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In-game advertising is an untargeted mess, and one startup, Swrve, aims to fix it.
Google knows exactly when to hit you with an ad because it has mastered the art of target marketing. Game companies, on the other hand, might very well send you an ad for a shooting game even if all you play is a puzzle game.
Swrve hopes to change that. The San Francisco company is announcing today that it has raised $2.7 million in seed funding for its real-time feedback platform for game developers and testers.
Swrve has created real-time analytics for web and mobile games that allow game developers to test, target, and tune their games to give consumers a better experience. Gamers get the right type of ads or promotions at the right times, and that results in better monetization, said Hugh Reynolds, chief executive of Swrve, in an interview with VentureBeat.
Companies such as Zynga, Google and Facebook have big teams dedicated to analysis for accurate ad targeting. But small companies don’t have the luxury of having 60 mathematicians doing analytics. Swrve’s cloud-based platform lets developers get access to a feedback loop that tells them what their users are doing and predicts what they will do next.
Gamers are kind of like a school of fish when it comes to how they behave inside a game. If you understand how each fish behaves, you can figure out how the school will behave. You can then influence what the school of fish does, Reynolds said in a talk at the Cloud Gaming USA conference on Wednesday. That’s what designers call data-driven design.
“If you see the signs that a user is about to discontinue the game, you can spot that before it happens and do something about it,” Reynolds (pictured right) said. “We can now establish a two-way dialogue between developer and gamer.”
Reynolds says the company now learns great insights about school holidays, commute patterns and differing game habits from one part of the week to the next. At the same time, Swrve keeps a lid on sensitive data so that it doesn’t violate the privacy of consumers.
Current game analytics tell you how your game is performing, but game developers have to make their own changes to adapt to the consumer behavior. Swrve automatically pushes concepts the developer wants to test to the targeted segments of players, so the effect on users can be analyzed in real time and the changes made accordingly.
The backers include Intel Capital, SV Angel, the founders of Mochi Media (Jameson Hsu and Bob Ippolito) as well as two co-founders of Playfish, Sami Lababidi and Shukri Shammas. Other investors include the AIB Seed Capital Fund Limited Partnership, the Bank of Ireland Start-up Accelerator Fund, the AIB Seed Capital Fund, Enterprise Ireland and other angel investors.
The company says integration is easy and it has a flexible pricing model. It works across Apple’s iOS, Facebook, web or smart TV platforms.
Intel Capital chose to invest because Swrve’s service for developers fits nicely with Intel’s game developer ecosystem. Swrve should be able to deliver targeted marketing to every single player, said Lisa Lambert, vice president at Intel Capital.
Reynolds and Steven Collins founded the company in 2010. It has a headquarters in San Francisco and offices in Dublin, Ireland. Reynolds says about about a half dozen games are using Swrve’s platform in an early access program. Among them is Gravity Bear, a maker of Facebook games.
Swrve has 14 employees, and it is hiring. Reynolds and Collins have a long history working together and with Intel. They sold a previous startup, Havok, to Intel in 2007. Then they created Core, a company that created scripting languages for console games, and sold that to Intel’s Havok. Now they’re getting yet another investment from Intel.