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Will Harbin on Making a Comeback with Kingdom Maker

Lessons from Kixeye, The Past & Future of F2P, and Making a Comeback

There was a time when Will Harbin was on top of the gaming world when he presided over Kixeye as CEO in the early 2010s. Or at least on the fastest growing platform of that time: social networks like Facebook and MySpace.

Kixeye was coming off a string of innovative hit games on social canvas like Desktop Tower Defense, Backyard Monsters, War Commander, and Battle Pirates. Kixeye was the innovator, and everyone else created imitations from companies like Kixeye.

And yes, Clash of Clans is Supercell’s version of Backyard Monsters.

Kixeye’s Backyard Monsters

However, not all was well. I was at the Facebook F8 conference in 2012 when a senior member of the Facebook executive team warned me about the impending doom coming to gaming on social canvas: “Zuck hates games… Draw your own conclusions about what’s going to happen.”

In those days (the early 2010s), Kixeye was one of the early game companies best positioned to become the next big gaming giant. That was during an age when distribution, not innovation, won. And yes, I include Supercell in the description of the players who won on distribution at that time. Ironically, Kixeye’s success on social canvas may be a big part of the story of why they ultimately did not make the pivot to mobile and follow the trajectory of Zynga or Supercell.

Kixeye was also known for courting controversy. In one of the most famous recruiting videos in gaming history, Kixeye stirred the pot with this classic video taking (IMHO hilarious) shots at competitors like Zynga (aka Janka), EA (aka EAARP), and Kabam (aka Kerpoop) at the time.

In a very reflective discussion with Will, we touch upon some fascinating topics from his experience in the past with Kixeye and in the future with Global Worldwide and their newest game Kingdom Maker:

  • How does Will view the controversy surrounding Kixeye during its heyday?
  • What were the lessons Will learned from Kixeye from that time?
  • Why was Kixeye not able to make the transition over to mobile?
  • How has the F2P gaming environment changed from the 2010s to today?
  • What is the story behind Will’s new game Kingdom Maker which was 6 years in the making?
  • What is the future for Will and Kixeye 2.0 Global Worldwide?

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