With $2 Million In The Bank, This Company Is Trying To Take Facebook Back From FarmVille

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[credit provider=”Seismic games”]

Most games on Facebook fit into one of two categories: they’re structured around building a farm, or a city, or a living room, or they’re puzzle games.Seismic Games, a new company that is launching its first game ever, wants to change that.

It just launched CelebrityMe, a new Facebook game that’s built around creating videos with a personalised celebrity. They can be videos (called “gigs”) of rock shows, movies, advertisements — pretty much whatever you want.

You pay real money or play the game to get better clothes, which make you better at the gigs. The whole experience is “character-centric,” chief creative officer Eric Gerwitz said.

We sat down with Gerwitz to find out just how they plan on taking on giants like Zynga and EA. Here’s what we learned:

  • The only game that came close to creating a “character-centric” experience was The Sims Social, but it wasn’t sticky. It ended up being more about building your living room than making your character more powerful.
  • There are very few games that fit outside the puzzle, casino and world-building genres. Every game in the top-10 leaderboard on Facebook fits into one of those three categories.
  • Seismic Games, a one-and-a-half year old company, has raised $2 million to take on those big “traditional” social games. It’s shooting for a completely new market.

Here’s the full transcript of the interview:BI: Tell us a little more about Seismic games.

EG: We have 20 people we started a year and a half ago. I’m the chief creative officer and co-founder. We’re all in our thirties. We’ve been in the games industry for half of our lives. We’ve been more in the console space, but the reason we were excited about going into the social space was because it allows us to experiment and innovate more. You can make them faster and cheaper and you can experiment a lot more.

BUSINESS INSIDER: And you just launched your first game.

Eric Gerwitz: Our first game is CelebrityMe, it’s a Facebook social game where you can create your own international celebrity and live that lifestyle. Our game is focused entirely around characters and user-generated content. Unlike a world building game like FarmVille, you create your own celebrity, decide how they look, their career.

They can be a pop star, rock star, movie star, and then you get to play these gigs with your friends. You can use your friends’ celebrities in the other roles for the gigs. The end result is a customised movie that you’ve created through the course of the game. How your character is dressed, your friends characters you include in each gig and a series of choices make each movie different. You can share that on your Facebook wall and with your friends.

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BI: How is this different than other Facebook games?

EG: There are these little mini-games called gigs. You make a video that’s really funny and wacky, but is different for every player. Every time you pay, everyone gets a different video. You make a bunch of different choices and you get a completely different video.

There was a missing character component to Facebook games. Everything is a world-building and puzzle game. We thought it would be cool if you could build gameplay into getting the right gear for a video like a rock show. I need a guitar and rocker clothes. We thought it would be great if we could integrate your friends’ characters into the experience. this idea you could cast your friends as the villain and the sidekick or as a guitarist and drummer and dancer.

Even if you’re not playing the game, you can check out the videos. It’s a flash video that’s streaming from Facebook. We’re working on a way to save that and put it on YouTube and share that with the general public. You can check out out if you aren’t playing the game and see friends starring in these wacky, silly movies. Based on our initial feedback, it’s fun, it’s funny, it’s a little silly and wacky but it has a light tone to it. We want to make sure we err on the slighter side of celebrity, not the darker side.

BI: Do you think this is going to take over any of the other games out there right now?

EG: I think it’ll sit parallel with the others. There’s always going to be space for the world building games and puzzle games. We’re not going for the hardcore market, we’re going for a casual, fun, accessible game that is character focused. Because these games are free to play and don’t consume a lot of time, we’ll find people will play their world building games for a while and then their character games and bounce between them. 

BI: It still seems pretty similar to Sims Social, which is all about building your character.

EG: When Sims Social came out, we were excited. It seemed obvious that the Sims was going to go into the social space. But I don’t know how sticky it was. Though it did focus on character, it ended up being a build your living room and collecting furniture. It was cool and fun for a while, but it didn’t quite stick. Our game is more of a social interaction. I’ve enjoyed Sims Social, but we’re offering a different fantasy here.  

BI: How are you guys going to make money?

EG: We’ve set up a cool system where there’s purpose to buying better and better clothes. Unlike just playing dress-up, you get better in the game and do better in the gigs. If you want to wear your cop uniform while you’re performing surgery you can. You can also pay to play longer.

The other component that works really well in celebrity me is advertising with sponsorship and promotion of brands. It enhances the experience rather than feeling tacked on. All our brands are integrated within the experience. You opening for a real band, you’re at the premiere of a real movie. Because we have the celebrity and entertainer focused gameplay, it makes the experience more legitimate.