Since its official launch, Kongregate, the so-called YouTube of Flash games, has hosted hundreds of original games, created a community of developers, addicted millions of users to their "badge" rewards and grown from 30,000 unique monthly users to over 3 million in less than a year.
This week Kongregate announced the fruits of their Premium Development program, games carefully cultivated and funded by Kongregate to, according to Chris Pasley, Director of Games for Kongregate, "raise the bar of what Flash games are all about."
Chris came to Kongregate by way of The Cartoon Network's Adult Swim, where he was responsible for producing games like Bible Fight and 5 Minutes to Kill Yourself.
"I'm still trying to do the same thing [at Kongregate]," says Pasley. "Still trying to find Flash developers who come up with interesting games."
Kongregate announced their Premium Development Program in May, and it was an immediate success, generating an outpouring of interest and not a few interesting game ideas. Kongregate's Co-Founder, Jim Greer, says the response was overwhelming.
"I thought it would take longer," says Greer. "The hardest part was dealing with our lawyers. ... I thought we would vet more low quality submissions and fewer high quality submissions, [but] none of them were garbage."
Out of the dozens of submissions for their Premium Development program, Kongregate selected only five that would receive Pasley's special attention and Kongregate's money.
"I'm looking more for originality," says Pasley. "Things that are not the rote 'Diner Dash clone.' One of the big things we're looking for is a big sense of uniqueness and originality. I was really blown away by some of the concepts. I've just been amazed about the kind of freedom I've gotten and the enthusiasms people have to get really interesting stuff done and break the rules and go beyond what other people have done."
In addition to the five games being announced this week, Greer says Kongregate is always looking for more. "The more ideas come in, the better," he says. But in addition to soliciting ideas from talented freelancers, Kongregate is working on its own, a game that Greer promises will "put Kongregate on the map."
"It feels like a Blizzard-like effort we're putting into a Flash game," says Greer, referring to their as-yet unnamed, officially unannounced online collectible card game. "I think this is something that will make your average Penny Arcade reader say that Kongregate isn't just addicting games plus badges," says Greer. "It's kind of something else."
Kongregate unveiled a special preview of the game at PAX 2007, held a tournament and handed the winner a briefcase full of money. If only everyone were so lucky. "We're getting real close now to rolling that out to our highest level users on Kongregate as a closed beta," says Greer, "with a goal of launching that next year."
Until next year, however, the news is the Premium Games. I asked Pasley about the impact of Kongregate's briefcases full of money on the Flash game designers.
"Flash game developers have these kind of games in mind, but a lot of times they have to settle," says Pasley, "because they don't really have a way to fund development. To really take some care with these games is one of the things that's pushed them to these bigger and better levels."
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