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Pragma is a backend toolkit for gaming companies, so game developers can focus on games

These days, most of the games developed need to be social, multi-platform and extensible, but there are only a few developers with the expertise to bring those toolsets to the profusion of new games that crop up every year.

Well now those development studios can turn to Pragma, which is building the back-end toolkit for gaming companies so that their developers can focus on what they do best — making games.

It’s basically taking a page from the application development playbook where off-the-shelf toolkits can reduce the time it takes to get an app into the market by months, according to Pragma chief executive Eden Chen. In the game industry, a game can stay in beta for years as developers work out the kinks.

In the game world, because of the necessity to build multiplayer, the length to launch a game has gotten way way way way longer. Games are taking five to ten years to launch out of beta,” Chen said. 

Founded by Chen and former Riot Games engineering lead, Chris Cobb, Pragma is offering a “backend as a service”, according to the company, selling a toolkit that includes accounts, player data, lobbies, matchmaking, social systems, telemetry and store fulfillment.

In a way it’s a compliment to the front end game engines from companies like Epic, the creator of Fortnite.

Indeed, Epic had announced plans to create a back end system for game developers of its own, but Chen sees the benefits of having an independent operator doing the work — not a potential competitor.

Pragma’s investors agreed. The company raised $4.2 million in funding from a clutch of high quality firms and individual investors led by the Los Angeles-based Upfront Ventures with participation from Advancit Capital, and angel investors Jarl Mohn, President Emeritus at NPR and former Riot Games board member; Dan Dinh, founder of TSM; and William Hockey, founder of Plaid. 

“In a world where gaming studios have long used third-party engines to power their front-end development, it makes no sense for the same studios to spend millions of dollars to build their own custom back-end,” said Kevin Zhang, Partner at Upfront Ventures and board member at Pragma, in a statement. “This broken system has lasted for so long because creating a reusable, platform-agnostic backend is not just extremely complex but rarely prioritized compared to the game.” 

The gaming industry is a $139 billion behemoth that in some ways lags behind its technologically savvy peers in creating off-the-shelf tools to speed production. They’re combinations of social media platforms like Facebook and Snap, and big, high budget movie productions, but lack any tools to simplify the process of development or ensure that persistence, scale, and feature complexity don’t lead to downtimes. And downtimes could mean millions in expenses and lost revenues, Pragma said.

“Creating online multiplayer games is increasingly complex and expensive. Studios are hindered by the need to not just create compelling games, but also to build custom server technology to operate their game” said Chris Cobb, the company’s chief technology officer said in a statement.  

The company currently has one customer on its platform and will launch to an exclusive set of beta users in late 2020.

Multiverse virtual worlds will be healthier for society than our current social networks

The basis of the classic James Bond film “Tomorrow Never Dies” is an evil media mogul who instigates war between the U.K. and China because it will be great for TV ratings. There’s been a wake-up call recently that our most popular social networks have been indirectly designed to divide populations into enemy camps and reward sensational content, but without the personal responsibility of Bond’s nemesis because they’re algorithmically driven.

(This is part five of a seven-part series about virtual worlds.)

The rise of “multiverse” virtual words as the next social frontier offers hope to one of the biggest crises facing democratic societies right now. Because the dominant social media platforms (in Western countries at least) monetize through advertising, these platforms reward sensational content that results in the most clicks and shares. Oversimplified, exaggerated claims intended to shock users scrolling past are best practices for individuals, media brands and marketing departments alike, and social platforms intentionally steer users toward more extreme content in order to captivate them for longer.

Our impending cultural shift to socializing equally as often through virtual worlds could help rescue us from this constant conflict of interest between what we recognize as healthy interactions with others and how these social apps incentivize us to behave.

Virtual worlds can have advertisements within them, but the dominant monetization strategies in MMOs are upfront purchase of games and in-game transactions. Any virtual world that gains enough adoption to compete as a social hub for mainstream society will need to be free-to-play and will earn more money through in-world transactions than from ads.

Scopely is buying FoxNext Games, adding MARVEL Strike Force to its game portfolio

Scopely, the massively funded mobile game publisher, has made good on its promise to start buying up more properties with the treasure chest it amassed in a whopping $200 million round last year.

The target this time is Walt Disney Company’s FoxNext Games Los Angeles and Cold Iron Studios. Disney picked up Fox’s game division in the huge $71.3 billion deal which merged the two entertainment powerhouses in 2019.

There’s no word on how much Scopely spent on the deal, but the company is quickly becoming one of LA’s biggest mobile game studios, joining the ranks of companies like Jam City as mega-players in the mobile games ecosystem emerging in Los Angeles.

The city has long been home to game development talent including Riot Games, Activision Blizzard, and others.

FoxNext is already the home of the popular “Marvel Strike Force” game and is developing “Avatar: Pandora Rising”, which is a multiplayer strategy game based on the James Cameron blockbuster, “Avatar”.

The portfolio doesn’t include the Fox IP licensed game titles, which will continue to live under Disney’s licensed game business.

“We have been hugely impressed with the incredible game the team at FoxNext Games has built with MARVEL Strike Force and can’t wait to see what more we can do together,” said Tim O’Brien, Chief Revenue Officer at Scopely, in a statement. “In addition to successfully growing our existing business, we have been bullish on further expanding our portfolio through M&A, and FoxNext Games’ player-first product approach aligns perfectly with our focus on delivering unforgettable game experiences. We are thrilled to combine forces with their world-class team and look forward to a big future together.”

As a result of the acquisition, FoxNext’s President, Aaron Loeb will join Scopely in a newly created executive role, according to the company. Meanwhile, Amir Rahimi, FoxNext’s senior vice president will become assume the mantle of President, Games at FoxNext Games Los Angeles studio, the company said.

Last year, Scopely hit $1 billion in lifetime revenue and recently bought the DIGIT Game Studios to further expand its footprint in Europe and across North America.