USA 2014Video Coverage

Mark Gazecki Keeps Having Start-up Ideas | Casual Connect Video

August 26, 2014 — by Catherine Quinton


“Over the past few years, a bunch of things have changed,” Mark Gazecki said during his session at Casual Connect USA 2014. “For one, the classic TV demographic has become gamers. This wasn’t the case five or ten years ago. The other thing is that there’s mass market reach, true mass market reach, just like prime time television. Social games have started to be just like that, with the same kind of reach.”

Mark Gazecki, Co-Founder & Executive Producer, MegaZebra

Mark Gazecki has always loved video games, right from the first Atari and Commodore 64 games, and he has never lost that love. Years later, while working in venture capital, he looked at many online games companies. With the growth of browser games, he decided to leave venture capital and founded Game Genetics, a game distribution business for online and mobile games. Then he started MegaZebra, a developer for cross-platform games, and HoneyTracks, which he describes as a company that does interesting things with data for games companies. Gazecki has an MBA from Harvard Business School and feels it was truly amazing to be able to spend two years in an incredible environment with extraordinarily talented people.

Filling Some Friends’ Needs

It just happened that he ended up in the games industry, and Game Genetics was his start. Then he kept on having startup ideas. MegaZebra started after Game Genetics was out of the gate when a few friends, who were running social networks at the time, asked if his company could provide them with social games which leverage social graph functions. Since Game Genetics was a distribution business without any such games, he asked them to wait a couple of months. He then looked for co-founders, and soon after, MegaZebra had developed their first social games and was putting them up on Facebook and other social networks.

It is the creative process that keeps Gazecki intrigued with games. He finds the work intellectually stimulating because these are complex entertainment products which bring together many disciplines. And he finds the people in the games industry passionate, driven, and humble.

Gazecki believes the next important trend in the games industry will be games that incorporate TV type experiences. MegaZebra is already trying this with their new game, Suburbia.

Gazecki believes the next important trend in the games industry will be games that incorporate TV type experiences, like what is done in their new game, Suburbia.

Loving The Cross Platform Experience

These days, Gazecki is playing a lot of Suburbia. As well, he tests many games on Facebook, iPad, and iPhone. Some of these are Farmville 2, Hay Day, Disney City Girl, and Surviving High School. He especially likes gaming on his iOS devices because he enjoys both their interface and Airplay connectivity, which allows him to connect music, video, and games with speakers and large screens. He says, “I feel that the cross-platform experience is starting to be awesome!”

He also still enjoys using his PS3, mainly for sports games, but also the occasional game of Assassin’s Creed or Red Dead Redemption. He insists that consoles deliver the best big screen experience, and he enjoys sports games most on a console. And he says, “Just like in the old days, recently we got a group together again to hook our controllers up to one Playstation and get the game on.”

When he is not involved with work, he likes DJing and producing music, mainly hip-hop and funk. These are also the music genres he listens to, as well as Kraftwerk, the German electro pioneers. He would love to have a startup idea in the music sector, but that hasn’t happened yet. If that doesn’t happen and if it wasn’t for more work in the games industry, he claims he would produce hip-hop music and drive cabs to actually be able to earn a living.


DevelopmentExclusive InterviewsGame Design

Tim LeTourneau on Three Things to Think About When Designing Free-to-Play Games

July 16, 2013 — by Emanuel Maiberg


Tim LeTourneau_HeadshotZynga’s Chief Creative Officer Tim LeTourneau suggests that there are a few basic questions that every developer should ask before designing a free-to-play game. “Why are we doing this, who are we doing this for, and how are we going to do it?” LeTourneau asks before setting out on a new project. Meaning, what is the business opportunity, who is the audience, and how can the team accomplish its goals with the available resources.

“It’s simple,” LeTourneau said, “I’m constantly surprised that there are companies and teams that don’t answer those three questions. You might know who you’re making something for and how you’re making it, but you’ve never stepped back and said, why are we making it, what specifically do we think this addresses? And sometimes developers make a game because they think it will be awesome, but there’s little consideration for who they’re making it for.”

LeTourneau started his career in the games industry in 1990 working at Electronic Arts’ customer support department. From there, he went on to a 10-year run of producing The Sims games and eventually became VP & GM of The Sims Studio. “I came to Zynga in 2011 because I thought that social gaming was not a fad,” he said. “I watched my wife, who never played games with me, all of a sudden have a daily gaming habit. I wanted to understand how it works.” At Zynga he started learning on the FarmVille team and ended up leading the team that created FarmVille 2, Zynga’s current, biggest hit. As CCO, LeTourneau spends most of his time consulting with all of the different game teams at Zynga, helping them understand what their focus is by following his philosophy.

It’s very much about understanding who the audience is, and understanding that they don’t bring any knowledge of what you’re making into the experience.

LeTourneau explained that the approach to the audience was a key difference between The Sims and The Sims 2. “It’s amazing how many games are taken out of the hands of the gamers they were intended for, mainly because of the people making the games. We get bored with what we’re doing and we continue to make them harder, and we have knowledge that the gamer doesn’t have. Sims 2 is a great example of that. There are so many things that I would go back and do differently. We ended up making the game for people who were still playing The Sims, but the reason The Sims ultimately worked is nobody had proven knowledge of it. It had to be a game that worked for everyone.”


This lesson guided LeTourneau and his team going into development on FarmVille 2. It’s not a game made exclusively for current FarmVille players. It’s a FarmVille game that’s targeted specifically at the players that maybe never played Farmville before. “It’s very much about understanding who the audience is, and understanding that they don’t bring any knowledge of what you’re making into the experience. You have to introduce them to it in a way that they all feel like they belong.”

While his “who, why and how” philosophy is applicable to all projects, there are issues and questions that arise specifically when designing a free-to-play game. During his lecture at Casual Connect, LeTourneau will also discuss how to build a functioning in-game economy, plan for the future of the game and create meaningful social connections between players.

Find out more about Casual Connect’s lectures and sessions here.