Gamzee, a mobile and social game developer founded by gaming veteran Howard Marks, has raised $1 million in seed funding.
The Los Angeles company (pronounced game-zee) will make games based on the HTML5 format, which allows developers to create games capable of running on a variety of different devices. Marks, chief executive of the firm and a 25-year-veteran of games, said that the company raised the funding round in a short time. This shows that, despite years of funding for game companies, there are still openings in the market that are attracting veteran entrepreneurs.
Investors include Bristol Investment Fund; Jarl Mohn, former CEO of Liberty Digital; Heiko Hubertz, CEO of Bigpoint; and Paul Bricault, a partner at Greycroft Partners. Paul Kessler of Bristol Investment Fund joins Gamzee’s board. Marks is a co-founder of Activision and Acclaim Games and a former senior vice president at Disney Interactive Media Group. “We believe that we’re on the forefront of the next big explosion in games — one where you can play social games with your Facebook friends on any device with a Web connection. And apparently, we’re not alone in that belief,” Marks said.
The company’s first game hasn’t been announced yet, but development is underway on a title that has a “new twist on a classic social gaming genre.” The company plans to show off its concept and technology at Casual Connect in Seattle in mid July. Marks said the company is in discussions with more potential strategic investors.
Over the course of 25 years, Marks helped revive an ailing Activision, which is now the biggest video game publisher. He bought the Acclaim name out of bankruptcy, started working on a number of online games, and sold the company to Playdom in 2010.
Marks thinks HTML5 is a big opportunity because it means programmers can create a game once and have it run on a wide variety of platforms, from the web to mobile devices. In an earlier interview, Marks said he expects the company to launch its first game by October. By that time, fingers crossed, he believes Facebook will shift to the HTML5 standard, eventually getting rid of Flash-based software.
And that means that a social game designed to run on Facebook should also run on all mobile devices and the web as well.
That’s a risky and bold move, in part because HTML5 is in its beginning stages. Some observers (such as the startup Sibblingz) say that HTML5 games, which run inside a web browser, run slow compared to native applications (those that take advantage of a specific device’s unique characteristics). But Marks believes that the universality of HTML5 will eventually overcome such objections and that HTML5 will get faster over time with the adoption of new standards such as WebGL.
With HTML5 games, there are advantages. Marks says that if you share a link for an HTML5 game with someone, the person you shared it with can simply click on the link to start playing the game, regardless of the device they are using. You can also pick up where you left off easily. You could start playing on a PC and resume playing on a tablet or on a connected TV.
At first, Marks said the company will focus on simpler games that don’t require extremely fast real-time graphics or lots of 3D. Most Facebook games don’t use such features and are still very successful. The team includes vice president of games Josh Levitan. The veteran staff comes from companies such as Playdom, Acclaim and Meteor Games.
The first title will be free-to-play, which means users can start playing for free and pay real money for virtual goods in micro-transactions. Gamzee also expects to derive a revenue stream from location-based features.
Marks started the company a few weeks ago. Rivals include Zynga, EA-Playfish, Disney-Playdom, Game Closure and CrowdStar.
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