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All contestants:
Wonderspark
Location: Oakland, California, United States United States
Founded in: 2014
Stage: Revenue generating
Number of employees: 1-5
Funding history:
- Date: 09/2015, Seed: $360 k (post valuation: undisclosed amount).
Short URL: vator.co/wonderspark
Testimonials

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From Bill Lee
Vatorx1

Wonderspark

Real Games for Busy People
Startup/business
Oakland, California, United States United States
http://wonderspark.co
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Company description

Background:

Wonderspark is a new company from the co-founder/Creative Director of Self Aware Games, the developer of Big Fish Casino, one of the highest-grossing ($200M+/yr), most successful, and most enduring apps in iOS history. 

The Problem:

A whole generation of people who grew up with games no longer has time to play them. Whether it's parenthood, or a high-pressure job, there are millions of self-identified "gamers" who simply can't play the games they love anymore, and the five-minute time-wasters that are prevalent on the App Store are a poor replacement, because they lack the things that real games provide - challenge, mastery, progression, narrative, and a genuinely social experience.

The Game:

Our new game, Alter/Ego, combines the visuals and excitement of a hardcore action game with the strategy and accessibility of a card-combat-based role playing game.

However, Alter/Ego isn't just about the few minutes a day you have time to play, it's also a game you play with your *life*. Through activity monitors and background location, Alter/Ego takes the things you do in the real world & converts them into a fantastic adventure that you're always playing.

The core mechanic of Alter/Ego is a fast-paced, accessible card combat game that mimics short-range combat between two people. It's played with a combination of reusable and consumable cards, like a mash-up of War (the simple two-player card game) and Magic: The Gathering, but with the character progression & development of a role-playing game, like Blizzard's Diablo.

Players earn cards through their real-world activity. Time spent at "work", for instance, is translated into the fantasy world as "questing". Sleeping at home recovers health & stamina. No matter how exciting or how routine a player's life is, their real-world experience shapes the experience of their player-character in-game, and helps to create their role in a fantastic, alternate-reality fight for humanity's future.

Alter/Ego is built specifically for a generation of people who grew up on games but whose free time is extremely scarce & valuable. It gives players everything they love about games - mastery, challenge, narrative, progress, social interaction - and delivers a brand-new style of game designed from the ground up for the cutting edge of mobile technology.

Our Approach:

We've pioneered technology that lets us iterate 20-50x faster than most of our competition. At Self Aware, this approach let a team of five people dethrone Zynga in 2010 from the #1 Casino game spot on the App Store with a team 1/10th their size with 1/100th of their budget.

We combine 20+ years experience creating hit games wtih robust customer feedback and analytics, which lets us create something genuinely new and exciting, and optimize it incredibly fast.

Our approach has always been to build something that was impossible to build before that moment in time, and to combine novel technology and novel mechanics in a way that still feels familiar to players.

One of our biggest strengths is that we understand how to create games that foster genuine social interactions - both between existing friends, and between people who are meeting for the first time in our game. Our players play our games for years and create lasting relationships that often extend beyond the confines of our game. Real social interaction is a core value for us. The fact that because of it, we achieve best-in-class retention & monetization is just icing on the cake.



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Team
  • Seppo Helava
    Seppo Helava | Founder
    Previously the co-founder, Lead Designer and Studio Manager of Self Aware Games, developer of Big Fish Casino, one of the most successful iOS games of all time. 15+ years of experience developing games, 5+ years as a team lead & entrepreneur.
  • Ei-Nyung Choi
    Ei-Nyung Choi | Founder
    From MIT grad to Tech Founder, Ei-Nyung’s been a software engineer at successful, scrappy startups in Silicon Valley for 17+ years. Most recently, before venturing out with her own startup, she helped pioneer a live-updating infrastructure f...
  • Bill Lee
    Bill Lee | Advisor
    Bill is an angel investor and some of his recent investments include Tesla Motors (nasdaq: TSLA), Posterous, Tweetdeck (acquired by Twitter), Kelkea (acquired by Trend Micro), and Zaarly.
Business model

We build microtransaction-based games-as-a-service, also known as "Free-to-Play" games. We launch games quickly and develop them over time with a live audience. Our games are built to monetize from day 1, which helps us achieve sustainability quickly. We collect a huge amount of important data about our games' performance, and use it to optimize quickly. We only spend money to market our games when they have already shown exceptional performance in critical metrics.

We sell items to our players that they can purchase in-game. These include additional cards for the card-combat element of Alter/Ego, visual customizations to make their characters unique, gifts for their friends, power-ups, and ways to maximize their progress while offline. We have years of experience "internally" marketing these items to players in-game, and have been able to achieve best-in-the-world levels of per-user monetization while maintaining extraordinary levels of customer satisfaction and engagement. We know what players want, and we strive to give them something they genuinely value. Our goal is not to maximize short-term revenue at the expense of long-term engagement. 

Competitive advantage

Over the last five years, we designed and ran one of the most successful iOS apps in history. We pioneered a style of rapid iteration with a live audience that had never been done on iOS that allowed our small team to dethrone Zynga at the height of their popularity.

We've been working in the F2P mobile game space since *before* it existed on iOS, and have achieved massive success with Big Fish Casino. Over the last five years, we've achieved the most efficient per-user monetization in the world, becuase we understand what players value, want to spend money on, and how to create an experience that will engage them for years.