Oh, how times have changed for Addmired team. The Y Combinator startup first debuted in 2008 with an Hot or Not-esque social network plugin, but eventually found their footing after pivoting to become a developer of freemium multiplayer mobile games like iMob and its recently released sequel.
Now they’re looking to do a bit of rebranding by renaming themselves Machine Zone, and to celebrate, they’ve also announced that they have raised a cool $8 million Series B round led by Menlo Ventures. Their board of directors is being bolstered to boot — Menlo Ventures managing director Shervin Pishevar will be joining the board, as will Anthos Capital managing director Bryan Kelly.
Pishevar’s new role with the team is quite the boon for Machine Zone, and for co-founder and CEO Gabe Leydon in particular. Pishevar’s own roots as founder of Social Gaming Network occasionally saw the two companies come into competition, as seen back when the first slew of mafia games started to take hold of iOS. Somewhere along the line, the two developed a mutual respect, and Leydon began to see Pishevar as “best VC in the valley when it comes to understanding what we do.”
What they do, specifically, is develop games that are big on uniting users and in-app purchases but are generally low on graphical intensity. Machine Zone’s oeuvre consists of games like iMob 2, Global War, and Original Gangstaz, and while none of them pack whiz-bang graphics, they all rank among the iOS App Store’s top 50 highest grossing apps (iMob 2 currently leads the pack at number 24). That by itself is pretty impressive, but they also stand as a testament to Machine Zone’s knack for creating games with some serious staying power. Original Gangstaz (which I’m really enjoying typing, by the way) was first released over two years ago, and Global War is something like 15 months old.
Leydon attributes this staying power to their specific approach to designing games, which, oddly enough, emphasizes crafting a engaging social environment ahead of actual game design.
“Video games are terrible at retention,” Leydon said. “We don’t look at them for inspiration. Look at the top apps in the App Store, and the ones that last are social communication apps. What we’re doing is creating a more social experience and then wrapping a game around it.”
Being the sort of gamer that prefers to play alone, I don’t know that I buy that philosophy, but the formula certainly seems to be doing the Machine Zone team well. With a fresh infusion of capital to play with, my conversation with Leydon naturally turned toward what’s next on their horizon.
As far as new game concepts go, Leydon smartly kept quiet when it came to specifics, but noted that the team is currently “kicking a lot of ideas around.” I can’t blame them for taking their time here — they’ve launched a total of 13 games since 2009, but they’re not just looking to slap together a new property and push it into the market for some short-term gains. In order to make these nebulous new projects a success, Machine Zone is also looking to use some of that new-found funding to bolster their ranks with savvy developers.