Helsinki, Finland-based Ovelin is in the business of teaching people music using fun, easy games. The company is at Disrupt NY’s Startup Alley this year, demoing their latest game, GuitarBots, which is getting its full official launch after a soft launch earlier this year and a period of public beta testing. The game is like Guitar Hero, but will actually impart real skill, and runs in your browser with no special equipment required besides a guitar and a computer with a microphone.
GuitarBots is a guitar-teaching app that lets you play along with an animated tutorial onscreen, with a range of difficulty that goes from extremely simple for people brand new to guitar, to lessons that should prepare you to go out and actually become a competent player on your own. The app provides step-by-step feedback, telling you if you’re going too slow or fast, or if you’ve missed the note. Right now, it’s on the desktop as a browser-based game (which is very impressive considering the quality of the game’s animation), but there’s also a mobile version in the works for release in the next few months.
The True Ventures-backed company is doing well according to co-founder Chris Thür, who said that overall their products are doing well, with around a quarter million users so far across their various offerings. GuitarBots is a more specialized product, he says, and as such is a bit slower to grow than its other applications, but the value of the offering is in attracting a highly motivated crowd that will result in a good number of conversions from free to paying customers.
So far, Thür says that they’ve already seen a 60 percent return rate for new users to GuitarBots, and around 10 percent of those become paying customers. The model for GuitarBots is a freemium one that resembles the Dropbox method, giving users limited access for free and rewarding them for referrals. Initially, you get access to 5 minutes of in-game play time per day, and then you get an additional 5 minutes for each new friend you sign up, to a maximum of 35 minutes per day. Then after that you can pay for additional time, starting at $9.99 per month for three hours a day of play time.. The mobile version will offer a similar payment scheme, but Thür says the exact way it’ll work isn’t written in stone.
GuitarBots is tackling the issue of high drop-off in people learning to play the guitar, by trying to motivate them with fun, easy-to-use games to keep them interested. It’s a good middle ground for people who aren’t willing to invest in expensive one-on-one instruction, and who don’t find just trying to teach themselves effective.