The founders are former Riot game developers Christina Norman and David Banks, both of whom worked on the League of Legends franchise and other big projects.
They’ve got some marquee backers in Andreessen Horowitz (a16z, a fund that Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz started) and 1Up Ventures (which former Microsoft games chief Ed Fries started). And all of this should tell us that it’s a golden age for starting game studios and raising money for them, as I’m aware of a couple of dozen investment companies doing game and esports deals.
I spoke with Norman and Banks, and they say they are focused on making games that are intrinsically social and connect gamers through deep cooperative gameplay, engaging content, and uncompromised crossplay, or the capability to play the same game on any platform. Specifically, the team wants to create a co-op game where players fight against the environment, or PvE.
At Riot Games in Los Angeles, Norman and Banks helped build League of Legends into a global giant. Banks was one of the first 20 or so employees, working as an engineer. Riot Games now has more than 2,500 employees.
During their time at Riot, they were touched by communications from players who felt that social games helped them form the deepest relationships in their lives. But there are a lot of barriers to playing with friends, such as challenges related to platform types, skill, location, and timing. Norman and Banks created Elodie Games to tackle those challenges.
Norman said that the biggest barrier for co-op play is definitely platform. People play in different ways, and most co-op games don’t support crossplay. She said the company chose its investors because they share their excitement for bringing shared gaming experiences to players, and they have years of venture and industry experience.
The company has five people now and it is hiring. Norman said the goal is to build a “gratifying, healthy workplace” that attracts veteran talent and creates an inclusive environment where people can live up to their full potential.
Norman and Banks said they talked to a lot of potential investors who are interested in the game industry. They chose Andreessen Horowitz and 1Up Ventures because of their deep experience in games.
“They are very interested in games,” Banks said. “They are hardcore gamers and fully understood our thesis and audience we are targeting. It was an easy conversation. Andreessen Horowitz brings a large operating platform and support that others can’t bring. Ed has a long history of investing in games and creating an interesting community around his fund. He is a giant of gaming industry.”
Norman has 15 years of game design and leadership experience working on games like the Mass Effect trilogy, League of Legends, and most recently as founder and design director of League of Legends: Wild Rift. She describes herself as a junkie for massively multiplayer online games.
“I want to apply all of the lessons I’ve learned at Riot and BioWare about creating co-op PvE games.
Banks has extensive startup and game development experience, previously serving as the vice president of product on League of Legends. He was executive producer on League of Legends, and worked on a game known as Project A during preproduction.
They want to create games that are “endlessly engaging, with trusted relationships with players, provides them with thousands of hours of gameplay, and it’s loved everywhere, meaning global,” Banks said.
The company wants to experiment with gameplay mechanics and move fast. Norman said the company isn’t talking about the genre of game yet. She said the company will take risks, and recruit talent in Los Angeles, which Norman said is “one of the top cities in the world for game development.”
As for Riot Games, they said they had a lot of respect for the big company.
“Riot has a lot of things in motion that are very exciting,” Norman said. “I’m more excited about this company, and this game. And that is in essence why I am here.”
“Riot is producing a bunch of new things for gamers. But they can’t touch every experience or every player,” Banks said. “We chose an avenue that wasn’t a place where Riot is placing bets.”