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Monday, November 17, 2003 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.

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HipSoft gamesters play for download market, score $100,000 prize


ROD MAR / THE SEATTLE TIMES
The owners of Redmond-based HipSoft are, from left, Brian Goble, Bryan Bouwman and Garrett Price. Their "Digby's Donuts" game won the $100,000 first prize in a RealNetworks contest.
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What: HipSoft, an Internet game developer based in Redmond

When: Founded in November 2002

Who: Three owners: Brian Goble, 36, Bryan Bouwman, 33, and Garrett Price, 37

Why: Nine years ago, Goble, Bouwman, Price and three others founded Monolith Productions, a Kirkland-based game-development company that produces high-quality video games — "No One Lives Forever" is one title — for multiple platforms, including Sony PlayStation 2 and the PC. The three decided to branch out into the emerging market for casual and downloadable gaming, so they left Monolith Productions to start HipSoft.

Role-playing: Bouwman and Goble are programmers and handle business operations, and Price is the artist.

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Product line: HipSoft offers four games: "Digby's Donuts," "Five Card Frenzy," "MicroMan's Crazy Computers" and "Lucky Streak Poker."

Audience: Men and women over 35

Nice guys: The games include no violence, and Goble said they're designed to a high level of quality, with higher resolution, added characters and high-tech audio.

Comfort zone: "We take ideas that people are familiar and comfortable with and put our own twist on it," said Goble. "We create themes that people can identify with."

How much: $14.95 to $19.95 per download

It's in the strategy: The company plans to stay small so it can stay focused on its games. It strives to create strategic partnerships with game networks and large distribution Web sites like Yahoo! and MSN.com.

Breaking through: The biggest challenge the three owners face is getting their games onto bigger Web sites and making their games well-known.

New release: "Sportball Challenge," a sport-themed arcade action game with both competition and solo modes of play is scheduled to be released Nov. 26.

Big time: HipSoft entered its latest game — "Digby's Donuts" — in RealNetworks' contest, RealOne Arcade Game Developer Showdown, and won first place. That meant a $100,000 prize, promotions and exclusive distribution on RealNetworks' site.

Into the future: HipSoft hopes to branch out to different platforms, such as cellphones or the Macintosh. It expects to keep averaging four game releases a year.

— Marisa Dorazio

Copyright © 2003 The Seattle Times Company

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