Big Fish Games to "break new ground" with cloud service
Casual games a natural fit for the cloud, company grows research team by 30
Big Fish Games is assembling a "highly skilled" team of 30 software engineers to accelerate development of a cloud-based game service.
The jobs will be created in the company's offices in Cork, Ireland, and Will O'Brien, vice president of business development, believes that the results of their work will help the company break new ground in the games industry. The model is Netflix; a vast library of content available for a few clicks and a monthly fee.
"It was just a natural extension for them and it really exploded the consumption model of watching movies across many, many devices," O'Brien says. "We're looking at it in the same way."
Big Fish may not have tens of thousands of DVDs, but it does have a library of more than 2500 "premium casual" games, and O'Brien insists that 1000 games are "cloud ready" right now.
"Often, these games are north of 500mb file size, and so by leveraging the cloud, and leveraging the increasing adoption of mobile devices, connected TVs and other platforms, we're going to be able to allow users to instantly start playing these rich, high-quality games without the time it takes to download a large file," he says.
From a content perspective we're very much leading and pioneering [the casual] space, and on a technology front we're leading and pioneering the cloud space
So far, the discussion around cloud technology has focused on AAA gaming through Gaikai and Onlive, but O'Brien claims that Big Fish is better placed to emulate the mass market success of Netflix and Spotify.
"Because our focus is on casual games we have a unique set of challenges, but not the same challenges as core games do - in terms of latency," he says. "Our games work really well over a 1 to 2mb per second connection. In the US, I think the average consumer connection is 3.2mb/sec broadband. I think we already have a really great approach to solving that problem."
The first evidence of Big Fish's cloud strategy emerged in November last year, when the company launched the App Store's first ever subscription-based streaming service. However, the app was abruptly pulled within a week. The reason for Apple's reversal is still unclear.
"For the folks that downloaded that app and have used it, that was a great example of what we can do with this cloud gaming technology," he says. "But it's part of a broader strategy. We have a good, longstanding relationship with Apple and a very strong mobile app business, and we'll continue to work with them on what's best for our customers in the App Store."
O'Brien politely declines to offer more details, but whatever Apple's stance on the issue the company ultimately has wider ambitions. In September last year, Big Fish installed Amazon's David Stephenson as CFO. A fortnight ago, it hired Rovio's global branding chief Wibe Wageman as senior vice president of mobile.
"Casual games are a natural fit for the cloud," O'Brien says. "From a content perspective we're very much leading and pioneering [the casual] space, and on a technology front we're leading and pioneering the cloud space."
"As we develop and further come to market this year, I think we'll be breaking new ground for the industry."