Kevin Dent is the newly announced COO of P4RC. A company that you may not of heard of, yet. But if our conversation below with Kevin is any indication, P4RC may just be about to crack a nut no one else has been able to thus far.
148Apps: Kevin, tell us a little about yourself and your background in games.
Kevin Dent: I started my gaming career making mobile games in Dublin, Ireland in 1998 by conning my boss. I was group head of sales at the time and I had a budget to hire 13 additional sales people and instead I hired 3 sales people and 15 developers –I actually forced them to wear suits, they loved that; no really- one day my CEO came in and said “have you ever heard of mobile games?”, he showed me one of my games and I knew I was caught, so I confessed. Yeah, so he had no clue and I basically “outted” myself.
He asked were the games making money, I said “about 2M pounds –old Irish currency- per month”, he called me a bunch of names, calmed down and said “ok fuck it, keep doing it”. I was ecstatic. The company was sold soon after that and as I was an early employee I did pretty great out of it. So I moved to Slovenia, started a studio, sold it, started another, folded it, started another and sold it.
At that point, I joined Hands-On Mobile.
I was kind of scarred from that experience, I had signed a golden handcuff contract; so I could not leave until I was with the firm for 365 days. Wada San the President of Square Enix reached out to me and asked if I would be interested in making a Final Fantasy game on feature phones –there was no iPhone back then- I said that I need to clear it, but I gave him a soft “yes”. Can you imagine? I went into my bosses office and said “Mr X, I have been offered Final Fantasy and it is a great deal, lets do this.” The response was “GREAT, is that a video game?”, I resisted the urge to face slam the guy into his desk.
148Apps: Before this, you lived the sweet life of an indie. Why chain yourself to a single company?
Kevin Dent: So all this basically happened because of a kid I had been working to help. It was a surreal experience, he had a golf ball size tumor removed from his head and he just about broke my heart. He will have chemotherapy from now until the end of the year. All I could think of was unless I am creating something huge that benefits both my peers and gamers, I would not be about to do sometime huge.
To be clear, games are never huge; it is the community that back them that are huge. So I went through this period of self-inspection to figure out how I could actually do something great for everyone with an amazing team. I spent a lot of nights doing crunch and one night I just did an emotional crunch and figured out if I was ever going to be able to realize my full potential I had to close my business, jump off a cliff and hope gamers and devs catch me.
Unfortunately I am not really that skilled in anything other than making games, I am definitely not smart enough to be a doctor, a civil rights lawyer or anything important in the world of philanthropy.
Then the next day a guy called me and suggested that I close my business and join his firm –which was P4RC- I loved the solution, I did not actually think I would like it at first, but I got into it in a big way. I was making a ton of money and more than one friend told me that I was the dumbest smart guy that they knew –I am not that smart- but I did it anyway. Funny side note, my accountant moved my business to his colleague and refused to talk to me after I closed my business.
I have always been a “right time and right moment” sort of guy, so I just decided to go for it. I am happy that I did.
148Apps: Ok, so then P4RC (pronounced "park") had the goods to pull you in, what exactly what does P4RC do?
Kevin Dent: So right now gamers on mobile can engage in different rewards platforms, most of these firms reward gamers for having “moments” I am not making this up. Once you hit that “moment” you get a bag of Pop Chips etc. Now I am sure there are people that enjoy Popchips! P4RC is different in that we go in altogether different direction. We created a platform where gamers accumulate points regardless of whether they have their “moment” or not. With those points they can spend them on whatever they want, we are empowering the rewards business.
They are your points, it’s your choice and they are your rewards.
Also we do not cap the points so you can go big, medium or small; they are your points.
148Apps: So users gather points by playing games and redeem them for real world prizes. We've seen things similar in the past, but none have really gained a foothold. What does P4RC have that others don't, and will that make it successful?
Kevin Dent: Similar yes, but there is always a catch, a deadline or an expiration in terms of the points. Not so with P4RC, your points accumulate so if you don’t like what is in the store, you don’t have to settle. This is key for me personally as I don’t want gamers to settle, as a game developer myself, I never want gamers to have to settle ever. The data supports this argument, we currently have 1.7M users who are racking up points, we are giving away mid five figures in prizes weekly. We have investors, it is their money so hey that makes me pretty happy. We want to give away 100X that figure daily.
The second thing we have is that we have all made games at some point, personally I have made a little over 300 titles on various platforms; some were well received and others not so much –hello Ironman on feature phones- my point is, is that we are uniquely positioned to know what developers and gamers like. We have lived the nightmare that is crunch, we have lived the horror show that is looking at your game and thinking to yourself “wow this is a total piece of crap”. Perspective is incredibly important. Since we came out of private beta we have signed up 65 games and we will be announcing those as they go live if the developer wants us to and this leads me nicely into my final point, every other rewards program seems to be want to be the star. It is a fool’s errand, I want the in game experience to be the star. With P4RC you do not even have to leave the game and even when you finish playing there is nothing to do, you bank your points without doing anything.
Signup is easy, I was at a bus stop the other day and I paid an old guy $10 to sign up to P4RC just so I could witness someone go through the process. It took him 37 seconds.
Hit the jump for the rest of our talk with Kevin Dent.
148Apps: Ok, I can see the draw for game players. What's in it for game developers?
Kevin Dent: So the thing that kills me is that over the years, I have seen so many new developers come on the scene; they make some money but then they make a fatal mistake. They start buying downloads to their games, this creates a false economy. The gamer downloads a game because some other game says “hey download this game and you will get X free currency." That is dumb.
Free games are great for gamers, but what happens is that developers become disillusioned and the next time you will see them is as an extra on CIS Bay Area! So developers need to eat either by selling you stuff in game or having you see adverts. What P4RC delivers –according to our data- is 307% longer playing sessions- it also allows the developer to show you more of the game before they ask you for money or show you an advert.
With limited exceptions, in today’s developer environment there is no romance between the person that made the game and the gamer; we really want to empower developers to show more of their game prior to use asking for cash or showing you an advertisement.
By showing more of the game and hooking the gamer into the experience with great content, it allows the gamer to have an actual experience and if the game is good then you can monetize them.
148Apps: Looking at the P4RC site, the games implementing the system are ones I've heard of, but not any really big names. That is going to limit your popularity. How are you going to get the big names in there?
Kevin Dent: Not so sure about that, the games that have integrated P4RC so far represent almost 20M downloads and we have 1.7 million active users. That is pretty exciting. That said though, as I mentioned we have spent the last couple of months signing up developers and publishers, we have hard commitments for 65 titles that will be updated or released over the coming months.
These are both friends, single people developers and giant publishers. Life is made a lot easier when you grew up in the industry with most of these guys, honestly a lot of it comes down to being a big part of their lives over the last number of years, but I would come back to what a developer said to me today “I would have signed up to it anyway because you are a friend, but dude this is a really well made platform”. To date that was the best moment since I started at P4RC. It really touched me.
148Apps: Looks like you tried to bring Michael Pachter and Jeff Lapin along with you too?
Kevin Dent: Yeah and that was a huge win, I am lucky to count them both as personal friends, I had asked Jeff what he thought of the platform as I was interested in joining them. The next day he called up and said “I want to invest”……….. “No Jeff, I wasn’t trying to mooch money of you……”, “no, I want to invest and bring in another bunch of guys to be investors”………. So for context, Jeff has been a long term mentor of mine and is an enshrined legend in game developers. Many of you will have played games that he greenlit. Mark my words though, in terms of the legends…….. so no pressure at all.
Michael is one of my closest friends, he is one of the few people I know that can look at a video games business and say “ah ok I get it”. When I first showed him this, he said “OK you are definitely doing this” and it was not posed as a question. He is literally the smartest guy I know. The guy is just a straight up genius.
148Apps: OK, so P4RC is just starting up and you are in to kick start it. What changes should we expect, and when?
Kevin Dent: Well, hopefully there will be no Popchips……. Screw it, ya can have your chips.
We have a roadmap, it is hot; I like what I am seeing although please don’t tell my CTO as I want to keep that just between me and you guys in the 148Apps community. Funny side note, our CTO was a director at the Jet Propulsion Lab at the California Institute of Technology, so he is literally a rocket scientist, yet I keep rick rolling him and he keeps falling for it.
You might notice that I am totally dodging the question, main reason being we are rolling out our roadmap announcements at GDC…. Seriously, pinky swear.
Well the plan is to have a lot of light updates –meaning that the developers don’t have to do anything- then we will also have a number of functional updates which devs can choose to opt in or not. The reason we are doing this is to make sure that the gamer and the game is the star of the show. We really just want to reward gamers participation and elevate the game, we are not the star, them game is.
So will P4RC crack that user engagement / reward nut that others haven't been able to yet? Give it a try and let us know if it's enough to keep you engaged. Does P4RC have the goods? Try one of the our pick of games with P4RC integrated, or view the full list at the P4RC site.