Carbonated has raised $8.5 million for its mobile game studio. It’s building a squad-based shooter that taps artificial intelligence as a core feature. The company has thought not only about incorporating AI into making mobile gaming easier, but to update these apps even with a small team.
Lots of other studios are doing this, like the TiMi3 studio in China that made Activision’s Call of Duty: Mobile game. But Carbonated has a veteran crew and it has seasoned game investors as well. Andreessen Horowitz, Golden Ventures, and Bitkraft Ventures were among the investors in the round for the El Segundo, California-based game studio.
CEO Travis Boatman started Carbonated in 2015 after leaving the big company life. Prior to that, he made mobile games at Electronic Arts, Jamdat, and Zynga. In an interview with GamesBeat, Boatman said he was grateful to be able to raise money during the pandemic and to provide jobs for more than 20 people. He believes the company can also hire another 10 employees thanks to the funding. The team has been working remotely, except for one employee who has been going into the office and gets the whole place to himself. “At this year’s (canceled) GDC we were going to talk more about the direction we were going, but we couldn’t do that,” Boatman said.
“One of the most fulfilling parts about raising money is being able to hire developers,” Boatman said. “As you might imagine, we’re looking for folks all over the U.S., though our center is here in Los Angeles. It’s a really good time to be a small team. And that’s one reason why there are so many investments happening now.”
He believes there’s a huge underserved market that continues to grow as gamers age and get busier. Creating a squad-based mobile shooter for smartphones is the solution. The game is set in a “present-day dystopia,” Boatman said. While he isn’t describing the game yet, Boatman said it will have real-time multiplayer action, high-end graphics, and alliances.
To deal with the difficulty of controlling a complex game with a touchscreen, Carbonated is using AI and live-ops technology to make the game easier to play, even if one hand is holding a frosty beverage.
“People are familiar with playing games like Call of Duty or Fortnite or PUBG, and they’re looking for those experiences, even on their mobile phones,” Boatman said. “One way we figured out to do this is by integrating AI into the platform and letting the player do fewer interactions.”
Boatman calls the live operations tool Carbyne, which makes it easy to modify everything from events and maps to character classes and abilities, and then deliver them instantly to players.
“We’ll be able to create content, and potentially give to our players what they want in any part of the world, as it’s a massive global business,” Boatman said. “We really wanted to build a game from the ground up that can serve customers all over the world. The Carbyne platform lets us do that, even as a small team.”
To help build the game, Carbonated allied itself with Amazon, using its Lumberyard game engine and other features for operating games-as-a-service. The company has been testing its shooters and is getting good feedback, and so Boatman said he decided to raise funding and accelerate the efforts. Other investors include AH Cultural Leadership Fund, as well as angel investors and advisers such as Kent Wakeford, Shanti Bergel, and Chris Ye.
Boatman said that it will be good to work with investors like Andreessen Horowitz, as it has a global network and can offer a lot of support to startups.