Interviews

Taking control: Brass Monkey's Mike Kanarek reveals why he's turning smartphones into game controllers

Looking for Unity, HTML5 and Flash developers

Taking control: Brass Monkey's Mike Kanarek reveals why he's turning smartphones into game controllers
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Brass Monkey is a web portal for games.

That, in itself, may not sound particularly original or even exciting, but Brass Monkey's USP is that it allows players to use their smartphones as touchscreen controllers for web-based games.

It's an approach that allows for mobile gaming without thumbs obscuring the on-screen action, and local multiplayer gaming without the need for expensive consoles and additional proprietary controllers.

But Brass Monkey's ambitions are larger - its own literature likens the set up to Nintendo's Wii U, and promises developers the ability to build games with features similar to traditional consoles.

To find out what that means, and who exactly Brass Monkey is targeting, we spoke to product manager Mike Kanarek.

Pocket Gamer: What is Brass Monkey, and how does it work? Mike Kanarek: Brass Monkey is a web based console – a gaming portal site that allows users to use an iOS or Android device as a controller and browse and play games on any device that can display a web browser and connect to wifi.

Smart Devices - controllers - connect to the browser over wifi, resulting in a very low latency controller.

What's your target audience? The Brass Monkey website compares the tech to the Wii U, and talks about letting "developers create games with similar features to traditional consoles."

Our ideal end user is a 'mid-core' gamer, someone who's looking for a deeper experience than a typical iOS or Android game, but not necessarily a hardcore FPS/RTS experience.

Wii and Wii U gamers also seem like a natural fit for Brass Monkey.

We see a lot of potential for social spaces - dorms, people who like to hang out and play games - and among audiences that like games but perhaps aren't certain about spending $300 for a console.

That includes younger audiences who need to convince their parents to do the purchasing for them. After all, with Brass Monkey, you don't need to purchase anything if you already own a smartphone.

For developers, our target is any developer building based games in Unity, HTML5 or Flash.

We're especially interested in developers who are building the sorts of games that are traditionally not released as web games – including Wii style games, games with local multiplayer, etc.

We're especially interested in independent developers who need to think long and hard before they purchase an Xbox or PS3 devkit. Ours is free.

Do you have any plans to integrate Brass Monkey into smart TVs? That seems like an obvious implementation of the tech.

Our strategy is to target browsers and smart TVs have browsers in them. We'd love to work with them. The issue right now is the mix of different standards in smart TV browsers.

We're very interested in finding a partner like Ouya, or seeing a standard develop for smart TV browsers that we can work with.

How much effort is required for a developer to integrate controls into their existing games?

In our experience a reasonably experienced Flash, Unity or HTML5 developer can have a control scheme up and running in their game in 2-3 hours from the moment the first get our devkit.

Depending on the complexity of the controls tuning may take longer, but at that point it's about game design, not integration.

How are Brass Monkey games monetised?

That's up to the individual developer. Our site allows for free games, games with virtual goods, pay per session and pay to unlock games.

We're also considered allowing for ads to be served into the handset. We have a virtual currency that works in the same way as Microsoft Points on XBLA.

How would interested developers go about getting their games onto Brass Monkey?

Drop me an email, mike [at] playbrassmonkey [dot] com, and I'll get you started.

Or if you're the self-starter type you can just go to playbrassmonkey.com/developers and download the appropriate kit.

You need to be working in Unity, HTML5 or Flash, and your game needs to be able to run in a browser.

Thanks to Mike for his time.
James Nouch
James Nouch
PocketGamer.biz's news editor 2012-2013