Koduco Tries to Create a New Social Paradigm on the iPad

The iPad has some pretty obvious use cases when it comes to board or card games, which can be played between two or more people using the same device. But could the iPad also spawn an entirely new form of in-person gaming?

Koduco, one of the latest graduates of Y-Combinator, may be one of the first companies to try. There are two things that allow Koduco to try new ideas with the iPad. First is the capacitive touch screen. Second, it’s light and maneuverable.

The first game from Koduco is PongVaders, a mashup of 80s arcade ideas: as in Pong, a ball travels back and forth between paddles on either side of the screen, and as in Space Invaders, there are aliens to blast.

But those were single-player games. In PongVaders, the game is meant to be played by two people, each operating a paddle on one side of the screen. The accelerometer is also used, so that in some levels the players must take hold of their respective side and collaboratively move the device.

“The iPad is exciting because it’s really one of the first devices where you can get multiple users with a form factor that makes it convenient enough for people to actually use it,” says cofounder Cole Krumbholz, who has an academic background in human-computer interaction. The iPad is “more expressive in the way you can share it — it’s a more social device, probably one of the most social devices that has come out in the consumer computing space ever,” says Krumbholz.

Tablet computing could chip away at the notion that computers are inherently dehumanizing, if more social experiences are created. Koduco’s second title will look less like a game but even more interactive, with two players using the multi-touch capabilities of the screen to jointly control the eight tentacles of an octopus.

There’s the possibility unexpected intimacy in having two players both moving their hands on what is still, ultimately, a pretty small screen. That may evoke images of the iPad being used as a sort of technological pickup line — hey, baby, wanna wiggle my tentacles? — but Krumbholz and cofounder Jonathan Beilen expect a strong family market to emerge for such games, too.

In-person interaction over a game also raises some interesting possibilities for the spread of games, too. If there are millions of devices in the population, all with the potential for interaction through a game, could they birth a new word-of-mouth (or touch-of-finger) virality?

“I hate to say viral, but part of the decision to do things in person was to have a stronger personal experience that will tie between potential new customers in the game itself,” says Beilen.

Neither founder is sure where the company will go, but Krumbholz offers up the Wii as an example of radical growth in the game market. “When you saw the Wii come out, they created this new way that people could interact with a console, which generated a whole new set of in-person cooperative experiences for consoles,” he says. “This kind of device could potentially have a similar effect, where it opens up different ways to play mobile games.”