Nextpeer Brings Multiplayer Mode to Game Developers That Want it

There’s a fierce battle on right now between mobile-social gaming networks like GREE’s OpenFeint, DeNA’s Mobage, Heyzap, PapayaMobile and more. But developers have always raised questions with us about how much engagement features like social leaderboards, which are relatively trivial to build, can drive.

Now a new Israeli company called Nextpeer is hoping that it can really add value to games by bringing an easy-to-install multiplayer mode that lets players compete against each other in real-time. Nextpeer’s technology doesn’t require the developer to change the actual gameplay. It’s not intensive multiplayer like in a first-person shooter game where you actually see live opponents hovering in the background.

This is a multiplayer mode that best works with games that are usually played in isolation for a high score. (Think games like Tetris or a Match-Three style puzzle where you’re trying to rack up the greatest number of points in a minute or two.)

Instead of playing them by yourself, Nextpeer will find other users who are also playing the game and match them up against you in a live game. Nextpeer can also give preference to matching a user against their Facebook friends instead of strangers. Eventually, the company will also build in a way to do asynchronous tournaments.

“Players want to have better experiences in games and adding social features could bring a lot. But it can be technically difficult to make it happen. Also, it’s hard to rely on 3G and 4G,” explained chief executive Shai Magzimof. “So we created a way to have tournaments and real-time competition for high scores in every game.” Magzimof was part of a YCombinator class before founding Nextpeer and one of the company’s other co-founders Itamar Mula, was behind the game Mall Party, which was later sold to Texas Poker-maker KamaGames.

There are early stats to show that Nextpeer is helping with stickiness. Word Flow, a game where you have to recognize or put together words in a grid of randomized letters, installed the SDK and launched without any paid marketing or press. It was downloaded 18,695 times last month. It saw 15,958 multiplayer tournaments with Nextpeer users playing an average of five multiplayer rounds each.

In beta, the company has supported 25,000 tournaments so far and about 30 percent of its users come back after the first three days.

The company’s coming out of beta today with a handful of partners including Chugulu Games, Rolar Studios, Touch Apps, 42Games, 3VGames and Kef Sensei.

What’s interesting is that unlike many of Nextpeer’s forerunners, the company has thought out an interesting virtual currency-based approach to monetization. Nextpeer has its own currency and when players compete in a multiplayer tournament, they put up a little bit of their own virtual currency as a bet. Whoever wins takes the entire pool of coins.

After Apple’s 30 percent take, Nextpeer will split virtual currency revenues from multiplayer mode with the developer. (The company hasn’t publicly settled on the right revenue share yet.) On iOS, this virtual currency can’t be transferred between Nextpeer’s various games so it’s still in compliance with Apple’s terms and conditions against cross-game currencies.

It’s free to install Nextpeer’s SDK and the company doesn’t plan to charge for it. (It’s possible though that if there is a developer that does end up attracting a large daily active user base, some arrangement will have to be worked out to manage server and hosting costs.)

“We’re really focusing on getting as much distribution as we can for now,” Magzimof says. As Nextpeer accumulates developers, it will start to have a meaningful distribution where it might be able to push downloads for participating developers just like OpenFeint and other competitors do.