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A new high for the Scrabulous-deprived

By Karin Kloosterman, Israel21c

November 7, 2008 | 5:02 pm

Brother and sister team Guy and Galia Ben-Artzi aim to make game development easier with their new online game site.<br />
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Brother and sister team Guy and Galia Ben-Artzi aim to make game development easier with their new online game site.

When the addictive "Scrabulous" application disappeared from Facebook this past summer due to copyright infringement, thousands of online gamers who'd been playing together religiously felt orphaned. Suddenly a void was created in the way these people engaged, socialized and shared with their family and friends. But there is a new kid in town for gamers, and it is one that is expected to have much longer staying power.

Founded in 2006 by a brother-sister Israeli American duo raised in Silicon Valley, Mytopia offers real-time multiplayer play for the classic games you love. Poker, Sudoku, dominos, chess, checkers and much more are ready for multiplayer play -- online straight from Mytopia's site (mytopia.com), or ready for play through popular social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace.

On the run when you have to make your next move in the chess tournament? No problem. Cell phones and hand-held devices like the iPhone can let you pick up play and access your Mytopia game anywhere there's reception.

Focused on synchronous play, Mytopia lets a player build a team with players from around the world, or play against a small or large number of players to win prizes from virtual shops that you can cash out for real goods.

"In a nutshell, Mytopia's doing two things," said company co-founder Galia Ben-Artzi, 26, who is also director of the company's business development. "It provides building tools to allow developers to create multiplayer games, which are then automatically delivered to a number of top operating systems."

Then there are the games themselves: "We've build a robust place with casual games -- online real time and with real people," Ben-Artzi said.

Making sure not to infringe on the copyrights of other game companies, Mytopia starts online players off with 1,000 "Mytopia nuggets"; it costs $9.99 a month to play the games from your cell phone.

Located in Kiriat Ariel in Israel, but incorporated as a Delaware company in the United States, Mytopia has 23 staff members dedicated to building the new platform.

Guy Ben-Artzi, 29, works with the developers, mainly in Israel, while Galia, his little sister, works out of Silicon Valley.

The brother-sister team enjoys working together.

"That question always comes up," Galia Ben-Artzi said. People want to know what it's like building a start-up with her brother: "It's incredible," she said. "We are Israelis and this is what we do. We fight our battles together. I couldn't have found a more trusting partner," she said.

There are currently about 1 million Mytopia users, with 300,000 people playing by cell phone. Sixty percent of the players are from the United States.

Once signed in, Mytopia games include competitions, matches and messaging opportunities. Now in Beta mode, in the future Mytopia plans to offer sponsorship opportunities and premium subscriptions as well.

Young game developers will love that it's now easier to focus on the creative side of building multiplayer games. Part of Mytopia's mission is to build the tools that make it easier for game developers to deploy complex, rich media across multiple platforms simultaneously.

"That means small teams can work more efficiently, focusing their energy on making great content and wasting less time porting code from one system to another," the company's Web site says.

Known as the Real Time Universal Gaming System, Mytopia's technology, developed in-house, allows a game developer to build code in standard programming languages and then compile native applications for every C-based Smartphone, Java and Flash instantly.

This way gamers will have an easier time developing their entertainment, and the result is that more people will be playing and enjoying them.

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