Istanbul has become a city to watch when it comes to casual gaming startups, driven by companies like Peak (acquired by Zynga for $1.8 billion) and Dream (valued at $1 billion in a year-long funding round). past). Now, a new startup is announcing a major funding round to make its own mark on the space. Spyke Games, which hopes to bring a new dimension to casual gaming using multiplayer functionality and other social elements, has raised $55 million in an initial round of funding.
“Teams and alliances, clans, tournaments – they exist in the midcore genre and that’s why they’re so sticky,” said co-founder and CEO Rina Onur Sirinoglu in an interview. “They allow people to play together and compete together. We are betting that this will start to happen in casual games as well.”
Funding comes from a single investor, Griffin Gaming Partners, a VC that focuses (as you can guess from the name) on startups working in and around the gaming industry. Other companies in its portfolio include Discord, Forte, AppLovin, Overwolf and WinZO.
This is a large sum for a seed round in any country, but it happens to be the biggest seed round to date for a startup outside of Turkey, underscoring how far things have evolved in the country when it comes to attracting investment. As a point of reference, when Peak was acquired for $1.8 billion by Zynga, it had raised a mere $19 million in 10 years.
What’s even more remarkable is that Spyke raised that money before they even released anything. Their first game, Royal Riches, was released in a limited release and is expected to launch globally this month.
Part of the reason for the strong investor interest lies in the co-founders and their collective history. Co-founder and CEO Rina Onur Sirinoglu was also a Peak co-founder and chief product officer; COO Remi Onur was previously head of design at Peak; CPO Barkin Basaran was Senior Product Manager at Peak and later at Zynga, CTO Fuat Coşkun was Director of Engineering at Peak; and CMO Mithat Madra was an executive at Riot Games, among other places.
For Spyke, the disproportionate round was raised to match the startup’s ambitions. Sirinoglu acknowledged that the round is too big for the Turkish market.
“Turkey has always been known as a capital-efficient place for startups,” she said in an interview, referring to the fact that there is a strong flow of engineers coming out of education in the country, but also the fact that hiring them is difficult. “super affordable” compared to hiring equivalent talent in London or the Bay Area. “Historically, startups have been able to stretch a few million dollars.”
But she added that Spyke decided to take a different approach. “We’re doing this for the second time and we think we’ve come to something huge,” she said. “We have long-term goals to be one of the biggest gaming companies in the world and we want to achieve that goal in a short amount of time.”
Spyke’s arrival on the market comes at an interesting crossroads for casual gaming. On the one hand, the genre has been around for years, so it’s time to try to stop it. The big question will be whether it will be another casual gaming company or another type of entity that is also competing for the same hours of engagement as casual gaming.
“It’s not just competing with the world of other casual games, but also with companies like TikTok,” Sirinoglu said.
The hugely popular video app has not yet published any games that you actively play on the app, but it has earned a place for itself in the gaming community. Last November, it launched a new gaming experience, the game room, where people go to watch a live show where high-profile people play. Others regularly post gameplay videos on the app. Sometimes it feels like it’s just a small step forward for TikTok itself to launch games within the app.
It’s for this reason that Spyke’s basic premise isn’t just making games more casual, but bringing more social elements into the mix, something she and her co-founders started seeing hints at while they were still on Peak.
She said the team there “unintentionally” built social elements into Toy Blast and “stumbled on” a community of players.
“With Peak, we had no infrastructure, but in every game we noticed cross-pollination between Toy Blast, Toon Blast and other similar games.” The user patterns they found, meanwhile, will be applied to Spyke.
“The interesting thing about the social studio is that most of the revenue came not from tokens or coins, but from those selling virtual items in private chat rooms,” she said. These were related to the games, but also to the relationships that were formed between the players. “This was in the back of our minds and so we want to create technology to keep this activity in our infrastructure.”
His decision to go out and build a new company to exploit this says a lot about how often some of the best startup ideas are easier to explore on a clean slate than trying to create a place for disruption within an existing entity. It’s even more interesting considering Zynga’s track record in social gaming over the years, and its early days of looking to build social elements through integrations with Facebook.
“Spyke has the perfect combination of a deeply experienced team with proven success in game development and an unwavering focus on execution,” said Phil Sanderson, MD, Griffin Gaming Partner. He joined Spyke’s board of directors this round.