Wes Keltner, 34, at first appears an unlikely mogul in the making: pegged jeans, sneakers and a T-shirt. He apologizes for running late to his office on the industrial-chic third floor of Lexington's Barristers Hall on Main Street, but he was up the previous night working on a Kindle deal for his mobile video game application.
Keltner's mobile video game is Breach & Clear. As you might infer from the title, it centers around being the invading force in risky locations. Players select everything from wardrobe to favorite gun.
Keltner is the founder and creative director of Gun, a video game think tank and publisher, and the game's overseer and executive, but its developers are in Raleigh, N.C. His goal, he said, was to produce a game that "doesn't feel like a game that was built for the iPad."
Breach & Clear lives in a different video game niche from, say, the heavily advertised storytelling and complex-mission game that now dominates the upscale market.
Grand Theft Auto V is a console game — you can play it only on a video game console — that carries a list price of $59.99 and is the kind of game for which you set aside entire evenings.
Breach & Clear is tactics-focused, $2.99 and perfect for those times when you have 10 minutes to kill in a waiting room with your smart phone or iPad. The goal is to make the area secure while keeping your guys from getting killed.
Gamewoof.com's Ian DeMartino said in his review that the game "provides more than enough entertainment to justify the cost of admission." DeMartino called it "a masterful game. As more content comes out it will only get better. ... An incredible bargain."
Breach & Clear already was ranked 15th in top paid apps in the United States and "going bananas" in Asia by the time Keltner spoke before an advertising group last month, he said.
Keltner spoke to the Lexington branch of the American Advertising Federation on Sept. 18 at Al's Bar, saying he was close to finishing his bachelor's degree — lacking a single Spanish class — when he got a business-related call from the Wall Street Journal during class.
He left class to take the call and never went back.
But that's not all there is to Keltner's story. A Kentucky native, Keltner describes himself as a middle-of-the-class student with an erratic college career punctuated by jobs including concessions and management of a Lexington movie theater. He later worked in advertising and marketing. One of Keltner's favorite video games growing up? Rogue Spear, a tactical first-person shooter.
He told the advertising group that he raised capital for his business from sources including Bluegrass Angels, a group of area investors with expertise in a variety of business sectors.
Many people don't realize that working on a video game requires a lot of attention to detail: picking out color palettes, time of day, architecture and weather, he said.
By 2012, Keltner's company Gun Media had become a video game consulting firm. By fall 2013, it had entered the fray with Breach & Clear.
Keltner has sought out not only funding but expertise and buzz in the tightly knit gaming community. He met video game giant Robert Bowling, former creative strategist and community manager for Infinity Ward's Call of Duty series, after he found out the Los Angeles-based legend had a house in Northern Kentucky.
They met at a White Castle near Bowling's home. He had a taste for the little burgers because there are no White Castles where he lives in California.
So, during a meal of a dozen sliders at what Keltner called a restaurant full of "stoner-gamer" dudes — his exact demographic! — the video game guys got to know each other. Bowling is listed as executive producer of Breach & Clear.
"It wouldn't make sense to abandon what I've built," Keltner said. "But maybe we can take to other platforms. ... If you're good at what it is you do, zip codes are irrelevant."