Two Way Media is a small studio with only seven fulltime employees but with a long history. “The basis of the company was founded in the 90s, we’ve done lots of things and built and sold many different elements within games and TV technology,” James Turner, their CEO, says. Officially founded in 2003, Two Way Media is based among other studios and developers in Playhubs, a co-working space located within Somerset House in London.
The studio mainly focuses on developing casual games for smart TV which are published by the UK cable company Virgin media. Some of their games are 100% original ideas while others are licensed – for example a quiz game Who wants to be a millionaire which is based on a popular TV show. It is mostly quiz or casino games and players control them with the same remote which they use to switch between channels. “It’s a different way of playing games. TV is a shared device, it’s not your own mobile or tablet, so the games are better suited for people who can play them at the same time – not necessarily multiplayer but just ones where you might be interested in watching other people play or participate in a quiz. It has its own niche, we target at people who don’t consider themselves gamers. When you’re set away from the screen and have a remote control in your hand, you can only control a certain amount of things,” James Turner explains.
Apart from this content, some of their games are available for Amazon Kindles, web and mobile platforms but predominantly the focus is on TV. But the biggest success of the Two Way Media studio is what defines the style most of their games: bringing a model of gameplay to TV which has not been done before. “We were the first company to bring free to play to television,” James Turner says.
Two Way Media have recently released a new game called Two Words. Being the first turn based word game for TV for two players, it is somehow a minimalistic version of Scrabble. Players start with seven letters, take turns to create words with them and each must connect with, cross over or extend the previous word. Unlike Scrabble, after each turn, the previous word is removed so the game does not expand over a large playing board. When all tiles are used up, the player with the higher score wins. The studio’s original goal was to create another local game but they pushed the idea even further. The concept was turned into a multiplayer for Virgin Media customers and as a turned based game, it can go well with their viewing patterns. “You watch a show, the commercial break comes on so you jump into the game quickly and then resume to watching the show. One of the outcomes for us is whether people will do that and also whether they enjoy it. If we had a game format that we would know is really interesting for people to play together then it is something that we could take to mobile,” James Turner says.
The game is designed to suit a certain viewing pattern, this is also an opportunity to test a new product and see how the audience gets accustomed to it. “Because you don’t use TV only for video anymore – you’ll be using it to see what’s on, to watch a film or sports and so on and there are only certain times when you’ll want to stop doing that and start playing a game. And we hope that this game – because you can take a turn really quickly – can fit into the viewing cycle,” James Turner says. Unlike playing mobile games where the user has to be connected through Facebook for example, for playing Two Words the player does not have to create a profile and the system matches him or her with strangers.
The studio wanted to make a multiplayer game for some time already but such games require a number of people to be available at the same time which might not typically happen with TV users. “That’s why we didn’t want to make a real time multiplayer because there wouldn’t necessarily be enough people around – Virgin Media is kind of a closed TV network with around 2.5 million TiVo homes. Our game is turn based and can be played asynchronously. I can take a turn, pass it to you and then wait for you to play,” James Turner explains why Two Words have the potential to become popular among TV users. The concept is much simpler in comparison to a typical board game and does not require as much strategy either. Two Way Media have invented a brand new trend for TV users: a multiplayer word game for non-gamers.