Kaj Hed, a super angel who holds a 70 percent stake in the maker of Angry Birds, has made an investment in a Swedish company, Goo Technologies, which is creating a platform to build fast-action, graphically beautiful 3D games in a web browser.
Goo has created the Goo Engine, which enables games to take advantage of 3D hardware acceleration on any device, resulting in browser-based games that don’t suck when it comes to graphics.
The technology is based on HTML5, the lingua franca of the web. Another technology, WebGL, has been created to accelerate the performance of HTML5 programs so that they can run fast enough on the web. With both technologies together, Goo Technologies hopes to create cool 3D games that are instantly playable, with no need for browser plug-ins. And that is promising enough for Goo Technologies to raise seed money from Hed, the chairman of Rovio, and his investment firm Moor.
The promise of HTML5 games has been alluring. Such web-based games can be played in a browser, with no plug-ins, instantly. With HTML5, a developer can write a single version of an app or game and get it to run on the web browsers of just about any device. That’s the “write once, run anywhere” promise.
But HTML5 itself has been a false hope for many companies because games that use it have been too slow. WebGL is designed to enable web-based software to take advantage of a computing device’s 3D graphics hardware acceleration.
But so far, only a subset of users can access it as WebGL is supported in only the newest versions of various web browsers. On mobile devices, more web browsers support WebGL, but some of the graphics chips for the devices don’t support it. Companies such as Wooga and Facebook created HTML5 apps, and they were disappointed with the results.
But Marcus Krüger, the chairman of Stockholm, Sweden-based Goo Technologies, told GamesBeat that he senses a change in fortunes for HTML5, particularly as support for WebGL becomes more widespread. Earlier this month, for instance, Amazon began accepting HTML5 web apps in its Appstore. Chrome and Firefox support it, and Microsoft will support it on Internet Explorer 11. On the Mac, Chrome, Firefox and Safari support it. But WebGL needs to be enabled manually by the user in the menu.
Mobile support is behind in comparison to the desktop. Android support can work through the Chrome browser, but it has to be enabled by the user and chip set support also varies. In any case, to play the Goo-based games, users need a WebGL capable browser.
“HTML5 is really coming together, and the technology is falling into place,” said Krüger. “We are addressing one of the biggest issues of graphics performance.”
The demos that Goo Technologies shows on its web site are beautiful. You can play around with a boy rowing a boat through a pretty, sun-lit sea. Another demo shows the levels in Valve’s Left 4 Dead first-person shooter rendered as browser-based artwork.
“We are excited about working with such an exceptional team and a technology that can bring a disruptive change to the interactive graphics industry,” said Hed, whose son Mikael is the chief executive of Rovio. “Goo is extremely well-positioned to be a real HTML5 ecosystem game changer, on any screen.”
Krüger believes his technology will enable millions of web developers to create real-time, interactive high-end graphics for their games and applications. It should help increase revenues for apps and reduce costs by simplifying development and eliminating parallel development efforts.
“The industry is waking up to the fact that HTML5 and WebGL represent a massive shift in how games are distributed and how people create and access interactive graphics online,” Krüger said. “It enables game publishers to provide platform independent productions that can be run on all devices with WebGL support without the use of plugins or downloads, instantly and everywhere. This round of funding will enable our industry-leading platform to address the burgeoning demand for high-quality, immersive, browser-based graphics and gaming everywhere.”
Krüger said his company is meeting with lots of game developers and is drumming up support in stealth.
Moor is a seed-stage venture investment firm led by serial entrepreneur Hed, who founded Trema in 1992 and is the majority owner of Rovio.
Katja Bergman of Moor told GamesBeat that her firm has been very impressed with both the team and the technology. Goo Technologies was founded about 18 months ago.