Interview

PerBlue on switching from location-based games to a community focus

PerBlue on switching from location-based games to a community focus

It wasn’t that many years ago that PocketGamer.biz would regularly catch up with many of the key developers making location-based mobile games.

Sure, it was a nascent market, but there were signs of success.

Grey Area had Shadow Cities, while Red Robot Labs had Life is Crime, and PerBlue had Parallel Kingdoms  - all of which could stake a claim to being the breakout location-based mobile game.

In 2014, however, that vision is long gone.

No particular place to go

Grey Area has removed Shadow Cities  from the App Store, and released a multiplayer tank game and a tactical collectible card game, while Red Robot Labs appears to have been shuttered.

Even PerBlue has moved onto, releasing a Clash of Clans-style game and leaving its roots behind.

“Location­-based gaming is a fishbowl, and one that I don't want to swim in anymore,” comments CEO Justin Beck.

“It's a really interesting market in terms of technology and our games such as Parallel Kingdom  were very successful for generation 1.0 location-­based games, but it's hard to create fun within those constraints.”

Fans, anywhere

That’s why the company has reset itself, including a $3 million investment, to make games that aren’t location-based at all.

Its first example of doing something different was Android-only Greed for Glory, a game that Beck says provided a platform for the company to work on its technology and its new focus on building audience and community.

Making location-based games hits your graphics.

“Making location-based games hits your graphics, while multiplayer based around synchronous gameplay, especially synchronous gameplay linked to a map, is very challenging,” he explains.

In contrast, the tactical city defence genre kickstarted by Clash of Clans  is booming, thanks to its simple gameplay and strong community features based around clan dynamics.

“Sure Greed for Glory  started out like Clash of Clans, but it evolved pretty quickly, especially in terms of its social mechanics,” Beck says.

“We introduced Kingdoms Wars before it had Clan Wars,”

And it’s the success of Greed for Glory  that has given PerBlue the confidence for its next - unannounced - project that’s due in late 2014 for iOS and Android, as well as the track record to raise investment.

“We’ve been head down working on product as well as retooling our graphics,” Beck comments.

He says that while Unity is a “very good tool”, it wasn’t what PerBlue needed for its future games, particularly as it already had solid networking and server technology in place.

“Technically, it just wasn’t compelling for us to change,” he says.

I’ll pass

As for the future for location-based games, Beck thinks there’s something to be done there, just not by traditional mobile game developers.

“Location-based games remain interesting but perhaps in different form factors or in genres such as exercise and gamification,” he ponders.

“For PerBlue, our core competencies now are community and running IAP economies.

“Social features are very important for us. Location isn’t.”


Contributing Editor

A Pocket Gamer co-founder, Jon is Contributing Editor at PG.biz 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.

Comments

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Jarrod Qualls
So long Perblue. PK is the only game I've played for 5 years. I won't support your bad business decision of abandoning your customers. Netflix comes to mind when they made the horrible decision to split their streaming and dvd service. I will NEVER install another Perblue game.
jake k
Very disappointed that they would let their flagship sink. I can find dozens of clash clones on the market but good luck finding anything like pk even without the gps features
jon jordan
I'm guessing it's a mainly financially-driven decision. CoC games make more money.
Dedan Anderson
Quite curious how "location-based gaming hits your graphics"?
Jussi Sivonen
I'd guess he means that artist-created 2D/3D-buildings and characters plastered over Google Maps is quite ugly. Which is, compated to wholly created 3D environment.

But funny thing is, Greed for Glory is one of the ugliest 3D games I've seen in the last decade. The graphics remind of the time when first 3D cards like Voodoo hit the gaming world, lol. It's not even remotely comparable to CoC or the like...
jon jordan
I can't presume to answer for them

but I guess you're using processing power on location services that you could use for rendering and you're likely also constraining the sort of level you're going to be rendering because it's going to have to be based around some sort of representation of the real-world, likely a version of Google Maps.
Aaron
I think Red Robot Labs did it right with just using the landmarks and POI. A 3D hybrid of both their work would be quite compelling.

Location-based gaming shouldn't be thought of as occurring in a fishbowl but considered as one of many enhancements needed in a mobile gaming marketplace.