There’s only been one time that I truly feared for my life. A female friend had fostered a minor obsession with an certain zombie-related iPhone game. That was fine. She had played for hours, possibly days’ worth. Then her phone crashed. She lost everything, all her contacts and information on the phone – but the time she lost on the game, which she couldn’t recoup, seemed to be the worst for her. This usually level headed friend condensed into a flaming ball of rage. Her iPhone was sent flying, unintelligible profanities yelled with abandon. It was unbridled fury. There was no way to get back the days of play she had put into the game, no way to recoup the time she had invested in the game. She was pissed. I was nervously laughing.
FTW – apart from scoring the best name ever – has just launched to fix this problem once and for all – as well they’re aiming to raise a first (and final) official funding round on AngelList. “I had an iPhone, and I didn’t want to invest hours and hours and hours into a game,” says FTW’s founder Mark Burstiner, “and then have to redo it all, because you can’t sync up your saved game play with another device.”
It’s an issues specific to the gaming industry. With so many players trying to guard their creative digital sauce, many in the space are trying to force gamers into their own social environment with sign-ups, which just toss the player into a ad laden environment that takes away from game play. FTW hopes to offer a comprehensive OpenID-style platform that allows gamers to get past the doldrums of setting up profiles on numerous devices – or worse, lose your advancements by have devices crash.
FTW’s universal gaming sync is installed by developers which takes no longer than a morning says Burstiner – all the user has to do is log into FTW on their device, and the program recognizes the device, associating it with its user – the login won’t bother the gamer again, leaving them free to blast away at zombies until the end of the world (or work hours). The universal login remembers the user, as well as key figures related to their game play, Also, it cross references the games and devices, allowing the user to backup all their gaming history.
“iOS devices can talk to each other, Android still can’t [...] but none of these devices can talk to your XBox, because it’s something completely separate,” says Burstiner. This is the problem the company wants to fix.
FTW first launched a sync program last year and realized it was a piece of a large part of gamers’ identity. “A big piece, but there’s a lot more,” says Burstiner. Sync is a bigger part of what FTW is releasing now, with the roll out of their universal gaming ID. “[We’ve] got leaderboards and achievements, and it’s just a minimal amount of work that needs to be done to support FTW [by game developers].” Burstiner says they can keep track of game play by keeping track and updating the saved content, which Burstiner says isn’t that difficult. “We know that you want the highest score, the highest level, and the lowest completion time.”
“After logging in, everything in FTW just works,” says Burstiner. For the developers, they’ll also get access to analytics from the users across different platforms. For the gamers, “they’ll have access to all the social stuff,” says Burstiner. But for now, it’s that sort of backbone thinking, syncing all your stuff off your device and into the cloud.
For instance, with EA Origin, although it speaks to their gamers playing irrespective of the platform they’re playing on, it forces users to login on first play – there’s no option to just play without logging in.
“Ubi has something called Uplay, which creates such a shitty experience for the game.” The last thing games want is to be joining different networks just to play a new game. And it gets worse when the studios do it too. “You end up with these silos, inside silos, inside silos,” says Burstiner. There have been some decent attempts as social within mobile gaming, but Burstiner says for the most part, “they tend to focus on the social free-to-play crap, which I and most of the gaming industry abhor.”
FTW contributes to the opening up of what was once a very closed market, something that the Kickstarter game console OUYA aims to blast open – and the users are behind it, judging by the fact that they raised 900 percent of their funding. “The way that we see OUYA, and we are both on the same page, on the same trajectory, after the same exact thing,” says Burstiner. “We really want to be every gamer’s universal identity.”