We’ve heard from sources that Mobcrush, a live-streaming service centered around mobile games much in the same way Twitch is known for streaming popular eSports desktop games, has raised around $10 million in new financing, though the number could have gone beyond that.
Mobcrush’s bet is that mobile game streaming will be as big — if not bigger — than some of the competitive game-streaming services that already exist. The gorilla in the room, of course, is Twitch — which Amazon bought for nearly $1 billion last year and has tens of millions (if not hundreds) of monthly viewers. Mobcrush raised $4.9 million in a round that round was formally announced in May, and in July Mobcrush came out of beta.
To be sure, mobile games are becoming increasingly sophisticated. Some of the most popular games on the App Store are strategy games like Clash of Clans. And while these games are lightweight, phones are becoming more and more powerful and gaining more touch points — meaning it’s ever more likely that someone will figure out a way to replicate the complex nature of mobile games (with one new example of a new touch point being Force Touch, which is expected to end up in the next iPhone).
We heard Kleiner Perkins participated in the most recent funding round, with two sources telling us the firm led the round. We were told the round was incredibly competitive, as you might expect for a company making a bet on a mobile Twitch.
“Mobcrush does not comment on rumors or speculations about our financing,” CEO Royce Disini said. “We’re focused on our execution, excited about our growth and the big opportunity for mobile game live streaming, and have added [three] key hires from Apple, Google and Microsoft to help accelerate our growth.”
So, what does this funding round mean? It could be that investors are salivating over the potential of a next-generation Twitch that’s geared entirely toward mobile. On Twitch, games like Starcraft, League of Legends and Hearthstone are insanely popular. It’s not clear if mobile games are going to hit that sort of trajectory, but already there are lots of competitive games on mobile devices (including Hearthstone). Given the success of Twitch, there’s a good chance that investors believe there’s a huge market for streaming mobile games alongside more complex online games.
The counter argument to all this is that there isn’t a set of games like Starcraft that will eventually end up on mobile. Given the lightweight nature of mobile games, it’s possible that there just won’t be a market for hardcore games like League of Legends, even though several well-funded companies like Super Evil Megacorp are going after the space with games like Vainglory.
And, to be fair, Twitch could build something similar and crush Mobcrush (no pun intended). It already has a huge presence on mobile devices and has broadcasts of Vainglory. Twitch is not unfamiliar with finding its way to new markets, pivoting originally from a live-streaming site to focus on video games and creating a $1 billion company in the process.
Mobile’s Starcraft moment hasn’t happened just yet. However, all roads do lead to mobile — and it seems more and more likely, especially with the arrival of Hearthstone (which is of course on PC) on smartphones, that it’s possible companies will find a way to build a hit game that will be popular among the esports crowd.