BetaDwarf has raised $6.6 million in funding to make more “friendshipping games” that go beyond the bonds formed in its previous hit titles such Forced and Minion Masters.
Makers Fund led the funding, with participation from seed investor London Venture Partners and new investors 1UP and Everblue.
Copenhagen, Denmark-based BetaDwarf is known for the Forced (2013) and Forced: Showdown (2016) games, as well as 2019’s Minion Masters, which has one of the largest official Discord communities globally. The company said it is profitable, but raised the additional capital to invest aggressively into what they define as a new genre focused on friendships.
BetaDwarf debuted with the cooperative multiplayer game Forced, which sold more than 500,000 units. They were able to proceed to Forced: Showdown and Minion Masters and still continue to make money. Steffen Kabbelgaard and Kenneth Harder started the company in 2012, and they started by taking over an unused classroom in a school. Now they have a team of 20.
London Venture Partners led the seed round into BetaDwarf in February 2018 to help grow Minion Masters, providing both capital and games-as-a-service know-how. Minion Masters has crossed 2.5 million downloads, and it has more than 100,000 members on its Discord server.
Yet BetaDwarf seeks to move faster and help define a new focus for games by investing in the “Friendshipping genre.”
The company has always been fascinated by great co-op experiences, both couch and online co-op. The team grew up playing games like DOTA, and belong to the generation that still enjoys those games but are reaching an age of limited reaction speed, time and available friends. As the company kept refining its vision, it revealed the problem of loneliness.
Loneliness is on the rise: The UK Britain recently appointed its first Minister for Loneliness, and it has been identified as the next public health epidemic of the 21st century. Countries like the U.S., China, and the United Kingdom report more than 50% of their adults suffer from loneliness.
Feeling lonely is more dangerous than one might think and is associated with a 26% increased likelihood of mortality. A solution can come from getting friends that can relate to your life and share an activity with you. The company believes that “friendshipping” requires a specific approach to game design.
“It’s beautiful when positive social impact and business has a chance to meet, and we believe this is true in this case,” said Steffen Kabbelgaard, CEO, in a statement. “If we can create and maintain friendships through an activity and in some cases reduce or remove loneliness from our customers, then we are more than confident that we will set many new industry KPI benchmarks and that our team will be empowered and motivated by the positive impact on people’s lives.”
BetaDwarf is still early on in developing their newest and biggest game ever, yet they are confident that it will be something special and with the added capital – bigger, better and faster than initially planned. The studio is currently hiring for a new game team to simultaneously ensure fantastic ongoing updates for their recently launched title Minion Masters.
To date, the company has raised $8.1 million.
As for describing Friendshipping, Kabbelgaard said in an email, “It’s a game that focuses on creating and maintaining close friendships by continually offering increasingly demanding reciprocation loops between two to three people. It takes 200-plus hours spent together with another person in a combination of activity and intimacy to form a close friendship. A Friendshipping game must provide all of that and maintain it afterwards.”
Kabbelgaard said that diving underwater together is a good example of friendshipping.
“This kicks it off and effectively accelerates more trust and the possibility of then feeling comfortable about eventually sharing vulnerabilities which is a key ingredient for establishing close friendships,” he said. “We’re not making a diving game, our vision is more about soldier comradery but the mechanics from diving shares similarities and inspires us as well.”