Kabam Planning a Major Social Game Release Based on “The Godfather”

Kabam may not be as well known as other social game makers, like Zynga, but its next big release is based on one of the most recognized modern-day movies: “The Godfather.”

The Redwood City-based company has teamed up with Paramount Digital Entertainment to build The Godfather: Five Families, a big-budget social game for Facebook, based on the American Mafia classic.

The game will be set in the Prohibition era of the 1930s, preceding the setting of the first film by about 10 years. Players and five crime families will battle for money, power, and respect with the ultimate goal of becoming “Don” of a family.

The game’s release on the social network represents one of the largest intellectual property bets on the platform yet.

To date, the game charts have been mostly dominated by independent titles, such as Mafia Wars, Crime City, FarmVille and Restaurant City, depending on the genre.

The shift to using more brand names has started to ramp up recently, with titles such as Ubisoft’s Smurfs & Co. and Electronic Arts’ Sims Social, which have been able to build large audiences in the past couple of weeks.

But it’s unclear whether the platform will continue to be driven by original titles or evolve as Hollywood pegs it as its next creative outlet.

The heavily venture-backed company declined to disclose the terms of its agreement with Paramount, but in the past, game makers have licensed big brands with mixed results.

Oftentimes, IP-holders are able to demand big upfront fees in addition to guaranteed payouts. It’s not clear if that model would be the same with social games, given that they are typically free to play and monetized through advertising and virtual goods.

The Godfather: Five Families will also be free, and, like other games made by Kabam, will fall into the “hardcore game” category.

Hardcore games are typically role-playing action games that can be played by multiple players at once. They are also typically played on videogame consoles with high-definition graphics, a large screen and a heart-pounding soundtrack.

Kabam is betting that there is an opportunity for hardcore games on Facebook, by mixing competitive game play with your group of friends.

Kabam is now allowing people to sign up for a closed beta, and expects the open to occur later this year.

Larry Koh, a general manager at Kabam and executive producer for the game, gave me an early glimpse at the game, which has a massive game board illustrated with extremely detailed and dark, menacing graphics, which is a dramatic shift from the cartoonish art and happy, smiling characters found in most Facebook games today.


Koh said that even though the art cannot have the same fidelity as a console, it was taken very seriously — Kabam recruited top talent from Bungie and Electronic Arts, as well as animators from DreamWorks.

For instance, when you win a battle against an opponent, you will see a full screenshot of your player walking away from a street full of bodies, illuminated by headlights and the New York City skyline in the background. And when you lose, you will find a member of your family sprawled on the ground bleeding.

Koh said the game also draws on similar mechanics found in other massively multiplayer online games or role-playing games found on consoles. The game requires intense collaboration in order to succeed, and emphasizes combat and battles. Additionally, there’s a reward system that encourages players to team up and fight other players’ families.

There will also be some familiar mechanics for those who do play social games. Players will have to build up their resources, such as cash and cement, to build more businesses and establishments. You will have to build up troops, including thugs and enforcers.

Like the movie says: “It’s not personal … it’s strictly business.”

In this case, with social games, it’s both personal and business.

 


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