While rivals such as Skillz have created a big business with mobile games, Player’s Lounge is targeting low-stakes competitions with players on consoles and PC games.
The money comes from entertainer Drake, Take-Two Interactive CEO Strauss Zelnick, former Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, Comcast, Macro Ventures, Canaan, RRE, and Courtside.
Zach Dixon and Austin Woolridge founded the New York company in the fall of 2014. They started it as a pop-up arcade company, but pivoted when that didn’t work. They launched their site in early 2016.
Today, players earn millions of dollars in prizes on the site every month.
“The idea came because Zach (my cofounder and college teammate on the Wesleyan University Soccer
team) and I enjoyed [local area network] LAN parties, an old-school term for a bunch of people hooking up consoles to TVs and gaming competitively together in the same room,” Woolridge said in a blog post. “We played a lot of FIFA, and we missed doing this post-college. We decided to start hosting gaming nights at bars, where we people from across the tri-state area would come to play in a FIFA tournament. It was an easy sell to the bars – they had bingo and trivia to bring in patrons on a weeknight. Why not add gaming?”
The young company ran leagues and tournaments throughout Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, San Francisco, and Toronto. Players gathered for gaming three times a week in each city.
“If you haven’t been to an event like this, imagine the student bar in the hometown of a college during an away game – high energy, loud and dramatic,” Woolridge said. “These events became the foundation for local communities of gamers. Many new friendships were made, including our CTO … who was the first attendee at our first ever event in Williamsburg.”
They found a problem that needed solving. There was a massive market of casual yet competitive gamers but no infrastructure for them to compete in an easy way. Player’s Lounge is a lot more appealing than trying to go pro in esports, at least for beginners. Players can also make a living as Twitch streamers these days, but that really depends on having a lot of personality on video.
“Now, anyone – from college students to 9-5 office workers – can make money playing video games using Players’ Lounge,” Woolridge said. “We match users up against others within the same skill range, so players should never feel uncomfortably outmatched. Players are over 18 years old.”
The company went through the Y Combinator accelerator in late 2018, and that helped with its funding.