Bunch scores $3.8M to turn mobile games into video chat LAN parties

Bunch scores $3.8M to turn mobile games into video chat LAN parties

9:00am, 15th November, 2018
The best parts of gaming are the jokes and trash talk with friends. Whether it was four-player Goldeneye or linking up PCs for Quake battles in the basement, the social element keeps video games exciting. Yet on mobile we’ve lost a lot of that, playing silently by ourselves even if we’re in a squad with friends somewhere else. wants to bring the laughter back to mobile gaming by letting you sync up with friends and video chat while you play. It already works with hits like Fortnite and Roblox, and developers of titles like Spaceteam are integrating SDK to inspire longer game sessions. Bunch is like for mobile, and the chance to challenge that gaming social network unicorn has attracted a $3.8 million seed round led by London Venture Partners and joined by Founders Fund, Betaworks, North Zone, Streamlined Ventures, 500 Startups and more. With Bunch already cracking the top 100 social iOS app chart, it’s planning a launch on Android. The cash will go to adding features like meeting new people to game with or sharing replays, plus ramping up user acquisition and developer partnerships. “I and my co-founders grew up with LAN parties, playing games like Starcraft and Counter Strike – where a lot of the fun is the live banter you have with friends” Bunch co-founder and CEO Selcuk Atli tells me. “We wanted to bring this kind of experience to mobile; where players could play with friends anytime anywhere.” Bunch Team Atli was a venture partner at 500 Startups after co-founding and selling two adtech companies: Manifest Commerce to Rakuten, and Boostable to Metric Collective. But before he got into startups, he co-founded a gaming magazine called Aftercala in Turkey at age 12, editing writers twice his age because “on the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog” he tells me. Atli teamed up with Google senior mobile developer Jason Liang and a senior developer from startups like MUSE and Mox named Jordan Howlett to create Bunch. “Over a year ago, we built our first prototype. The moment we tried it ourselves, we saw it was nothing like what we’ve experienced on our phones before” Atli tells me. The team raised a $500,000 pre-seed round and launched its app in March. “Popular mobile games are becoming live, and live games are coming to mobile devices” says David Lau-Kee, general partner at London Venture Partners. “With this massive shift happening, players need better experiences to connect with friends and play together.” When you log on to you’ll see which friends are online and what they’re playing, plus a selection of games you can fire up. Bunch overlays group voice or video chat on the screen so you can strategize or satirize with up to eight pals. And if developers build in Bunch’s SDK, they can do more advanced things with video chat like pinning friends’ faces to their in-game characters. It’s a bit like OpenFeint or iOS Game Center mixed with HouseParty. For now Bunch isn’t monetizing as it hopes to reach massive scale first, but Atli thinks they could sell expression tools like emotes, voice and video filters, and more. Growing large will require beating Discord at its own game. The social giant now has over 130 million users across PCs, consoles, and mobile. But it’s also a bit too hardcore for some of today’s casual mobile gamers, requiring you to configure your own servers. “I find that execution speed will be most critical for our success or failure” Atli says. Bunch’s sole focus on making mobile game chat as easy as possible could win it a mainstream audience seduced by Fortnite, HQ Trivia and other phenomena. Research increasingly shows that online experiences can be isolating, and gaming is a big culprit. Hours spent playing alone can leave you feeling more exhausted than fulfilled. But through video chat, gaming can transcend the digital and become a new way to make memories with friends no matter where they are.
The Nintendo Switch May Not Hit Its Sales Goal This Holiday Season

The Nintendo Switch May Not Hit Its Sales Goal This Holiday Season

12:30am, 15th November, 2018
The Nintendo Switch has been steamrolling through the sales charts since its release. The hybrid system combines home console gaming with the ability to indulge in portable gaming. However, despite the strong momentum and fast start off store shelves, the Switch may not hit the sales projections...
Sea Of Thieves Getting Competitive Arena Mode Next Year

Sea Of Thieves Getting Competitive Arena Mode Next Year

10:12pm, 14th November, 2018
Rare managed to strike gold with Sea of Thieves earlier in the year. The game ended up becoming one of the more notable releases on the Xbox One this generation thanks to its unorthodox approach to multiplayer and seafaring adventure. Well, the game will be expanding even further next...
Here’s the teaser trailer for Niantic’s Pokémon GO-style Harry Potter game

Here’s the teaser trailer for Niantic’s Pokémon GO-style Harry Potter game

1:40pm, 14th November, 2018
The good news: Niantic/WB Games/Portkey has released a trailer for “Wizards Unite,” the Harry Potter game built in the same spirit as Pokémon GO. The bad news: It… doesn’t show much. If you were hoping for gameplay footage or really anything detailing how the game will work, you’re out of luck. Alas! It’s just a teaser trailer, and tease it does. The game’s newly expanded website, meanwhile, adds this: Please resist the urge to panic. Traces of magic are appearing across the Muggle world without warning and in a rather chaotic manner. We worry it is only a matter of time before even the most incurious Muggles catch wind of it. We call on all witches and wizards to help contain the Calamity or risk the worst of times since You Know Who. Brush up on your spells, get your wand ready, and enlist immediately. The one big new detail? The game’s launch timing. While Niantic was reportedly , this trailer puts it in no uncertain terms: it’ll land in 2019.
Pacific Northwest-made indie video game ‘Celeste’ picks up long shot Game of the Year nomination

Pacific Northwest-made indie video game ‘Celeste’ picks up long shot Game of the Year nomination

10:05am, 14th November, 2018
Celeste splash screen. (Matt Makes Games Image) The Vancouver, B.C.-made indie game picked up a surprise Game of the Year nomination as the annual announced their nominations Tuesday. It’s the only independently-produced game in the category, up against five multi-million-dollar blockbusters from major studios. This puts Celeste up against Spider-Man (2018), Red Dead Redemption 2, Monster Hunter World, God of War (2018), and Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey for the award. Celeste making it this farmakes it a dark horse contender by default. Celeste also picked up Game Award nominations for Best Score (by Seattle-based composer ), Best Independent Game, and “Games for Impact,” a category that honors games that, in the words of last year’s presenter Andrew House, “.” Celeste is a retro-styled game from Noel Berry (creator of the Skytorn) and Matt Thorson (director of 2013’s TowerFall), who created the initial prototype in four days for the The final version came out in January to immediate critical acclaim, both for being a challenging platformer in the spirit of old 16-bit games, and for its story, which deals frankly with issues of depression and mental illness. The official announcement of nominees for the Game of the Year category at the 2018 Game Awards. (Source: Twitter) Celeste is going into the Game Awards with a goodly head of steam, having already picked up a nomination for Best Indie Game at this year’s Golden Joysticks, and it won an audience award at the during this year’s Game Developer’s Conference. Several other Pacific Northwest-produced titles have picked up nominations, including Subset’s Into the Breach (Best Independent Game, Best Strategy Game), Harebrained Schemes’s BattleTech (Best Strategy Game), Microsoft and Rare’s Sea of Thieves (Best Multiplayer Game), and PolyArc Games’s Moss (Best Debut Indie Game). Nintendo also got nods for Best Role Playing Game (Octopath Traveler) and Best Family Game (the Nintendo Labo); however, Smash Brothers Ultimate is coming out too late in the year to be considered for this year’s awards. The Game Awards ceremony will be broadcast live via multiple digital platforms, including YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Steam, Xbox Live, and the PlayStation Network, at 5:30 p.m. PST on December 6th. It has been held every year in December since 2014, serving as a continuation of the cancelled Spike Video Game Awards, and selects its nominees via an international jury of “.” Celeste is nominated for 4 awards at , including Best Score/Music and Game of the Year! It's an honor and also pretty overwhelming for our tiny team! Congrats to the whole team
Tencent returns to profit growth despite concern around games

Tencent returns to profit growth despite concern around games

9:22am, 14th November, 2018
Chinese internet giant Tencent bounced back from , but for once the company didn’t have its gaming business to thank. Tencent may be best known for conjuring up WeChat, China’s most popular messaging platform, but its revenue is driven by its gaming business, which includes top smartphone titles and a thriving PC unit. Its Q3 results announced today, however, saw its gaming income slacken and other units, including a booming advertising business, step up. The firm posted a net profit of RMB 23.3 billion ($3.4 billion) on total revenue of RMB 80.6 billion ($11.7 billion), up 30 percent and 24 percent, respectively. Profit growth was back on track, mainly thanks to increased net gains from investments, including in September. Advertising increased by 47 percent and generated 20 percent of total revenues, marking the first time that the segment has reached that mark. The jump is in part a result of strong ad revenue growth on Tencent’s two main chat apps, WeChat and QQ. These changes are a sign that Tencent has begun to aggressively monetize its massive network of social networking users. As of September, Tencent had 1.08 billion monthly active users on WeChat worldwide, though the app’s spectacular growth has slowed to 2.3 percent quarter-to-quarter. Tencent underwent an in October that saw it merge several business groups, which have resulted in a more unified system of advertising sales platforms, the company explained in today’s report. “Our advertising, digital content, payment and cloud services sustained robust activity and revenue growth, and now account for the majority of our revenue,” chairman and CEO Pony Ma said in a statement. In contrast, games, which have been Tencent’s major revenue driver for years, slid four percent this quarter due to a prolonged freeze on gaming licenses in China. The firm claims it has 15 games with monetization approval in its pipeline, which means that gaming revenues could rebound when it publishes those titles, although it said the same in the previous quarter so a lack of progress is fairly ominous. The firm also pointed out that while mobile games continued to fuel revenue growth, PC games suffered a decline. When asked about the situation with gaming licenses on a call with investors, Tencent President Martin Lau said the company is “waiting for the government to start the approval process.” Tencent appears to have found a potential interim solution which involves allowing third-party publishers who secured a license before the freeze to publish games through its platform, but of course, that has limited use. While games are the hot topic, Tencent was keen to push the story of its cloud computing business which it said is a key to widening its focus into IOT and other areas. Emboldened by the reorganization in October, which seemed aimed at shifting Tencent from consumer-facing internet company into one that’s increasing serving industries, the firm said its cloud business more than doubled its revenue year-on-year. There was no raw revenue figure released for the quarter, but the company did disclose that the cloud unit has brought in more than RMB 6 billion, $860 million, over the last three quarters. Furthermore, cloud computing and payment-related services helped its “Others” business increase its revenue 69 percent year-on-year to reach RMB 20.3 billion, $2.92 billion, for the quarter.