Former Turbine Chief Executive Jeffrey Anderson has announced Play Hard, a new gaming company offering easy-to-play casual games targeted specifically to sports fans.
Play Hard will run fantasy sports leagues and real-world sports news feeds, but is focused primarily on sports-based online casual games. The company plans to launch a website in the fall featuring ad-supported free games, but will also offer an advertisement-free version to gamers who subscribe to the service. The service will begin with a football simulation, with baseball, basketball and other sports planned to follow.
One unique feature of the new service will be the inclusion of "franchise players," characters on a team whose skills increase the more a gamer plays. Anderson said the system is meant to encourage the growth of a community of regular gamers, comparing it to characters in conventional MMOGs like Lord of the Rings Online and World of Warcraft who level up more rapidly with frequent playing. Play Hard has received $5 million in funding from venture capital firm New Enterprise Associates, and Anderson feels he's picked the perfect time to launch the service. In reference to Electronic Arts' recent announcement that it will no longer be developing its Madden NFL games for the PC, Anderson said, "That changes the dynamic and the landscape dramatically. It leaves a very big vacuum."
Anderson added that enthusiasm for the new venture is one of the reasons he left his position at the top of Turbine, a successful MMOG developer. "I'd just become really excited about how wide this market is," he said. "I have been working on sword-and-sorcery fantasy products for a very long time... I was excited about doing something new."