New SGN CEO Randy Breen on Mobile Development and the Future of Social Gaming

Last week, we talked to the chief operating officer of iPhone game publisher SGN, Randy Breen, for our review of the company’s two big games, the flight simulators F.A.S.T. and Skies of Glory. Two days later, he was promoted to CEO, while founder Shervin Pishevar moved to the role of chairman — a transition Breen says was planned since he was hired.

Hoping to get some new insight into SGN’s future, we cornered Breen for a longer interview. While the company isn’t pre-announcing the new titles it’s working on, there was plenty of other ground to cover — Breen’s background with gaming giant EA, the similarities between social games and World of Warcraft, Facebook’s successes, and the future of SGN.

Be warned that the interview runs a bit long, so we’ve hidden part; just click through below for the rest.

Inside Social Games: What’s your reaction to Google’s new Nexus smartphone and the impending Apple tablet? How would larger screens impact mobile game development?

Randy Breen: The Nexus One is missing a lot of things that Apple does well, like screen rotation based on the accelerometer. Still, it’s interesting. SGN won’t develop for all smartphones as a category, but web-enabled devices will always be of interest. They mean our products can be built differently. The console version has to be built like a movie, a three year endeavor for the end product. A tablet would make our games bigger and more expensive, but that’s inevitable at some level.

ISG: You mentioned that most of the development for SGN’s flight sims was done externally, by Revo. Will you stick with that model in the future?

RB: EA in the early days was modeled after the record companies, so everything was external; over time they became almost the exact opposite. I happen to think that it’s a good model to be able to do both internal and external development.

We’re looking for small developers that want a publisher to help them get to market. We have expertise with certain kinds of problems, we can co-develop, we can continue to support the product beyond their interest. I think it allows smaller teams who may not have the visibility they need to get into the Apple app market, the PR and marketing, achieve things they wouldn’t be able to otherwise. As the market expands, the number of things the developer has to be responsible for increases in complexity and scope, so over time you’ll see more of these relationships.

There are a lot of people in the iPhone and social gaming markets that came out of the console market. They see these same trends. All of us are looking back to what’s happened in the past and looking to apply it in the future. If you’re looking at the products in the charts, in some cases they’re brands of bigger companies, but they’re often like products that have been successful elsewhere.

ISG: Console game makers, following the PC market, are experimenting with user-generated content in games. Does SGN have any plans in that direction?

RB: It’s a challenge to figure out how to do that in a way that’s acceptable to Apple’s standards, but it’s an interesting approach. I’m interested in things the community can contribute that are simple, that more people can participate in. Multi-player games effectively introduce the concept on the fly. Instead of an AI character controlled by the device, another object, vehicle or character is controlled by the player. The interactions are, in effect, crowd-sourcing.

The best example is Counterstrike. People still play it online. I think what’s interesting is that the levels are simple, the paths through the world are simple, but they’re organized in a way that drive people psychologically to take advantage of those paths. Focusing on that level layout for instance, instead of what I can make a character do, creates a lot more possibility for the people playing in it.