Mobile gaming startup Xoo is coming out of stealth and launching a new social network and a free-to-play gaming app dubbed Watcha Doin’?
The iOS game comes from the Palo Alto, Calif.-based company, which is headed by Philip Yun, former CEO of online gaming firm Outspark. In an exclusive interview, Yun said that the company wants to make social networks more fun and relevant to people by “gamifying” them, or making them much more like engaging games.
The game is just the first application that will be part of a larger mobile social network that Yun says will build stronger and more meaningful relationships via game mechanics.
The game is a multiuser asynchronous game (where one player takes a turn at a time) that tests how well you know your friends. It asks them to provide a picture that shows what they are doing. Then it scrambles the photos and asks you to guess which picture was provided by which friend.
Yun said that Watcha Doin’? draws friends closer to each other, allowing them to discover new things about each other. That should, theoretically, keep the players more engaged in the title.
Players will be able to create their own private game rooms and have more intimate and in-depth communications, Yun said. The game could make money through sales of in-app purchases as stickers for chatting. It will have no advertising.
“People are no longer sharing what they really think or do in Facebook due to privacy concerns,” Yun said. “But in the private space, people feel safer and become active because you are interacting with your close friends only. That explains the surge of messenger app, but now, we have Watcha Doin’? which has the best of games and messengers.” The integration of the game and social network is seamless, and it incorporates a lot of user-generated content.
Xoo built the game with a small team. It has four full-time founders and nine more contractors. They started the company in January, and they aim to compete with Facebook, Zynga, and What’s App.
The company is privately funded. Steve Lawrence, formerly of Google, is the cofounder and chief technology officer. Glen Wong, also formerly of Google, is cofounder and director of engineering. Jing Jin, another former Google and Apple veteran, is the user interface creator. And Wilson Li, formerly of Outspark, is cofounder and product lead.