PressOK, Born in a Mobile Merger, Focuses on Smartphone Games

After just a couple of weeks, Ryan Morel was hooked on Bumper Stars, a free game on Facebook. He and his co-workers were but a few of the tens of thousands of people playing the game, a mixture of ping-pong, pool, and shufflepuck, every month. Morel only wished someone would make a mobile version of the game so he could play it even more. Then he remembered that, as vice president of business development at PressOK Entertainment, based in Seattle, he could make that happen. After a few months of negotiation and six months of development, PressOK and Large Animal Games, the game’s original developer, rolled out Bumper Stars Mobile for the iPhone last week.

Translating games from one format to another is not new, but in the rapidly changing world of smartphone applications, it is an emerging trend. PressOK is one of the first mobile gaming companies to import a game in this manner, although it is rapidly becoming popular among game developers. “Developing a new game is much more difficult than translating a game,” Morel explained.

PressOK was born last September in a merger between mobile game makers Mobliss and Reaxion. Reaxion still exists as a development company based mainly in Russia and Belarus. PressOK is a publishing unit, with the combined game catalog and intellectual property of both companies before the merger, Morel said. Bumper Stars was created by New York-based Large Animal in 2007.

Bumper Stars, which is available for $2.99 in the Apple app store, “is the first real PressOK release,” Morel said. Mobliss had focused on games distributed by AT&T and Verizon to traditional cellphones. The new focus of PressOK is on games for smartphones like the iPhone and the Android, which will be getting its own version of Bumper Stars Mobile soon. Some of the games will be original, and some will be new versions of games in the PressOK catalog. About 80 percent of PressOK’s focus will be on smartphone games from now on, Morel said, including ports, original games, and translations of games in other formats. Morel said there is a revenue-sharing plan with Large Animal, although he could not provide any details.

Morel isn’t concerned that people might hesitate to buy a game that can be played for free online. The company plans on doing advertising and marketing for the next few months, at least, to boost the popularity and sales of the game even as they start working on the next one.

PressOK is one of many companies that sees new opportunities in smartphone games, where possibilities are not available to more old-fashioned mobile games. “In traditional mobile games, there’s a little bit of a sink or swim mentality,” Morel said. If a game does not succeed immediately, it tends to disappear from easily accessible options for games to play on the phone. In contrast, he said, there’s a lot that can be done to boost the profile and sales of iPhone and other smartphone games.

Success would be to get Bumper Stars into the top 25 of paid apps, but it doesn’t have to happen overnight. “The good news is that your success can be built over time,” Morel said. “Once it’s developed, it costs us really nothing to keep it in the app stores.” An existing Facebook version of the game helps, as there are only a few phone games with online versions. “It already has a substantial user base. We can tap into the existing group of people who enjoy the game,” Morel said.

Eric Hal Schwartz was an intern in Xconomy's Seattle office. Follow @

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