(Bloomberg) -- Growing up in the 1980s, Jonathan Zweig and Mike Seavers dreamed of making their own video games. But designing a proper game required a mastery of computer code, something neither would attain until adulthood.
They are hoping their company, Buildbox, can change that. Buildbox has raised $20 million from investors such as Raine Ventures, Galaxy Venture Capital and Manta Ray to build out software that allows anyone to create a video game without needing to know code. Close to 1 million people have already used Buildbox’s software to create games. which have been played by more than 100 million people, according to Zweig. This new funding will allow the company to hire more staff and experiment with a new advertising program.
The internet has eliminated many barriers to creativity in recent years. Anyone can be a director, movie star or recording artist without much help, thanks to YouTube, Spotify and TikTok. Zweig believes “video-game designer” will be the next addition to that list, and that Buildbox will be the company to make it happen.
Roblox Corp., an online gaming platform that lets its users create games, plans to go public this year and is valued at around $30 billion. Yet many users age out of Roblox at around 12 or 13, Zweig said, at which point Buildbox is there to step in.
“This younger generation that’s 4 years old to 18 years old is making games to express themselves,” said Zweig, co-founder of Buildbox’s owner, AppOnboard. “This theme is happening. You see it in Roblox and Minecraft, and that’s what we’re doing.”
Zweig previously founded AdColony, which created many of the first iPhone games before becoming an advertising company that was sold in 2014 for $350 million. He used some of that money to start AppOnboard, which owns services that let people without much technical ability create interactive experiences. Its most successful product is the AppOnboard studio, which lets customers make interactive advertisements without knowing any code.
“There is no reason every kid or adult can’t have access to this technology.”
Once Zweig saw people were interested in interactive experiences that required no coding expertise, he went looking for an answer in gaming and, in 2019, he acquired Buildbox.
Buildbox already had customers paying for access to its tool, and Zweig wanted to create a free version, believing that giving everyone access could bring a jolt of creativity to gaming.
Two of the most popular apps created using Buildbox’s technology are Color Switch, which has been downloaded more than 200 million times, and Dangle Dash, a game in which you maneuver through obstacles on a conveyor belt using a hockey stick. It’s one of the most popular games in Canada.
“At any given time, two or three games in the top 50 were built on Buildbox,” Zweig said.
Under its current business model, Buildbox limits some pro features in the free version. But it’s rolling out a new plan soon.
“I downloaded Buildbox, and 20 minutes later I had a game on my phone I was testing,” said Seavers, AppOnboard’s chief executive officer. “It just brought back that moment when I was 10 and wanted to make a video game.”
Seavers joined Buildbox last year from Riot Games, the studio behind League of Legends. While Riot makes games that require hundreds of designers and engineers, Seavers was drawn to a company that allows anyone to make one.
“There is no reason every kid or adult can’t have access to this technology,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be a studio like Riot with 3,000 employees.”
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