Outplay Entertainment Ltd Kicks off Cross-Platform Business on Facebook

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By AJ Glasser

Scotland-based newcomer Outplay Entertainment enters the social and mobile game market this month with two games launched on Facebook that will eventually become cross-platform experiences on iOS and Android in the first quarter of 2012.

The term “cross-platform” has been used a lot by developers in the last year as Facebook-spawned devs make their first attempts at mobile games and mobile developers attempt to migrate their apps to Facebook and other social networks. It can mean two completely unrelated games that share a common theme, like CrowdStar’s It Girl for Facebook and Top Girl for mobile. It can mean a game that is identical across all platforms, but not connected by platforms, such as Rovio’s Angry Birds on G+ versus Angry Birds on just about every other device under the sun. It can also mean games that are the same game no matter what device the player users, like Zynga’s Words With Friends — which is what many developers term “true” cross-platform play.

Outplay Entertainment currently falls toward the Words With Friends end of the spectrum with its two games, Booty Quest and Word Trick. When the mobile versions launch, players will be able to initiate games on Facebook and then have that same game immediately available to them on iPhone or Android if they switch devices. For future projects, the developer may lean more toward CrowdStar’s cross-platform model where one platform has the “main” gameplay experience while another platform provides supplemental elements. Similar to what Ubisoft has planned for its upcoming Ghost Recon games, this could take the form of a mobile companion game generating additional currency or experience points for the Facebook main game.

For now, though, Outplay is focused on getting its foot in the social-mobile games door and scaling quickly. Though there is some skepticism that developers cannot use Facebook as a sustainable starting point on which to build a business, the developer feels it has an edge by virtue of experience, compelling gameplay, and ample resources to direct toward marketing. The company was founded by brothers Richard and Doug Hare, two video game industry veterans that have come a long way from 1997 when they first founded a development studio focused on porting Windows games to the PlayStation console. In the following interview, the brothers outline Outplay’s approach to the rapidly shifting market:

Inside Mobile Apps: On the cross-platform side, what’s your approach? Are you using HTML5 or building native apps by platform?

Doug: We built our own technology for cross-platform development. HTML5 is interesting, but the experience that we have on mobile devices is just not something that you’d be able to get on HTML5 right now.

Word Trick and Booty Quest exist very happily on [PC or mobile]; the experience is satisfying regardless of the platform. However, that’s [not the case] for most types of games. Taking another type of game and making the same experience [on multiple platforms], one of them is going to be a pure experience on one of the platforms whether you like it or not. We’re not going to make the games identical all the time; we’re going to have games that you want to play on Facebook, on PC. And then we’ll have another game that’s a different experience [but related to the Facebook game] on a different platform. The two games are standalone, but if you play both, you’ll move faster through the experience. It’ll be a better experience overall.

There are other companies that are doing this. But there will be a change in the patterns that people play [by] and we want to have an approach to where we’ll be there whenever [the player] want us, no matter what the device.

Richard: The key is being sensitive to the context of the platform you’re playing on. There’s certain things that work extremely well or are only possible on mobile. We want to make sure it’s not going to be an exercise in porting between desktop and mobile, but trying to recognize the true experience based on the context. We’re not going to do, “Here’s the Facebook game,” and then a few months later, “Here’s the mobile game.”

Read the rest on our sister site, Inside Social Games.