Social game developer Goko has officially come out of stealth today, announcing $8 million in Series A funding from Redpoint Ventures and Alsop Louie Partners. The company is launching an HTML5 platform and already has its own cross-platform versions of popular board games on the site.
Goko is an HTML 5 games company that’s focused on bringing card, strategy and board games across mobile and web platforms. Their games are coming to iOS, Android, Google+, Facebook and the open web. According to CEO Ted Griggs, Goko is focused on board games, believing they are at the core of the social experience because “they have people sitting around the the table playing them.”
Bringing in some big names in board games
The biggest names in Goko’s games catalog right now are a cross-platform multiplayer version of Dominion, which is live today, as well as Catan World (a Settlers of Catan massively multiplayer online title). Catan World is currently in closed beta and is set to launch sometime in October. Both games are designed to be playable on Facebook, Google+ and Goko.com and are also planned for iOS and Android devices.
There are also some other games available on Goko’s website, including legendary board game designer Reiner Knizia’s tile-placing title Forbidden City and a new tower defense game called All The Kings’s Men. However, the company also has access to 150 different board game licenses — thereby locking down the hobby game market — including IP from Mayfair Games, Rio Grande Games, Reiner Knizia and Fantasy Flight Games.
While companies like Electronic Arts already have the licenses to adapt IP from larger companies like Hasbro, Griggs tells us he wasn’t concerned finding a marketable IP. “There are a lot of games out there that actually outsell Hasbro games,” he tells us.
We saw Dominion in action at Google i/o and have been participating in the closed beta on the web since; the game is a standard take on the original board game with support for up to four players, but can utilize the technology of Google Hangouts so users can see each other while they play. Catan World, however, is very different from its source material. The game has a campaign that takes place on an open world where players sail to various islands, playing Catan and competing with other people who have landed on the island. As players travel from island to island, they begin to unlock expansion content for the board game.
“We actually beat out Zynga to get Catan,” Griggs says. “Zynga’s obviously a very powerful company, but the Catan guys wanted to make sure that people would be really good with their brand. We spent three to four months pitching them on their game and they felt they could really work with us and create something unique.
Going beyond game development
Goko’s platform was designed to provide developers with a system that would allow them to incorporate social elements across any platform. This system was designed to allow smaller developers to have the same advantage larger companies have when it comes to launching and monetizing social games across multiple systems. Starting today, a SDK is available for developers to use to build their own games on the platform or partner with Goko in order to build a title based on one of its licenses.
“We think there needs to be a platform that spans all these different environments,” says Griggs. “If HTML5 is really going to be this platform Nirvana, you need to have a system that spans all these different platforms. In terms of gaming services, it’s social things like leaderboards, achievements, digital objects, and microtransactions.”
“Good platforms don’t start as platforms, they start as applications,” he explains, citing examples of how Amazon was focused on selling books and Facebook was a purely social network. Both of these sites brought in customers and released APIs for developers, which attracted more customers.
Griggs further notes, “Most platform companies start in the wrong quadrant. They start at the platform and hope that’ll attract people. From our experience, that’s not the case.”
Developers interested in Goko can learn more and sign up for the SDK by going to the company’s official website.