October 22, 2019

Ex-King developers raise $1.5 million and launch Starform studio to make online games

Starform, a new Seattle-based game studio that former King and Z2Live mobile game veterans started, has raised $1.25 million and announced plans to make online games across various platforms.

The studio’s focus is to build experiences that are played together with friends. Yeah, that’s kinda vague. Starform says it’s built a platform that enables rapid prototyping of online features, to shorten the time from idea to test.

The company was cofounded by CEO Lou Fasulo, previously CEO of Z2Live, (which was acquired in 2015 by King for $45 million) and with cofounders Josh Rosen, Taylor Daynes and Jason English.

They were all part of the leadership at Z2Live, a midcore-oriented studio responsible for successfully launching four top 25 grossing mobile games that generated over $200 million globally. The company has six employees.

“It was a huge learning experience that we had at Z2, and then King,” said Fasulo, in an email to GamesBeat. “Really getting inside a company that has built a global phenomenon and having the chance to learn about how totally different player types engage was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

Gamers on more mature gaming platforms, such as PC, look for deeply engaging online gameplay where they can play with friends, meet new people and become part of a community, the company said. As self-identified gamers engage in mobile platforms, they demand the same, which is a significantly underserved market today.

“We have a goal of building games that can support play across platforms where the experience feels authentic for its own native controls,” Fasulo said. “Having said that, we’re certainly very passionate about the opportunity in mobile which we see as a rapidly evolving and growing market.”

“We at Play Ventures are honored to be backing Lou and his strong team”, says Henric Suuronen, founding partner at Play Ventures, in a statement. “Their unique approach to game making and the evolution of player communities as co-creators is very exciting and we believe this is the start of something really, really big.”

Investors include angels from games and mobile advertising verticals. Among the institutional investors are Play Ventures, 1Up Ventures, and Breakaway Growth Fund (its cofounder, Paul Heydon, was an early investor in Supercell and Unity).

Starform got its start in early 2018, as Fasulo and his cofounders left Z2Live around that time. In February 2019, King shut down the former Z2Live division and laid off 78 people.

“”Our team now has a lot of experience building games, running live ops and we’ve collected our ideas on how to do that better and injecting those learnings into the foundations of Starform,” Fasulo said. “We also have taken time to think about how the market is evolving, what opportunities exist and how to approach them.”

He added, “Gone are the days of obvious Blue Ocean opportunities – now it’s a bit more about disrupting established play patterns. When you look in the rearview mirror at the current top grossing games it doesn’t really help predict the next global phenomena. Instead, you have to look forward but work backward. So, in that regard, we think there’s a huge amount of opportunity to create new enduring experiences.”