Matt Ricchetti on how Kabam is deploying its online RPG/strategy expertise for mobile
Port the kingdom then go 'mobile first'
There's always been companies in the space - notably Storm8, Glu Mobile and Machine Zone (previously Addmired).
And their success, combined with a broader switch from Facebook to mobile, has attracted a lot of well funded and experienced new entrants to the scene.
One of the most experienced and best funded ($125 million raised to-date) is Kabam.
It's just released its first free-to-play iOS title: Kingdoms of Camelot: Battle for the North.
A standalone iOS game based on its flagship 15 million-strong online Kingdoms of Camelot title: Kabam says it's been impressed with the reception.
There's been over one million downloads, and over 750,000 kingdoms have been created, meaning over 750,000 players have started playing the game since its 29 February release.
Over 20 percent of those are on iPad.
Activity is high too, with the average player logging into the game 3.3 times daily, while the game has peaked to-date at #8 in the US top grossing iPhone chart.
"We really want to go after the mobile market, but didn't want to make a game that linked to the online version for technical reasons," explains Kabam's VP of mobile, Matt Ricchetti.
In this way, Battle for the North is broadly similar in terms of gameplay but has been reworked for mobile.
"Our focus is ensuring the game is very playable on a phone," he says.
"We're hiding complexity, especially in terms of how we've redesigned the interface."
Yet Ricchetti says the way people play the game is similar.
"On PC, people may have a tab open all day, dipping in and out," he points out. "With mobile, they're playing 24/7 thanks to push notifications."
Driving such constant activity is the gameplay itself, which mixes city-building and resource management with player versus player action, including the ability to hook up in Alliances for large-scale battles.
Unpinning this is the game's inbuilt chat and messaging system, while use of Kabam's own log-in system is encouraged, although not required.
Launch over, Kabam is now rolling out additional support for Battle for the North.
The first major update out this week will enable players to create a second city or kingdom, also adding leaderboards. Other planned improvements include more localisation - including Turkish and Nordic languages - while an Android release is a more strategic goal.
"All our mobile games will be on Android," Ricchetti confirms.
Indeed, Kabam has a number of new titles in development, with one going into beta soon.
As with Battle for the North, they're based on its existing online games, but there will be original games, in what Ricchetti calls a 'mobile-first' approach.
"We're bringing the best of Kabam to mobile, but we also know that there's different play pattern," he explains.
"Our expertise is in the RPG and strategy genres, and you can design games for the more frequent, shorter session plays you typically see on mobile. You'll see what we're up to by the end of the year."
In the meantime, however, he says he expects the market to continue to change quickly.
"It's similar to what happened on Facebook, but it's happening quicker on mobile," he argues.
"We have plenty of experience in terms of aspects such as design, monetisation, localisation and user acquisition, and we're in this business for the long haul."