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Rumble's FPS shooting for "$100 million per month" market

Free-to-play Ballistic headed for browser, Facebook

Rumble Entertainment is announcing its first third-party publishing deal today with Aquiris Game Studio of Brazil. Aquiris is currently developing Ballistic, a free-to-play, browser-based first-person shooter slated for release Spring 2013 that will run on the web or in Facebook.

"Aquiris was looking for a publisher who shared our vision of delivering premium gaming experiences in the browser," said Mauricio Longoni, CEO of Aquiris. "Rumble understands the changing nature of publishing in the digital space and, as developers of top-tier web and mobile games themselves, they are uniquely positioned to extend their platform to and share knowledge with developers like Aquiris. Partnering with Rumble allows us to deliver a new benchmark for browser-based shooters."

GamesIndustry International spoke with Rumble CEO Greg Richardson about Ballistic and its potential. Rumble did not choose its first third-party title lightly. "We've received a lot of inbound interest from a variety of folks, but we've also been very proactive in reaching out to teams and games that we've heard about that may be very promising. That lead us to evaluate close to 150 games since Rumble was conceived," Richardson said. "The Aquiris guys and Ballistic were by far the most promising opportunity that we'd seen."

"The Crossfire FPS game is a $100 million per month revenue giant, which underscores how big the potential market is for first-person shooters"

Greg Richardson

The choice of an FPS was an easy one for Rumble, according to Richardson. "First person shooters are a staple genre in the gaming world, and for the first time we saw something that had the graphic fidelity and the through-the-gun gameplay experience that are so critical to the great FPS games on the console or the PC," said Richardson. "Now that's available with no download, instantly accessible on the browser and Facebook. We looked at that and said 'Here's a chance to make the most accessible, high-quality shooter in the market.'"

The key for Rumble is allowing the players access to the game across a variety of machines without having to download or install the game. "We think that's going to provide the ability to address a really, really large audience," said Richardson. "When you look at China, which is clearly the most mature free-to-play market in the world, the Crossfire FPS game is a $100 million per month revenue giant, which underscores how big the potential market is for first-person shooters."

The quality of the game's visuals is also a strong selling point. "We think when people see the visual fidelity their jaws will drop and they're going to be really impressed with how close it comes to those very high end PC and console games," Richardson said. "The multiplayer matchmaking experience, the gun collection, roleplaying game progression, the social features that really drive the addiction to these kinds of games, we feel that all of that is very much on par with the very best PC and console games." What is missing is that Ballistic does not have a single-player campaign game, which many console and PC FPS games do.

Richardson believes that the single-player game and the multiplayer game are really two different games linked by a common background and IP. "What the Aquiris guys have done is expand the audience, not by adding a single-player campaign which feels often like a second, very distinct game," Richardson said. "Rather because the game can be accessed instantly through a browser or Facebook, we've brought the audience that way, with all of our focus being on creating the best possible multiplayer experience."

In its role as a modern game publisher, Rumble provides technology, tools, and know-how to developers of web and mobile games. According to the company, the Rumble games-as-a-service publishing platform "includes scalable operations infrastructure, a rich suite of game-feature and social APIs, telemetry and analytics, customer support, and QA testing. Rumble's world-class design and art team supports developers in creating appealing and profitable game services." Additionally, Rumble leverages its marketing and player-acquisition capabilities to build loyal and engaged game audiences. "It's one of the reasons Aquiris was really attracted to work with us," Richardson noted.

The setting of Ballistic is in the near future, and rather than a straightforward military shooter there's a slight twist to it, Richardson explained. "It's going to feel a lot more like the traditional FPS games people have played. The twist comes where our maps are set in very real-world locations; you're fighting inside a museum and a shopping mall and an office building."

This week the game is going into a closed beta in Brazil. "Aquiris is a Brazilian developer and there's a great, mature free-to-play market there, they're huge fans of first-person shooters, so there's a lot of advantages for us using Brazil as the initial market." Richardson explained. "Then we will come back pretty quickly here and do a closed beta in the US; we're talking weeks, not months."

Rumble wants to proceed carefully with the launch to make sure everything goes well. "There's a real analogy to opening a restaurant," Richardson noted. "You want to do it softly, make sure everybody's getting a great experience, the food tastes good and the service works, the hand fits in the glove before you really start to shout from the mountaintops that you've got something you want them to try."

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Steve Peterson

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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.