Playing games is fun. And so is making games. So BrightLocker is coming out of stealth today with the novel idea of making a game out of making games. It is, so to speak, “gamifying” the process of conceiving, funding, and building games.
The Austin-based company will use crowdsourcing techniques to come up with ideas for games, fund them, and build them. It wants to create a community whose members love games so much that they want to participate in creating them. That may sound a little strange, but bear with us. BrightLocker has already raised nearly $1 million in seed funding, and it is in the process of raising more money to finish building its platform via the Fundable.com and Angel.co crowdfunding platforms.
“I’ve been fascinated with crowdfunding of games ever since Kickstarter was young,” said Ruben Cortez, chief executive of BrightLocker, in an interview with GamesBeat. “My whole career has been in gaming, but my side career has been commercial real estate investor. I put investors together all of the time in real estate, but my passion is gaming. My goal is to gamify the platform for making games.”
Cortez calls BrightLocker a “crowd-publishing platform,” where it combines the crowdfunding and publishing in a single company. It will use the wisdom of the crowd to figure out which video game ideas are the best, raise money for them, and then help develop them.
Cortez believes that BrightLocker will appeal to video game enthusiasts, gamers with game ideas, and indie developers.
“I think that Kickstarter projects are showing their limitations,” Cortez said, noting that Kickstarter’s hands-off approach means that it can’t enforce the promises that game creators make when they are raising money. This issue popped up when Kickstarter supporters accused game veteran Peter Molyneux of 22cans of failing to live up to his promises for his mobile and PC game Godus. To get around these problems, Cortez wants to create something like Kickstarter 2.0.
One of those weaknesses is that companies that raise money through crowdfunding often underestimate their costs and then run out of money. A large number of crowdfunded games die as a result.
The equity-funding arm of BrightLocker is designed to head off that problem by providing funding to “top off” and augment each game. Serious equity investors can put their money into a project that is already under way and then get a percentage ownership. If the game is a hit, those investors will score a big return. Cortez said his business is a combination of the reward-based, Kickstarter-like funding with the venture-capital-like equity-based funding.
“We reward funders with experiences as well as digital and physical goods. No other crowdfunding platform does that,” Cortez said.
At the same time, BrightLocker will provide close management of the projects and keep them from running off course, Cortez said. That provides protection for the consumers who offer their financial support for the projects in the early stage. BrightLocker will be a part owner of the game projects, and so it will have “skin in the game” to make sure the projects are successful, Cortez said. And the supporters of the project will be the first to be able to test the game and offer their feedback.
“We are managing the whole process from beginning to end,” Cortez said.
Cortez believes the company will launch its closed beta test for its platform in May 2015. The company has already acquired four games, all of which are playable and which it plans to put through the BrightLocker platform. The first title is expected to debut around June 2015.
BrightLocker provides the platform for game ideas to be submitted, vetted, improved upon, and voted on by the community. If the game is selected, then both reward-based and equity-based funders can cover the development and publishing cost for the game. BrightLocker wants to run the “full stack” of making a game and it wants to gamify the whole process.
Besides Cortez, the founders include Mark Rizzo, chief technology officer and a veteran from Electronic Arts and Sony; Eric Schmitter, vice president of platform and a former game maker at Sony Online Entertainment and Trion Worlds; Alan Van Slyke, vice president of game development and former game maker at Sony and Epic Games; and Thor Biafore, vice president of customer experience and former head of customer service at Blizzard. The board includes Igor Efremov, executive advisor and founder of Sperasoft.
BrightLocker has five founders, two employees, and 14 contractors working at an offshore development partner. It opened its doors in March 2014, and it competes with rivals such as Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and Valve’s Steam Greenlight. Last year, the company raised $955,000 in seed investment from Sperasoft and investor Dmitriy Smirnov.