Lessons From The Anti-Zynga

Where platforms like Kickstarter, YouTube, and Facebook fall short, entrepreneurs are stepping in.

Lessons From The Anti-Zynga
The Roving Gamer Will Harbin Chairman and CEO, Kixeye [Photograph by Zen Sekizawa | Illustration by Federico Yankelevich]

Will Harbin

Chairman and CEO, Kixeye


Kixeye was founded in 2007 as a developer of games playable on Facebook, such as Backyard Monsters. It has since rebranded and makes games to play on any browser–and last year earned more than $100 million in revenue.

1. Use Platforms To Your Advantage

“When we started, I wanted to make great games that were hyper-accessible–no installing anything and available to everybody on the planet. That meant it made the most sense to launch on Facebook, which provided that accessibility. But Facebook wasn’t the end goal. To get to the big leagues, you first have to build some recognition.”

2. Know the Limits

“The big risk was that Facebook was already tainted by casual titles–Zynga-like games that dominated the platform. We asked ourselves, Would real gamers embrace Facebook? The answer: Some would. So while it was a nine-figure opportunity, it certainly wasn’t a multibillion opportunity. We knew our success would plateau.”

3. Rely on No One, but Be Flexible

“Pick a platform you think you can be successful on and start there, but make the product itself platform-agnostic. That’s what allowed us to be flexible later: Our games were never built to rely on Facebook. Today, we’re lucky that there are so many free, open platforms that allow you to publish directly to the user–the Android store, iOS store, browser games.”

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