Xbox co-creator channels arcade classics at mobile-game startup

The correlations between classic arcade games like Centipede and popular mobile games like Angry Birds are undeniable: they're simple, fun, and addictive. Seamus Blackley has hired a slew of old-school game developers to try to cash in on that fact with his company Innovative Leisure.

Simple, fun, and addictive. Edward Moyer/CNET

Innovative Leisure is a startup with a singular purpose: Create great mobile-gaming experiences. To accomplish that mission, co-founder Seamus Blackley has assembled a crew of industry veterans who know a thing or two about developing popular titles.

The team includes the developers responsible for arcade classics like Asteroids and Centipede; Battlezone; Major Havoc; and Missile Command. In other words, some of the most popular titles in gaming history.

The coming together of the startup has been largely credited to Blackley, who also helped launch the original Xbox at Microsoft before leaving the company in 2002. So one might question whether Blackley is looking to cram the expansive titles that dominate consoles into mobile-gaming platforms. Like much of the staff at Innovative Leisure, however, Blackley started his career in video games during the golden age of Atari, and it's this period in gaming that the team is looking to for inspiration.

Blackley told Venture Beat, "Once we figured out the iPhone is the new arcade, that games from the old days fit this new audience and their on-the-go lifestyle, we knew what to do. There is already a group of people who know how to operate and innovate in this space. They had the longest string of hit games in history. And they wanted to get back together again."

The startup hasn't set out to simply port old school Atari games to iOS though. The goal is to recapture the feel of legacy arcade gaming--a time when coin-operated machines vied for quarters and the games within had to be immediately and repeatedly fun, or they'd fail to fish additional quarters from gamers' pockets.

Sure gaming has grown vastly diverse since that era, but the correlations between classic arcade games and popular mobile games are undeniable. Asteroids and Centipede helped put gaming on the map by being simple, fun, and addictive, while games likes Angry Birds, Tiny Wings, and Fruit Ninja have cashed in big time by following the same basic formula.

Innovative Leisure currently has seven titles in development and expects to ship its first game in summer 2012. THQ has invested in the startup and reserves first rights to publish its releases. As of this writing, the team is focusing exclusively on iOS, so if (like me) you're rocking an Android device, you're not likely to have games from Innovative Leisure in your hands anytime soon.

About the author

Blake Robinson got his start in tech as a semi-professional gamer. He was the first Managing Editor of CrunchGear, the former gadgets and electronics arm of TechCrunch. His writings on new and emerging technologies have been featured in ReadWriteWeb, Mashable, TechCrunch, Silicon Alley Insider, paidContent, Uncrate, Conde Nast and Ziff Davis. Blake splits his time between San Francisco and New York.

 

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