At the end of 2016, Plain Vanilla founder Thor Fridriksson left the company he founded with the intent to take at least a year off of work.
His product QuizUp, a social trivia game that raised more than $40 million and said it had more than 100 million users, never truly found a way to monetize. After a few missteps, including a proposed TV deal that eventually got cancelled, Plain Vanilla was acquired by Glu Mobile for a deal reportedly valued at $7.5 million.
Fridriksson was only a few weeks into his planned yearlong vacation when he became restless and asked a few members of his core team at QuizUp — Gunnar Holmsteinn, Johann Thorvaldur Bergthorsson and Ymir Finnbogason — to start brainstorming with him about the future of mobile gaming.
That’s where the seed was planted for what would eventually become Teatime.
“The main thing we kept focusing on, and it seems straightforward and common sense but these things often do in retrospect, is why people play games,” said Fridriksson. “One of the main value propositions of playing a game is not about the game itself but about the human interaction you have while playing with someone — talking to the people you’re playing with and seeing their reactions.”
Teatime Live is a mobile gaming platform that allows users to interact with one another, face to face, while playing games on their phone through a built-in video chat. On top of the video chat, Teatime Live offers users Snapchat-style face filters called Game Faces, that are unique to each individual game on the platform. Players can take their earned game faces from one game to other games, and eventually, Fridriksson sees the opportunity for these items to be collectibles.
Most forms of games or sports have a social element built in. Whether it’s board games or physical sports or even video games, players have been able to communicate with one another in some way shape or form. That simply hasn’t been the case on mobile, which means that it’s still unclear what the best possible game for this platform looks like.
Teatime is debuting the platform with Hyperspeed, a simple racer game that the company developed in house. Teatime will continue to operate as a studio and build out other titles on top of the Teatime Live platform, but it also plans to work alongside other game developers as a publishing partner.
There are obvious concerns around enabling live video chat among strangers across the internet, and Teatime has tried to take steps toward preventing abuse.
To start, users are not allowed to play Teatime games as a guest. All players must sign up with Facebook, Gmail or a phone number, which means bad actors will have a more taxing time getting back on the platform with a new username.
More importantly, Teatime’s game-face filters require facial recognition technology, which means that the system knows when there is no face visible in the camera. Unless a user is playing with someone that they’ve friended, Teatime will blur the picture whenever a face isn’t visible in the camera.
As per usual, Teatime also has a team of moderators going through profile pictures, etc. and a user reporting system.
Teatime hopes to build games around relatively proven models in mobile gaming to earn revenue on its own games, while sharing revenue with other game developers who build on the platform.
Teatime has raised $9 million in Series A funding from Atomico and Index Ventures.