Accel and Sequoia top VC investments in mobile gaming

Steven Loeb · July 12, 2016 · Short URL:

Pokémon GO looks like the future of mobile gaming, but there are many issues that need to be solved

Mobile gaming is changing rapidly, thanks to augmented and virtual reality, which are giving games newer and more interesting dimensions. A few years ago, the big titles were FarmVille, Words With Friends and Candy Crush, games you mostly played on Facebook. Now, look at what's been happening with Pokémon GO, a game that is truly interactive, in that in actually involves the real world in its gameplay. 

While it seems like games are getting more exciting and interesting, though, the space has actually started to shrink, according to data from PitchBook.

 In 2011, there were 144 deals in the mobile gaming spaces, but by last year that had declined by 36 percent just 92 deals. Dollars also fell sharply in that same amount of time, going from $1.22 billion in 2011, to $415.21 million last year, a drop of 66 percent. However, if you remove Zynga’s $490 million round from 2011, the difference isn’t quite as stark.

Since the beginning of 2010, there have been 665 investors who have made at least one deal in the space, with 514 companies receiving funding, though only seven of them have raised over $100 million.

In the past five and half years, the top investor in the mobile gaming space has been Accel, with 16 total investments, including Finnish mobile game developer Supercell, mobile game publisher and developer flaregames, and Angry Birds developer Rovio.

The firm was followed closely behind by Seqouia, which made 14 investments, including Indian mobile multi-player games maker Octro, fantasy eSports website Vulcan, indie game distributor Humble Bundle, and mobile gaming company Pocket Gems.

Capstone Partners Korea was the third largest, with 14 investments. They included 4PLAT, a game developer and publisher focused mobile RPG games, as well as Seoul-based gaming platform Dadam Games and Fakedice, a game development studio.

SV Angel, Social Starts, London Venture Partners and Intel Capital each made 11 investments since the beginning of 2010, while Andreessen Horowitz and Kima Ventures each made 10.

The future of mobile gaming

If interactive games like Pokémon GO are the future of the space, there's still a lot of issues that need to be ironed out. Even in just a few days, there have been numerous reports of problems that Niantic, developer of the game, likely could not have foreseen.

For those of you who don't play it, or who haven't been bombarded with it on your Facebook for the last few days, Pokémon GO is a game that centers around augmented reality. Players walk around in the real world to order to move their avatar in the game. A player will encounter a Pokémon using the camera their mobile device, which display an image of a Pokémon as though it were existing in the real world.

There have already been numerous issues with the way the game is played, including people being mugged by those taking advantage of users being in unfamilar locations, while also not paying attention to their surroundings.

This caused Niantic to issue a statement earlier this week in which it encouraged players to be safe and aware.

“We encourage all people playing Pokémon GO to be aware of their surroundings and to play with friends when going to new or unfamiliar places. Please remember to be safe and alert at all times. We are humbled by the overwhelmingly positive response to Pokémon GO and greatly appreciate the support of our fans," it said.

Other issues that put users in danger that is much less immediate, though perhaps no less important, include a potential violation of privacy rights, which Minnesota Senator Al Franken outlined in a letter he sent to John Hanke, CEO of Niantic, on Tuesday.

"Recent reports, as well as Pokémon GO's own privacy policy, suggest that Niantic can collect a broad swath of personal information from its players. From a user's general profile information to their precise location data and device identifiers, Niantic has access to a significant amount of information, unless users - many of whom are children - opt-out of this collection," Franken wrote.

"Media reports have also highlighted that Pokémon GO has full access to some users' Google accounts, which includes their Gmail services. We recognize and commend Niantic for quickly responding to these specific concerns, and ask for continued assurance that a fix will be implemented swiftly. When done appropriately, the collection and use of personal information may enhance consumers' augmented reality experience, but we must ensure that Americans' - especially children's - very sensitive information is protected."

He gave the company until August 12 to respond.

A third issue that has popped up has involved where exactly the Pokémon within the game can be found.

The game uses Google Maps API, but doesn't yet seem to discriminate about where exactly they will show up. That means that players have begun finding digital animated characters in inappropriate places, like the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the 9/11 Memorial in New York City.

It would be funny if it wasn't so disturbing. Ok, it's still pretty funny. 

(Image source:

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