Gravity Bear isn't shy about its intentions to claw into the projected $1 billion in 2009 social networking game realm, currently dominated by Zynga, Playfish and Playdom but it's sure being coy about just how they'll win. But Gravity Bear's teeth are sharpened by Phil Shenk, a video game industry art and design vet with stints as art director at Flagship Studios, lead artist on Blizzard's Diablo 2 and spend time helping Microsoft, Sony and others to create online casual games on Wild Tangent.
While the details around Gravity Bear's first game are still a secret, we decided to ask Phil Sheck, co-founder and CEO about his company and the reasons for jumping into the social gaming realm. Shenk was actually kind enough to answer:
Games.com: Is the focus here casual games, casual games on social networks, or social network games?
Shenk: Our focus is on making the kinds of games that we think will do well on social networks. Casual games is a pretty broad market, and I've heard people in the industry define that genre as very light, often puzzle style games. For social games, historically they've focused heavily on asynchronous play, light competition, personal expression, etc., which of course makes sense given the platform and how viral distribution works.
Our goal is to push the bar higher, and provide a more compelling, more immersive experience. It's delicate work, because there are unique parameters to consider: leveraging social connections, providing opportunities for fun self-expression, the right balance of competition (it has to build community, not divide it), being mindful of the time people have to spend during the day, etc. But I strongly believe that there are myriad opportunities to make games more compelling, more engaging, and with more long-term experiences.