately for copying other games, Reynolds’ appointment is to one of the industry’s highest artistic bodies will help Zynga fend off charges that it isn’t innovative.