Archive for the ‘game mechanics’ tag
Online learning platform, Course Hero, announced today it has added 18 new courses to its catalog, so users can pick up skills like web programming and product design for free.
The Redwood City-based company began as a study supplement and online tutoring service, but recently began offering classes. Unlike Coursera, a platform for online college courses, subject matter experts can teach on Course Hero. The focus is on professional development skills that aren’t typically taught at college.
“Anyone in the world can offer a course on Course Hero,” said Andrew Grauer, the site’s founder and chief executive. Educational content is drawn from all over the web for courses taught in business, photoshop and design, Excel, calculus, algebra and constitutional law.
These courses will always be free to users, but the founders are considering offering premium services like one-on-one tutoring. To access the library of study materials, users pay a $40 per month subscription, or a one-off annual fee of $100.
Once users complete the class, they aren’t given any formal accreditation. Grauer said you can’t prove your aptitude with a piece of paper. Instead, take a class and you’ll be able to pull out a laptop and start programming in HTML5, or work up a solid business plan in hours.
“Our thinking is that there will be alternative methods of certification in the future,” he said. But Grauer, a Cornell grad, would not advise that students drop-out of college. The company makes money through its database of college class notes that would typically be discarded at the end of a semester.
Course Hero is one of many startups with a view to disrupt higher education. But it’s a bit different for a number of reasons: the company has been profitable for over a year, content is crowdsourced, and it uses game mechanics to reward users.
For instance, a team that excelled in one of the entrepreneurship-focusesed classes walked away with $5,000 and an opportunity to pitch investors at SV Angel as a reward.
Grauer told me the site has accumulated a massive database of class notes, exams and assignments by offering students free access to materials in exchange for uploading 40 documents each month. It’s straight up bargaining, and it seems to be working.
The company has also worked out a clever way to curate its content. Unlike Boundless, a competing site, it doesn’t rely on bots or an algorithm. All material uploaded to the site is subject to an extensive peer review process. At least one member of the startup’s 25-person team will take a look once the content has been rubber stamped by a campus-based employee, usually an intern.
The site isn’t just focused on classes. Grauer told me the company recently acquired Cardinal Tutors, a Palo Alto-based tutoring service, to expand to K12 education. The sites will function separately, but Course Hero will benefit from an influx of ivy league-educated tutors.
The site has raised $2.4 million in seed funding from a band of investors, including SV Angel, Maveron, and YouTube’s cofounder, Steve Chen.
Filed under: VentureBeat
Germany’s Gameforge has announced that it is moving into the mobile gaming market. That’s a big transition, since Gameforge is focused on hosting massively multiplayer online games for hardcore gamers on the PC. Shifting to mobile games is an increasingly common crossover strategy for many established game companies.
The Karlsruhe, Germany-based company will focus on mobile games and has developed an in-house engine for mobile games. The company has released three role-playing games for devices running Apple iOS (iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch), Android, and Windows Phone 7. Gameforge has 20 massively multiplayer online games with more than 300 million registered players on the PC. It is late to the mobile market, which is destined to be the ground for the mother of all free-for-all battles, but it can leverage its web-based PC users as it moves into mobile.
A few weeks after the launch, the three games, Mafia Game, Vampire Game, and War Game, have been downloaded and installed more than 2 million times. They achieved top ratings and high chart rankings in the respective app stores, the company said.
For the second half of 2012, Gameforge is readying another blast of mobile games in which players can always interact with each other. The company plans to adapt a number of its online games, including Ikariam, OGame, and Gladiatus, to tablets.
These mobile games will let players access their games from either mobile devices or home computers. Gameforge is also working on a Unity 3D-based game production.
“Given the increasing extent users enjoy games on their mobile devices, it is a strategic decision for game publishers to be present in that field. Our first mobile games for smartphones were a field experiment for us to see how the game mechanics of our successful web games can be transferred particularly to smartphones. They proved to be a successful start in this rapidly growing market segment,” says Gameforge CEO Alexander Rösner. “Our goal is to give players access to our games independently from their given device. The success of our first mobile games tells us that we are on the right way into the mobile future.”
By year end, Gameforge plans to release 10 games. Next year, the mobile division is expected to generate revenues of several million euros for its larger Gameforge Group parent company. Accordingly, the company is hiring more mobile game developers. Gameforge already has 600 employees.
The world mobile game market is expected to grow from $4 billion in sales in 2011 to $8.3 billion in 2014.
Gameforge will show off its mobile games at the Gamescom conference this month in Hamburg, Germany, Aug. 15 to Aug. 18. Gameforge was founded in 2003 by Rösner.
Electronic Arts Sues Zynga, Says The Ville Is An “Unmistakable Copy” Of The Sims. Zynga: EA Doesn’t Understand Copyright (Updated)
Zynga has a bit of a reputation for cloning other game developers’ ideas. Now, the company is being sued by gaming giant Electronic Arts on behalf of its Maxis label for “infringing EA’s copyrights to its Facebook game, The Sims Social.”
Lucy Bradshaw, General Manager of EA’s Maxis Label, says Zynga’s The Ville “copied the original and distinctive expressive elements of The Sims Social in a clear violation of U.S. copyright laws.” The degree to which Zynga copied The Sims, says Electronic Arts, “was so comprehensive that the two games are, to an uninitiated observer, largely indistinguishable.”
Update: Zynga’s response to this, which we just received from a company spokesperson, is that TheVille “builds on every major innovation from our existing invest-and-express games dating back to YoVille and continuing through CityVille and CastleVille, and introduces a number of new social features and game mechanics not seen in social games today.” The company’s General Counsel Reggie Davis also says that it’s “ironic that EA brings this suit shortly after launching SimCity Social which bears an uncanny resemblance to Zynga’s CityVille game. Nonetheless, we plan to defend our rights to the fullest extent possible and intend to win with players.” We included the full response below.
In her blog post, EA’s Bradshaw notes Zynga’s history of cloning other developer’s work. While other small developers may not have the resources to stand up against the social gaming company, Electronic Arts and Maxis have the resources “to do something about it” and that the company is taking a stand “helps the industry protect the value of original creative works and those that work tirelessly to create them.”
Zynga is obviously going through a rough time already. Earlier this week, the company was sued over allegedly misleading financial statements. Zynga Q2 earnings also fell short of expectations, despite the fact that the number of active daily users was up significantly over the last three months. The company’s shares currently trade at under $3.
When the company launched The Ville in June, virtually every reviewer noted the similarities to The Sims Social and many. The game, however, does add a few new features to the genre, including its own build-in social and other small gameplay tweaks. Electronic Arts assumes that Zynga will use these tweaks as a defense against its lawsuit. Bradshaw, however, says EA is “confident in our position, and that we will prevail.”
Update: Here is Zynga’s full response:
“We are committed to creating the most fun, innovative, social and engaging games in every major genre that our players enjoy. The Ville is the newest game in our ‘ville’ franchise – it builds on every major innovation from our existing invest-and-express games dating back to YoVille and continuing through CityVille and CastleVille, and introduces a number of new social features and game mechanics not seen in social games today. It’s unfortunate that EA thought that this was an appropriate response to our game, and clearly demonstrates a lack of understanding of basic copyright principles. It’s also ironic that EA brings this suit shortly after launching SimCity Social which bears an uncanny resemblance to Zynga’s CityVille game. Nonetheless, we plan to defend our rights to the fullest extent possible and intend to win with players.” -Reggie Davis, General Counsel, Zynga
Ten Comebacks I’d Like to See
originally published in MediaPost’s Social Media Insider
It could be the Olympics, or the fear of another early ending to the Mets’ season, or Ben Folds reuniting with the other two guys as they ironically tour again as Ben Folds Five. Whatever the reason, I’ve got comeback fever. While I try to find the cure, I keep thinking about social media. Here are 10 social media comebacks that I’d love to see:
1) Facebook’s stock: As a marketer, I don’t care what Facebook’s share price is. But the price indicates that Facebook is struggling to properly value its assets and communicate that value to marketers and investors. As a public company, Facebook is more accountable to marketers. With ads now appearing in the News Feed and on mobile devices, Facebook is delivering more of what brands want without sacrificing the user experience. It will have to keep moving faster, though.
2) Yahoo’s relevance: Yahoo’s still great for display media buyers, but there was a time when Yahoo was a pioneer in search (well before Google), an innovator in mobile (well before Google), and a scrappy social disruptor (Google’s working on it). Yahoo brought together acquisitions like Flickr (alive, but in need of resuscitation), Delicious (which it sold), and Upcoming (which somehow still exists as a Yahoo brand). OK, its homegrown network, Yahoo 360 ,was a Google Buzz-esque flop, but now its one big social idea is to connect all its pages to Facebook and get people to automatically share everything they read. There better be more. This week’s updates to IntoNow are a start.
3) Hashable’s idea: Hashable had a vision of replacing business cards and making introductions easier. It relied too much on game mechanics, and the company took itself so seriously that it inspired the memorable post “Hashable is Worthless” during SXSW 2011. Someone will come up with a better way to digitally connect people professionally, and when it happens, we’ll probably see just how close Hashable was.
4) Foursquare’s mojo. Yes, Foursquare is growing, and it just released Promoted Updates. The company matters less for what it is than what it was. Foursquare was a catalyst for marketers to expand their thinking around mobile marketing, location-based services, and game mechanics. Now, when I encounter someone using Foursquare, it’s often to get $5 back on their AmEx statement. That’s a great reason to love American Express, but it turns Foursquare into a coupon pusher. I still like and regularly use it, but I want to get back to loving Foursquare again.
5) Groupon’s original approach: Groupon’s etymology derives from its origins as a group buying platform. It was exciting, in the way that winning your first eBay was exciting ten or fifteen years ago. If deals didn’t get enough subscribers, they wouldn’t materialize, much like Kickstarter projects today. If you loved it, you’d need to tell your friends. Who’s bragging to their friends they bought a Groupon now?
6) Barcode Hero and Stickybits. There was a brief time when barcodes were wonderfully weird marketing vehicles. Barcode Hero added a gaming layer to barcode scans. After scanning relevant products, I was the king of Kraft, and even the king of shoes after killing time waiting for my wife to finish up at DSW. Stickybits treated barcodes as a content gateway, so you could scan a code and leave comments, photos, and videos. While neither company was destined to be a mass market hit, it was fun looking at black and white lines and boxes in entirely new ways.
7) Chat bots: Before there was Siri, there was SmarterChild, an instant messaging bot that was a fun alternative to search engines. Before instant messaging, there was Dr. Sbaitso, a DOS program that was the world’s first mass market virtual therapist. They didn’t catch on in time for brands to take part, but Siri will have a longer shelf life.
8) Color’s concept: If Instagram was the “Blair Witch Project” of mobile apps, Color was the “Waterworld.” It had a creative premise but couldn’t live up to the expectations set by its funding. The idea of an app that displays content shared from your immediate location sounds like a great social experiment, and perhaps even an important technology underlying the future of how content will be shared. Color pivoted and is now a video-sharing app. Yawn.
9) Second Life: I have fond memories of hanging out on H&R Block’s virtual island, where the avatars of real tax advisors would answer consumers’ avatars’ tax questions. I also recall another time tagging along with some clique of avatars (this may or may not have been when I met my first virtual furry), and one of them kindly offered me some digital genitalia to make my avatar look less like a Ken doll. Second Life is still around, but it’s been a long time since I’ve seen it in a marketing plan.
10) Digg: Digg introduced millions of people to social discovery, crowdsourcing, and creating content that’s designed to spread through social networks rather than search engines. Now there are new owners that want to make Digg a verb again. I’m especially excited for two reasons. First, Buzzfeed is on the verge of a monopoly for publicizing stories like, “Gotye’s 50 Funniest Kittens at the 2012 Lego Olympics.” Buzzfeed needs more competition. Secondly, as much as I couldn’t stand Digg’s fanboys with their hero worship of the site’s founders, Reddit’s insular crowd of contributors is even worse, voting up photos about – what else? – what it’s like introducing people to Reddit. Digg, you can do better.
I may often get nostalgic, but not everything needs an encore. I’m perfectly happy to say farewell to MySpace, Google Buzz, the hype around widgets, and every game that resembles FarmVille. Yet the Internet is the best comeback generator the world has ever known. It rebooted Betty White’s career, brought “Arrested Development” back from oblivion, and made Nikola Tesla a scientific folk hero. Some of these social media comebacks are destined to happen. When they do, you’ll hear about it – on Digg, from friends sharing a Yahoo story, via SmarterChild, or by scanning a barcode sticker in Second Life.
We had some great discussions at GamesBeat 2012 this year, such as Will Wright’s vision for “personal gaming” and acquiring new users in mobile games. Among the sessions was our discussion, moderated by Martin Rae (head of the game industry group Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences) about game investments and where the smart money is going. Here’s some takeaways from that session that could guide investors, developers, and big companies as they figure out where to put their money next.
1. This year, venture capitalists have pulled back from heavy investments in social games, which accounted for about half of the money invested in the industry last year, according to Tim Merel, the managing director at Digi-Capital. That’s because only a handful of companies, such as Zynga, are doing really well on Facebook. The exception to this is investment in social casino games.
2. Gamification is still drawing investments and still seems to have a lot of runway left. Gamification refers to the use of game mechanics outside of games, such as gamified sales competitions. Now the gamification plays are getting a lot more sophisticated.
3. Mergers and acquisitions are proceeding ahead of last year’s pace, with 2012′s deals already accounting for 88 percent of last year’s total value, Merel said.
4. Asia has a good base for free-to-play massively multiplayer online games. It continues to expand, and it’s also likely to take hold on a global level. (Free-to-play could especially grow in the West thanks to more MMOs dumping the traditional monthly subscription model. It’s even rumored that Star Wars: The Old Republic, so far the biggest MMO launch in the past year, could go free-to-play.)
5. Discovery is still the key problem for mobile and social games, said Jeremy Liew, the managing director at Lightspeed Venture Partners. Game quality matters, but it isn’t enough when it comes to getting noticed on a platform with hundreds of thousands of apps. Liew says game companies need a “foolproof strategy” for getting apps noticed. Licensed brands may be the way to do this. Another way is buying installs, but that gets expensive. Building a great game isn’t the only thing you need for building a great company, said Atul Bagga, a senior equity research analyst at Lazard Capital. Game executives must learn how to run their studios as Internet companies. And that means running games as services.
6. Console game companies are engaged in pivoting toward social, mobile, and online. It’s not just industry leaders like Electronic Arts doing so. These console companies have “whales” for customers, players who don’t mind spending $60 on a game. But they don’t know how to get those same gamers to spend $60 on a social or mobile game. If these console companies can figure out good cross-promotions, where they can move their users across platforms, it could be very valuable, Merel said. Liew said Riot Games managed to migrate an audience from the Defense of the Ancients mod for real-time strategy game WarCraft III to League of Legends, a popular downloadable multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) game.
7. Companies that show they can port games over multiple devices and platforms are the ones that will succeed. That requires a lot more resources and investment than in the past. If you can get people engaged with a game by offering it as a perpetual service, then you have a chance to offer it across multiple platforms, Bagga said. Consumers want the capability to play their favorite game on any platform, any time. Meanwhile, Bagga said, consoles are not going to die.
8. Tablets are underhyped as a gaming platform, said Nabeel Hyatt, a partner at Spark Capital. Next year, he believes consumers will buy more tablets than PCs. Game companies haven’t starting focusing on tablets as their No. 1 platform, but they should think about that.
“They are the TV of the next 10 to 15 years,” Hyatt said. “If you think about how important television is to culture, I think the tablet will be that important to culture.”
Liew believes that tablets will be hot, too, but so far most developers are not taking advantage of the platform’s capabilities. Instead, they are taking old iPhone games and are “up-rezzing” them to the tablets. It makes more sense to target a game to the tablet and its capabilities.
9. Social casino games are hot because they stand on the border between social networks and online gambling sites. Once legal barriers change, casino game makers stand to profit, Merel said. Legislative barriers won’t be easy for startups to navigate, though, Liew said. He thinks that means the land-based casino gambling companies will win this competitive battle in the long run.
10. You can bet that next-generation consoles will embrace free-to-play business models, Merel said. This is why Ouya’s Kickstarter project for an open-source Android console is so popular.
[Photo credit: Michael O'Donnell ]
Knowledge Tree started as an on-premise software company. In 2010, the company pivoted to the cloud. Today, the software-as-a-service (SaaS) company originally from South Africa announced a $4.75 million Series B round of venture capital investmen from River Cities Capital Funds, Core Capital Partners, Hatteras Funds, and lead Series A investor Hasso Plattner Ventures Africa.
Knowledge Tree provides a twist the normally mundane task of document management by using social technologies to help in the authoring and subsequent collaboration around documents within a structured environment.
The structure comes in its workflow technology and features that include audit trails, activity histories, threaded comments and versioning.
Knowledge Tree’s social features combine social discovery with elements of game mechanics. It now has plug-ins to Microsoft Word to collaborate on documents. It plans to offer its own Web-based authoring environment that will allow co-editing, similar to Google Docs. Features also include a leader board on the dashboard that lists the authors who have developed the best content.
Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder Daniel Chalef credits Hasso Plattner Ventures in helping his South African company make the journey to the Southeast United States where it has settled in Raleigh, NC. The company started looking to expand to North Anerica from Cape Town after it started getting calls from Silicon Valley venture capitalists. Hasso Plattner’s VC firm provided the initial $2.2 million in funding to make the move.
It’s a good story and shows the leverage that SaaS plays have in the market. Ten years ago, on-premise software companies would have been the ones making moves from overseas. Today, it’s the SaaS players most sought after. The enterprise market is shifting Investors are looking worldwide for companies that work int he cloud more so than installed on a server in a corporate data center.
Europe is getting its own “game accelerator” entity with today’s launch of GameFounders. The organization is based in Estonia and it provides advice, a mentor network, and $12,300 to $18,500 (10,000 to 15,000 euros) in seed funding.
GameFounders is taking applications now for a three-month program, with a deadline of July 10. The group says it welcomes applications from game startups of any kind. It plans on including 10 teams into the program for its first class. As game startups become more popular, so too are services for those startups such as accelerators, which help startups get traction faster.
Game accelerators such as YetiZen, Game Dojos and Joystick Labs are in the U.S. GameFounders takes a 9 percent equity stake in return for funding, advice, and office space. It is looking for ideas in gaming and gamification (or the use of game mechanics in non-game applications). GameFounders has more than 60 mentors from around the world. They include veterans such as Paul Bragiel and they have a relationship with Game Dojos in San Francisco. GameFounders is supported by Enterprise Estonia.
Filed under: games
Kuato Studios plans to use artificial intelligence and gaming technology to teach children how to program a computer. As such, it is the latest startup to try to “gamify,” or use game mechanics to foster interest in non-game applications, education.
The company is creating a virtual game world for children and teens to explore. They can perform actions in the world by writing lines of computer code. A tutorial will walk them through the process so that even neophytes can learn programming, said Frank Meehan (pictured below, left), chief executive of London-based Kuato, in an interview with GamesBeat.
The iPad game also does something pretty smart. It adapts its difficulty level based on how well you do with each problem. Meehan showed me a scene where you could set a butterfly free if you correct some corrupted code.
“You’re learning code so you can survive,” Meehan said. “We’ll have graphics that are cool and a game that is fun to play while you learn the core principles of coding, graphic design, and science.”
Kuato has licensed its AI technology from SRI, the same research institute that created the AI technology behind Siri, which spun out of SRI International and was acquired by Apple for use it its iPhone. SRI did ground-breaking work on virtual personal assistant (VPA) technology as part of its Cognitive Assistant that Learns and Organizes (CALO) project started in 2003. Kuato has the license to the technology in the gaming and entertainment industries.
SRI owns an 18 percent stake in Kuato. Kuato’s technology tries to go a step further than Siri, which doesn’t remember your requests. Kuato tries to understand intent and reason, and it builds a profile of you. Then it incorporates that into the game and makes the experience more interactive and adaptive.
“We try to go deeper and understand the player,” Meehan said.
The game is targeting children and teens ages 11 to 15, or the typical age when kids start learning programming. And the game will work on an iPad only and is being designed with Unity 3D development tools.
“Kids want to learn new skills but lots of people who have tried this in the past have failed,” Meehan. “Our approach is that this whole thing wraps around a game.”
The game is about halfway through development and will be released toward the end of the year. (The screen shots are not final and are from the current working prototype). Meehan describes the game as more elaborate than Minecraft. You crash-land on a planet and have to try to terraform it. As you go, you can learn to create creatures and lifeforms on the alien world. The code is executed in a cloud-based server, and the kids learn XML and Java programming, which Meehan says are most appropriate for kids. It’s a different approach from other coding aids such as Code Academy or DreamBox Learning.
Meehan founded the company in November with funding from SRI and Horizons Ventures. Before that, he had been part of the Horizons Ventures team and was a former board member on both Spotify and Siri. He was the leader of a group that created an award-winning 3 Skypephone in 2007 and also the INQ1 handset. His current team includes veterans of video game companies Rockstar Games, Konami, Sony, and other firms.
Zynga said today that it has developed a faster infrastructure for its social games and will make the technology available to third-party game developers through its open third-party platform.
The company made the announcement at its Zynga Unleashed press event. Zynga chief engineer Kostadis Roussos said at the event that the new “optimized game mechanics” technology helped it create the fast-action arcade-shooter game Bubble Safari, which allows players to shoot bubbles at fruit hanging from trees at a fast rate. Starting today, users will be able to play fast-action multiplayer sessions in the Bubble Safari game. That’s a feat that no other social game companies can match today, Zynga claimed.
It may sound simple, but Zynga believes it has a competitive advantage. Zynga was able to do this, Roussos said, by custom-tailoring its data center infrastructure, dubbed zCloud, for its own needs. It took about 80 percent of its social game servers off Amazon.com and began hosting them itself in its own “private cloud.” For every three servers Zynga needed on its public cloud, it only needs one server in its private cloud; that helped cut the cost of its infrastructure dramatically.
This is how Zynga can host 290 million monthly active users (those who log in during a month) and 65 million daily active users. It has more than 22 million daily active players on mobile, and it has players in 175 countries. Across Zynga games, 6 billion neighbor connections currently exist, and Zynga games have been played an astounding 1.8 trillion minutes. Zynga was able to launch its CastleVille game in the fall on Facebook and get 2.8 million players in a week.
Today, millions of players connect to Zynga games at the same time. Zynga releases 100 updates to its games every day, and it tests thousands of features in a given week to see if they are fun. The company’s players engage in 1 million activities every second.
“We can find out within minutes if millions of players enjoyed a change we made in a game,” Roussos said. “That helps us know what features are fun.”
Zynga will make the fast-action game mechanics available to third-party developers through something it calls Project Darwin, which is also known as the Zynga API (applications programming interface). Zynga’s technology allows it to reduce the amount of code that is hosted on both servers and on a user’s machine dramatically. This also cuts the number of servers Zynga must buy.
“It goes faster for game players, cuts costs, and cuts code in half,” Roussos said. “It’s like magic.”
In a group meeting with journalists afterward, Jim Veevaert, general manager at Zynga’s arcade division, said that the company is taking full advantage of the new features in the Flash 11 platform, which allows a game to take advantage of any graphics hardware in a computer, as opposed to just its central processing unit.
We’ve been kiiping an eye on Kiip – a platform that replaces straight display ads with rewards and contests from brands in mobile apps to offer a less annonying experience for users — and it looks like we might not be the only ones. The company, which now serves its rewards-based ads into 400 apps across iOS and Android, and has inventory served totalling 100 million moments every month in the U.S., has raised another $8-10 million for what may be an equity stake of up to 20 percent in the company, TechCrunch understands.
We’re still trying to track down more details for this most recent investment; but up to now Kiip has attracted a strong list of backers. Co-founded in 2010 by ex-Digg employees Brian Wong, Courtney Guertin and Amadeus Demarzi, when Wong was still a teenager, its Series A of $4 million last year came from Hummer Winblad, Path’s Dave Morin, True Ventures and Crosslink Capital.
When Kiip emerged out of stealth mode just over a year ago, it based its business around rewards in games — “Game mechanics are what makes games, and there has not been an ad network so far that leverages those mechanics to engage users at the same time,” Wong told TechCrunch last year.
But more recently, it has broadened its reach beyond that with the launch of a self-serve platform in March, which has seen some strong pick-up from non-gaming brands like Pepsi, MapMyRun, and 1-800-Flowers, American Apparel, Procter & Gamble and Dr Pepper, which are incorporating gaming elements into their apps. “This has opened our minds to doing more than just games,” Wong said in an interview this week.
So where would new investment get used? One area might be in international expansion.
Wong this week returned from a visit to Singapore, Hong Kong and China to explore the market, on encouragement from some of the company’s angel investors. He is well aware of the concept of introducing an American company into the market and seems interested in partnering with established, bigger players — the Baidu’s, Shanda’s, and Tencent’s — whenever it does decide to make a move.
“It’s exciting to be a company based around gaming and rewards in China, because gaming is part of the culture, and so are coupons. We combined the two and we can potentially penetrate into that,” he said.
But he also pointed out a significant challenge that has stymied others. “Many American companies take the American approach, and they jam through solutions, using money to buy adoption,” he said. “But in China when you have a market of over 1 billion people, it’s very hard to change internet consumption habits. It can be futile.” Partnering with bigger players is a way to “open up a billion-dollar market.”
The company has also been hard at work courting developers in the last few months, with its $100,000 Build Fund offering independent developers rewards of $5,000, plus pro-bono services from Amazon Web Services ($2,000 worth), Urban Airship, Stackmob, Localytics and Crittercism.
Recipients also get access to advisors connected to the well-connected Kiip, such as Dave Jones (Lemmings, Grand Theft Auto creator); Phil Black from True Ventures; Lee Linden (Tapjoy and KarmaScience co-founder); Roy Bahat (IGN Entertianment president); Lars Leckie (MD of Hummer Winblad); among many others.
Out of hundreds of applicants, Kiip has now announced 20 winners for this first round of the fund (there will be more to come). It’s telling that the list is not only international, and that it contains more than games, with Tinygram (a picture-making app); Discoverful (social travel) and Kahnoodle (date night planner) among the list (the full list is below).
|Studio Name||Title of App||Location||Team Size||Brief Description|
|Massive Finger||Pinball Maniacs||Montreal, Canada||3||An original mix of Pinball and Breakout, Pinball Maniacs is a pinball-inspired adventure game.|
|Tiny Hearts||Instamatch||Toronto, Canada||3||InstaMatch is a clever twist on the traditional card matching game. Using the popular iPhone Instagram app, your goal is to match two similar photos of the same kind.|
|Mutant Games||JetBee||Palma de Mallorca, Spain||4||JetBee is a casual arcade game, where players take control of a bee by tilting the device.|
|Pictorious||Pictorious||New York, NY||6||Pictorious is a photo-sharing app with a twist – users can create competitions and challenge friends to take awesome photos.|
|Fufu Labs||Tinygram||Davao City, Philippines||4||Tinygram lets anyone create 8×8 tile art, with limited color tiles, which they replenish by gifting their artwork to friends, creating a viral loop.|
|LOCQL||Discoverful||Redmond, WA||2||Discoverful is a social travel discovery app. Using geo-tagged and community-rated photos with comments, users can decide on their next travel destinations through browsing photos uploaded by the community.|
|LVL6||Lost Nations||Palo Alto, CA||5||Lost Nations is a fantasy-based MMORPG, where two warring factions are destined to fight for dominance in a post-apocalyptic world.|
|Kahnoodle||Kahnoodle||New York, NY||5||Khanoodle is a part game, part date night planner, and part relationship tool to build intimacy between couples. Couples can earn “kudos” for showing their partner love to get inspired to try new experiences.|
|LovblGames||Unnamed||Arad, Romania||2||Asteroids are falling and your hero is a pterodactyl whose mission is dodge objects, survive volcano eruptions, and fly over fields of magma to safety.|
|Zeenoh Games||Balloon Teaser||Mandaluyong City, Philippines||6||Balloon Getaway is a flying game, where an aviator named Jetro must flee from the bandits who intend to keep him captive.|
|Estudio256||Iron Jack||La Caruna, Spain||5||Iron Jack is a space pilot who is in charge of harvesting and delivering valuable fuel from outer space to the world. Wearing only his emergency jetpack and space suit, Jack flies around the arena, collecting dispersed valuables over unfriendly territory.|
|Alphanoize||CheeseMan||Hennigsdorf, Germany||2||Inspired by Super Meat Boy, CheeseMan is an action platformer game where the player must guide Cheeseman through blades, spikes, and cannon balls to defeat the evil Professor Mousky.|
|Boiled Goose||Merlin’s Marble||Minneapolis, MN||1||Merlin’s Marble is a visually appealing medieval marble roller game featuring 18 levels of ledges, bridges, twists, turns, moving platforms, and elevators.|
|EnsenaSoft||Mahjong Deluxe||Mazatlan, Mexico||9||Mahjong Deluxe is based on a classic Chinese game where your goal is to eliminate all the tiles from the board.|
|Mobuku||Monpon||Los Angeles, CA||4||MonPon is a freemium social game that allows users to grow, nurture, and battle their unique monsters. Players can earn virtual currency for buying different armory, tonics, and potions for their monsters.|
|int13||ARDefender||Paris, France||6||ARDefender is an augmented reality game where your goal is to defend your tower on your desk from nasty opponents. The game uses your phone’s camera to imprint an imaginary “tower” on your desk.|
|Lab 927||Toy Adventures||Natick, MA||1||Toy Adventures is a 2D endless runner type game, where a toy is trying to escape a toy store.|
|Zone 5 Interactive||Tiny Nova||Rego Park, NY||1||Tiny Nova is a face-paced, arcade type game in which the player’s goal is to combine nova seeds, make as many tiny explosions (novas) as you can before the screen is full of nova seeds.|
|Floppy Entertainment||Lil Sherman||Orange Park, FL||7||In Lil Sherman, the player controls a WWII tank that must protect its Command Center and the incoming Convoy of Supplies. It’s a twist on the classic tower defense type game.|
|Sealman Studio||VelociBoard||Budapest, Hungary||5||VelociBoard is an endless runner mobile game, in which the player takes the role of a velociraptor named El Mariachi who plays a guitar while riding on his skateboard.|