red robot labs
mike ouye
pete hawley
rick thompson

The Hong Kong Firm Behind Those Quirky Animated News Shorts Bets $5M On Red Robot Labs

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The Yakuza, Chinese Triads and more. There’s just so many more mafias for Benchmark-backed mobile gaming studio Red Robot Labs to infiltrate.

So the gaming company, which has made a huge bet on location, said it’s partnering with Next Media to enter Asian markets. (Yes, Next Media is the Hong Kong-based owner of that Taiwanese animation subsidiary that’s become infamous for its off-key and often totally bizarre news shorts on Tiger Woods and more.)

Next Media is investing $5 million to build titles on the company’s R2 gaming platform while Red Robot is using the deal to bring its flagship title Life is Crime to Asia. Red Robot already has more than $10 million in funding from well-known investors including Benchmark Capital, Playdom co-founder Rick Thompson, former Facebook vice president Chamath Palihapitiya and Shasta Ventures.

Chief executive Mike Ouye, who has a social gaming-heavy background with stints at Playdom and Crowdstar, says that Next Media will be the first of many developers to build on the company’s platform. Like many gaming companies, Red Robot is trying build a platform that will make it less vulnerable to the hits-based nature of the gaming industry.

Started at the beginning of 2011, Red Robot has so far tried to rethink mafia-themed role-playing games for mobile phones. Unlike other comparable mafia-themed RPGs like Storm8′s iMobsters, Funzio’s Crime City or Addmired’s iMob, Red Robot put a heavy emphasis on including location. Players can battle each other over local turf and rise up to become a regional mob boss. With gaming veteran and former EA vice president Pete Hawley as chief product officer, the game’s art also had a lot of polish compared to other titles at the time.

After launching at Penny Arcade Expo last fall, it came out with a strong start on Android and has held in the top 25 grossing on Google’s platform. On iOS, which is far more lucrative and competitive at the same time, it’s a different story. The game is in the 200s or so on the grossing lists.

A debut in Asia could change things, however. Revenue per user in markets like Japan and Korea often outstrip what a developer might see in Western countries. Life is Crime will come to Hong Kong’s market today, and then to Taiwan and Japan shortly.

And for absurdity’s sake, here are a few of Next Media’s greatest hits…. ?