Skip to main content

Watchlist: Seven Promising Gaming Upstarts

GreenPark Sports co-founder Chad Hurley. Hurley also co-founded mega video site YouTube.
image: nrkbeta on Flickr, under CC BY-SA 3.0 NO license

The gaming industry is already huge yet still growing. For a hint, research from GlobalData predicts the gaming industry will soar to $305 billion by 2025. Mobile gaming accounts for much of the gaming industry's upsurge, coupled with additional factors like streaming, esports, augmented and virtual reality, cloud-based gaming and the likes. Games are getting more interactive and with more interactivity comes increased engagement and in turn more revenue for the entire industry.

Several gaming startups have emerged recently to capitalize on the industry's rise. Others have long-existed but are also keen on making the most of the industry's upsurge. They include game studios, esports franchises, and of course developers of platforms that support game creation. You may remember the popular saying that "during a gold rush, sell shovels". The idea is that only a few of the gold miners may be able to find gold while the shovel sellers get to sell to the miners noncontingent on whether they strike gold or not.

To relate to the gaming industry, the platform makers get to reap sales from game developers looking to strike gold even though not all will achieve that goal. However, several gaming platforms also falter in their plan as not enough developers flock to their creations. We have nevertheless compiled a seven-point list of game developers (miners) and platform builders (shovel sellers) alike that we feel have much potential for growth.

Two out of the seven sell shovels while the remaining five mine gold. Of course, no one can tell with certainty if a startup or company is slated to make it big. However, given certain criteria, we at The Techie came up with these seven gaming firms we feel are very promising. They are;

1. Wildlife Studios: Wildlife Studios is a mobile game studio based out of Brazil that's known mainly for two hits, Zooba, and Tennis Clash. Just five days after its launch, Zooba became a top downloaded game in the US and has remained so up until now. Likewise, Tennis Clash became a hit in lots of countries after its launch, at one time racking up to 300,000 downloads daily. It has remained popular up until now.

Wildlife operates from offices in Brazil, Argentina, Ireland, and the U.S. As at December 2019, it had around 500 employees and said it planned to increase that number to 800 by 2020 end, backed by a $60 million investment led by Benchmark. Other participants in that investment included ex-Facebook and Xiaomi executive Hugo Barra, Red Ventures CEO Ric Elias, Facebook VP of Growth Javier Olivan, and Iconiq Capital partner Divesh Makan. The investment valued nine-year-old Wildlife Studios at $1.3 billion.

Wildlife has made some strategic hires which include poaching Riot Games' studio art director, Mercado Libre's VP of Engineering, and Sony Interactive Entertainment's VP of game development.

The mobile game studio was founded by two brothers, Victor and Arthur Lazarte, in 2011.

Benchmark general partner Peter Fenton (pictured) led the VC firm's investment in Wildlife Studios. He currently occupies a board seat at the company.
image: TechCrunch on Flickr, via CC BY 2.0 license

2. GreenPark Sports: GreenPark Sports is an esports startup that's notable for being founded by Chad Hurley, a co-founder and former CEO of YouTube. Alongside Hurley, Zappos co-founder Nick Swinmurn and Blitz co-founder Ken Martin currently lead the startup which was founded in 2018.

GreenPark describes itself as "a publisher and developer of fan-forward, digital experiences and mobile games for the new generation of sports and eSports fans" but hasn't published any known game yet, apparently still being in a sort of stealth mode. The Calabasas, California-based startup announced $8.5 million in seed funding from SignalFire, Sapphire Sport and Founders Fund late last year. Its website lists other notable investors such as SV Angel, Soma Ventures, San Francisco 49ers and prominent tech investor Scott Banister.

GreenPark is staffed by alums from the likes of Zynga, Riot Games, Activision, Method Studios, Microsoft, Amazon, SAP, and TiVO.

GreenPark co-founder and chairman Chad Hurley.
image: JD Lasica on Flickr, under CC BY 2.0 license

3. Drivetime: Drivetime is a unique gaming startup in its own way, being a developer of games targeted at drivers. No, don't fret, the games are voice-based and interactive so the drivers won't be losing attention to a video game while on the steering. Playing a Drivetime game feels like interacting with a voice assistant the way it's normally done during driving.

Drivetime launched in 2018 with $4 million in seed funding from famed investors including Zynga founder Mark Pincus, Sun Microsystems founder Scott McNealy, Applovin founder Adam Foroughi, Founders Fund, Felicis Ventures, Index Ventures, and Canaan Partners. If you're familiar with the in and outs of Silicon Valley, you should know that the aforementioned names gathering together for a seed round should signal something unique, and there actually is.

Drivetime was founded by three gaming veterans, Niko Vuori, who was previously GM of Zynga Poker and a co-founder of Rocket Games; Justin Cooper, also a former Zynga executive; and Cory Johnson, a former Principal Software Engineer at Zynga and Director of Engineering at Rocket Games. For those not in the know, Rocket Games is a gaming startup that was acquired by Penn National Gaming in 2016, just three years after its launch, for $170 million.

Last year, Drivetime further raised $11 million in Series A funding led by Makers Fund. Amazon and Google were also participants in that round. The investment coincided with the launch of a new interactive game based on Jeopardy!, a popular American TV show.

Mark Pincus (pictured), a prominent gaming entrepreneur, is an investor in Drivetime.
Photograph by Stuart Isett/Fortune Brainstorm Tech, under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license.

4. Roblox: Roblox is already big but could get bigger. Its journey to the top has been perpetual, having been founded way back in 2005 and grown into a gaming platform with more than 100 million monthly active users. Roblox as popularly known is an online gaming platform targeted at kids. It features user-created games and virtual words covering lots of genres. The available games on its platform are created via Roblox's own proprietary engine, with creators able to earn money from their games. A percentage of gaming revenue is then split between developers and Roblox itself.

Roblox has raised more than $300 million in total funding, the most recent being a $150 million Series G announced just last month. That round was led by Andreessen Horowitz, which also launched a tender offer to purchase $350 million worth of shares from existing stockholders.

Roblox is based out of San Mateo, California.

Roblox co-founder and CEO David Baszucki.
Photo by Steve Jennings/Getty Images for TechCrunch, under CC BY 2.0 license

5. Illumix: Illumix is a Redwood City, California-based startup that develops augmented reality (AR) games. It was founded in 2017 and raised $8.6 million in seed funding the following year. Prominent VC firms Maveron and Lightspeed Venture Partners led that round, with participation from Radar Partners, Unusual Ventures, and 451 Media. Illumix is still a small startup, employing less than 30 people currently according to its website. Although small, its team includes alumni from core gaming companies like EA, Zynga, and Microsoft.

So far, Illumix has debuted one game, an augmented reality-based title named Five Nights at Freddy’s AR: Special Delivery. It's a survival horror game that entails using the real world for gameplay, think of a sort-of horror Pok√©mon GO. It's currently available for iOS and Android devices.

Thanks to a growing mobile gaming ecosystem, Illumix has much potential for growth although that's contingent on if it's able to deliver gaming hits. Of course, no one certainly predicts the future but given current circumstances, we are optimistic about its future.

Altogether, Illumix has raised roughly $10 million in funding.

Lightspeed partner Jeremy Liew (pictured) alongside Nicole Quinn, another Lightspeed partner, led the famed VC firm's investment in Illumix.
Photo by Steve Jennings/Getty Images for TechCrunch, under CC BY 2.0 license

6. End Game Interactive: End Game Interactive is a relatively young gaming startup that's best known for developing Zombs Royale, a 2D battle royale video game that's playable via web browsers or iOS and Android devices. The 'battle royale' craze has proven to be a strong one, mainly popularized by hit video game Fortnite. For those not in the know, it involves a certain number of players competing amongst each other to produce one winner. However, unlike Fortnite, Zombs Royale is a 2D game, that is made up of two-dimensional models, and not a 3D game which involves higher-end graphics emanating from the use of three-dimensional models.

End Game says its games have attracted more than 160 million players of whom 1 million play on a daily basis. The gaming startup announced $3 million in seed funding just last month. The funding was led by Makers Fund, with participation from other investors including mega game studio Supercell, Twitch COO Kevin Lin, Twitch VP Huber Thieblot, Unity co-founder David Helgason, and music executive Scooter Braun.

End Game is currently working on another game, Fate Arena, which is expected to launch on PC, mobile and other platforms.

Twitch COO Kevin Lin (pictured) is an investor in End Game Interactive.
Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Collision/Sportsfile, under CC BY 2.0 license

7. Manticore Games: Manticore Games is a San Mateo-based startup that's working a new platform to support game development for novices. The new platform called Core is aimed at being an easy-to-use interface for creating high-quality games without the need for substantial art and coding work that's normally required for game development. Think of it as a Weebly for games.

Manticore hasn't yet released its product but has nevertheless attracted $45 million in funding from several investors. They include Benchmark, CrunchFund, SV Angel, Correlation Ventures, Macro Ventures, and several unnamed "high-profile gaming and tech entrepreneurs", according to a 2017 press release.

Manticore was founded by gaming veterans Frederic Descamps and Jordan Maynard, who previously founded A Bit Lucky, a developer of social games that was acquired by Zynga in 2012. Descamps and Maynard took up executive roles at Zynga following the acquisition before leaving to found Manticore in 2016. Manticore is staffed by alums from well-known gaming companies such as EA, Blizzard, Respawn, Roblox, Crystal Dynamics and of course, Zynga.

Benchmark partner Mitch Lasky (pictured) currently holds a board seat at Manticore. He took up that position after Benchmark led a $15 million Series A in the San Mateo-based startup in 2017.

image: Stephen Brashear/The DEMO Conference, under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license

If you picked up a pattern from this write-up, it may be that Zynga employees have stretched across to either spearhead or fund several notable startups in the gaming industry. If you happen to come across another of such kind, you should probably keep an eye out as it just may be very promising.

If you're curious for more knowledge on startups, you should probably check out another of our lists, this time of ten hardware startups that are already shuttered but will be missed amongst many. If you're more curious, then you may also read our recent write-up on the promise of self-driving cars that are yet to be fulfilled.


  1. nice information thanks for sharing valuable content with us we also provide great information related to your blog feel free to visit our Sensex.


Post a comment

Most Read Posts

Tesla Now World's Most Valuable Carmaker

Electric car maker Tesla has been on a tear as of late, with its share price having shot past $1,100 a pop and given the company status as the world's most valuable automaker. Currently (as of writing), Tesla has a market capitalization hovering around $208 billion, beating the likes of Ford, GM, and Toyota which actually manufacture way more cars and mint much more revenue. Before now, Toyota had been the automaker with the largest public market capitalization. Toyota (as of writing) has a market capitalization hovering around $203 billion, a bit lower than Tesla's.

Investors seem to be drooling for Tesla shares given its valuation despite minting lesser revenue than other traditional automakers. For a quick comparison, Tesla delivered 367,500 vehicles last year while Toyota delivered 10 million, about 27 times Tesla's. Investors seem to have much courage in Tesla's future potential, given it's a company that only debuted on the public markets 10 years ago. The l…

Pharrell Williams Eyes Venture Investing

It seems celebrities across the U.S. have heard of good fortunes being reaped in the world of venture investing and are out to get their own share. Many music, movies, and sports bigwigs, including the likes of Kevin Durant, Lebron James, The Chainsmokers, Snoop Dogg, and Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter, have slightly ventured away from their main business into investing in tech startups, some reaping sizeable returns as a result. Now, it seems another celebrity is about to join, as The Information [paywall] reports that famed musician Pharell Williams is teaming up with Ron Conway, a prominent angel investor, to launch a venture fund that'll mainly target startups led by underrepresented minorities.

The Information reports Pharell Williams and Ron Conway are currently in discussions with limited partners for the new fund, which is notably being planned on the heels of nationwide protests against police brutality and racism across the US. Venture funds that primarily target startup…

Peloton Launches On Roku

Fitness sensation Peloton has formally launched its app on the Roku streaming platform, entailing its live fitness classes can now be streamed by Roku users in the comfort of their homes. The Peloton channel has been made available on the Roku Channel Store, enabling users to stream live fitness sessions for a fee. Payments will be processed on the Roku Pay platform, making signing up much easier for users. Existing Peloton subscribers can also automatically log-in using their credentials and gain access to live fitness sessions.

The coronavirus pandemic has largely driven people away from public gyms towards home fitness activities, and such, online fitness streaming activity has seemingly shot through the roof. According to Roku, streaming on its Health & Fitness category grew more than 130% in May alone. Peloton happens to be a benefit of the large pivot towards home fitness, thanks to its stationary bikes and treadmills with live-streamed fitness sessions that have garnered a…

Canada's Big Banks Join Facebook Boycott

Several big Canadian banks -- namely the Bank of Montreal, Toronto-Dominion Bank, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, National Bank of Canada, Bank of Nova Scotia, and the famed Royal Bank of Canada -- have said they'll pause advertisements on Facebook platforms this month, joining a long list of companies that have recently agreed to a Facebook advertisement boycott campaign spearheaded by civil rights groups. The boycott, dubbed as the “Stop Hate for Profit” campaign centers on Facebook's policies on content moderation and is primarily pressuring the company to take steps to block hate speech on its platforms. More than 400 brands so far have agreed to the advertisement boycott.

In response to the boycotts, Facebook has agreed to review its content moderation policies and has begun banning many violators, about 250 in number according to the company, from its platforms. Facebook has also opened itself to a civil rights audit. Pressure has surmounted on Facebook both from sh…

LG Chem To Make Tesla Batteries In Korea

South Korean chemicals giant LG Chem is set to begin producing batteries for Tesla vehicles at a domestic factory due to a demand increase from Tesla, as first reported by Reuters. According to Reuters, Tesla is asking LG Chem as well as other of its battery suppliers to increase their supplies in order to cope with a rise in demand for its vehicles. LG Chem is said to be converting some of its production facilities in South Korea to produce batteries for Tesla. Currently, the batteries made by LG Chem for Tesla are produced in a Chinese factory.

Tesla recently released its production numbers for the second quarter of this year, indicating it delivered 90,650 vehicles in the quarter despite a pandemic that suspended operations at its main production facility for weeks. The electric car maker only recently began sourcing batteries from LG Chem but appears to be already wanting for higher-than-normal supplies. Before now, Tesla's batteries primarily came from a large battery factor…

Tesla Opens Cybertruck Pre-Orders In China

Electric car maker Tesla has apparently begun taking pre-orders for its recently unveiled Cybertruck electric truck in China, as noted by a newly put-up reservations page on the company's China website. The Cybertruck, which was unveiled late last year, is expected to go in production in 2022. Tesla is taking $100 refundable deposits for the Cybertruck and has already gotten more than 250,000 reservations primarily from US-based customers, according to CEO Elon Musk. The company is now apparently testing potential interest in the Chinese electric car market, which happens to be the world's biggest.

Tesla will offer the Cybertruck in three variants, the cheapest starting at around $40,000 and having about 250 miles of range. The most advanced variant will cost around $70,000.

As of late, Tesla has apparently been on a tear. Only a few days ago, the company surpassed Toyota to become the world's most valuable automaker. Also, a recent report noted of LG Chem, a major Tesla …

Tesla Delivered 90,650 Vehicles In Q2

As anticipated, Tesla just released its production numbers for the second quarter of this year and indicated it delivered 90,650 vehicles, a slight (4.8%) drop from the previous quarter. Tesla actually managed to beat expectations despite a pandemic that led it to suspend operation for weeks at its main production facility. The majority (80,050) of Tesla's deliveries were Model 3 and Model Y vehicles, its less expensive models, while Model S and Model X vehicles, the more expensive ones, accounted for a minority (10,600).

Analysts had anticipated lower delivery numbers as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, with some even forecasting as low as 39,000 deliveries in this quarter. A concord of analysts polled by FactSet indicated an average forecast of 72,000 vehicle deliveries for the quarter.

The release of Tesla's latest production results comes on the heels of the company surpassing Japanese automaker Toyota to become the world's most valuable automaker.

Tesla Denies Firing Staff Who Stayed Home

Automaker Tesla has denied recent reports of the company firing three workers after they opted to stay at home rather than turn up to work at the company's Fremont, California, production factory in the middle of a coronavirus pandemic. The report initially came from The Washington Post. In a blog post, Tesla dubbed the reports as "fundamentally untrue", stating that "the employees quoted in recent stories are still employed with Tesla and we have offered them work multiple times". "All we have asked is that our employees talk to us and provide us the details of their own concern so we can do what we can to help find a solution," Tesla penned in its blog post.

After weeks of closure, Tesla re-opened its Fremont production facility in May amid a public spat, spearheaded by CEO Elon Musk, with local authorities. In order to help curtail the coronavirus, Tesla instituted protective measures at the facility. According to Tesla, its protective measures me…

Royole Mulls China IPO

Chinese flexible display maker Royole is considering an initial public offering (IPO) in China after initially planning for one in the U.S., as first reported by Bloomberg [paywall]. Royole already filed confidentially for a public listing in the U.S. earlier this year but seems to now be considering listing in its home base of China. Royole's planned U.S. IPO was intended to raise up to $1 billion in funding for the company, which has already secured $1.1 billion in equity and debt funding as a private company. Royole's last-known funding round was in August of 2018.

Shenzhen-based Royole is a pioneer and global leader in the flexible display market. The company primarily manufactures bendable screens using advanced light-emitting diode technology that can be placed on platforms ranging from smartphones to smart speakers, head-mounted displays, and even hats and bags. Royole sells a suite of hardware products based on the aforementioned platforms.

Royole as a company was onl…

Anduril Nabs $200 Million In New Funding

Anduril Industries, a defense technology startup co-founded by Oculus inventor Palmer Luckey, has announced it's raised $200 million in new funding that values it at $1.9 billion post-money. The new funding was led by venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, a previous investor in the company. With the new funding, Anduril has now raised -- a total of -- at least $259 million in known funding to fund its ambitions of becoming a defense technology giant with roots in Silicon Valley.

Anduril was only founded three years ago but has racked up a sizeable amount of funding and about $100 million in annual revenues (according to the company). Anduril was founded by Palmer Luckey, who sold his previous company, virtual reality headset maker Oculus, to Facebook for $3 billion. After the sale, he stayed at Facebook for a while before leaving and teaming up with some veterans from data-mining firm Palantir to launch Anduril. Anduril's revenue mainly comes from government defense contr…