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Next-gen consoles don't offer "anything that new" - Kixeye CEO

Will Harbin talks about Kixeye going mobile, and what new platforms mean to him

Kixeye has made a name for itself as a social game company for hardcore gamers, with titles like War Commander, Battle Pirates and Backyard Monsters. Kixeye stands out among Facebook companies not just because of the hardcore focus of its games, but by the high rate of monetization - Kixeye's games generate revenue per payer at 20 times the usual rate. As CEO Will Harbin put it, the company "monetizes revenge" for its business, and business is good.

However, social games have lost the rapid growth of years gone by, and now mobile games are the hot market. Kixeye, not unaware of the trends, recently introduced its first mobile game, a version of their social game hit Backyard Monsters. GamesIndustry International spoke with Kixeye CEO Will Harbin about mobile games, Kixeye's plans for the future, and his view of the industry.

While mobile remains a booming sector, currently all eyes in the industry are on the new consoles that Sony and Microsoft are about to launch. Harbin isn't terribly impressed with the next-gen consoles or their potential. Will they bring attention back to the console market? "I think a little bit, [but] I don't think there's really anything that new with this set of consoles," he said. "In prior console cycles there was more of a hook. The hook this time is weaker; it's more of the same but the same is pretty good. People who want a good, polished first-person shooter single-player experience are going to be able to scratch that itch. It's certainly not as exciting as developments on other platforms."

Harbin's equally unimpressed with Valve's introduction of Steam Machines. "It's curious to me because Steam already has a good thing going," Harbin commented. "Steam Machine is very much a console device, and already all of their users are on a pretty competent PC. I think it's curious news by them. Frankly, I think it's the wrong direction for them. I wish they were doing other things, making more games."

"I don't think there's really anything that new with this set of consoles"

Will Harbin

While mobile games are an important area for Kixeye going forward, Harbin doesn't see them as well-suited for all types of games. "Mobile is very well suited to RTS games, or any kind of strategy games," he said. "I don't believe mobile is very good for first-person shooters, and there's some question about whether it might be good for MOBA - there are some that have tried it and failed. That is something we're still exploring. We have a MOBA that's coming out soon for browser; we're still debating whether we will port that or create a tablet client."

Backyard Monsters Unleashed is only on iOS right now. "We don't have any plans for Android right now," said Harbin. "We enjoy working on the iOS platform and it seems to mesh well with our audience. We're going to stick with that for a little while."

As far as iOS hardware goes, Harbin said the new iPads are interesting and will allow Kixeye to deliver a higher level of polish. "I still would really like for the tablet designers out there to figure out the other control scheme issues and how we can bring PC and console gaming experiences to tablets."

Overall, Harbin tries to keep Kixeye focused on creating good games more than anything else. "We've tried to remain very agnostic when it comes to platforms and technologies," he said. "We just want to be a good game maker, not a good browser game maker or a mobile game maker. We believe a good game can be tailored and put on a wide variety of platforms."

Read more about Harbin's thoughts on mobile games and the industry on our sister site, the [a]list daily.

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Steve Peterson avatar
Steve Peterson: Steve Peterson has been in the game business for 30 years now as a designer (co-designer of the Champions RPG among others), a marketer (for various software companies) and a lecturer. Follow him on Twitter @20thLevel.
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