Building the Facebook gaming platform: Interview with Shervin Pishevar, CEO of Social Gaming Network

(This article is part of the series The race to build the Facebook Gaming platform)

Company: Social Gaming Network
Location: Palo Alto, CA
Employees: ~8
Funding: spinning out of Freewebs, which raised money last year; rumored investment round could be announced soon
Founders: Shervin Pishevar, TJ Murphy and Haroon Mokhtarzada (2007)

More Developer Info: SGN Developer Page 

Shervin Pishevar, CEO of SGNInside Facebook: How did SGN get started inside Freewebs?

Shervin Pishevar: TJ Murphy created Warbook last summer. By August, it had reached 15 million page views/day, and we saw that there was a huge opportunity for a pure play social games network.  Since then, we’ve focused on original ideas and games that are specifically built for Facebook and other social networks. We think there is a lot of true innovation happening in the social games space.

IF: So what kind of games are you betting will work best on social platforms?

SP: We’re focusing most on asynchronous/turn-based game play. Facebook is not yet ready for synchronous games – it will get there, but we’re just at the beginning now. Game play will get more advanced over time, and graphics will get more interesting over the years. To us, Facebook is a gaming console.

SGN Game Bar

Zach Allia, creator of Free Gifts and new developer at SGN, on joining the company:

I decided to join SGN as I feel the social gaming market has huge potential for growth, and SGN is definitely approaching it the right way. Many of the goals I share with Free Gifts are also shared by members of the team: customer service, reasonably paced new content, and high quality.

I see SGN becoming known for providing access to the highest quality Facebook games, either by creating them ourselves or coming from members of our gaming hub. You won’t be seeing new games everyday as we aren’t totally focused on getting a bizzilion users as fast as we can; that is not what social gaming is about. What is important to us, and the user, is fresh quality products.

SGN products are better than others because they aim to provide more than just a normal game. Applications such as Warbook have an incredibly strong community, and I think that is the most important metric of success. If the game isn’t community oriented, it is not a social game.

IF: What’s your vision for the SGN platform?

SP: We want to revolutionize the market for game developers, and provide them with the services and platform they need to scale. Initially we’ve launched a game bar, and the initial results are looking very positive. We’re not charging for or limiting the number of installs we’re giving away for the next year. The Gaming Hub is our way to build the gaming graph – the game feed will give valuable information about what games your friends like (and it gives us valuable demographic information). And soon, we will allow developers to build their own levels and add-ons for Warbook.

We want to be a platform company – we know we can’t build or buy all the games in the world, we want to build the network. We want to stay close to the product, so we will continue to build our own games a well.

IF: What do you think sets SGN apart?

SP: We’re a small company of very passionate game developers. We build original games, and think that’s very attractive. We have a smaller and faster game bar, and we don’t have any contracts – try us, and if we’re performing, stay with us. We’re also selling for games in our network. For example, we’ve done direct deals with Doritos, Audi, and Herbel Essence, and we’re sharing revenues with developers.

IF: We’ve also heard that you’ve acquired a couple developers.

SP: Zach Allia, the creator of Free Gifts, just joined us (Free Gifts will remain a separate entity). Simeon Dorsey, the creator of Jetman, just joined us on product as well. He was the first one to do shared leaderboards and character unlocking. There’s a lot of people like Simeon around the world (he’s from a small town in Wisconsin), and we want to change the model for them.

IF: Finally, we heard you’re moving out to Palo Alto. Any other announcements coming soon?

SP: Yes, we’re spinning out of Freewebs and moving to Palo Alto on March 10. We may have some other announcements later, but nothing to announce right now.