CrowdStar chairman Peter Relan’s incubator, YouWeb, is looking for the magic formula in mobile gaming. Its latest attempt to find that formula is called iSwifter, a company that bears a lot of resemblance to the streaming game services Gaikai and OnLive.
YouWeb’s most recently launched company before iSwifter is Sibblingz, which wants to do cross-platform development between web and mobile games. ISwifter aims shortcut that process by streaming Flash games from the web. Essentially, it will stream an interactive video of the game to the user.
Core gamers have spent a great deal of time discussing the practicality of game streaming, and whether it’s possible for a service like OnLive to reliably stream a high-definition action game over broadband. In one sense, the streaming puzzle is even tougher for iSwifter, which will have to work with notoriously unreliable mobile data connections.
But Relan says that the nature of mobile games will make iSwifter’s idea less challenging. “I think when we change the focus of the market, the product changes,” he tells us. “Flash by nature is a lot more compact and a lot less demanding [than in core games], as well as the end user. We’re talking about low investment, short bursty sessions of gameplay, with lower expectations.”
Smartphone users are already learning to deal with always-connected games, so it doesn’t seem unreasonable to assume that they may also be willing to deal with a stuttering streamed game — assuming the average user would even know the difference.
As for why iSwifter seems like a good idea, Relan and the company’s founder, Rajat Gupta, point to the web-based flash game community, which they say is moving far too slowly toward mobile platforms. Is their solution, then, content partnerships? No, not exactly.
The odd, and somewhat amusing, truth about iSwifter is that the company plans to stream most of its content without first asking the publishers for permission. Gupta thinks that’s fine, since users will see any ads, and use any in-game monetization, just as if they were playing a non-streamed version.
“I think the beauty of the technology and the gaming service is that there’s no work to be done at the developer’s end, there’s no work to be done by the distributor, meaning we can pretty much go to any gaming portal and bring it as-is to the iDevice,” says Gupta.
To start, iSwifter’s iPhone app will offer content from AOL Games, Facebook, Kongregate, Yahoo Games and, of course, CrowdStar. It will also use the existing ratings and rankings on those sites to initially surface good content for users, with their feedback modifying what floats to the top over time.
In the end, success for iSwifter will probably hinge not on its streaming element or plan for acquiring content, but on smartphone user reactions to web-based content.
As Relan admits, social games ported to mobile devices haven’t done terribly well. Mobile users may prefer sticking to the App Store over playing a free Yahoo game. But until iSwifter tries, nobody will know for sure. For more on how iSwifter works, we’ve embedded their video below.