The Carlsbad, California-based company has had a rich history in gaming, as it created the hit mobile game Sweet Escapes before it was acquired. And its founders, Michael Witz and Dan Lin, were behind the success of Cookie Jam, which has generated well over $500 million for mobile game publisher Jam City (as of a few years ago). Overall, the team’s games have done more than $1 billion in sales.
Cookie Jam debuted back in 2013 and then Jam City acquired Mob Science, another game studio which Witz and Lin started. They started Redemption Games in 2019 to work on Sweet Escapes, with funding from Supercell. AppLovin first invested in Redemption Games and then acquired it.
“We acquired the studio from AppLovin and so we’re once again an independent studio,” said Witz in an interview with GamesBeat. “And subsequent to that, we went out and raised a seed round of capital. It’s like starting out fresh again.”
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And now the company is spinning out again as an indie studio, with $7 million in a round led by Play Ventures. Additional investors included Bitkraft, Merit Circle DAO, Orange DAO, and a few game industry friends.
“Some might say, that being a small, independent studio trying to build and publish mobile puzzle games in the teeth of a highly competitive market might seem a bit crazy,” said Witz. “But emerging new technologies are going to unlock some fun new player experiences and we couldn’t resist going after them.”
Lin added, “As an engineering co-founder who still likes to get my hands dirty in the code, we have built a culture that’s pretty attractive for engineers who like to be able to focus on coding and who are curious to explore how some of the latest technologies in AI and Web3 can actually be applied and leveraged to create mass market games.”
Redemption Games is working on new games that are looking to bring emerging technologies to the mass market, including a new approach to digital collectibles and AI. Blockchain technology is part of the overall solution the company wants to deliver.
The company focuses on free-to-play gaming first, and its games will be available to players whether they are blockchain users or not. For those players, reducing the friction to play is paramount. But Redemption Games may add Web3 elements for the players that want that kind of experience where they can trade the assets they have purchased, Witz said.
For blockchain technology, the company will build its game from scratch and incorporate digital collectibles into its game economy. “The only way you can make a game economy really work with the concept of tradable assets is to design it from the start. We are approaching it where it’s going to be invisible to the player as much as possible.”
As for parting from AppLovin, Witz said, “Working underneath a larger studio umbrella has some fantastic benefits. There are both pros and cons. I think for us it was more that the opportunity presented itself to do this. We have such a tight team we have been working with for so long that we really wanted to keep the team together. And we still think we have great games in us to make. We’re not ready to be done.”
Redemption Games is now a remote-first company with several of its team still in Carlsbad, California.
While Redemption Games has had a lot of success in cute, casual puzzle games, the company has always been interested in how the puzzle genre can reach a wider audience. Their next games will push the boundaries of what’s possible on all fronts.
And judging from the image on this story, the company is expanding into something more serious.
“We’re super excited to back Michael, Dan, and the rest of the crew at Redemption Games in
their stride to build category-defining puzzle games, powered by the open primitives of Web3,” said said Anton Backman, principal at Play Ventures, in a statement. “Prior to Redemption Games, the founders worked on landmark titles in the puzzle genre while also having cut their teeth as serial entrepreneurs. We believe that founding teams like this, with strong game development acumen combined with entrepreneurial experience and an endless curiosity for new technologies, will be among the best teams to build games in this ever-changing industry.”
Witz said that Sweet Escapes generated more than $60 million in lifetime revenue.
Redemption Games has 21 people, and it is hiring for a few select roles. The company can be reached for jobs at jobs@redemptiongames. Beyond Sweet Escapes, the company is working on two other new games as well, Witz said. One is a traditional puzzle game and another is venturing into the new territory of Web3 digital collectibles. That game will likely skew more toward a traditional hardcore audience.
“We’re excited about them. Dan and I have always been really interested in new technologies and how gaming is going to take advantage of them,” Witz said. “It’s happening with both AI and Web3.”
Witz said the company has expanded into Web3 in part because mobile has been disrupted by the changes that Apple made in prioritizing user privacy over targeted marketing.
“I think it’s caused a huge disruption. And I don’t think it’s finished yet,” he said. “But at the same time, some of the things that are happening in Web3 we are really excited about. The opportunity is how do you create a mobile-first free-to-play experience and then bridge that to great features of Web3.”
Witz acknowledged that it would probably have been much easier to raise funding a year ago, before the crypto meltdown and the economic downturn.
“But, based on the track record that Dan and I have building games over the years, I think there was a strong appetite among the venture community to back people who have done it before,” Witz said.
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