You don’t know who Kixeye is yet? I’m going to be completely honest with you. Until a couple days ago, I didn’t either; at least not until this video started popping up all over the place. Their over-the-top, NSFW recruitment video is a hell of an introduction and mission statement, but it hardly tells anyone much about the company. If the last few years are any indication, Kixeye is going to be a name we remember one way or another.
Kixeye is sort of a hidden giant of social media gaming. Like many other companies, Kixeye’s business model depends on Facebook. Their games are played through a web browser on the Facebook site. Unlike many other companies, Kixeye seems to have figured out this business model. They’re making money, and their players are happy. In the wake of Zynga’s financial troubles and stock fraud investigation, Kixeye will likely become increasingly prominent in the world of social media gaming.
Kixeye started out as The Casual Collective. If you have been to the internet, you’ve probably played Desktop Tower Defense before. The Casual Collective put DTD out in 2007 and has been growing their fanbase since. As the Casual Collective, founders Paul Preece and David Scott built a social networking site with features like in-game credits, a community run internet radio station, and a fan maintained wiki database. As Kixeye, much of that has disappeared, but the company is still doing interesting stuff.
Their big games right now are Backyard Monsters, Battle Pirates, and War Commander. They sound ridiculous, especially as they make fun of the idea of a game called Zombie Castle Rescue in the video. Thing is, they really are games. Backyard Monsters is a sort of tower defense title, while Battle Pirates and War Commander are real-time strategy games that remind me strongly of old Command & Conquers.
Kixeye is, according to Dean Takahashi of VentureBeat, a “financial juggernaut.” The company creates solid, free to play games that “monetize very well” according to CEO Will Harbin, the dashing jumpsuit-clad gentleman in the video. They’re staying profitable by making users want to spend money, and keeping games alive by not pricing victory out of lower-spenders’ range. Harbin knows that free to play games need big spenders to stay alive and free-players to keep the big spenders playing, and Kixeye games are designed to court both. The big spenders that get hooked on the mechanics can play the game much faster than free players, but aren’t privy to any special weapons or abilities.
Takahashi says in his piece that the company has been profitable for two years and grew revenues 11 times over in 2010. Harbin also said in the interview that Kixeye’s retention is five times longer than other social games on Facebook and that the percentage of users spending money is more than double that of Zynga.
Kixeye’s bombastic commercial was certainly created in the wake of Zynga’s crashing stock prices last month, but there’s no way they could’ve accounted for a high-profile piece on Kotaku or financial investigations into stock fraud. Both make the barely-veiled digs at the company especially deep-cutting.
Kixeye might seem like a start-up from the commercial, but they’ve been around and they clearly have a plan. They’ve found an audience of hardcore gamers who want to play browser based games, and if Epic has anything to say about it, browser gaming is only going to get bigger and more impressive. Kixeye is in a good place to lead the pack with interesting and—more importantly—playable games.