Genvid Technologies has expanded its latest round of funding with additional funding from strategic investors NTT Docomo Ventures, Samsung Ventures, and Huya. Full told, the streaming company’s Series B funding has now reached $33 million, up from $27 million announced in November, and it’s raised $53 million to date.
Genvid‘s interactive streaming engine enables customers to monetize livestreams through sponsorships and in-stream purchases. But it also enables game developers to bring fans into a game, changing it on the fly through their own actions so that the experience for a player will be different. Genvid aims to make interactive streaming a must-have for developers and for audiences watching games and esports on livestreams.
That’s what the partnerships with the five game developers are about. Denis Dyack’s Apocalypse Games, Impeller Studios, and other indie developers are among the game studios using Genvid’s software development kit (SDK) to enable higher levels of interactivity between game streamers and their audiences when playing games that are designed for streaming. The goal is to get developers to integrate the SDK into their game as early as possible, to enable developers to think of new possibilities.
Shirley Hua, head of strategy and investment at Huya, said in a statement that the partnership will drive opportunities around esports and new games built for streaming. She said that interactive streaming has the potential to attract more viewers through deeper and more creative engagement.
“For Samsung, from the very beginning, we had been thinking that there would be lots of demand for interactive streaming, not just on desktop, but on mobile and on smart television. We had a relationship going back with them a long while,” Navok said. “And as for Huya, this one is pretty significant. As you know, if you want to work with any business in China, you need to be able to have a relationship with them. Today, we support Twitch and YouTube. We have more coming, and we are going to opening up the Chinese market for game developers so they will be able to write once into their game and get that interactivity with the Chinese market.”
In other news, Genvid announced that Jt Gleason, the former head of developer relations at Twitch, has joined the company’s advisory board.
China’s Huya is one of the largest livestreaming services for games in China. Navok said that the investment by Huya, NTT Docomo Ventures, and Samsung Ventures shows how those companies see the big potential of interactive livestreaming to their businesses. By supporting Huya in its software development kit (SDK), alongside Twitch and YouTube, Genvid will enable developers worldwide to deploy their games with fully integrated, interactive streaming to all three of the largest game livestreaming platforms simultaneously. This in turn will further open the Chinese market to western game creators.
“We wanted to work with NTT because as you recall from last fall, we had already been working with NTT DoCoMo on 5G game tournaments,” Navok said. “At the Tokyo Game Show, they showed really interesting plans for where they’re taking live streaming and lifestyle platforms and interactivity for both Japan and for China. And there are projects and collaborations that we’ll be working on and announcing in the coming year that I think are very exciting.”
The newly disclosed games, all of which can be demoed live via livestreams enhanced with Genvid’s technology, include Deadhaus Sonata from Denis Dyack’s Apocalypse Games. Canadian developer Denis Dyack — known for Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem and Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain — is building enhanced livestream functionality into Deadhaus Sonata, a free-to-play co-op action-RPG coming later this year to all platforms and leading on PC.
The game, being built on Amazon’s Lumberyard, lets spectators serve as a kind of virtual dungeon master, putting obstacles in the way of players. While players take on the roles of undead anti-heroes, livestream viewers can can trigger traps, spawn monsters, and otherwise affect gameplay via the stream.
“The way our partners at Genvid Technology allow us to change things is a fundamental switch from what people are used to,” said Dyack, in an interview with GamesBeat. “It’s the whole idea of bringing in a meta-universe into the game where people outside the game are participating. It’s really bringing people back to the days of the early Greek theater, where people would gather in an amphitheater, and really be able to influence and have agency into what was typically known as what we’re used to as passive. It fundamentally changes the game.”
He added, “We’re changing gameplay. We’re opening doors. We’re allowing people to be a dungeon master. But that’s not all that can be done. This is the tip of the iceberg. From a story view, we can have emergent storytelling, where people who are watching on Twitch can suddenly change things. That is so different from what we are used to. It’s going to bring about a fundamental change in the way people think about video games and how they are played.”
In Deadhaus Sonata, livestream viewers can also conceal or reveal paths for players to travel, solve puzzles to unlock new weapons for players, and much more.
Dyack said, “People loved the HBO show Game of Thrones. The last seasons were disappointing for people. And there were many reasons for that, but one reason was that George R.R. Martin didn’t finish the books. When Game of Thrones became big, suddenly thousands of people started thinking about story and participating in the series online. And then before you knew it, George R.R. Martin was actually an interview, saying, ‘Wow, they’re guessing some of my stories and some of these stories are better than the ideas I had.’ We are fundamentally changing games, and that is what excites me the most.”
In The Black from Impeller Studios
Impeller Studios’ forthcoming In The Black is an upcoming team-based space shooter for PC. Using Unreal Engine 4 and the Genvid UE4 plugin, In The Black livestream viewers will have access to interactive game maps and player information card; bounty, wagering, and cheering systems; and a host of other enhancements that both players and stream audience members can see and use.
With In the Black, viewers are able to see a lot of statistics about every player and cheer for the different players. They can see the different armaments, they can expand and check where they are within space. But then they can start to interact and affect the game.
“So for example, we can open up an info card and place wagers on whether a player is going to kill or get killed,” Navok said. “That’s going to generate points. And we utilize those points to be able to set bounties and when we set a bounty. If another player wins the bounty, they get a reward and we get a reward. So it creates an interactive loop between player objectives and viewers, who have their own unique metagame.”
Retroit from Black Block
Black Block will show its first game, Retroit (a mobile-first MMO) with Genvid’s technology.
Retroit is a persistent open-world city driving game expected to have thousands of simultaneous mobile players when it launches. Black Block is coming out of stealth in Helsinki, Finland. It’s integrated the Genvid livestream technology into the Godot engine so that the developer will host a single stream continuously showing a god view that livestream watchers can each control separately. Viewers will be able to troll or assist the player by dropping obstacles to cause crashes, dropping armored cars that contain loot, initiating or thwarting police pursuits, and much more.
Retroit is kind of like Grand Theft Auto, with gameplay only focused on cars. Viewers can see a kind of live traffic camera of real players moving down the streets of a city. The viewer can drop an exploding piñata. After a certain number of cars hit it, the piñata explodes. It can also be coupled with a cash truck, which hands out cash if hit by a car. But after a certain number of hits again, it explodes.
Demolition Robots KK from Throw the Warped Code Out
Japanese studio Throw the Warped Code Out, best known for Back in 1995, is prepping Demolition Robots KK, its four-player, competitive robot action game, to launch on Nintendo Switch and PC this winter.
Players control giant robots destroying city buildings, and viewers are all residents of the different houses. Built on the Unity game engine and using Genvid’s enhanced streaming tech, viewers cheer on players and see their viewer IDs on individual buildings in-game. Viewers watching their “home building” can cheer on players to destroy their building first in order to then start dropping traps to catch other robots.
“What I’m trying to do is stopped the robots from doing their job,” said Navok. “So I can actually select the different robots and set traps for them. And if I time the trap absolutely perfectly, it’ll capture him and destroy him. The robots are very strong, but if viewers collaborate on it, they can try to stop the robots from doing their job. And more and more features are coming we’ve got the ability to cheer on a robot if we actually want to help them for some reason.”
Don Swagger from Hearts Technology
Don Swagger, a never-before-seen experimental game from Japanese software developer Hearts Technology Corp., is a simple tennis-like game that stretches the definition of spectator sport in interesting ways. Acorns and nuts — which pop in seconds — are falling onto the field, and two players on each team will use rackets to hit them over a net to the opponent’s side. A player or team who sends and pops the most acorns on the opponent’s field wins. Don Swagger’s also built in Unity and coming to the Nintendo Switch
Through the interactive livestream, viewers can earn “Don points” by collecting blue flames that appear when a nut explodes, and they use those points to purchase additional nuts to add to the gameplay, equip players with upgraded rackets, apply in-game cosmetics to favorite players, and more.
“All these exploding acorns are falling on top of you,” Navok said. “And we can go ahead and swap between different cameras and watch the match from a different perspective. And this is important because we’re going to start interacting and changing what it is that we’re seeing. The nuts just exploded. And as they explode, you’ll see these little purple ghosts. These flames, I’m going to click on them. As I’m clicking on them, I’m selecting stars. And these stars are all generating points for me. The more that I interact with the stream, the more points they get, the more I can start to change what it is that I’m seeing.”
Growth in the future
More information on all of the games will be coming soon, Genvid said. The company can make money from the games through revenue sharing and other agreements. It now has 55 employees, and the company expects it will expand in Asia and Europe.
“We’ve got multiple partners and demos that will be doing virtual conferences in the coming weeks,” Navok said. “The more that you grow, especially if you want to grow business in Asia, it is very important to be able to take in small amounts of capital to solidify business relationships with strategic companies in Japan, Korea, and China. This is a critical course of business. We left a little capital open at the Series B stage, knowing that I wanted to be able to do this, and we got more interest than what we were looking for.”
Other games aren’t being announced, but Genvid is being integrated into next-generation console games, Navok said.
“Esports has been the first stepping stone toward our larger goal of creation of new content,” Navok said. “I see esports as being critical because that’s where mass viewership is already today. But we have to differentiate that from content that’s built from the ground up for interactivity because in esports, competitive integrity is critical. And so we can enable cheering and enable data access, we can educate viewers, but we don’t necessarily want to break the competitive integrity by allowing viewers to affect what they’re watching.”