In April, Machine Zone rebranded to "MZ" as part of a fundamental shift in the nature of its business. And the first beneficaries of that shift? Anyone waiting for a bus in New Zealand.
At the time of the MZ rebrand, CEO Gabriel Leydon described a broad vision for the possible applications of the realtime networking technology that underpins games like Game of War: Fire Age and Mobile Strike, both of which have vast communities of players. The company's new potential clients could be, "mobile, web and enterprise...from corporations to governments."
And the first partner is indeed a government. MZ has been contracted to help improve the efficiency of New Zealand's public trasport system, using its tech to give the regional government a "360-degree view" of its network of buses and trains. At present, the network is monitored and controlled by people through an app but, according to a report on CNBC, that process will eventually be fully automated.
"Entire cities will be networked in one real-time environment, which will create a level of efficiency that the world hasn't seen yet"
"Anybody who's taken a bus knows that you should get to the stop 15, 30 minutes early. All of that is going to end," Leydon told CNBC. The use of MZ's technology will improve schedule accuracy down to the second, and Leydon wasn't coy about stating the larger implications. "Soon ... entire cities will be networked in one real-time environment, which will create a level of efficiency that the world hasn't seen yet."
According to Leydon, the process being applied to New Zealand uses about 1 per cent of MZ's capacity, so larger, more complex transportation systems - New York City, for example - are a feasible target for the future.
"Let's just say you have 100 million devices out there," he continued. "We could ping them once per second so we can create a kind of digital mirror of what's happening in the real world."
Games will remain a core part of MZ's business, but this new strategy emerged at a time when Leydon was openly discussing the difficulties around growth at the top-end of the mobile games market. Speaking in October last year, he emphasised that the company had to build custom technology to operate a product on the scale of Game of War. WIth both team sizes and distribution costs rising, Leydon predicted the end of, "the multi-title strategy."
"The market is too competitive. The process of creating an app, running an app, and marketing an app is too complicated to do for five games a year. Especially if you want to grow a game to a very large scale. I don't think it's possible to do five games a year. I'm not even sure it's possible to do two."