Another company in Brooklyn has invented its own platform for a particular kind of media. Playmatics, a game company, has created PlayComix, which won top prize at the recent MiNY Media Center Demo Day. The system is a platform for interactive comics.
When we were members at the MiNY Media Center, we always noticed the Playmatics office, because its back wall is filled with stacks and stacks of board games and roleplaying game books.
Its founder, Nicholas Fortugno, who we met there late last month, has a lot of thoughts about games. It took us a while to get started on the interview proper as we talked about the subjective logic of the text-based games of yesteryear, where a player couldn’t figure out what on Earth they needed to do to proceed and just started trying everything. Fortugno called it the “Use Lamp On Door” problem. We first met Fortugno at dd:Impact “The Design Edition.”
Playmatics’ comics-as-games platform arose out of a partnership with the cable company that has everyone talking about TV these days. The first PlayComix was made for AMC as an online complement to “Breaking Bad.”
It’s a sort of choose your own adventure kind of platform. In the AMC game above, you’re Jesse Pinkman, a character on the show. You need to get some money back that was stolen from you. Throughout the story, you’re given different choices about how to approach obstacles in the way. Do you get aggressive? Do you act charming? Do you offer bribes?
The idea, Fortugno said, is that you succeed in playing through the comic if you play it like Jesse would. Playmatics built it in collaboration with the show’s writers, and the key is understanding the way the writers think about how Pinkman plays life.
It all started, Fortugno said, when the Playmatics team was brainstorming games and realized that they wanted to give players a way to “play” an interrogation. The first Playcomix game for AMC was nominated for a 2012 Cablefax award in the “Contest/Online Games” category.
Right now, the platform is something Playmatics has used in client work. Fortugno says they’re working on ideas internally for releasing their own comic on the platform, with original properties.
It brings to mind another company from Dumbo, The Atavist, which also invented a platform and turned it into its own business. “We’d probably do that in the long run,” Fortugno said of making the platform available to others. The company wants to put out more content of its own, next year is the plan. Its most recent comic is for “The Walking Dead.”
Fortugno cofounded the company with Margaret Wallace. This is the pair’s second company together. Previously, they built Rebel Monkey, a casual MMO company. Playmatics is primarily a consultancy that brands can come to when they want to build a gaming component of some kind.
“Doing work for other people that we would never do on our own is really creatively challenging,” Fortugno said. One of the company’s most recent projects is an iOS game for Red Bull, called Red Bull Focus.
Fortugno thinks entertainment brands should double down on transmedia. Right now, they mainly use it to market properties.
He points out that a typical pilot costs somewhere north of a million dollars. If you can, instead, release a game for a cost more in the low six figures as a way to test a concept, he argues, why not do it? Disney accidentally did that with Where’s My Water?, he pointed out. And Kim Kardashian showed that there are revenue opportunities in games for major brands, if brands think about it right.
Fortugno raised similar themes as those discussed in a few panels at the TWO5SIX conference earlier this year, about the undervalued emotional weight of games.
As a creative agency, the size of Playmatics ebbs and flows with its contracts. It’s a mix of about seven people, full time and part time now. Fortugno expects that to reach ten next year.
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