Geek Speak: Jason Bailey, CEO of East Side Games
Jason Bailey heads up the company behind a FarmVille-like game that sees players grow virtual marijuana on Facebook. The Vancouver-born entrepreneur, who’s almost 40 years old, is the CEO of East Side Games. Pot Farm, the studio’s most popular title, has almost 900,000 monthly active users.
Bailey is also a founder and principal of GrowLab, a startup accelerator. He was a cofounder of Super Rewards, which he sold two years ago. Super Rewards built a platform that allowed Facebook game developers like Zynga to make money by selling virtual goods. In July, he founded East Side Games, which makes social and mobile games, with Josh Nilson and Galan Akin.
Nilson and Akin had developed Pot Farm under the banner of Downtown East Side Games, which they started up two years back. When Bailey came on board, they shut down DES Games and transferred its properties to East Side Games. In addition to Pot Farm, the studio has I Like Slots, I Like Fish, I Like Stuff, and Epic Win on Facebook, and Blaze Runner and ScratchIt on iOS.
According to Bailey, East Side Games hopes to release a new Facebook game, Zombinis, by the end of the month, and port Blaze Runner to Android in the coming weeks. They are also looking at developing games for Google+.
The Georgia Straight reached Bailey on his cellphone.
Who is the target audience for East Side Games?
Casual gamers, if I had to put a circle around it. So, we’re not talking about hard-core gamers—you know, your kind of geek in mom’s basement, all white and pasty. It’s having fun, socializing—your typical Facebook gamer.
You’d think with Pot Farm it’s a bunch of pot-smoking young kids. But it’s actually your grandma, who’s nostalgic for the ’60s and had a hoot on a joint back in 1967 and maybe hasn’t smoked pot in 30 years but loves the social-ness, the humour, and the fun of it. So, even with Zombinis, that’s where we’re targeting.
It’s a pretty broad market of people who like just fun, quick, cuddly things. You pop into the game—clicky, clicky, clicky. You play for 10 minutes. You gather up some stuff. You feel like you made some progress. You decorate your area. You put your little collection of stuff together. You interact with your friends. You share some things. You have a look at their farm. You know, very casual.
How are you making money with Pot Farm?
Virtual-goods sales. Whether it’s mystery seeds or jackpot seeds, where you can grow a special plant that you can’t get anywhere else; buying special, advanced protection; buying things like bat guano, so your stuff grows instantly—it’s all virtual-goods sales.
What will playing Zombinis be like?
Zombinis is a battle game. So, it’s kind of like a Pokémon, where you collect up all your Zombinis and then you go out and battle your friends’ Zombinis. The difference being that these aren’t zombies in the sense of, you know, the undead—“I want to eat your brains.”
These are cute, cuddly zombies you want to cuddle with. They’re teddy bears and kittens and puppies and bunnies, but they’re zombie ones with brains coming out and torn fur coming out. You collect up their arms and legs and eyes and ears and fins and wings, and build your own Zombinis, and then send them out in hordes to attack your friends.
How important do you think Google+ will be for games?
Right now, there is only one major social-games platform, and that is Facebook. The consoles, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera are on a fucking nosedive. Right now, there is honestly only one other player in town. There’s a few other small guys, but they’re completely inconsequential.
Everybody in this industry is crossing their fingers and bowing down to the almighty G and saying, “Please, please, let this work and give us a viable second platform where we can build our games.” Google+ being successful is going to be absolutely massive. If Google+ isn’t successful, something else will eventually come along. But when and where and what is a mystery to us all.
How important do you think the Android platform is, compared to iOS, for game developers?
It’s a different fish, but, you know, a fish is a fish. Now that Google has launched its in-app payment system, I think we’re going to start seeing a lot more people develop for that program. With more and more tablets coming along on the Android platform, it’s going to be very significant. I think already the dollars being pushed through the Android platform are not dissimilar to the dollars being pushed through the iOS platform, whereas a year ago iOS was probably 10 to one over Android.
So, yes, I would say Android is very significant. The challenge is the number of handsets and the number of different types of devices and the different screen sizes and hardware requirements that you have to build for in Android makes it a lot more challenging. But the good news is that Google now has a system with which to monetize and is taking a much more reasonable five percent, instead of Apple’s 30 percent, which is a pretty significant tax.
Every Friday, Geek Speak catches up with someone in Vancouver’s technology sector, video-game industry, or social-media scene. Who should we interview next? You can tell Stephen Hui on Facebook and Twitter.