CEO of mobile game publisher Scopely, Walter Driver is a longtime social gaming entrepreneur with a proven track record of scaling startups quickly.
Scopely’s rapid growth earned it recognition from Goldman Sachs as one of the Top 100 Private Companies in 2012.
Prior to Scopely, Walter founded and served as CEO of O Negative Media, a leading developer of social applications on the Facebook and MySpace platforms with more than 30 million users.
Before that, he co-founded Ignition Interactive, one of the first developers of third party applications on the Facebook platform. At Ignition Interactive, Walter created applications used by more than 20 million people and generated seven-figure annual revenues.
In 2012 Driver was recognized by the World Economic Forum as one of its Young Global Shapers, and in 2013 he was a finalist in the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year awards. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from Brown University.
Pocket Gamer: What were your favourite games as a kid?
Walter Driver: Hands down Tecmo Bowl for Nintendo. I spent a lot of hours and some very heated moments with friends playing that game.
Getting the license to include real NFL players made things massively more interesting to me as an 8-year old.
When did you realise you wanted to make games as a career?
It was not until the advent of the Facebook platform that I became hooked on building free-to-play game experiences. Making games for millions of people that could be updated and changed on a daily basis completely changed the equation for me.
This is part of the reason we have such a focus on live operations and services at Scopely.
What was your first role in the industry? How did that turn out?
Only a handful of big mobile-first franchises that have broken through to become part of the popular consciousness.Walter Driver
I started my career building social games and apps on the Facebook platform in 2007 when I co-founded Ignition Interactive.
We made games that were played by over 20 million people and I learned a lot about building software and creating compelling social dynamics through game mechanics.
So in my case there is a pretty direct line from my first experiences to Scopely where social aspects of games are carefully tuned to create great experiences for players.
When did the potential for mobile games become apparent to you?
I think the first time I saw a graph of the rate of smartphone adoption compared to PCs I just stared at it for about 20 minutes. We're living in an incredibly exciting time where people suddenly have super computers in their pockets all the time and you can now distribute an experience to over 2 billion people in less than a hour.
For the first time in the history of media, people's primary entertainment device is interactive - you can touch the screen and participate in your entertainment. It is a revolutionary change and it's here to stay.
What do you think is the most significant event in mobile gaming to-date?
The launch of the App Store. That's where things started to get interesting. That would be followed by the creation of in-app purchases.
Prior to in-app purchases, free-to-play wasn't really possible and the scale of the audience that could be reached was a fraction of what it is now.
To-date, what are you most proud of? Any regrets?
The team we've built at Scopely inspires me on a daily basis.
Assembling it has been by far the hardest and most gratifying thing I've ever done professionally. We have so many incredibly talented and motivated people here working closely with some amazing developers to bring experiences to gamers at a massive scale, it's really fun to be a part of that process.
For example, our collaboration with the Rocket Jump team that produced Mini Golf MatchUp which was the #1 iOS game in 50 countries and was downloaded by one in ten Americans with an iPhone. Working on products on that have that kind of global scale is awesome.
I've made plenty of mistakes but they haven't really matured into regrets yet. I'm sure I'll have plenty later when things slow down and I have more perspective.
Which mobile games have you most enjoyed recently and why?
I am still a big fan of Ruzzle.
I started my career as a writer and am still pretty obsessed with language so I love word games.
What are your predictions for the new big development in mobile games?
I think mobile gaming is going to become far more mainstream from a cultural standpoint.
We're already seeing massive audience engagement but only a handful of big mobile-first franchises that have broken through to become part of the popular consciousness. I think we'll see more games become meaningful brands over the next couple of years.
At Scopely, we are very much focused on this view of the future in terms of how we approach finding and growing the next set of great game brands.
In which area of the industry do you hope to make a difference in future?
At Scopely I hope we can empower the next wave of independent game companies to create unique experiences and bring those experiences to tens of millions of users across the planet.
I love the idea of bringing people an experience they find fulfilling and pleasurable that they wouldn't have had without us. That's my favorite thing about what we do.
Starting out in simple monochrome in the days of Snake and WAP, the past decade has seen the mobile games industry kaleidoscope into a glorious, multi-billion dollar sector that's driving global innovation.
So it's high time we celebrate some of the people who helped make that journey possible - something PocketGamer.biz is doing in its regular Mobile Gaming Hall of Fame feature.
You can read our previous Hall of Fame articles here.