Most people would probably view a hardcore, 16 hour-a-day addiction to World of Warcraft as a bad thing. That was certainly the case for Hubert Thieblot a few years ago, when he dropped out of school and his parents decided to kick him out of the house because he was playing so much. Flash forward five years. Thieblot has managed to turn his addiction into a thriving company called Curse that generated over $3 million in revenue this year. Today, the company is disclosing a $6 million Series B round it closed in early 2009 with participation from Ventech Capital, AGF Private Equity, and SoftTech VC (Jeff Clavier). The round brings Curse’s total funding to $11 million, after a $5 million Series A round in 2007 led by AGF Private Equity.
In some senses, Curse is akin to a SourceForge for computer games, in that it offers a directory of plugins that players can use to customize and enhance their PC games. Many of the site’s users are World of Warcraft fans, who have made Curse.com the definitive site for WoW add-ons. Alongside its directory, Curse also makes a native client players can use to manage their plugins that currently has over 1.6 million active users
But Curse isn’t just about World of Warcraft. The company owns blogs, wikis, community sites, and download hubs for a number of other popular games. Curse has built out about half of the communities itself, and it also actively acquires leading websites related to gaming (sometimes these sites are run by one guy in his garage, other times they’re more substantial). For example, Curse acquired DiabloFans.com, which is currently the second ranked Google match for “Diablo 3”. Diablo 3 isn’t actually out yet, but you can be sure this will be prime real estate as soon as it launches (and its community is already growing).
This forward thinking is a big part of the company’s strategy: Thieblot says that Curse tries to stay ahead of the curve, strategically trying to figure out which games are going to be hits and then positioning themselves accordingly. He’s very optimistic about MMOs on the PC, and also anticipates some major massively multiplayer hits on consoles games soon.
The Curse client is free, as is most of the site, but there’s a premium offering available for $30 a year. This includes the ability to update all of your plugins simultaneously (you have to update one by one in the free version). The premium version also allows users to save their UI setup to the server, allowing them to restore it should they start playing from a friend’s house or during a break at school. This may not sound like a big deal, but gamers can spend a very long time mapping out exactly where each of their UI elements and shortcuts appear on the screen. Thieblot says that Curse currently has over 34,000 paid subscriptions since launching the premium option eight months ago. The site shares a chunk of this revenue back to the plugin developers.
Things are looking bright for Curse. The company has “a bunch” of money in the bank, is profitable, draws 7.4 million uniques monthly, and has plans to expand internationally in the near future. Oh, and Thieblot says that he’s back on good terms with his parents.
Also see Raptr a gaming social network that offers its own downloadable client.