Zynga Founder and HTML5 WebSocket Inventor Announce Playco, a New Company Developing Instant Play Gaming

Playco Official Press Release
Sep 21, 2020

Playco also announces $100M Series A at a valuation of $1 billion, co-led by Josh Buckley and Sequoia, and partnerships with Facebook, LINE Messenger, Rakuten Viber, and Snapchat.

Sept. 21st, 2020 - Playco is the world’s first instant play gaming company, which develops games that can be played by any two or more people in the world together even if neither player has previously installed the game. Playco’s expertise comes from the merger of Carter’s technology background in building new computing platforms, and Waldron’s experience at Zynga in connecting players together in massive social gaming experiences.

In a statement, Carter said: “Our mission is to bring the world closer together through play. We think that games shouldn’t be trapped inside installed apps or downloads. Instead, we believe that playing together should be as easy as messaging or talking together. Whether it’s Parcheesi or an MMORPG, we believe there is a game for everyone and that how we play together is a crucial part of how humans socialize.”

Playco closed a $100M Series A at a valuation just north of $1 billion, debuting as a unicorn, co-led by Josh Buckley and Sequoia Capital Global Equities, with participation from Sozo Ventures, Raymond Tonsing’s Caffeinated Capital, Keisuke Honda’s KSK Angel Fund, Taizo Son’s Mistletoe Singapore, Digital Garage, Will Smith’s Dreamers VC, Makers Fund, and others.  Playco will put its capital towards building partnerships with the largest social and messaging companies globally and to assemble a world-class team.

Playco is joined by two additional co-founders, Takeshi Otsuka who invented social gaming in the east by leading the DeNA mobage gaming platform during his tenure at DeNA from 2005-2015 which generated over $1B in revenue, and Teddy Cross who worked with Michael since 2011 at Game Closure on HTML5 gaming technologies. Additionally, Tom Fairfield joins the Playco Board of Directors as a founding board member, having previously founded Game Closure with Michael. Further augmenting the team is founding CMO is Deyan Vitanov, previously the CEO of formation8-backed gaming company Chobolabs, and Senior Producer Jimmy Griffifth who created the largest instant play gaming previously called Everwing with over 380 million installs.

The company is oriented towards the mission of bringing the world closer together through play and is technology-agnostic in achieving that goal. However, Playco is starting with a huge technology advantage out of the gates. In a statement, Waldron said: “Connecting players instantly with their friends and family sounds simple, but it’s only possible because we’ve created the world’s most advanced web browser streaming game engine, with the backend infrastructure and analytics to handle billions of players. Our game engine allows us to partner with all platforms that enable instant play whether it’s cloud streaming, google play instant, iOS App Clips, Facebook Instant Games, Snapchat Minis, or new emerging platforms. Using this technology, our small teams can build games faster, understand our players better, and iterate more rapidly than even the biggest game companies in the world like Zynga.”

Playco’s founding story began when Waldron was advising Carter on his previous company Game Closure, which was a technology platform seeking to work with other game companies to create a new market. The two together realized that the best way to create a new games market would be to create killer games for that category. The business model of Playco is therefore to create incredibly fun games for huge audiences to play for free, then offer in-game purchases and opt-in advertising.  To accelerate that vision, Playco acquired the Game Closure technology and approached Otsuka and Cross as co-founders to give the company a more global reach.

Playco is domiciled in Delaware and headquartered in Tokyo, Japan but is a distributed-first company looking to hire anywhere in the world. The founders and executives are split between Seoul, Korea, Tokyo, Japan, and San Francisco and LA in the US. The company committed to distributed work in January, and that plan accelerated this year as remote work became the norm across the IT industry.

Cross and Otsuka released the following joint statement: “There is a real opportunity here to remove every ounce of friction between two people playing together. We believe we can create the first game and gaming portfolio that the entire world plays. This scale has never before been undertaken — the industry’s current understanding of a “big” game is hundreds of millions of players, but we intend to be the first to create games that billions of people play together.”