Playable Worlds, an online game company created to change the way immersive worlds work, announced today it has raised $2.7 million in seed funding, led by BITKRAFT Esports Ventures with participation from 1UP Ventures and several game industry angel investors. The company is led by a distinguished team of developers with many decades of collective online game experience from Disney, Marvel, Sony Online Entertainment, and venture-backed startups.
Raph Koster, CEO and Founder of Playable Worlds, is the award-winning lead designer of Ultima Online and creative director of Star Wars Galaxies, a former executive at Sony Online Entertainment and Disney, and founder of Metaplace. Alongside Raph, Playable Worlds has assembled a deep talent bench of veterans that includes former senior technical leader at Amazon and Disney, Dorian Ouer, as Chief Technology Officer; veteran comic book illustrator for Marvel and DC and award-winning art director for MMOs, Mat Broome, as Studio Art Director; industry expert with experience shipping and leading live operations for web, console, and mobile games, Brian Crowder, as Lead Server Engineer; and lead designer of more than 30 commercially published games, Greg Costikyan, as Lead Game Designer. Additionally, co-founder Eric Goldberg is head of business, strategy, and corporate development for Playable Worlds and has served as a strategic advisor or board member for over 60 companies including Playdom, PlaySpan and Pixelberry.
Playable Worlds is building an online world where a broad range of players can find a home, whether their preferred playstyle is exploring, adventuring, socializing, crafting, or player versus player combat. These diverse communities can each play the game in their own way, or cross over with one another, delivering diverse play experience and enriching the world. Bringing together proven features from some of the world’s most popular games in a unique combination that hasn’t been seen before, the team is developing a broadly appealing and novel experience that leverages modern cloud architecture, simulation, and AI. The funding will be used to scale the expert team and accelerate product development.
“I’m incredibly excited to bring a new world to players,” said Raph Koster. “Technology has caught up to the visions we always had of alternate worlds where entire societies can form. It’s time for that dream to be fulfilled.”
“We are honored to work with Raph Koster and the entire Playable Worlds team as they redefine MMOs with new levels of community interaction synonymous with streaming culture,” said Scott Rupp, a partner with BITKRAFT Esports Ventures. “Playable Worlds is building on Raph’s incredible heritage of MMO design innovation to create a completely new experience that will push the boundaries of persistent game worlds and social competitive play.”
Raph Koster is one of the most well respected game designers in the industry. With over 25 years of experience, Koster is known as the lead designer on Ultima Online and the Everquest series for Sony Online Entertainment. He is also the author of “Theory of Fun For Game Design”, a must read for any game designer.
Playable Worlds has been in stealth mode since early 2018, and with a headcount of 10 people will be officially based the San Marcos, California. The company isn’t planning to have much to show for a few years, but the idea of a sandbox solution that accelerates the creation of a new kind of MMORPG sounds intriguing, particularly given it’s support of use of cloud, AI and real-time technologies.
Back in 2007 Raph launched Metaplace, an ambitious 3D virtual world platform which was eventually acquired by Playdom, and then later sold to Disney as part of their acquistion of Playdom. Now ten years later, his vision of an next-generation sandbox platform seems extremely fitting.
Games-as-a-service (GaaS) seems to be the current buzzword these days, with more and more companies looking to adopt cloud solutions to develop and distribute their games. Over the past few years Raph has done quite a bit of research on retention and wrote an insightful article on What Drives Retention, in which he correctly states: “GaaS is a business strategy, and F2P is a revenue model“.
Implementing a cloud solution will be necessary for game developers and publishers to compete moving forward. And with cloud-gaming platforms such as Google’s Stadia, Microsoft xProject, ShadowTech’s Blade, and more all coming on line, it will mean developers will have to adjust their business strategies sooner than later.