Looking oh so casual in a red T-shirt, jeans and tennis shoes, Rob Glaser today described why RealNetworks is spinning off its games business, the role that Facebook is having on the game industry and whether he would buy the popular online word game Scrabulous.
The conversation — moderated by Wired’s Frank Rose — started with Glaser explaining why Real decided to spin off its games business later this year. The big reason, he said, is that the casual games industry has expanded to the point where it is not just a “PC phenomenon.” Casual
games are becoming more connected to the mainstream gaming industry, including the console and hand-held games developed for Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo game devices.
Given the size of the opportunity, Glaser said “if we let it loose completely, we thought it has an even better opportunity to shine and have a huge impact on the industry for many years to come.” He plans to stay connected to the spin off by maintaining a board seat and large
equity interest, though he said he won’t follow in the path of Apple’s Steve Jobs who once famously ran two companies at the same time.
Glaser compared the spin off of the games business — which will take more than $100 million in annual sales from Real — as the equivalent to a kid graduating from high school and heading to college. The Seattle entrepreneur also discussed the appeal of Nintendo’s Wii, Apple’s iPhone and Facebook.
As it relates to the Wii, Glaser said within the first 10 minutes of playing a bowling or tennis game he knew it was a “transformational experience.” He was later convinced when his wife — far from a hard core gamer — got hooked on some of the Wii’s interactive elements.
“When you actually look at the technology, it is not like they split the atom,” he said. “But they envisioned what you could do with the right kind of inputs from the controller.”
Meanwhile, mobile games have been relatively slow to take hold, primarily due to the merchandising challenges. But Glaser thinks that may change with the introduction of the iPhone, for which his company recently created a new “South Park” game. Even though the iPhone accounts for just one percent of all handsets, he hopes that it will help spark “indirect energy” for mobile games on other devices.
RealNetworks has only dipped its toe in the water for games distributed on Facebook, with Glaser saying that it represents a “tale of two cities.” That’s because a hot game on Facebook can attract large numbers of users, but making money from the audience remains