Digital Celebrities at their Finest
Intersections between traditional entertainment, celebrities and video games will continue to see increasing focus in 2012 and beyond. As more consumers turn to the mobile games and companies look to social platforms to raise brand awareness and leverage consumer interest, one Los Angeles company has gone from a small fish to a lean shark in just a few years.
Grab Games has transformed from a quiet angel funded seed startup in 2009 to now raising $11 million from its December 2011 Series B Round inking in its path a whole host of celebrity partnerships and acquiring serious backing from the powerhouse talent agency that is WME.
It was an interesting start for the company when CEO Anthony Borquez approached Demand Media Richard Rosenblatt, perceiving that the company had not put enough emphasis on gaming. The end result was Grab Games acquiring ALL of Demand Media's game assets, including the Grab.com domain. The real breakthrough for the company happened in 2010 when it raised $5 million, primarily led by WME. It saw co-CEO Patrick Whitesell adding to Grab's board, opening new doors in cross genre entertainment and social gaming branding:
“We saw this as a perfect partnership between our gaming platform and their entertainment platform. Since then, we’ve been looking at a lot of exciting opportunities to create value by pairing our core technology with WME brands.”
Grab has a team of 50 individuals at its core, most of them having worked together for over 10 years. They have had experience in building mobile games for companies like EA and JAMDAT as Blue Label Games before it was snatched up by Konami. They have partnered with CBS to release the official Survivor World Facebook game and with Fox on a ‘top secret’ sports book game. The acquisition of Demand Media's IP's also saw them take on casual games like Gold Miner and Belle's Beauty Boutique, which currently sits at over 16m downloads and 5b+ game starts.
Celebrity partnerships are where many see mobile games making a massive impact, and Grab with its WME alliance has a powerful edge. The company has signed partnerships with the likes of Snoop Dog, Eminem, Usher and Kiss to name just a few, having deployed its Fan Game technology in the summer of 2011. The company recently launched a Tupac branded slots social game on IOS, Android and Facebook, which saw it recieve its 10 millionth spin in just ten days. Most revealing of all is that the title was completed in less than 90 days.
As more brands turn to mobile gaming, Grab Games has established itself as a company to keep a close eye on. With its CEO having been a VP for Mobile Games at Konami and the Founder of the Game Development track at the USC School of Engineering, you can be sure the company will be closely watched over the coming year.
Douglas Stewart is a staff writer at iQU. When he is not writing, he devours books, plays an excessive amount of games, and is working on his upcoming fiction novel that (naturally) involves intersections between technology, gaming and society. Follow Douglas @TheGearCog