Industrial Toys: From Master Chief to Mobile
Tim Harris and Alex Seropian plan out their next business adventure
Announced last month, Industrial Toys is a new startup from Tim Harris, social games veteran, and Alex Seropian, Bungie founder. Its remit is simple - create freemium core games on mobile platforms.
According to Seropian, the ability to launch a new mobile studio today is a return to his roots, when he first put together Bungie at the start of the Nineties.
"We're starting a new business and it feels very much like it did back in 1991," said Seropian.
"Then you could get a small group of folks together, very collaborative, and try doing something new. For the longest time doing something new was just so hard. It was so expensive, you had such big teams, publishers or the people that where financing games were very averse to risk."
Harris, who has a background in marketing and social games with Seven Lights, agreed: "With browser or web based stuff you're always iterating and you're always changing because, in console that's a bit more difficult, in mobile it's the best of both worlds."
The company is backed by cash from Seropian and one other investor, and he explained that it gave them the freedom to make the best games possible.
"Our business plan is quite simple, we're going to make mobile games for the core gamer, but there is some ambition beyond just that. It all starts with making a great game, but there's lots of meaningful things to do, for that customer on this device, and the reach that we can get is enormous," he said.
"So not being tied to a publisher or a particular platform or whatever, it gives us the ability to focus on that and to execute against that."
He also mentioned his previous role at Disney Interactive Studios, where he was head of game development after the company acquired Wideload Games in 2009.
"The last three years being at a very large publicly traded company, it's easy to fall into the trap of forgetting what the real goal is, which is to make a great product."
Industrial Toys is based in Pasadena and is brand new. Still, the duo are already clear on exactly how they plan to make the freemium model work for the core gamer.
"That's intrinsic to the design of the game and we're taking our cues not necessarily from the free-to-play offerings that are on iOS right now, but from the community based experiences that you get on PC, like League of Legends," said Seropian.
Talent is important, but the working relationship is what makes things happen.Alex Seropian
"It very popular, it makes a lot of money, it's a great business as well as a great product, fans love it, and they don't think it's evil."
Harris said they were also taking lessons from World Of Warcraft and World Of Tanks and designing the mobile product and the business together, rather than creating the two things separately and then trying to force them together, or even worse creating a game purely to milk money from players.
They're currently hiring, and putting together what they called their "dream team" of employees for each role. Both admitted that their reputations and the people they know in the industry have helped, with Seropian pointing out that those factors far outweigh the pressure or expectations that come with their veteran statuses.
"Talent is important, but the working relationship is what makes things happen."
And, he added, they're working with people like themselves, people with families and slightly higher expectations when it comes to living standards.
"Now ''dude let's work for ramen' approach doesn't work so well," he joked. "Though some of us are not above sleeping in the office."
"That's true," admitted Harris with a smile, who is currently living in the company's new offices and commuting from Chicago. "But you know what it allowed me to do was buy Marvel superhero sheets."