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Soba has raised $13.5 million for its platform where anyone can create games for any device using no-code tools. The Web3 platform is aimed at enabling creators and influencers to build their own games.
Soba is in alpha testing for its multiplayer open-world platform to democratize game creation, said Juha Paananen, CEO of Soba, in an interview with GamesBeat.
Lightspeed Venture Partners led the round with participation from FTX Ventures. Other investors included Cherry Ventures, Point Nine Capital, and TQ Ventures. Additional investors included creators like Matthew “Nadeshot” Haag, Jack “CouRage” Dunlop, Tim “ClashwithAsh” Evans, and Alvaro “Alvaro845” González de Buitrago.
Soba’s vision is to build the most inclusive virtual world, where anyone can express their ultimate creativity through game creation. Its mission is to inspire and enable more gamers to become creators themselves.
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“The key thing we’re building is this open world,” Paananen said. “It’s about building tools where everybody can build games. And with this, we’re going to create their own sustainable economy.”
Paananen wants a future where more people participate in creation, rather than just consumption. He believes that such a world will be much more inspiring.
In the past, creators had to know how to program to build multiplayer games to play with your friends. Game creation software is restricted to PCs that not everyone has access to, the game development tools tend to feel complex and require an extensive time investment. Soba is changing this.
And it comes from cofounders Juha Paananen, who is the brother of Supercell CEO Ilkka Paananen; and Florian Odronitz.
Paananen was previous a cofounder at Nonstop Games, an HTML5 game company that was acquired by King. He also spent time as an investor at Cherry Ventures in Berlin, and then he decided to go back to building something. He teamed up with Odronitz and they started the company in 2019. They have 16 employees.
In Soba, creators can make their own game by adding and configuring elements built by others or creating custom logic visually without the need to know any programming language. It allows creators to build various games, from platformers to shooters, in many different styles.
Soba is free of charge and runs on mobile, PC and Mac, with other platforms coming in the future. As accessibility is of high importance to Soba, players will be able to access the full suite of game-creation tools on mobile, too.
“We’re incredibly excited to launch Soba to the first group of creators and players,” said Paananen. “As we spend more time in digital environments, we believe that everyone should be able to make games and define the rules of play. At the same time, we want to enable owners of digital assets, like NFTs, to build new interactive experiences. We’re using Web3 to build the most creator-friendly gaming platform and we’re proud to be backed by an amazing group of creators and other investors.”
Paananen is aware that Roblox is the 800-pound gorilla in the space, and maybe Minecraft is the 600-pound gorilla. But he noted that the creators don’t get much share of the revenues with current games.
“We think of this as more like user-generated games,” he said. “It’s about a playing experience. I don’t think of us as a tools company. We’re a games company. We will build a platform experience. Some of that might be like showcase experiences. But I’m 100% sure that best games will come from the users.”
Moving to Web3
With Web3, Paananen believes there has been too much focus on figuring out economics and not enough focus on making fun games.
“The games being fun is where it starts,” he said. “For us, Web3 is enabling a global payment system. We are not building play-to-earn games. We want to build something sustainable. We think there should be stronger monetization models for the creators.”
In order to create the best environment for creators, Soba is incorporating blockchain elements and shifting steadily towards Web3. Owners of creator platforms have amassed massive amounts of money, but many creators are struggling to make returns for the time and energy they put in.
Additionally, creators on Web2 platforms face the danger of losing their content and audience because they don’t have true ownership of their profiles. Through Web3, Soba will enable both creators and players to own their digital assets like NFTs, and they will also be able to move those assets to and from other projects. On top of that, creators will receive a high revenue share for their work, as Soba believes that platforms shouldn’t be taking the majority of profits.
“We’re proud to support Juha Paananen and the Soba team, and believe their experience will help them build a fun open-world gaming platform where Web3 can bring additional value to both players and creators,” said Amy Wu, investor at FTX Ventures, in a statement.
Even though the game is being built on Web3, Soba is prioritizing its product and offering people the opportunity to experience the game without the need to own tokens, Paananen said. The game will be available to anyone who wishes to play or create games.
“The barrier to entry for new game creators at the moment is huge, Soba changes this by building a simple yet very powerful no-code game builder and allowing its creators to own what they produce,” said Paul Murphy, partner at Lightspeed Ventures. “Soba’s team is exceptional and I’m proud to be a part of their success.”
Paananen believes there are a few shifts happening. Gaming has gone global with more than $200 billion in revenues expected this year. The creator economy has also gone global, and the trend toward providing no-code tools has gathered momentum.
“I studied computer science myself and am a mathematically minded person,” he said. “But these creators come from different backgrounds and they not writing syntax in code. And I think the no-cod movement is very interesting. We want to enable people to have their inspirations come alive.”
The company is targeting the PC and Mac first, then it plans to add iOS and Android.
“It’s still small, but people are super excited about what they can build,” Paananen said. “We enable a lot more people who couldn’t build with the previous tools. People who might have tried Roblox and Unity, and now they’re going on to something new.”
I asked if Paananen hopes to disrupt companies like Supercell. But he shook his head.
“The market is big,” he said.
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