Landmark, a UK mobile games studio that promises to deliver highly social experiences playable using only a smartphone, just banked $4.6 million in seed funds.
Mobile games turn the conventional gaming audience from consoles and PCs into a truly mass-market opportunity. Attractive graphics afforded by the latest smartphones have seen mobile studios enter a plethora of genres, from role playing games to mega-franchises like modern warfare shoot 'em up Call of Duty. With in-game micro-purchases and advertising, many studios can even make their mobile games free at the point of download.
With the market for mobile games continuing to swell in size, Landmark's debut sea faring adventure, the free-to-play "Sea of Souls", aims to entice players who lose interest when games get too competitive.
By actively courting the opposite market end from eSports genres, ever-growing in popularity, Landmark believes it will benefit from increased interest in co-operative gameplay.
Along with CEO Dave Burpitt, Landmark's directing duo Jonathan Chisholm and James Older have tasted success before while directing for mobile games studio Big Pixel, creators of a smartphone games adaptation of the Rick and Morty cartoon series. Big Pixel has since been bought by global entertainment conglomerate WarnerMedia.
Aside from Big Pixel, big releases by the Landmark developers at other studios have included a modern smartphone rendition of PC RPG classic Runescape.
Burpitt says there's potentially "billions" of people in the mobile games market who'd buy into fast-paced action experiences, but without the pressure of fending off rival players.
"We want to fundamentally change the experience by dismantling the negative expectations of being out-skilled or pummelled by your friends in exchange for joining what should be a fun gaming session," Burpitt said.
In Sea of Souls, friends play on the same team to navigate a sea navy against a common AI-operated foe; the "fearsome" Lord Kraken. And Landmark's creative director, James Older, is convinced Souls will be the "best place" for co-operative mobile gaming with friends.
"Players seek quality experiences for regular social gaming sessions, such as strategising for raids in Destiny or sailing together in Sea of Thieves.
"The experiences currently on offer have high entry barriers, whether limited to specific platforms or complex first-person controls. We promise hand-crafted, highly accessible adventures for everyone to enjoy.”
Landmark says the $4.6 million seed round will help expand its headcount to 20.
The round was led by Project A Ventures and InReach Ventures, with participation from Moonfire Ventures, Concept Ventures and numerous UK games angels, including Nick-Button Brown and Kartik Prabhakara.
Project A Ventures principal Jack Wang said Sea of Souls matched with his team's pursuit of a "hybrid genre" mobile game for investing in. He says a play test on Souls quickly demonstrated the strength of the game's core mechanics.
"It was a combination of bite-sized missions that you can play on a bus ride, collect weapons, items etc. and then use those items on longer group raids in the evenings with your friends," Wang explained.
"We haven’t seen many unique combinations of that in mobile gaming and think it could be the next genre winner especially for the next billion mobile first players. ”