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Microsoft pursues cross-platform social games with Arkadium

Microsoft pursues cross-platform social games with Arkadium

January 4, 2012 | By Leigh Alexander

Microsoft Game Studios is interested in multiplatform casual and social games, and it's tapped New York-based developer Arkadium for a strategic partnership to that end.

The multi-year, multi-title partnership brings the two companies together to work on cross-platform games for Microsoft platforms, including Windows PC and mobile devices.

Arkadium claims 10 million users across its entire network of games like Sparks, Peg Land and MahJongg: Dark Dimensions, including all its other partners as well as Microsoft (the company also runs games for major networks like and Hearst Corporation).

"Arkadium and Microsoft have been partners for several years now," Arkadium CEO Kenny Rosenblatt explains to Gamasutra. He says his company has been the largest provider of games to Microsoft's web properties -- like Bing, MSN Zone and MSN Messenger -- for the last several years, with titles consistently on the top of those services' most-played or most-popular lists.

But Rosenblatt says Arkadium games are often occupying more than one of the top slots on Microsoft sites. "As the relationship got stronger and the games became more popular, that led to a bigger opportunity with the Microsoft Game Studios team, which really has been focused on the Xbox and on more hardcore console games," he explains.

Within MGS, initiatives emerged that were intended to focus on cross-platform games -- "being able to play a game on your phone and then continue playing on your PC, or on another type of tablet, or something," Rosenblatt suggests as example. "Because we had this existing relationship, they knew... we could develop both casual and social-style games, and they had contacted us."

"We've been doing cross-platform and multiplayer stuff for a long time, and they came to us to be the developer of those games that would work in conjunction with the systems and the platforms that they have," he adds. "It's just a merging of multiplatform and game development capabilities."

Arkadium will continue to make games for non-Microsoft platforms, but the company has committed a significant portion of its 120-person staff to making Microsoft-exclusive games.

A number of game companies with reach in the social, mobile and casual spaces have been pursuing the vision of persistent gameplay with multiple entry points across multiple platforms (note PopCap's recent Bejeweled relaunch geared at synchronizing the Facebook and iPhone editions of Blitz into one).

Yet asynchronous play as pioneered on social platforms is still "extremely important," concedes Rosenblatt. "I think synchronous play isn't necessarily the focus of what we're trying to do. I think it's really just... if you look around, people have their tablets, phones, consoles, PC and all of thse different data connection points, and we just want to make sure that if people love our games, they can play them -- or continue playing them -- on any one of those devices."

"People have a lot of favorite gadgets, and we want to be on all of them," adds Rosenblatt.

Arkadium claims some pride in having been working for 10 years as a completely self-financed organization; "We built this company to last based on fundamentals, not just to flip it and sell it to somebody else in a couple years," asserts Rosenblatt.

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