Most social games are either on Facebook or the iPhone, with no real interaction between the two. But there’s now one notable exception: CrowdStar’s Happy Island, which is one of Facebook’s most successful games withmore than 10 million monthly active users. CrowdStar worked with a new company called Sibblingz on Happy Island, which will be available soon on both iPhone and iPad, with an Android version following.
Sibblingz and CrowdStar have a direct connection: both are emerged from YouWeb, the incubator run by Peter Relan. So in a sense, CrowdStar has been on the path to becoming a multi-platform social game company for a while.
The purpose of Sibblingz is to help developers get over the wall between Facebook and iPhone development. Most Facebook games are created in Flash for a larger screen, with a point-and-click interface. The iPhone uses a variety of Objective C development tools, and has a small tech screen.
But in spirit, games on Facebook and the iPhone are actually very similar, and the separation has led to a lot of duplication — for example, the farm game genre is strong on Apple’s device, yet features an entirely different set of developers.
Sibblingz wants to give the developers the ability to create the art for their games without worrying too much about the separate design tools, by placing most of the data on servers that feed into different development libraries. The main difference for most games will be the user interface, which can re-use some of the same elements between versions but must be adapted for the size and capabilities of each screen.
Of course, Android phones will soon have a high-level native ability to run Flash, as we wrote about this morning, although Sibblingz founder Ben Savage says that the games will be better if developed natively for the phone. The real question is how many people with smartphones want to switch between platforms — something of an unknown at the moment. Cross-development is almost certainly a good idea, though, if only for the greater exposure.
Another question is whether the graphical standards on Facebook and mobile devices will remain similar. For now, the mobile devices are far more capable of running graphically intense and 3D games. “Hopefully in HTML5, WebGL will start to pan out, but right now I can say that when we develop games for Facebook we have to keep the lowest denominator in mind,” Savage tells us.
But for now, going multi-platform looks like a good idea for almost any developer, provided the costs are low enough. Savage says that Sibblingz is handling that problem by offering its service for free, with a contractual share of future revenue.
A free platform does have a downside: Sibblingz will carefully pick who it works with. Savage says that for now, he’s interested in hearing from larger developers and those with access to branded IP, although smaller developers could potentially help handle development for their larger peers.