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April 17, 2017 Shop Talk

Framingham firm recreates Game of Thrones authenticity

Jon Radoff, co-founder and CEO of Disruptor Beam, Inc. in Framingham

When he was 19, Jon Radoff met his wife Angela Bull in an online game, where they felt they could develop something better. Following multiple other ventures, the duo founded Disruptor Beam in Framingham in 2010 and have since developed three social games based on some of today’s hottest entertainment licenses: Game of Thrones Ascent, Star Trek Timelines and The Walking Dead: March to War. Now employing 103, the company finished an $8.5-million funding round in February and signed a lease in March to move into new offices at 100 Pennsylvania Ave. in Framingham.

How did you convince Game of Thrones creator George R.R. Martin to give you the license for your first game?

It took me one year just to get a meeting with George. When we finally met, George loved the idea that we had, which was to take the universe of Game of Thrones, the politics and the character-driven interactions and try to bring that to life in a social game. You might call it an anti-social game, given how characters treat each other in Game of Thrones.

How was it received back in 2013?

We were told by a lot of people in the industry, “Why would you take a license like Game of Thrones and create a universe based on that, when you can just create your own thing?” My thinking was it was going to be harder to rise above the noise in the industry, and we were going to do that by working with the most beloved entertainment brands.

Today, we’ve had 11 million signups from Game of Thrones Ascent.

Next was Star Trek Timelines in 2016. How did you make that stand out?

There has been a lot of Star Trek games over the years, and a lot of them have missed the mark for one reason or another. What makes Star Trek very challenging is that it is very complex: it isn’t just about fighting, for example.

Star Trek is so much more than that: it is about the technology, the philosophy, the spirit of exploration. So, we were true to the IP,  which is core to what we do at Disruptor Beam – authenticity is job No. 1 any time we create a product.

How does staying true to the IP help?

This is something at Disruptor Beam that we have done to our success, which is to capture the the authenticity of a world and surfacing it within a game.

You have to fight more to get these licenses. We were fortunate with Game of Thrones Ascent we had proven ourselves good storytellers, proven we know how to monetize and engage audiences.

Did that help you get The Walking Dead?

For The Walking Dead folks, it was really about the idea you are recreating civilization. You have these communities clashing with each other, and – in a way – are going through everything human civilization went through over time. They wanted to focus more on that human conflict, rather than with the walkers. The Walking Dead: March to War comes out this year.

How will you spend the $8.5 million?

For us, there are a lot things you have to do to be successful in this business, which is what makes it so hard. That is everything from the fact that we need a publishing resource in the company – we are not only a developer but a marketer of games – but it is also technology investments to support all that. We have invested a lot to understand how customers use our products, so we can provide a more enjoyable experience for them.

Why did you decide to relocate?

We are bursting at the seams here. We are actually split up over a couple of offices. First, we need to increase the amount of space to accommodate the hires we’ve made and the hires we will be making. Second, we don’t like having people split up; we want it all to be continuous so people can work better together.

How big is the new space?

It is 30,000 square feet, which is double the combined space we have here.

When will you move?

It is up to the construction companies. We are moving into a space that is down to the bricks now, so it will be a few months.

Does Massachusetts have a skilled workforce to accommodate your needs?

This is a very good region for talent. People we hire here tend to stick around, as opposed to the West Coast, which is more of a revolving door. Our attrition rate is very low; less than 10 percent of the people we have hired have left.

This interview was conducted and edited for length and clarity by Brad Kane, WBJ editor. 


Framingham firm recreates Game of Thrones authenticity

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