Insider Q&A: Rumble Entertainment’s Greg Richardson
Rumble Entertainment is starting to make some serious noise in the gaming space.
Not only did the company announce $17.5M in Series B financing led by free-to-play giant Nexon, but their first game, KingsRoad, already attracts over 1 million players per month in its open web and Facebook beta, with 40-percent of players joining in real-time cooperative play daily while spending an average playing time of over 1 hour per session.
So what’s next for the emerging big-time player?
According to Rumble Entertainment’s CEO and Founder, Greg Richardson, not only will KingsRoad be hitting iOS (along with other unannounced tablets) in 2014, but with two additional games in development (Ballistic, Nightmare Guardians), the company is making a significant push in hopes of becoming the west’s premiere free-to-play publisher.
Inside Mobile Apps sat down with Richardson recently to get his thoughts on Rumble’s substantial steps toward realizing that goal.
[contextly_sidebar id="2de573ee854091dd8507d6580257f247"]Inside Mobile Apps: Rumble’s latest round of financing is led by Nexon. Why is this partnership so important in terms of how you hope to build your company?
Greg Richardson: Nexon was the real pioneer behind micro-transaction, free-to-play games, and especially for us, there is nobody in the west that’s building a company or a set of products like we are. We have to look places like Korea, not only for inspiration, but for wisdom. These guys have been building immersive, fully synchronous multi-player games that monetize along the lines of how we think monetization should work, and to have those guys as partners, we’re thrilled.
IMA: With so many free-to-play games out there now, how do you see Rumble’s upcoming lineup as standing out from the pack?
GR: KingsRoad, Ballistic, and Nightmare Guardians are the three games that we’ve announced, and all three of them are similar in a couple of respects. Even though they’re in different genres, they have an action-based component to them, and as opposed to what seems like the whole world claiming that they have real-time, synchronous multi-player on, they’re not and we are. Much like synchronous is defined in playing pickup basketball or a hand of poker or a game of Call of Duty, that’s the type of synchronous multi-player we’re bringing in, and that’s true across all three of our games. The other big thing that’s unique for us is all three of those games is cross-device. We’re really big believer that when you’re building games as big as we are, and as ambitious as we are with such big entertainment value, you want people to be able to play them wherever they are. So if you’ve got five minutes at Starbucks, great, pull out your phone and get a session in. If you’re at work and want to take a 15 minute break on your computer, go ahead and play. Then when you get home and you have some time at night, place that tablet on your lap and play for an hour, picking right back up where you left off. This is how the devices work when you’re reading a book or watching a movie, and this is the way games should work as well. That’s certainly part of what’s inspiring us.
IMA: You said you’re trying to build a company that’s unique to the west, but how does Rumble Entertainment differ from what a company like Kixeye is already doing?
GR: Kixeye started out, and still is … I know they’re going to launch Backyard Monsters on mobile, but they’ve really been a browser and Facebook only company and to date, all of their games are fundamentally a take on a tower defense strategy game. So they’re not building the kind of super robust, super immersive, action dynamic synchronous multi-player games that we are. Our action role-playing game, KingsRoad, is very inspired by Diablo, Ballistic is a first-person shooter that we think is as good as anything you’ll play on the PC client or console, and then Nightmare Guardians is our take on tower defense which adds synchronous multi-player, making it a bit like League of Legends meets Plants vs. Zombies. All of these games are cross-device and cross-platform. So relative to what Kixeye has shown, I think our games are a lot deeper, more action-orientated, and certainly much more multi-player centric. What we’re doing is cross-platform, and maybe one day they’ll get there as well, and we hope so. This isn’t a zero-sum game. We’re rooting for everybody in the industry to start building better games that are a lot more fun, because right now, there are a couple of hundred really successful free-to-play businesses, but there are only a handful of games that anybody would say, “That was a great game!” There just aren’t those free-to-play games that you would put right up there next to Grand Theft Auto or Call of Duty or even Breaking Bad on TV. That’s what this industry lacks, and that’s what we’re trying to do at Rumble. We hope the folks at Kixeye and other folks out there will be inspired to do the same things.
IMA: Will the KingsRoad experience be any different when the game is brought to tablets?
GR: It’s key when you’re taking a game cross-device that you’re taking into account what type of game you’re making, and you take into account the unique properties of each device. We’re a very mouse-driven game on the PC, but when we translate that to the touchscreen, we’re going to do a lot of things around the way people give input to the game and control their character that feel very resident on the tablet experience. You don’t want to build anything to the lowest common denominator. You want to take advantage of what each device does uniquely well.
IMA: What do you think it is about KingsRoad so far that’s attracting so many gamers?
GR: The first thing is, if you think about browser games and Facebook games, they’ve been around forever, and millions of people have been playing them, but the analogy we like to use is, think about there being a new grocery store in town and it’s the first time you’ve been able to buy fresh produce. In the past, all the produce you’ve been able to buy is iceberg lettuce, and sure, some of the lettuce might taste better than others, but in the end, it’s all pretty plain. What KingsRoad represents is someone showing up with a watermelon or a steak. This is a 3-D game where everything is beautiful, everything is in real-time, and nearly half of our players everyday are playing in real-time with other people. That’s something that you just haven’t seen in the free-to-play world, on browser, or in mobile. KingsRoad also offers that moment-to-moment experience where you’re just captivated and immersed in something and having a ball. That’s something that KingsRoad does really well. That moment-to-moment combat in the game is really, really fun.
IMA: With Nexon’s past in free-to-play, did Rumble specifically target them for funding and expertise in the space, or did they seek you out?
GR: Sometimes in this world, there’s a little bit of both. Owen Mahoney (CFO of Nexon) was a colleague of mine at Electronic Arts, and he was also the person that led the purchase of BioWare/Pandemic, which was a company that we had formed when I was at Elevation Partners and then I had become CEO of. So the two of us had known each other very well, so certainly when I started Rumble, I leaned on him as an expert in the free-to-play space, And literally, when we lifted the beta wall on KingsRoad, I got a call from Owen the next day. They had played the game and were super impressed. They loved what we were doing and they wanted to find a way to partner. From our perspective, here is somebody who represents a set of information and perspective that we just can’t get from a western investor, and it just really made a ton of sense.
You asked the right question, though, because they’re a product-centric company. They’re a multi-billion dollar public entity, but they’re doing it on a handful of great games, and we have a really similar philosophy. In addition to the fact that we’re building these bigger, high-quality games, one of the things that we’re trying to do is build out a publishing platform. We’ve spent a lot of time and money on it, and one of the games I mentioned earlier, Ballistic, is actually being made by a third party in Brazil (Aquiris Games Studio). All of the backend infrastructure enables us to scale the fast action, synchronous multi-player gameplay that a first-person shooter has, and do it on iOS, Android, Facebook, and browser. That’s a big part of what attracted this developer, and we hope to use this capital to find more great developers like them that are working on super-innovative games.