“Cloud computing,” a newly ubiquitous buzzword referring to the Web 2.0 practice of serving or streaming all kinds of applications and data off of the Internet, is starting to deliver results to back up the hype. For instance, we basically run Slide To Play using Google Applications, allowing us to access our workflow anywhere, from practically any Internet-connected device. The phenomenon isn’t limited to business and enterprise, though. It also poses a very interesting opportunity for the games industry, which is exhibiting a parallel trend towards persistent connectivity, casual and social play, mobility, and platform agnosticism. Unsurprisingly, the iPhone is quickly becoming a major center of attention for developers wanting to combine the virality of Web and social network games with a reliable commerce platform like iTunes.
We just had a chance to meet with Jeson Patel of SocialDeck, a Toronto-based cloud gaming startup that is on the verge of releasing its first App for the iPhone. Patel and his partner Anish Acharya quit their jobs as software engineers (at Microsoft and Amazon, respectively) in February to work full time on SocialDeck. This half-year of development has resulted in an interesting proof of concept that works pretty seamlessly on both Facebook and iPhone, and could be expanded to other platforms with relative ease.
Patel and Acharya were inspired to build SocialDeck after watching Scrabulous become a huge hit on Facebook (until Hasbro slapped it with a big lawsuit). They saw that the app’s asynchronous gameplay allowed gamers to play many games at once, at their leisure, and its connection to the Friends list made challenging others easy–a killer recipe for viral spread. SocialDeck started on these premises and expanded on them to encompass multiple platforms, starting with Facebook and the iPhone, and soon moving to Bebo, Blackberry, OpenSocial, and the Internet at large.
The company’s backend works like a miniature social network itself. For example, when you log into a game on either platform, you get a “Game Feed” that lists all of your present games, as well as your friends’ games. Communicating with and challenging other players works through established channels on Facebook, but if you’re playing on an iPhone, the SocialDeck-enabled App will pull down all of your Contacts and let you chat with them via text messages, which appear in the in-game interface as a conversation. The backend also has the capability to automatically parse all of your email contacts, saving you the trouble of entering them manually. The idea is to make the cross-platform user experience as simple and consistent as possible. “If I want to play a game with a friend, I don’t care if they’re playing on Facebook, iPhone, or whatever. It shouldn’t matter,” explains Patel.
SocialDeck will be launching a “Connect 4”-style game on Facebook and the App Store in the next few weeks. Ultimately, the company hopes to become a platform provider for other developers and publishers by releasing an API, and possibly even linking SocialDeck-enabled games into a network.
We’ll follow up with more info on SocialDeck as it becomes available. In the meantime, check out the demo video for an idea of how the platform works.