Investor Accel partners seems to know how to pick 'em in the social space; in the past it's made investments in Angry Birds developer Rovio, Playfish, Gameforge and Mind Candy's Moshi Monsters, in addition to internet successes like Groupon.
Now it's placing a vote of confidence in Helsinki, Finland-based Supercell by leading a round of $12 million in funding to help the company develop browser-based social games that aim to be somewhat deeper than the genre typically sees.
Supercell, founded in June 2010, has been running a closed beta for Gunshine, its first online game, since February of this year. The company's CEO, Ilkka Paananen, tells Gamasutra that Gunshine intends to marry social gaming with what users have come to expect from traditional browser-based MMOs -- "deep" gameplay with extensive social networking features. It should enter open beta "soon," says Paananen.
The funding round, in which Accel was joined by Gameforge founder Klaus Kersting and London Venture Partners, is "great news for us," Paananen said. "Obviously, we're getting a lot more resources to do what we want to do, that will enable us to expand more rapidly, will give us more resources and allow us to start work on some new games on top of the proprietary technology platform we have developed."
That technology, says Panaanen, can scale across many different platforms, and will form the spine of the company's planned future product offering. It plans to develop multiple properties with the same goal of combining traditional, slightly more core-focused depth with new social and accessibility features.
"We're trying to build a bridge between very hardcore MMOs and kind of casual social games," says Paananen. "We're trying to create a very deep and engaging, immersive game that will also be very accessible. And it's open Flash technology, so that anyone can access it instantly directly from a browser. We're trying to combine the accessibility and virality of a social game with the deep gameplay of a more traditional MMO."
The new investment will allow Supercell to continue honing Gunshine. In particular, Panaanen sees a big difference in the way this type of accessibility-focused MMO is developed and launched versus larger, more core-focused games in the past: The launch process is more gradual, unveiling a basic structure to closed beta users and then iterating live. "You can expect that [Gunshine] will keep on improving," he says.
"What's really significant about Supercell and Gunshine is that usually companies develop these for years before they even release them, and our company was founded less than a year ago... the beta has been in development for at least nine months. We wanted to take this approach to put the game up as early was possible," he explains. "We knew that the game wasn't perfect, but we wanted to gain users and a community. I think that's quite significant."
This approach makes early adopters active participants in development, he points out. "We actually took quite a bit of direction from our own users... [the investment] is really great news for us and for our community because it will enable us to put more resources to the game and developer."