Flurry Launches Support Program For Game Developers, Nabs Director From Playfish

It appears there’s an arms race taking place in the mobile gaming world, and as is often the case in Silicon Valley, it starts with engineering and development talent. Google, for one, took some serious measures at the end of last year to stem the flow of its engineering talent to Facebook. Many companies go out of the way to court and retain top developers, but it’s traditionally been the deep pockets and reputations of big players like Apple, Google, and Facebook that win out.

However, it seems digital gaming companies didn’t receive that particular memo. Following on the heels of yesterday’s announcement that monetization and distribution platform Tapjoy will be launching a publishing platform to support game developers, while investing significant capital in early-stage game development, Flurry declared that it will be following suit.

The mobile analytics firm subsequently unveiled its Game Acceleration Program for iOS and Android platforms, which will provide participating partners with a full suite of development and marketing support, including analytics, game design and development assistance, financing,
distribution, and marketing.

The difference between Flurry’s approach and traditional publishing models, however, is that the firm will not solicit ownership of an app’s IP or the intellectual property of a title. Instead, in exchange for the program’s development and launch support, app makers will be asked to use Flurry AppCircle, the company’s app recommendation engine, until agreed upon costs are recouped.

“Flurry reaches over 40 million active consumers each day through Flurry AppCircle, and we want to help companies of all sizes better reach and monetize that audience”, said CEO Simon Khalaf.

In the context of the arms race in mobile gaming and app development, Flurry’s program isn’t markedly different from that of Tapjoy or other competitors like OpenFeint and Scoreloop. Each platform offers app developers some kind of compensation or incentive up front to stoke the flames of their hearts. Under Flurry’s program, if gamers download the app recommended by AppCircle, the firm makes money from the transaction. Of course, according to VP of Marketing Peter Farago, the amount of loot that ultimately ends up in developers’ pockets will likely be fairly small.

For those very reasons, the firm clearly felt it needed to distinguish its program from that of the competition and give developers a reason to sign on. So, with a wink to the geeks, Flurry revealed what it hopes will be its ace in the hole. Accompanying the debut of its Game Acceleration Program, the company announced the hiring of decorated game developer, Jeferson Valadares, who will become GM of games and will work with indie developers and big brands alike to develop their games.

Valadares must be an important piece of the puzzle, considering Flurry nabbed him from social game maker Playfish, where he was working as the startup’s studio director. The fact that Flurry pulled in $15 million in VC funding back in December likely didn’t hurt its cause.

The Brazilian game developer has an impressive resume, having been involved in the making of award-winning games like Tornado Mania, Nightclub Empire, Crazy Penguin Catapult, Brickbreaker Revolution, Kamikaze Robots, and Tower Bloxx. Before Playfish, Valadares was at both Electronic Arts and Digital Chocolate and worked on brands such as FIFA, Harry Potter, and Need for Speed. His teams have shipped a combined total of more than 40 titles, won multiple developer of the year awards and 14 game of the year awards. He’s clearly terrible at what he does, and there’s no way developers will be eager to work with him.

All in all, these announcements seem to be great plays for Flurry, and I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what the firm produces under Valadares’ leadership. I bet there will be a few gems. Of course, I’m not a betting man.