Will Harbin opens up about Kixeye’s new platform, future plans, refusal to go to China

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By Mike Thompson Comment

The first half of 2012 has been big for social game developer Kixeye: It’s claiming record revenues, its flagship social strategy game Backyard Monsters celebrated its second birthday in March and it recently resurrected 3 Blokes Studios after RockYou shut the developer down. According to CEO Will Harbin, though, this is just the start of things to come for Kixeye between launching a new web platform, entry into mobile and new games.

Kixeye’s platform will be the developer’s first big off-Facebook step since committing itself to a Facebook only strategy last year. Harbin tells us that the new platform won’t even require a Facebook account to play games. In fact, he says, the platform is designed “primarily for gamers who don’t want to have anything to do with Facebook. You can use Facebook to connect your account, but we’re not taking full advantage of Facebook Connect.”

“That’s not to say we’re going to be going away from Facebook,” he continues. “We’re still … going along with Facebook. There’s a segment of gamers who refuse to play games on Facebook because when they think of Facebook they think FarmVille or, you know, stalking ex-girlfriends.”

While other developers launching their own platform have decided to supplement their income by publishing third-party games, Harbin says there aren’t any plans to use Kixeye’s portal for third-party titles. Competition from established publishers like 6waves aside, the main reason Kixeye hasn’t gone into publishing yet is because the company hasn’t found any games of high enough quality.

“Unfortunately, there’s not a lot [of quality games] in the browser space,” Harbin explains. “Honestly, there hasn’t been a single title that we’ve found that we’d take as is and put our brand on it.”

Meanwhile, Kixeye is testing the mobile market, but isn’t committing to anything yet. Harbin describes the company’s recent partnership with Mobage to bring Backyard Monsters to mobile devices as an experiment. He says that if the game does well, Kixeye will do more with mobile development but acknowledges this deal may not work  simply because “our games are designed to be played on a big screen.”

In spite of Kixeyes’s moves to expand its audience, Harbin says Kixeye isn’t following rivals like EA and Zynga as they move into China.

“China’s filled with crooks,” he asserts. “We’ve had lots of discussions with Chinese companies and they all try to screw you. It’s a shady business environment over there.  We don’t have to have China to be a big business. It’s honestly too frustrating.”

Looking forward, Kixeye’s roadmap includes 20 games — three of which are actively in development now. The developer is also staffing up for a fourth; Kixeye has raised some eyebrows in San Francisco with prominent ads on local transit systems that tap into various hardcore gamer cultural memes (see below for a recent example).

Harbin isn’t willing to say much about the new games yet, but the first of them — a fantasy-themed role-playing game with multiplayer battles — is due out in September. This RPG will feature full 3D graphics and be used as an introduction to the following titles, which are due out this Fall and Winter. Kixeye also has plans for a full-fledged MMO, which won’t launch for around a year after these three games.

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