Backyard Monster maker Kixeye talks up its game platform [Interview]

KixeyeWith the Game Developers Conference (GDC) inching closer, every game company is poised to make big-time announcements. Not Kixeye. No, the developer behind strategy social game hits like Backyard Monsters frankly isn't interested in GDC, we're told. Kixeye CEO Will Harbin would rather either get the news out to its players at events that its audience actually cares about.

"We're kind of getting our ass in gear when it comes to consumer-facing events," Harbin tells us. "We definitely plan on doing something meaningful for events like E3 in the future." That "something meaningful" could either be the developer's upcoming full-3D role-playing game (RPG) launching this September ... or something else entirely, like its very own browser game platform?

"We want just a pure browser gaming experience that's a showcase for some of our trophy titles. Initially it's gonna be closed just to us, first party games. We might open it up to tightly-controlled third parties," Harbin reveals. "It will never be an open platform--it would be something that would be tightly curated by us at Kixeye. We can make a browser experience that's hyper-optimized to play games, and that's what we're gonna do."

While the company has mentioned this platform in passing before, the fact that Kixeye considers opening up the service to other game developers is huge. That's especially so considering Zynga looks to do almost exactly the same thing on a massive scale for the casual audience. For as much as Kixeye has to say about the FarmVille maker, the two could become rivals soon, since the other platforms aren't showing much promise, if you ask Harbin.
Backyard Monsters vs CityVille
"Crickets are chirping on Google+," Harbin admits. "That's not to say that I think that the other platforms are without merit. We're on at least 10 other platforms, but that only comprises 10 percent of our audience combined. The audience is simply more selective. They have choice. FarmVille, CityVille, etc. are relatively novel products. These [hardcore] users have had a wealth of options for content available to them for 20 or 30 years. We're in kind of proving ground mode, where we have to really earn our users, and it's much harder to earn these users than it is to earn the FarmVille user."

Kixeye CEO Will HarbinThis homegrown platform is an attempt to cater to the core audience of online gamers that simply won't play a Facebook game based on stigma alone. While Kixeye looks to solve the problem itself, Facebook is also hot on the case. "[Facebook's] appetite is high for figuring out ways of servicing quality content to users that does not involve advertising. There's only a certain percentage of the population that clicks on ads, and not everybody is going to recommend the game," the CEO tells us. "Some people aren't going to be receptive of a game recommended by someone on Facebook."

And not only does Kixeye look to remedy this with its own games platform, it looks to prove to the skeptics that social games can, in fact, keep up with its upcoming RPG. "The first release is to make sure we have the tech down, and the characters and the setting--kind of introduce users to this style of play. Quite excited about it. I get giddy with every product I see with it. We're surpassing our own internal expectations of what Flash 11 is capable of."

Can Kixeye crack the hardcore code by making its own browser game platform? Will the lot of hardcore gamers ever cross the fence over to social games? Sound off in the comments. Add Comment.
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