Mobile Gaming Live-Streaming Service Mobcrush Raises $11M

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Mobcrush, which live-streams mobile games like Twitch does for PC games, said today that it has raised $11 million in a new financing round led by Kleiner Perkins.

TechCrunch previously reported that the company had raised around $10 million. As we noted before, the company’s bet — along with investors — is that mobile game live-streaming will be bigger than just PC games. The rationale is pretty straightforward: there are going to be way, way more mobile devices than PCs, opening up live-streaming to a much broader audience of gamers.

Royce Disini, Mobcrush’s CEO, thinks it’ll work — but it’s still hard to tell given how early more in-depth games are on mobile devices. High profile competitive titles like Hearthstone and Vainglory are still new on the iPhone, though there have been other more complex games like Clash of Clans and Boom Beach for some time.

“We’re on the other side of this horizon right now, we don’t know the other side,” Disini said. “If we wind back three Starcraft games on PC, who would know the Starcraft would come about, because you’re looking at the vantage of a pre-horizon. “We’re not yet at the hind-sight on mobile, we’re at the pre-horizon vantage.”

Still, all roads lead to mobile — with some of the most popular games in the world being lightweight mobile games like Candy Crush Saga — and it’s increasingly likely that there will be a major hit that could become as big as a title like Starcraft. The prospect of a mobile-focused Twitch is so appealing that it has already attracted another large round of funding shortly after it formally announced its $4.9 million seed funding round in May. (Already there are competitive Hearthstone tournaments, though that competitive ecosystem is primarily known through its PC version.)

“We’ve heard this argument in so many industries — just because it doesn’t exist today, doesn’t mean it will happen,” Kleiner Perkins’ Abbott said. “More specifically, [Disini] and his team will see those trends and iterate the product and service appropriately as the market evolves. This is truly a bet on his team.”

Of course, games like Vainglory already stream on Twitch, and Twitch has a mobile app. And Twitch, whose team has plenty of experience catching onto huge trends, could easily find a way to build something that is highly competitive with Mobcrush. Again, the company’s bet here is that there will be a market specifically for live-streaming mobile games, and that’s baked into the company’s DNA.

Mobcrush started to sate the needs of Disini and his team’s desire to stream mobile games like Vainglory. Prior to Mobcrush, members of Disini and his team’s clans and guilds (Disini himself is a big Vainglory player) had to use PCs to stream videos of the games. From that, more players joined the platform from games like Clash of Clans, and those players invited other members of their clans.

With a game like Starcraft comes a competitive ecosystem, and a community that drives a more mass adoption for the platform. In the case of Twitch, that competitive gaming ecosystem helped build a service that blossomed into a community of tens of millions (if not hundreds) of users. So far, there’s an inkling of that with games like Vainglory and Hearthstone, and Mobcrush is producing streaming “stars” that are popular internally that weren’t previously on platforms like YouTube or Twitch, Disini said.

Eventually, Mobcrush has to build a business. Mobcrush can sell ads, or have viewers participate in the stream by contributing money to help a player level up or something along those lines, Disini said. There’s also an opportunity to drive installs for applications, given that it’s a mobile first platform.  All of this is very, very early talk in the company’s life — but given the success of Twitch alone as an analog, if the company is able to build a massive community, the potential is clear enough.

The trick, too, will be ensuring that the community thrives. Like any new platform, Mobcrush has to not only continue to attract new members, but ensure that the community drives a positive feedback loop that attracts more users — and then more streamers, which continue to build audiences.

“We’ve been fortunate that the community that’s showed up on our platform so far are the core community members that fit the profile that’s scalable,” Disini said. “More recently there was a slew of influential broadcasters who were curious about Mobcrush, and several of their friends started signing up. What’s key is we’re starting to see in internal stats we have some home-grown starts that are starting to come up.”

The counter argument here is that mobile won’t have a Starcraft moment. Despite becoming increasingly complex, mobile games still remain very lightweight and haven’t quite drawn an audience at the scale of a game like World of Warcraft, League of Legends or Starcraft. But the pieces are starting to come together with both the emergence of studios willing to take risks on those kinds of games, and an increasing level of technology available to game developers.

Update: Added additional information about potential competitors.