We’re pleased to disclose the inaugural list of Game Changers from the partnership of Lightspeed and GamesBeat. Together with 15 industry judges, we selected 25 companies as the most innovative gaming startups for 2024.
Lightspeed’s Moritz Baier-Lentz and GamesBeat’s Dean Takahashi made the announcement on stage at the close of the GamesBeat Next conference today in San Francisco.
For more than 50 years, video games have profoundly shaped consumer behavior and acted as a catalyst for significant technological innovation. As an ever-increasing time of our lives is spent in immersive virtual worlds, gaming is expected to continue its pivotal role in how we play, work, and connect.
But often, true innovation happens at the edges. The most daring companies are not the industry giants—they’re the startups that are advancing the next stages of technology, and by extension, bringing to life previously impossible user experiences.
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That’s why Lightspeed has partnered with GamesBeat to honor this new breed of gaming companies. In August, we asked the gaming and venture communities to nominate the best startups across five key categories:
- Game studios,
- Gaming platforms (e.g., UGC & social)
- Interactive technology (incl. AI & 3D)
- Extended reality (AR/VR/MR), and
- Blockchain and Web3.
All of the entrants had to have been in business no more than five years and have no more than 50 full-time employees. In addition to vision and execution, we also sought to highlight companies that honored principles of diversity, equity, inclusion, and sustainability.
Selecting winners—everything but an easy task
We received an overwhelming amount of quality entries. Between Lightspeed investors and GamesBeat editors, over two days, we narrowed the list of entrants to an even 100. We then submitted the nominees to a star panel of judges composed of C-level gaming executives and operators with senior leadership experience across Activision Blizzard, Amazon, Animoca, ByteDance, DeepMind, Disney, Electronic Arts, Epic Games, Goldman Sachs, Google, Kabam, Krafton, McKinsey, Meta, Microsoft, Niantic, Oculus, Riot Games, Roblox, Stanford University, Take-Two Interactive, Tencent, TikTok, Unity, Valve, Xbox, YouTube Gaming, Zynga, and others.
Judges then voted on each candidate (with about 10 votes per startup), and we took the average scores across all judges for each company, sorted the list, and arrived at our inaugural 25 Game Changers!.
And now, on to the winners … .
Best Interactive Technology: Modulate AI
The ability to voice chat with other players in real time adds excitement and intensity to the gaming experience, but it can also lead to a toxic experience. Modulate’s ToxMod tool uses AI to moderate and remove toxic language in real time. The software is so sophisticated it can tell the difference between an exuberant “F— yeah!” and an abusive “F— you!”—and do it in nearly 20 languages.
That’s a key reason why the young company—notably named one of Time Magazines’ 100 most influential companies in 2022—is already powering voice chat moderation for Microsoft, RecRoom, and Riot Games, and why our judges chose it as the hands-down winner for Best Interactive Tech.
Best Game Studio: Gardens
Gardens* earned a near-perfect score from our panel of judges, and it’s easy to see why. The studio creates lush shapeshifting worlds that blend role-playing fantasy adventure with social gameplay. The Gardens founders’ previously created games — which include Sky: Children of the Light, Journey, and What Remains of Edith Finch — stand out thanks to their distinctive visual style and oftentimes novel cooperative play that promotes memorable moments shared with friends and strangers.
While we were blown away by the games’ technical innovations, our panel was equally impressed by the company’s commitment to sustainable practices, equitable pay, work-life balance, and diversity. At Lightspeed we believe that gaming is the ultimate online social experience — where creativity, skill, and collaboration combine to produce joy. In the hands of studios like Gardens, the future of social gaming is indeed bright.
Best Gaming Platform: Astrocade
Named for Midway’s classic 1970s video game system, Astrocade is both a salute to the history of gaming and a harbinger of its future. The platform’s innovative use of generative AI allows anyone to become a game designer simply by issuing text prompts. Astrocade translates natural language descriptions into interactive worlds, automating the generation of art, animation and visual effects, music and sound, story and interactive characters, and even custom gameplay mechanics.
Though Astrocade is still in its infancy, Astrocade has attracted attention (and funding) from gaming and business luminaries such as Nvidia Ventures, Roblox founder David Baszucki, Tencent president Martin Lau, and many more. Living at the intersection of gaming, AI, and the creator economy, Astrocade is poised to have a huge impact on the industry for years to come.
Best Extended Reality: StatusPro
For sports games, authenticity is everything. And nothing is more authentic than the feeling of being on the field alongside your favorite players. Founded by former college and NFL athletes, StatusPro is the ultimate extended reality (XR) sports experience. It’s so realistic that the company’s core technology is used by professional teams to train coaches and players.
StatusPro’s NFL Pro Era is both the first XR sports simulation licensed by the NFL and the fastest selling XR sports title on the Meta Quest platform. The upcoming NFL Pro Era II will add multiplayer features, allowing virtual ballers to compete against others across the world. We believe augmented and virtual reality will play a significant role in the evolution of player experiences, with sports simulations being a leading driver of adoption.
Best Blockchain and Web3 Technology: Horizon
Horizon is both a maker of games and a builder of foundational Web3 infrastructure. Creator of Skyweaver, one of the first free-to-play blockchain trading card games, the company also built Sequence, an all-in-one development platform that makes it easy to build Web3 games, wallets, marketplaces, and much more within the Ethereum blockchain.
With Sequence, Horizon’s co-founders and team have created a tool that could change how Web3 games and apps are developed. The ability to create a non-custodial, multi-chain smart wallet in two clicks is truly a game changer. It’s no surprise that the Canadian-based company was named one of the World Economic Forum’s Technology Pioneers of 2022.
The top 25 Game Changers
Congratulations to all 25 Game Changers 2024!
Even in a challenging economic climate, exceptional founders continue to create exceptional companies. By creating this list, we hope to shine a light on tomorrow’s leaders in gaming—the same companies driving the next evolution of our shared digital experience.
With that, we’re thrilled to announce the additional 20 winners and honor them on stage at GamesBeat NEXT Summit tonight followed by a reception at our San Francisco office:
- Latent Technology
- Lightforge Games
- Rosebud AI
- Sprocket Games
- Unleashed Games
Last but not least, we’d like to wholeheartedly thank all the companies that submitted entries, as well our esteemed panel of judges, who represent the best of the best of the gaming community. We couldn’t have done it without you.
Game Changers judges include today’s leaders in gaming and interactive media.
- Anna Sweet, Chief Executive Officer of Bad Robot Games
- Ben Feder, Managing Partner of Tirta Ventures
- Bonnie Rosen, General Manager of Disney Accelerator
- Danny Lange, Vice President of BI & AI at Google
- Dean Takahashi, Lead Writer of GamesBeat
- Holly Liu, Co-Founder of Kabam
- John Hanke, Chief Executive Officer of Niantic
- John W. Thompson, Fr. Chairman of Microsoft
- Ken Wee, Chief Strategy Officer of Activision Blizzard
- Kylan Gibbs, Chief Product Officer of Inworld AI
- Leo Olebe, Global Head of Gaming at YouTube
- Manuel Bronstein, Chief Product Officer of Roblox
- Maria Park, Vice President of Corporate Development at Krafton
- Michael Chow, Chief Executive Officer of The Believer Company
- Moritz Baier-Lentz, Partner & Head of Gaming at Lightspeed
- Ryan Wyatt, Fr. President of Polygon Labs
- V Pappas, Fr. Chief Operating Officer of TikTok
*Lightspeed portfolio company
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