Interview

10 years of Pocket Gamer: Gram Games CEO Mehmet Ecevit reflects on a decade in mobile development

10 years of Pocket Gamer: Gram Games CEO Mehmet Ecevit reflects on a decade in mobile development

As Pocket Gamer celebrates its tenth birthday this month, we're sharing the memories of those who have been in the mobile games industry for as long as we have.

That's back when the iPhone was but a futuristic fantasy, and the closest you could get to social mobile gaming was via WAP.

This time, we're talking to Gram Games CEO Mehmet Ecevit - who, prior to finding success with 1010! and Merged!, has experience developing for some far more primitive mobile devices.

PocketGamer.biz: What were you doing in mobile/games 10 years ago?

Mehmet Ecevit: At the time I was working on the first virtual world/Second Life in Turkey. It was originally a browser based platform, later Canvas, and then an isometric MMO game called Sanalika.

Micropayments and IAPs were non-existent concepts back then, but we went ahead and introduced them anyway.

Players enjoyed the game so much that, for example, to change their hair colour they would go to a bank branch and wire us the $1-2 cost - as well as the $2-3 dollars bank fees.

As if this wasn't challenging enough as a monetisation mechanic, electronic billing was not possible in Turkey.

Mehmet Ecevit's ingenious contraption for early IAP

We got around this, in the obvious way - we built a receipt printer out of Lego and used that to print out receipt for every single transaction to send to players via snail mail.

Even with these challenges, the game was a huge hit in Turkey.

What was the hot mobile technology/hardware back then?

There was nothing hot about mobile technologies back then.

There was nothing hot about mobile technologies back then.
Mehmet Ecevit

I remember trying to write simple games for feature phones like Nokia. It was very tough. Back then, you needed to implement external libraries to work with floating numbers.

Can you remember any games you were playing?

I was playing billiards and fake-perspective racing games.

Did you always think mobile games could/would become the widest global gaming sector?

My belief in mobile is what got me started writing games for feature phones.

I realised how difficult it was, and thus, how open it was to disruption. This was why I was ready to move on from my virtual world game company to found a mobile game studio.

What do you think has been the most significant event in mobile gaming during the past 10 years?

I believe microtransactions have been the paradigm-shifting event for not only mobile games but gaming in general.

What have been your favourite mobile games over the past 10 years?

My favourite games were Subway Surfers and Monument Valley.

Looking to the future, what are you working on now?

We are focused on creating hits like we did with 1010! and Merged!. Over my 10 years of gaming entrepreneurship experience, I have seen many platform shifts.

1010! has proven successful for Gram Games

With the emerging technologies, I believe we will see even more platform shifts and at Gram Games, we will be there to disrupt those platforms.

For example: we are one of the first gaming companies to launch a game, Lumino!, exclusively for Apple TV.

More generally, what games are you looking forward to?

I have seen great demos of AR. I am really excited to see what kind of experiences will be delivered by game developers for AR in the coming months and years.

How do you think the mobile games industry will change over the next 10 years?

I believe mobile games turned non-gamers into gamers. So we will need to address a wide range of people with varying tastes. We must try to understand them by utilising big-data.

On top of that, I think we will see more cross-platform gaming, for example, playing a game on your phone on the way home, only to be able to resume your session in AR by diving into the game properly when home.

Finally, do you have a favorite Pocket Gamer memory you'd like to share?

When I was about the make an exit from my first gaming company, I was researching mobile games.

It was actually Pocket Gamer where I first noticed Hero of Sparta, which influenced me a lot to develop my first mobile game. Thanks, PG!

Features Editor

Matt is really bad at playing games, but hopefully a little better at writing about them. He's Features Editor for PocketGamer.biz, and has also written for lesser publications such as IGN, VICE, and Paste Magazine.

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