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It’s all in the name of reducing friction, or barriers that get in the way of making gaming convenient and easy for the masses. It’s one of many companies that are making games that will appeal to billions of players, particularly those that aren’t hardcore gamers.
The Stockholm, Sweden-based Trail is releasing developer tools to bring accessible, high-quality gaming to the browser with no downloads, no installs, and no paywalls — just the capability to play immediately. And if you want to share a game with a friend, you can share the link and the friend can jump in immediately.
Trail is publicly launching its software development kit (SDK), enabling game developers to deliver studio-quality games, with a focus on those created in Unity, to the browser. Trail’s mission is to bring down the barriers to gaming by providing creators with tools to make their games more accessible, easily discoverable, and virally shareable — with games just one click away from billions of potential players. Downloads and installations get in the way of fun; Trail removes those obstacles to make zero-friction gaming a reality.
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“When you take out the barriers, more people will will show up and play,” said Willem Demmers, the CEO of Trail, in an interview with GamesBeat. “It’s like entertainment on demand with video streaming. It reduces the friction and it competes for your time.”
Demmers noted that friction-free games like Slither.io have had more than 67 million daily active players, monetized through ads. That’s bigger than platforms such as Steam, and that shows how games can reach a wider audience when it’s easy to play, he said.
The team started out making its own game in 2016, but it took a long time to build, and the company decided to focus on its technology instead.
“We started five years ago with the aim to make it easier to play games because we realized it was getting harder and harder to play as we were getting older,” said Demmers. “We didn’t really want to deal with the hurdles of gaming anymore. And we also saw that there was this huge market of people who weren’t really invited to play games in the first place. So essentially, installations and downloads are getting in the way of fun. And we have solved that by making professional quality games run directly in the browser.”
Leveraging WebGL 2.0 and WebAssembly, Trail streamlines professional game development for the web to make more games available anytime, anywhere. This technology platform enables Unity game developers to take advantage of all the benefits of the browser, while providing players a gaming experience that’s rich, engaging and satisfying. It works on on any major browser, except Apple’s Safari.
“The tech is finally ready. We have these beta tests that are working great. And also thanks to advances in microprocessors, nearly anyone today can access a gaming capable device,” Demmers said. “You can play on laptops because they have GPUs now. So now is really the time for something like this to come about.”
In contrast to cloud games, Trail-based games actually use your hardware’s processing power.
“We wanted to get away from the latency issues. We never believed in video streaming for games because gaming is all about the interaction,” Demmers said. “You can’t really predict the future in the game. It’s all about what’s happening as you’re doing it, and you want direct access to that so you can feel in control.”
Reaching new audiences
The explosion in game creation has given rise to lots of new content, but the existing platforms for distributing games lack the tools developers need to connect with entirely different audiences, said Demmers.
Meanwhile, continuous improvements in microprocessors have made even common laptops into gaming-capable devices, Demmers said.
“We see the problem with gaming to be far larger on desktop than on mobile,” Demmers said. “There is no offering for the casual audience on desktop. On the desktop, you need Steam and a gaming rig to play triple-A titles. It’s an exclusive sort of subculture. And it’s like a couple of percent of people who actually have desktops and are using games on a daily basis. And what we see there is that there is a huge opportunity for a bunch of games to to actually reach this new audience. And we wanted to make that possible.”
Trail aims to bridge this gap between developing for native platforms and WebGL, where creators can reach billions of untapped potential players. Developers struggle to be heard above the noise; Trail simplifies how they can share their games, from creation and distribution to performance and analytics.
“When you have a game running in the browser, using our features, you could actually post it in a news article or place it on any website, and people will be able to play it immediately,” Demmers said.
Trail makes it possible for anyone to enjoy new gaming experiences with a single click, and to invite and play with friends simply by sending them a link — it’s as easy as watching and sharing a funny video. And for the first time, professional games can be embedded directly onto a webpage.
By enabling slick, latency-free gameplay in the browser, Trail brings the full commercial potential of under-served games to a vastly bigger demographic, while giving developers the tools they need to market and grow their audience. Using the Trail Unity SDK Extension, creators can easily port new and existing Unity games into the platform, whether they are mobile games seeking new audiences on desktop, indie PC games looking to reach more players, or an entirely new gaming concept that is ripe for going viral. No remote or cloud streaming is needed.
A vision for developers first
Trail envisions an online gaming platform that is as much by the developer as it is for the developer, with favorable revenue splits and incentives that reward creators for their influence and innovation. With Trail, developers can take control of their destiny and break free from industry gatekeepers, gaining better access to players and insightful analytics to drive engagement, Demmers said.
Being in-browser gives Trail full attribution, making it far easier to understand the player journey as compared to other game distribution platforms. These insights will soon be available to Trail developers via an analytics dashboard, which will help them understand and learn more about their players — where new traffic comes from, and even where players are dropping out or having a negative experience.
These insights will enable developers to make quick fixes and even better long-term decisions. And because Trail games are browser-based leveraging WebGL 2.0, developers can iterate quickly and even run sophisticated A/B tests to deliver highest-quality performance without having deep pockets or overextending resources.
Demmers started the company in 2016 and it has 12 employees.
Trail is a Stockholm-based startup that brings down the barriers to gaming by providing tools to make games more accessible, easily discoverable and virally shareable. Leveraging next-generation web technologies, Trail goes beyond the traditional limits of browser-based gaming to streamline professional game development for the web, helping creators to reach an untapped market of billions. No downloads, no installs, no paywalls — just play.
Trail raised a second seed investment of $2.3 million in 2020 in a round led by Stockholm-based seed fund Luminar Ventures, with additional backing from NY-based investment fund Max Ventures, and Eldridge.
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