4Play 4Questions: Tobin Lent, Punch-Entertainment

Launching this week is a new feature we’re calling the 4Play 4Questions. The purpose of this feature is to ask somebody in the video game industry, you guessed it, four questions. Three of which will be about either their game or the industry in general while the fourth one will be something a little more off-the-wall. It’ll be either something pertaining to their game or something completely unrelated.

In the future, we plan on moving this feature into the world of sports and entertainment where we will ask them questions about video games and their video game playing habits.

Our first interviewee is Tobin Lent, CEO of Punch-Entertainment, who just released their mobile social networking game, EGO, on the T-Mobile network.

1) First off, congratulations on receiving the “innovation in Mobile Game Design” award. What exactly is the game about?

EGO is a social networking game. It’s really like a very edgy The Sims meet Facebook where players can create a very customized Ego that they develop over time based on what they do with their Ego feeding and training. And also, in particular, how Egos develop as they interact with other people’s Egos. So it’s a really, heavily viable game, and it’s really dependant on people interacting with each other. So it’s really innovate and the first of it’s kind in North America. An interesting thing, you can play on your mobile phone and the web.

1a) How many users are currently playing the game?

We just launched, officially, a few days ago last time I checked we have a few thousand and growing. So, we’re pretty happy with the results so far.

2) With Apple releasing the iPhone SDK last week, do you have any plans to port EGO to that system?

Yeah, we sure do. We’re pretty excited about the iPhone, actually, and we’re planning on getting EGO over there. We think it’s going to be a great platform not only because of the technology but we’re also excited about the business model, and think they know about the flexibilities they’re offering to either download it for free so we can give free demos or even charge for it in a really elegant iTunes type of model. It’s going to be very successful.

3) With phones becoming more advanced and mobile broadband becoming more prevalent, are there any additional features users can look forward to and how do you plan on growing the EGO brand?

We’re really excited about where mobile is heading in terms of the device capabilities. In EGO, there was a lot of things we wanted to do and a lot more we wanted to put in the game, but we were restricted with size and bandwidth. As that improves, we want to basically offer a much richer experience for people. Maybe some more real time gaming interaction and the ability to buy more digital assets for their Ego and for their Ego-Room and customize it which would mean downloading assets straight to the phone. We’re very excited about where things are going with devices like the iPhone and open systems like Android and more prevalent uses of WiFi in cellphones, we’ll be able to do those things.

4) With Second Life, there is sort of a “red light district.” While it may be deemed as offensive to some users, it is a big part of the game’s success. Will EGO users be able to get their virtual freak on while riding the bus or the train?

[Laughs] That’s a great question. It’s interesting because we really studied a lot of the virtual worlds. Not just something like Second Life, which is pretty hardcore; even some of the more casual ones. What you find time and time again it’s interesting what people try to do with each other with their avatars. In most of these online avatar communities, the avatars can’t really do much with each other. So you find players really being creative with what they can do based on the very limited action set they get with the avatars. One of the things we wanted to do with EGO early was create a deep level interaction between the Egos. With our game, you can really do more between Egos than pretty much any other casual avatar game. It wasn’t designed to be sexual. It was designed to allow people express themselves and communicate in a much richer way. We are planning on launching a club in the next couple of months called “Love Lounge” which again be very fun and gameplay. We do want to allow people to have fun with each other and flirt with other. We’ll keep it clean. We do think that’s what people want to do. They want interact with each other. They want to flirt. They want their avatars to have a little affectionate from time to time.

Originally appeared on the 4Play video game blog on azcentral.com on March 11, 2008.

Posted: October 30th, 2009
Categories: Video games
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