Kixeye's marketing head on leaving Zynga and Kixeye's future [Interview]

Kixeye SVP Marketing Brandon Barber"As it turned out, it wasn't really a good fit at the time, and [I] decided to move forward. Since then, the VP role there has been like the drummer in Spinal Tap," Kixeye's new SVP of Marketing Brandon Barber (pictured ... yes, really) says as to why he left Zynga as its first marketing VP to co-found Lionside. The latter was recently gobbled up by mobile game maker ngmoco, which left Barber open to new opportunities.

Just a few months ago, Barber joined Backyard Monsters creator Kixeye to head its marketing division, impressed by how well the developer is "trying to crack the same nut" as Lionside was: a brand new category of social game. "One of the great things, and smart things, that Kixeye did pretty much from the get-go is say, 'Look, we're going to make games for gamers, games that we want to play and we're not gonna get bogged down by the social plumbing that has become kind of de riguer in the space,'" Barber tells us.

And Kixeye has done just that. All of the San Francisco-based studio's social games feature real-time combat (mostly through asynchronous interaction) and a focus on war strategy. The company's games appeal to almost 99 percent males, and Barber tells us that while most social games can grip a player for eight to 10 weeks, Kixeye's games can hook players for as long as 10 months. And his job at the company is to make sure those gamers stay there through--what else?--brand building.
Backyard Monsters
"The Kixeye brand to me is much more than a logo, it really is an umbrella for the entire organization," Barber says. "I think marketing serves as the bridge between the games teams and the analytics teams. Getting the word out and starting to communicate what Kixeye is about is a really critical function at this point."

However, Kixeye takes an incredibly methodical approach in attracting new players, which Barber says is exactly why we've yet to see massive amounts of players logging into Kixeye games daily. According to AppData, the developer currently serves 936,000 daily players and 3.7 million monthly players, numbers that have remained relatively steady for some time. And while Barber expects Kixeye to grow (the developer expects to launch four more games this year), he likes it just where it is.
Battle Pirates
"Ultimately, I think that was a smart decision, because the games are absolutely resonating with the sorts of gamers that you want," Barber tells us. "People who are going to spend two or three times longer periods of time than most social games see and spend exponentially more money." Sure, but Kixeye is making games for type of gamers its team members are: "hardcore" gamers. But don't call Kixeye's games that. And if you ask Barber, Kixeye's not even a "social gaming company."

"We don't necessarily think of the games as 'hardcore'. They're games that we want to play," Barber gushes to us. "We spend a lot of our entertainment hours, whenever they become available, playing games. We don't even really see ourselves as a social gaming company. We see ourselves as a game developer, like any other. Our games just happen to be on Facebook at the moment, because Facebook is still the only platform that has meaningful growth on it."
War Commander
We didn't know there was a difference (for most social game makers), but OK. Barber tells us that Kixeye is experimenting on new platforms, like Google+, and will make the leap to any area that makes sense. But there's something that Kixeye has come to realize that the crop of new "hardcore" social games companies seem to have glossed over.

"There will always be a segment of guys that don't really want to play on Facebook," Barber admits. "We're going to take steps in the coming year the build games for those guys too, potentially directly into browsers off of Facebook." Maybe that's a sad realization for most, but trust us, these guys are far better off for coming to it.

[Image Credits: Kixeye]

Are you a fan of any of Kixeye's games? Do you think a developer that makes such games can reach critical mass on Facebook, or will it ultimately have to look elsewhere? Sound off in the comments. Add Comment.
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