power-challenge.jpgSwedish company Power Challenge, which offers a more sophisticated way of rendering video game graphics within a Web-browser, has raised $8 million from Benchmark Capital

This move by Benchmark is the latest land-grab in the world of multiplayer online video games, spurred largely by the dramatic successes of Vivendi’s World of Warcraft and of multiplayer sports game Freestyle Basketball.

Freestyle Basketball, for example, garnered 30 million users throughout Asia, despite unimpressive graphics. (That game’s American launch, as it happens, takes place Tuesday.)

Power Challenge’s innovation is in giving users better graphics on games that are completely Web-based (no downloads). The vision is to rival the experiences from traditional console-based platforms like the XBox 360 and games that run from your PC.

Its two main games are Power Football, a rudimentary but enjoyable soccer game, and ManagerZone, which lets you build and manage soccer or hockey teams, but not actually control the action.

I played around with Power Football and could see how a user might get hooked. Despite still inferior graphics and limited controls, the game was simple, quick, and fun.

Asked why he went with Benchmark, Power Challenge’s CEO, Johan Christenson mentioned the firm’s experience with investments such as mobile gaming company Jamdat social networks Bebo and virtual worlds Second Life.

Power Challenge hopes to make money through the use of in-game advertising and the offer of premium services. These services, rolling out this week, will cost $6/month. Power Challenge’s premium status will allow you to personalize your team, designing jerseys and logo, for example.

With the capital it’s just raised, Power Challenge intends to develop games for the American market, and though the CEO wouldn’t say which sports he’s going to release next, we’d be surprised if American football isn’t one of them. Prying gamers from Electronic Arts’ Madden football — the best selling franchise in video game history — will be no mean feat, but perhaps that won’t be the way Power Challenge goes to market. It may choose instead to target more casual gamers or those drawn in by the online community that Power Challenge intends to foster. With one million users and only four thousand new users added every day, there’s a long road ahead, but this company, now $8M richer, might be part of the beginning of something grand.


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