June 23, 2012
Mobile Game Company NaturalMotion Gets Funding, New Headquarters
Enid Burns for redOrbit.com
Mobile might be the next platform for games, and NaturalMotion Games, a 3D mobile gaming company, just secured the most recent round of funding. NaturalMotion Games received $11 million in Series B funding, lead by Benchmark Capital. Mobile gaming veteran Mitch Lasky also joined the NaturalMotion Games board.NaturalMotion Games put some of the funding to immediate use, setting up its U.S. headquarters in San Francisco. Additional funds from the Series B round will be used to staff the company and further invest in NaturalMotion's mobile technology.
The company designs mobile social games, which so far have included My Horse, NFL Rivals, NHL Icebreaker Hockey, and Jenga. NaturalMotion games are built on a disruptive strategy of pairing console production values with mobile usage patterns. "The company aims to create games that can be played in short bursts, but at the same time provide beautiful and rich experiences with long-term progression," NaturalMotion Games says in a company statement.
"We believe that users want rich, believable experiences on their mobile phones and tablets," said Torsten Reil, CEO of NaturalMotion, in a company statement. "Just like animated movies have moved from Snow White to Toy Story, mobile games are moving from 2D farming games to high-quality 3D experiences. These games connect with users on a deeper level. We are excited to partner with Mitch and the Benchmark team to build the leading publisher in this space."
NaturalMotion is not the first to select San Francisco for its main office, rather than choosing to move to Silicon Valley. A number of companies have set up shop in San Francisco recently, instead of other parts of the bay area. It joins other gaming companies such as Zynga, GREE and DeNA, among a number of other tech companies.
Mobile games are approaching the production quality of consoles. Sony instituted a PlayStation Certified program, that registers handset models for their ability to play games at a quality rated for the Sony-branded console. Even when handsets are ready to provide the quality, it's up to game developers such as NaturalMotion to build games that look as good as console games.
NaturalMotion believes that the next progression of mobile games will need to jump a level in production quality. "We're just about to witness the end of Wave 1 in iOS gaming," NaturalMotion's chief executive Torsten Reil said, in an article by TechCrunch. "A lot of mobile-social game are obviously 2G resource management games. They're very similar. But devices are now at a point where we can give a much richer user experience. That's where we believe the disruption is going to happen."
Investors and board members believe NaturalMotion is a company to make that leap. "Tablets and mobile devices are on a collision course with traditional game consoles, not just for share of customers' day, but also in terms of the quality of the interactive experience," said Mitch Lasky, general partner at Benchmark Capital. "With remarkable games and digital toys built on industry-leading 3D animation platforms, NaturalMotion is well-positioned to be a leader in this space."
Previous funding for NaturalMotion was obtained back in 2006. Balderton Capital was among the investors, which also included current round investor Benchmark Capital Europe.
A proprietary simulation technology the company calls Dynamic Motion Synthesis (DMS) powers the 3D engine on many of its games. The company provided its engine in the development of Grand Theft Auto IV for Rockstar Games. NaturalMotion Games provided its morpheme engine for Ideaworks3D's Airplay Partners Program on the iPhone and smartphones.