You crazy for this one, Happy Giant: Jay-Z wants his Facebook game 'to be better than a Zynga game'

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You crazy for this one, Happy Giant: Jay-Z wants his Facebook game 'to be better than a Zynga game'
When Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter isn't busy keeping it real, he's got an empire to run. That means everything from his bread and butter (music production – it's perpetually Jay's "final album") to his assorted business ventures (everything from clothing to pro sports teams). And this week he added one more job to that list: game developer. Er ... not exactly. You see, Jay-Z has conscripted "high-end brand service" company Happy Giant to craft a Facebook game, entitled (fittingly enough): Empire.

The game left closed beta this week, and we grabbed its creator, Happy Giant's Michael Levine, to discuss the game's famous progenitor, its mobile aspirations, and keeping it real. We're told that last one is pretty important to Mr. Carter.

"This is anything but a typical licensing deal," Levine said. Apparently, former Sony Music chairman Tommy Mottola is a partner in Levine's other business venture, a kid-focused virtual world known as "Planet Cazmo," and he proposed a meeting with Jay-Z's former lawyer. "A guy named – and this is his real name - Michael Guido," Levine said.

From there, Guido introduced Happy Giant to Jay. "We really worked closely with them for the last nine months, with Jay and his team, just trying to make everything as authentic as possible." How authentic, you ask? Apparently to the point of contention over which rule set the cee-lo minigame would contain. Again, we're told Jay likes to keep it real.

"To his team's credit, they really pushed us on the level of the art and ... they wanted it to be better than a Zynga game, in terms of how it looked and just the authenticity," Levine added.

The game follows a young upstart of your creation as he makes his way from Brooklyn's (in)famous Marcy Projects (where Jay-Z began his career) through various stopovers along Jay-Z's rise to fame (Manhattan, South Beach, LA, London, and the Caribbean are all mentioned). The team apparently proposed starting at various locations, to which Jay-Z put his foot down. "No, everybody starts in Brooklyn," Levine related from an earlier conversation with the big man.

Along the way you'll face a Facebook version of "rap battles," as well as several minigames. Levine sees said minigames expanding to a mobile app at some point, though he's not sure when that kind of work will begin. "As you know, the world moves fast these days. So, we're gonna test it out on Facebook, and then we're already talking about bringing it to mobile," he told us.

Empire is currently in open beta and available for free on Facebook. Please be sure to keep it real while playing.

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