Licensed movie properties are on the way out at AAA developers. No longer does having some game version of a movie instantly result in a profit – in fact, with margins as tight as they are for games releasing on disc these days, it rarely makes sense in all but a handful of cases to make a game version. However, with the rise of free-to-play social gaming, there’s an alternative that can reach a much wider audience than console releases. On the leading edge of this phenomenon is Funtactix, and we talked with their CEO Sam Glassenberg about Mission: Impossible – The Game {page no longer active}.

[a]list: Give us an overview of this property that you’re working on?

Sam Glassenberg: In the past, we’ve had partnerships with premiere upcoming pictures, and this game is one of our biggest yet for Mission Impossible.

[a]list: Why Mission: Impossible?

Sam Glassenberg: Being Mission: Impossible it’s a big action franchise with a massive audience. I think one of the key reasons is the universe is so perfect for the social gaming genre. What is the fantasy of a fan To be an agent and create and alter ego and enter the world of Mission: Impossible. You can partner with your friends, assemble a team, unlock stuff and collect classified intel. It’s really between the gadgets and the notion of assembling a team. It’s based off the Funtactix platform, which we feel is the best way to bring this IP to the genre.

[a]list: Is there a variety of mini-games in Mission: Impossible?

Sam Glassenberg: We’ve been working on it for well over a year now. There’s synchronous and asynchronous elements – it’s largely asynchronous where you can play with friends but not in the same time. The missions are not all the same, so there’s a lot of variety in Mission: Impossible.

[a]list: Do you have a persistent character for the game?

Sam Glassenberg: Your avatar is persistent, and part the value is we have 3d animated avatars. Right now there are 60 gadgets and tools that can be used to complete missions, 50 pieces of clothing to wear, and over 100 weapons. We demonstrated that in Rango if you let players customize their avatar they become more engaged and the same goes here. Similar to Rango, it’s animated and it’s persistent and you continue to level up in the world with your team.

[a]list: What else can you tell me about the gameplay?

Sam Glassenberg: Well, it’s the first movie-based social game to debut on Facebook. There are eight different stories, over 200 missions and 50 different global locals. There’s 150 items you can get for your safehouse as well.

[a]list: How much is based off the new movie, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol?

Sam Glassenberg: A lot of it is the Mission: Impossible franchise. There’s the classic TV series, the three movie installments, and of course the new movie produced by JJ Abrams This is the first deep spy social game; we’re breaking new ground with this, just like with Rango was the first social game based on a movie to launch day and date with the film.

However, to directly answer your question, there will be 40 missions related to the movie, with 20 new characters and 8 new locations, most of which are based on the film. Along with the 20 new weapons and gadgets to equip your team, there is also a new “boss”fight against the leader of the terrorist group.

[a]list: What encouraged Paramount to give the green light on this sort of project? Was it the success of the Rango game?

Sam Glassenberg: Yes, Rango was huge for us. They’re also familiar with our capabilities as a studio; they knew we could deliver a high quality experience. The nice part is, unlike with the other places I used to work, you’re not device dependent here. Using Facebook, the entire fan base can experience it. It’s free-to-play so there’s no barrier to entry and it’s based in Flash and its very accessible. It’s creates an entirely new channel.

Rango: The World

[a]list: How has the game been received so far?

Sam Glassenberg: Since launch, Mission: Impossible – The Game players have completed more than 11 Million missions, discovered, unlocked and collected more than 12 Million gadgets and taken down more than 1 Million Rogue Agents.

We’re blown away by players’ colossal appetites for our game content. In fact we already released our first major campaign expansion just three weeks after the initial launch in order to meet the demand of our extremely active user base.  And this is just the beginning, we have killer content expansions in the works that will continue to offer players exciting missions to unravel, exotic locations to explore and exceptional new game play features to master that break the mold on ordinary Facebook games.

[a]list: Talk to me about your business model with Funtactix.

Sam Glassenberg: One way to think about it, when a big blockbuster movie comes out, there’s significant investment in it and they want to rally the fanbase. We’re taking the assents and letting them bring it to the entire fanbase and extend it out for a period of time, eventually expanding out to include the entire universe of the IP. For Rango, we used assets from the film and we were able to take something and make it appeal to a wide variety of people.

Back in a past life I was focused on the Direct X component of Windows and we wanted people to spend $2,000 on a new gaming rig every year. Now PCs are much cheaper and games are more accessible and I think that’s exciting for people who have never played games before and they’re spending money in the space and its growing. We think film IP is a great opportunity to grow in the social space.

[a]list: It can be a good space to get into, given how tough it is to break into AAA console gaming.

Sam Glassenberg: We’re seeing that the console game business is still a good business, but that market is stagnant. It’s a great market, they spend a lot of money and make a lot of money, but it’s not growing. There’s hundreds of millions of people who are spending money on that, so good for them. For people who don’t want to download something or pay money, they can play on their netbook or whatever. Many of them really really want to get closer to the properties that they love. It’s a marriage of design and quality to deliver out that content to the consumer.

[a]list: So it’s like the gamification of these movie properties.

Sam Glassenberg: We find gamification across the board even outside of game; they’re using their playfulness across the board in products now. Gaming is an incredibly powerful medium and players are excited to explore the universe and with their friends and not just in your hardcore game with an FPS, but also a friend playing asynchronously. It creates a lot of excitement that we’re exploring and unlocking with Mission: Impossible.

[a]list: I know you’ve done a social game for New Boyz. Talk to me about social games trends for music artists.

Sam Glassenberg: Talk about passionate fans! If movie fans are passionate, music fans are incredibly passionate. A game for a particular fanbase, they voted with their wallets and were excited to get virtual merchandise. It’s about creating a channel for entertainment. The focus of movies is the box office and for music is the album but it’s about so much more than that. We can motion capture dance moves and that was one of them more popular virtual goods. Our focus as a company is on high profile IP and our focus is on delivering above and beyond for every product.

[a]list: I could see in the future an opportunity to have a persistent account around these virtual worlds.

Sam Glassenberg: That is a tremendous insight… I won’t say anything more! If a company could do that, how awesome it would be!

[a]list: Anything you want to add about Mission: Impossible – The Game.

Sam Glassenberg: It’s the Mission: Impossible franchise, and we’re excited to talk about it. We’re excited that people are getting out there in the game. The beauty of social games is that they only begin at launch. We’re going to continue to add new content, not only from Mission: Impossible but also based upon what the fans are enjoy.

[a]list: Sam, thanks.

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