Machine Zone's Gabe Leydon on why he cares about more players' time than their money

New release Game of War is a longterm project

Machine Zone's Gabe Leydon on why he cares about more players' time than their money

Few people in the mobile game world are more passionate or outspoken than Gabe Leydon.

So if the founder and CEO of Machine Zone (previously Addmired) has been quiet recently, it's with good reason.

He's been working on a new game .

"It ended up being much more than I thought it would be," he says of the 16 month development of Game of War: Fire Age.

"It took on a life of its own."

Something different

Never one to shy away from an ambitious goal, Game of War is Machine Zone's latest attempt to combine the best elements of a PC MMOG with the 24/7 accessibility of mobile gaming.

It's a process that started for the company way back in 2009 with games such as iMob Online, Original Gangstaz and Global War.

Game of War is the culmination of those millions of downloads and ten of millions of hours of gameplay, not to mention the $8 million investment round Machine Zone closed in March 2012.

In Leydon's view, it's also a very different game from what's being offered by other mobile developers.

"We're going in the opposite direction to the mid-core trend," he explains.

"This is a complicated game. We're trying to make it more complicated. I think players need to feel like they are mastering something."

Making it mobile

It's a decision that seems to be bearing fruit, though.

During a prolonged soft launch in New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, France and Mexico, Leydon says that the average player has been spending two hours daily in Game of War.

He says it's an amazing figure, particularly as it's broken down into across 10 sessions per day.

"People are playing it more than people play PC MMOGs," he says.

"It's because we put everyone into a single, persistent, real-time world and they can always play it, because it's on their phone. That's the strength of the game because that's the strength of mobile."

In this way Leydon argues developers who look to bring 'console experiences' to mobile, don't understand the market.

"You don't need to bring a console experience to mobile. You need to focus on the unique properties of mobile," he says.

"It's not about the graphics. And it's not about the touch interface. It's about accessible and persistent online gaming."

More than money

In a similar manner, Leydon has strong words about the industry's approach to monetisation.

Game of War is free-to-play (exclusive to iOS) but it's a longterm project for the company.

"If people play your game for 100 hours, it's not a big deal for them to spend money. But it is if you're trying to monetise after two hours," Leydon says.

Indeed, Machine Zone's entire approach is to focus on getting people to play its games, for long periods of time, and getting them deeply engaged with social features; in the case of Game of War its alliances system.

"There's special alliance currency which can be used to buy premium items for free," he points out.

"Getting people into an alliance is more important to us than getting money from them.

"Free-to-play isn't about pushing people to spend money. Not enough developers realise this."

It's about time

And this is why, for Leydon, the key metric is always time.

"I want players' time. Making the game fun is about trying to capture more of the players' time, and the time a player puts into the game is what makes it fun," he explains.

"We have loads of features in the game. There's a hierarchy of players, there's the whole history of your gameplay, and the game is a means of broadcasting this."

In that context, monetisation is a necessary - but secondary - outcome.

"The bottomline is you can't make money with free-to-play games if people aren't playing your game," Leydon ends.

"Free-to-play is the monetisation of time and this game is going to running for years."

Contributing Editor

A Pocket Gamer co-founder, Jon is Contributing Editor at which means he acts like a slightly confused uncle who's forgotten where he's left his glasses. As well as letters and cameras, he likes imaginary numbers and legumes.