Community Building Vital for Success on iPhone, says PlayHaven CEO

Building strong and loyal communities around games is a feature long touted as one of the reasons consumers are flocking to iPhone and iPod Touch for their gaming fix, but it would appear that some developers are less able to monitor their relationship with gamers than others.

That’s the view of the CEO of PlayHaven, Raymond Lau, the company’s co-founder telling us that the current system of gamers buying games off the App Store blocks out any sort of natural relationship between developer and consumer ‘“ a status quo his company has set out to smash up.

‘Having passionate fans is the cornerstone of any successful game. This was true in the traditional gaming space, and it’s just as true in the new mobile gaming era,’ Lau told us. ‘Most iPhone game developers have no way to reach their fans directly to encourage word-of-mouth buzz or even to announce their next title. We want to do what the App Store does not – create a connection between game developers and their fans, so the developers can rely on their passionate fans to be the rocket fuel that grows the popularity of their current and future games.’

As a result, PlayHaven has set about providing tools for developers that enable them to break down such barriers. The ‘PlayHaven Community Platform’ launched at the end of last month gives games a portal on the company’s site similar to a Facebook page, on which fans are able to communicate freely both with each other and the developer itself.

‘The App Store is a black box, and the developers are flying blind in there. We want to empower the developers to establish a relationship with them as a critical step towards turning their games into a lasting franchise,’ Lau stated. ‘Game developers are very aware of the importance of a passionate fan following in that their fans are the ones who spread the word about the game. Yet most developers have limited resources and want to spend their time building their killer games, not figuring out how to identify their fans and motivating them to generate buzz.

‘We provide them the tools to build a vibrant destination to facilitate buzz generation – a community where fans can interact, share strategies, and create other cool content.’

It’s a notably different approach to the ‘built-in’ social networking-cum-achievement style tools provided by the likes of OpenFeint and Scoreloop. Instead, PlayHaven takes a more traditional path that enables fans to wave their flags without having to prove themselves first.

‘Our goal is to extend the fun outside of the game itself. When you are not playing the game, we provide a vibrant community where the passionate fans can interact, share tips, and easily create cool content. We enable the gamers with very powerful yet easy-to-use tools so they can create amazing media-rich content that traditionally only could be created by professionals,’ Lau concluded. ‘In essence, with all of these communication and information tools, we provide everything a fan needs in a game community.’

It’s fair to say that PlayHaven’s tool-set could easily be matched by a developer with more time or money on its hands, since there is nothing to stop another third-party coming in and offering a similar service. But, as illustrated by the success of clockwork puzzler Geared, which built up a fanbase of over 4,500 in just two weeks, the PlayHaven model may have some serious merit.

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