NaturalMotion — the company best known for making the hyper-realistic animation engines used in console blockbusters like Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption — has raised an $11 million round of Series B funding from Benchmark Capital. The company is looking to use the funding to make its gaming arm NaturalMotion Games into a leader in the mobile gaming market. As part of the funding, Benchmark Capital general partner and mobile gaming industry veteran Mitch Lasky will join Natural Motion’s board.
Our readers may remember NaturalMotion Games from this month’s WWDC, where the company’s upcoming game CSR Racing was demoed at the Keynote. According to NaturalMotion’s CEO Torsten Reil, NaturalMotion is taking on new funding now in order to take advantage of the massive growth it has seen in its mobile business.
“We’re looking to become the leading company in this space, particularly when it comes to the high-end, second wave of mobile game production,” says Reil. “We’re not looking to just do a few games, we’re really looking to become one of the major companies.”
NaturalMotion got into mobile gaming at the end of 2010 after realizing their console technology would run on the latest generation of iOS and Android devices. The company felt their experience would set them apart from other mobile developers — giving them the ability to bring the kind of ultra-realistic graphics usually reserved for hardcore gamers to a mass market audience.
While the company’s first five paid titles all performed well, but it wasn’t until NaturalMotion Games released its free-to-play animal care title My Horse that the company had its first big mobile hit. Reil tells us the game garnered over 10 million downloads and quickly outpaced the earnings of the company’s previous paid titles.
It was at this point NaturalMotion realized the scope of the opportunity on mobile, explains Reil. He believes the mobile gaming industry is at a tipping point, and the time is right for his company to establish itself as a market leader by offering experiences few other developers — mobile or console — can hope to match.
“The opportunity to create companies that go beyond the companies that we’ve seen in the console business is huge,” he says. “This is one of the very few times in the games business that’s been entirely disruptive in terms of platforms, content, play patterns and the shift towards digital distribution. We think now is the time when world leaders are being created. It’s a bit like the Cambrian explosion and this is why we’re investing so heavily.”
NaturalMotion Games will use today’s funding to open a new, larger office in the SoMa district of San Francisco. NaturalMotion Games is aiming to hire 30 engineers within the next three to six months and will be creating free-to-play mobile games targeted at both casual and hard-core audiences. The expansion will bring the company to 160 employees, which are spread between its Oxford and San Francisco offices. Lasky will advise the company on recruitment, strategy and scale.
Previous to today’s funding round Natural Motion had raised an undisclosed amount of funding from Balderton Capital and other investors.