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Exclusive: Chillingo on why Crystal will outdo the competition and take social networking one step further

There’s a new contender for the social gaming crown
Exclusive: Chillingo on why Crystal will outdo the competition and take social networking one step further
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It's only been five months since the first iPhone social networking technologies launched, but it seems that every week since there's been another announcement about new features and partnerships.

The one company that has been keeping quiet, apart from its gnomic original announcement, is iPhone publisher Chillingo.

But with the release of the Crystal SDK now pegged for November, it's finally breaking cover.

In this first part of PocketGamer.biz's exclusive interview with the company, head of publishing Johnny Coghlan, and co-founder and director Joe Wee, explain the background to Crystal and why Chillingo is investing in its own social networking technology.

Part two of the exclusive goes into more detail about the technology itself.

Pocket Gamer: Why is Chillingo creating its own social networking technology?

Johnny Coghlan: It works on multiple levels. It's beneficial to us from a sales perspective, it benefits developers by offering an easy-to-integrate fully-featured social networking SDK, and for consumers it improves the end quality of the games we publish.

Joe Wee: Crystal will definitely add value to Chillingo as a publisher. I'd also like to point out that we've been thinking about Crystal for long time, and it's an extension of our existing mobile publishing platfom. Building on those foundation has allowed us to achieve what we've done for iPhone.

Obviously there's a lot of competition already in this market so aren't you concerned you're late to the party?

Coghlan: I don't think it's a closed market yet. Right now, no one is the biggest fish in the pond. No one is dominating. There's still a land grab going on. We want to go toe-to-toe with the competition. I think we'll significantly outdo them and take social networking a step further.

Wee: We've spent our time analysing what our competitors are and aren't doing well, so we can make sure we, at least, do everything they do, hopefully do it better. Also, as those other platforms add new features, it seems like they're being more and more bolted together. With Crystal, we're able to deal with these development more coherently thanks to our hindsight.

What's the plan in terms of the release of the Crystal SDK?

Wee: We're currently in a closed beta, with the SDK release due in November. In terms of games that will support Crystal, we're one of the more prolific iPhone publishers and we've had millions of games downloaded, so we can open the floodgates very quickly and create a community of Crystal users. That's one of the reasons we've been happy to take our time and make sure we get everything right. When Crystal hits, it will really hit.

Coghlan: Across the board, with developers and publishers, I'm having conversations with people who already want to use Crystal. In terms of the games Chillingo will publish, we have so many candidates to choose from. It's a case of weighing up which will be the launch titles and then scaling up from there.

In the meantime, you've published games that have used various other social networks right?

Wee: Yes. We've used OpenFeint for a number of game and Eyegore's Eyeblast uses AGON Online.

When Crystal is out, will you publish games that use rival technology?

Coghlan: We've had a lot of conversations with people saying to us, "We're using another social network technology. Is that a problem for you?" Our attitude is that if it benefits the game, it's a good thing. We never want the choice of social network to be a restriction for developers.

It would be ridiculous to force developers to use Crystal but I expect, over time, that developers will want to choose Crystal. And, of course, developers and other publishers will be able to use Crystal for their games. It's not limited to Chillingo titles.

How would you describe the main focus of Crystal?

Wee: Crystal has a focus on the casual gamer. We’ve spent a lot of time analysing the existing platforms and we found them to be concentrated on the hardcore gamer. We want Crystal to be casual focused and transparent to the user.

What happens if Apple comes along with its own official social networking technology?

Coghlan: All we can say is that Apple is in the loop with Crystal and we'd love to be the social networking platform that lays down the groundwork for how the technology develops.

Wee: In terms of our contact with Apple, we've checked we're doing the right things, both now and in terms of our future roadmap. Basically, our vision for Crystal is all about ease of use for the consumer and that's what Apple is all about.

Thanks to Johnny and Joe for their time.

You can sign up for more information about Crystal at the official website.

And don't forget to check out our exclusive in-depth reveal of Crystal's features.