Electronic Arts-owned social game developer Playfish is moving into mobile game development. Playfish plans to open a new studio in Montreal that will specialize in the creation of mobile versions of Playfish’s top social games. Playfish has previously released only one game for mobile, an early iPhone version of Who Has The Biggest Brain back in May 2009. The new Playfish Montreal studio will draw on EA Mobile for support when it comes to porting and distributing its games.
“There is something happening in the market that means we have to get our games on mobile,” said Kim Daniel Arthur, former Vice President of Global Studios and current General Manager of Mobile at Playfish, in statements made to Mobile Entertainment. “The first experiments we did were testing out the market. The App Store wasn’t enabled for the freemium business model back then, but over time, it and other platforms are more mature and ready for running games-as-a-service, and also freemium.”
Arthur says that Playfish Montreal plans to publish games this year. The plan is to experiment and see which types of Facebook game work best on mobile, rather than simply porting all of Playfish’s games and hoping for the best. Mobile devices have “access patterns” and inspire user behavior that’s noticeably different from Facebook user behavior. Some of the Playfish Montreal games will be new “tailored for mobile” experiences that will be relevant to the original Facebook title but not exactly the same.
Playfish has toyed with creating mobile extensions of its top games in the past. Last November, Playfish quietly rolled out a mobile Web extension for its My Empire game that let users collect taxes and manage resources from a mobile browser. Users couldn’t log into the game itself through the extension, but could stay engaged with My Empire. The My Empire extension used Facebook Connect, which future Playfish Montreal projects will probably integrate, too. Playfish Montreal does not plan to focus on iOS, instead intended to create games suitable for all smartphone platforms.
It’s probably telling that this announcement from Playfish comes within days of Android releasing its first Payments SDK and BlackBerry App World updating to support in-app transactions. Playfish serves over 55 million monthly active users in its Web-based social games, which players log into using accounts from social networks like Facebook and MySpace. Playfish is the currently the third-largest social game developer according to Appdata, trailing CrowdStar and Zynga.
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