Conduit Labs, a yet-to-launch gaming virtual world, just closed a $5.5 million series A round with Charles River Ventures and Prism Venture Works. In addition to the financing, CRV’s Susan Wu and Prism’s Will Kohler have joined the company’s Board of Directors.
The details on the site are in flux and scarce. However, the service will be in the emerging space of “immersive online gaming meets social networking”. Their vision is to combine the best of social networking and online virtual world gaming, which Co-founder Nabeel Hyatt loosely termed as “Facebook meets World of Warcraft”. They don’t want to recreate a social network online, but rather marry existing networks (even perhaps Last.FM) with a 3D gaming experience. In the real world you can call up some friends and play a simple game of basketball. Conduit wants you to enable you to do the same thing easily online.
The product will be a 3D virtual world that runs on Flash through your browser. Once online you’ll get to connect with friends to play games. Flash will make the application more accessible than a lot of the existing 3D virtual worlds, which require long downloads. HiPiHi recently tried to help solve this problem by pushing for virtual world interoperability. They also want to make the games more accessible than existing online MMORGs aimed at hardcore gamers. The games aim to capture the casual social experiences of games like Wii Tennis or Guitar Hero.
The team behind Conduit Labs has a significant amount of experience with casual games and 3D worlds. Some of Conduit Lab’s co-founding members (Dan Ogles, Michael Sheidow, and Daniel O’Brien) served leading roles in creating games like Guitar Hero, Asheron’s Call, one of the first 3D massive multiplayer worlds, and the Lord of the Rings Online.
The company was founded by Nabeel Hyatt in April, while an entrepreneur in residence for Prism Venture Works in Boston, Massachusetts. They’re currently a team of 4, but will be expanding to 10 in the next 6 weeks.