Red Robot raises $8.5 million for geo-based gaming

Ane Howard · September 14, 2011 · Short URL:

What you get when you combine location, mobile, social and gaming: funding

Red Robot Labs, a location-based mobile gaming startup that just launched two weeks ago, announced Wednesday that it has raised $8.5 million in funding led by Benchmark Capital, with participation from Shasta Ventures and existing investors Rick Thompson (co-founder of Playdom) and Chamath Palihapitiya (former Facebook executive).

Mitch Lasky, general partner at Benchmark Capital, will be joining the company’s board of directors.

Debuted at Penny Arcade Expo (PAX), a three-day gaming festival in Seattle, “Life Is Crime” is the only title currently offered by Red Robot, but it is indicative of the startup’s new, real-world category of gaming.

In a way, “Life Is Crime” is something like Zynga’s “Mafia Wars” laid over a real geographic setting. That is, people playing the game must carry out their virtual crimes at actual physical locations. Whether it’s finishing missions, buying and selling contraband (read: virtual goods, monetization) or fighting other players, in-game activities are completely dependent on real-world interactions.

As of now, the game is only available for Android users.

"We want to bring a rich experience of social interactions to the daily life of gamers," Mike Ouye, CEO and co-founder of Red Robot Labs told me in an interview. Ouye founded the startup back in January 2011 with Pete Hawley. Both were former executives at Playdom, EA and SCEE. 

"Life is Crime," which has been downloaded 60,000 times since August 26, is based on the premise that friends want to beat up friends throughout the day, as they check into various locations, collect bounties and further dominate their turfs. Players compete and collaborate to dominate real places and ascend leader boards while building their reputations in order to drive their criminal careers forward, transforming local hangouts into criminal territories. 

Palo Alto, Calif-based Red Robot Labs is planning to use the funds raised to not only further improve upon their game, but to develop a whole location-based gaming platform, with the goal to have three games developed by the end of the year, even one that will appeal more to both genders.

"We are working on a game that is going to be less combative and competative, both for the Android and the iPhone," Ouye in our interview. "We are also planning to open up to third party, and become the number one location-based gaming studio in the world."

Ouye just might meet his goal. Looking at the present number of downloads, and the stats released on the company's blog following its launch at PAX, "Life is Crime" scores well with its demographic of male 18 to 35.

“Life Is Crime” could definitely become a smash hit, as long as users keep playing as much as they did in the game’s launch weekend. In those short three days at PAX, Red Robot saw the following milestones met:

  • 20k crimes committed
  • $1M in contraband trafficked through the Convention Center alone
  • $35M robbed, stolen and laundered
  • 4000 fights to dominate the PAX Convention Center
  • Over 800 Criminals Hospitalized during those fights

Now it’s time to scale and expand.

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Ane Howard

I am a social journalist covering technology innovations and the founder of, an international newswire.

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