You no longer have to be a “gamer” to enjoy video games and the pandemic has shown this. With video games immersive and interactive experiences captivating audiences like never, Treehouse Games announced the launch of its gaming studio that designs interactive, cooperative games instead of narrative-based single-player games. Treehouse Games is currently building its first game and the team is hard at work to translate the feeling of doing something with/for others into the gameplay. At a time where society is longing for social connections, even if virtual, and with American video game usage increased by 75 percent during the quarantine, Treehouse Games is poised to make an impact.
LA TechWatch caught up with CEO Michael Chu to learn more about building games that focus on cooperation rather than competition, the challenge of fundraising during COVID-19, and the company’s upcoming plans.
Who were your investors and how much did you raise?
$2.6M Seed funding, led by LVP, with additional funding from Transcend Fund and Kristian Segerstrale (CEO of Super Evil Megacorp).
Tell us about the product or service Treehouse Games offers.
Treehouse was founded to build innovative cooperative games that create lasting memories and deepen friendships for their players.
For Ryan (cofounder) and I, games have always been our favorite way to spend quality time with our friends and family. It’s how we stayed in touch after we met as colleagues almost a decade ago. I have a brother who’s a decade older than me, but our love of games is something we’ve always had in common; Ryan has a career-level goal to make a game that he and his wife can spend hours exploring together.
Games are becoming an everyday social activity for millions of people around the world. Although competitive games have gotten most of the spotlight so far, there’s a huge demand for better cooperative experiences
How is Treehouse Games different?
We’re focused on building games for people who want to spend quality time together. And we are taking a unique approach by exploring great real-life experiences that are memorable and meaningful and asking why they don’t yet have an equivalent in games. Why can’t games give you the sense of camaraderie from a road trip or the feeling of generosity from buying your friend coffee? We’re looking at how to translate those feelings into games.
What market is Treehouse Games targeting and how big is it?
As lifelong gamers, cooperative gaming has been the source of some of our best memories with friends, and our favorite way to spend quality time together. Now we see people all over the world, including millions who don’t even think of themselves as “gamers”, spend hours playing games with their friends as a normal social activity. There’s so much opportunity in building new cooperative experiences to serve this whole generation of social players.
What’s your business model?
It’s a little too early to share specifics, but we’ve been hard at work designing a collaborative, welcoming environment that finally makes it easy and delightful to hop into a game with your friends and make lasting memories. Treehouse, and our first game, are built around the conviction that games have the power to deepen and improve our friendships, and we can’t wait to share more soon.
How has COVID-19 impacted the business?
Quarantine has meant adapting our planning and communication processes to work with a fully remote team. We’ve been using Discord every day for ad-hoc discussions, and running regular team game nights for team-building and social time. In his years of working with small and agile indie studios, Ryan is a pro at managing teams that are fully remote. That’s helped us improve the ways that we can collaborate virtually, which will be really valuable as the team grows.
What was the funding process like?
We started fundraising in late February, just a couple weeks before everything started shutting down for quarantine. Fortunately, we had started talking with LVP and our other partners by then and found a great mutual fit. They are all seasoned investors, have a ton of experience as entrepreneurs themselves and resonated deeply with our vision. Though everyone was fully remote by then, we were able to close the seed round quickly. And we couldn’t be luckier to have their support!
What factors about your business led your investors to write the check?
I believe it was our team’s ambition to create a new type of multiplayer experience, powered by our unique blend of experience in the games industry. Our team is a near-perfect split of experience between team leads from Riot Games and from successful indie game studios. We have the scrappy innovation of startups mixed with great practices from operating huge games at scale.
Our team is a near-perfect split of experience between team leads from Riot Games and from successful indie game studios. We have the scrappy innovation of startups mixed with great practices from operating huge games at scale.
What are the milestones you plan to achieve in the next six months?
One of our most important upcoming milestones is growing our team! As you can see from our website, we’re hiring as well as focusing on building our first game.
Where do you see the company going now over the near term?
We’re expanding the team and will be focusing on building our first game.
What is your favorite restaurant in LA?
There are too many to pick from! One of my favorites is Bestia in downtown – incredible Italian food that has maintained a super high-quality bar over the years.
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