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Social gaming startup Disruptor Beam brings on Hank Howie as new chief operating officer

Posted by Scott Kirsner  July 30, 2012 09:00 AM

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The Boston game development studio Disruptor Beam is adding an industry veteran as its chief operating officer: Hank Howie, formerly head of Blue Fang Games and more recently the co-founder of Beach Cooler Games. Howie will oversee the business operations at Disruptor Beam as CEO Jon Radoff spends more time focusing on product; the seven-person studio is currently working on an online game tied to the hit HBO series Game of Thrones.

There's no release date yet for the Facebook-based game, which Radoff says has been in development since last December. But Radoff hints that it'll be later in 2012 or early 2013.

Earlier in his career, Howie was president of Blue Fang Games, the creator of Zoo Tycoon, a top-selling PC game, and also the Facebook games Zoo Kingdom and Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? In 2009, Howie tried to shift Blue Fang from a developer of PC & console games to a more Facebook and mobile-oriented studio. But Blue Fang dissolved in 2011. Howie's next venture was Beach Cooler Games, a virtual studio — it relied on contractors rather than full-timers, and didn't have an office — that produced the mobile game Universal Movie Tycoon in partnership with the Toronto-based game publisher Fuse Publishing. Beach Cooler has also been working on a second game with Fuse, which Howie wouldn't name, but which will be released later this year.

"I'm trying to finish up Beach Cooler's obligations, and I'll be starting full-time at Disruptor Beam on August 1st," Howie says. He'll be responsible for business development, licensing, distribution deals, and publisher relationships.

Disruptor Beam's staff, along with an army of more than 30 contractors, is working solely on the "Game of Thrones Ascent" game right now, Radoff says, working with HBO and George R.R. Martin, the author of the novels upon which the cable series is based. "We're trying to bring triple-A, console-like game sensibilities to social gaming," he says, "with higher production values and more immersion than people have seen so far." The fans of "Game of Thrones," he points out, have "super-high expectations" for anything linked to the epic TV series, which is set in medieval times and focuses on the rulers of a fictional realm called Westeros.

Disruptor Beam raised a seed round of funding earlier this year from a group of investors that included CommonAngels, Romulus Capital, and current and former executives at Cambridge-based Harmonix Music Systems, one of the area's most successful gaming companies. At the time, Radoff said it was under $1 million.

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Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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