Multiplayer online games are becoming increasingly popular, so much so that the already-addictive web has become rife with way-too-addictive game experiences that will steal hours from your day — and probably most of your rent money. Zynga’s Cityville is played by over 61 million users per month, and the cult sensation Minecraft recently reached over 24 million registered players.
As everyone knows, multiplayer is better than single player, and as the geeks among us know, there’s a set of multiplayer games, like Minecraft and Urban Terror, that offer software that allows gamers to host their own servers. For games like Minecraft, running your own server means that you don’t have to be subject to the rules and regulations of other hosts — you get to invite all of your friends into your world to play, and you get to set the rules.
While this can make the game experience infinitely more fun, gamers have to rent their own servers for $70 a month, be their own sysadmin, and are thus subject to their system’s RAM and CPU constraints. In other words, for hardware novices, the process can get complicated. This is where Minefold enters into the picture. Minefold, a new Y Combinator startup launching today, wants to be a more consumer-focused Amazon EC2 for the multiplayer gaming world, offering on-demand game servers for a nominal monthly fee ($5).
Existing game server hosts basically force the admin person to collect money from all their friends. If they stop paying, all their friends are also kicked out and the game’s data is lost. Minefold wants to eliminate any sort of system administration by allowing gamers to simply go to their site and start playing, allowing each player to pay for their usage separately. The startup is currently only catering to Minecraft players, but it plans to expand to other multiplayer games in the near future.
Minefold Co-founders Christopher Lloyd and David Newman originally hail from Sydney, Australia, but they re-located to Silicon Valley for Y Combinator’s winter batch, and will be headquartering their company in the Valley. Both avid gamers and mobile games developers, the co-founders told us that they want their service to make it simple for users to start playing private multiplayer games with their friends, without having to worry about the technical details that plague the current game hosting industry.
On Minefold, every player has an individual account, which spreads out the cost of the game amongst all its players, so that even if the person who initiated the game stops playing, all members can still continue to connect and play, without worrying about losing their work/data. Minefold is also looking to disrupt the current game server model by presenting users with rich data about the games they’re playing from the Web.
For example, Minefold offers game-specific features that designed to make gameplay even better, like rendering bird’s-eye views of Minecraft worlds, which helps orient them in the game and serves as a meeting point where players can discuss their experience. The startup also enables gamers to show off their creations on the Web, providing a directory of popular worlds on Minefold so that other players can clone the worlds they like and start playing with a few clicks.
After soft launching in December, over 6,000 hours of Minecraft have been played through the site, which the co-founders hope is a sign of the growing engagement they hope to facilitate with their on-demand, full-stack hosting platform. With architecture that offers quick scaling and is inspired by Heroku, the Aussies want to nail the Minecraft experience first. Once this mission is accomplished, they plan to offer similar gaming experiences across desktop, mobile, and console games.
The startup is currently hiring. For more, check them out at home here.