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Meta’s Threads has become a household name shortly after its debut earlier this month. Within a week of its launch, it attracted over 100 million users worldwide. The platform also recently reached a fifth of Twitter’s weekly active user base globally. Now a startup called Artie is exploring new possibilities for the Twitter alternative by bringing games to the platform.
The Los Angeles-based startup, whose investors include Zynga founder Mark Pincus, former TikTok CEO Kevin Mayer, and the Winklevoss twins (Cameron Winklevoss and Tyler Winklevoss), wants “app-quality” games in Threads and other modern ones social media bring platforms. The startup originally planned to offer games in the web browser, but that plan has evolved – threads are now its main focus.
Artie’s approach is similar to how Facebook users previously got Zynga’s FarmVille and Words with Friends. Still, the startup wants to make it specifically for mobile users, leveraging advancements like 5G networks, faster GPUs, and cloud technologies to bring a fresh gaming experience to a young audience.
“What makes Threads really special for us is that in 2023 we can go back to the idea of playing games with friends,” Artie CEO Ryan Horrigan said in an interview, adding that the meta-owned platform allows users allows to have all their friends they have accumulated on Instagram over the years – alongside celebrities and other users.
“It’s very different from Twitter. For most people on Twitter, it’s more about business, politics, news or sports, and you follow people on Twitter you don’t know,” he said.
Users can play Artie’s games by following their links in a Threads user’s bio or post. This link will take you directly to the game via the embedded browser on the social media platform. The game will also include options to allow players to sign up with their social media username, email address or phone number and play alongside their friends and family.
“We believe there is a middle ground and a hybrid approach where you can actually stream the game to your phone and render it in real-time in the social app browser,” Horrigan told TechCrunch.
Artie found that his target audience, ages 18-35, typically don’t download apps in a month. As a solution, the startup decided to implement a no-download method.
In doing so, Artie has cleverly avoided paying app store commissions to Apple and Google. Likewise, the games don’t have to adhere to any platform-specific policies or frameworks like Apple’s App Tracking Transparency. However, Horrigan said the startup has privacy at heart and adheres to US CCPA and European GDPR laws, alongside other government guidelines around the world.
“In that respect, we’re more like an e-commerce company because we operate above the competition and on the web, which gives us an advantage compared to other gaming companies,” he said.
Still, users can save Artie’s games to their homescreen as a progressive web app if they don’t want to access the game through their social media account every time they want to play. Users can also save their game progress via cookies or by logging into their social media account. Additionally, since the games work in the browser, users get a cross-platform multiplayer experience that works on both Android and iOS devices.
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The new experience has already delighted 150,000 people
Artie has started testing his experience playing the Clash-style game Pong Legends in the US, Brazil, India and Southeast Asia. The game is promoted on TikTok, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube platforms. Horrigan said the experience has attracted over 150,000 players in recent months. He added that users typically spend an average of 30 seconds per video on apps like TikTok, but spend seven to 10 minutes per session when playing the Clash game. The startup also found that around 15% of gamers interact with its game more than four times a day.
“We’re also seeing a virality, or K-factor, that’s two to three times higher than the average mobile game,” he said. “Most mobile games have a K-factor of less than one, so they don’t attract a whole new player for every paid player. For every paid player we acquire, we already acquire one to one and a half players.”
Pong Legends will be available to users in public beta this fall. It offers tournaments where multiple users can play together and a special private game mode where users can only play with their friends. The startup also plans to release two more games over the next year, one of which will be sports-focused and coming out in the first half of the year.
While Artie plans to make its games available across all modern social media platforms running the tests, the company will highlight Threads and TikTok as the two primary focused platforms.
“So far, TikTok has stood out among the platforms we’re testing on, but Threads seems like a unique offering that none of the others offer when it comes to reaching friend groups,” Horrigan noted.
Unlike the newcomers who like to start from scratch, Artie has no plans to introduce a new genre as Horrigan finds that coming up with new genres is difficult. However, the startup wants to look for fresh ideas to revive some existing, already tried and tested genres. It also looks for partnerships and IPs that are socially relevant in apps, including threads. In addition, the startup plans to generate revenue through in-game purchases – in the form of virtual goods and cosmetic items, or to give players the opportunity to speed up their progress.
Lessons from existing industry movements
Artie isn’t the only one taking advantage of the growing social media presence with his games. In fact, social media giants like Snap and Meta have tried to go down the gaming route. the former completely discontinued the feature only recently, just a few years after it was first introduced.
“These games aren’t very in-depth, so people play them for a couple of weeks or a couple of months and then they usually churn, and the monetization is mostly through advertising,” he said. “We can bridge the gap with these casual and mid-core games and outperform them in a way that instant games couldn’t because they are technologically constrained.”
The executive also noted that Meta and Snap’s actions are Apple’s purview, and those companies cannot transactionally monetize the game within the app without penalizing the iPhone maker’s revenue.
The startup, which consists of a team of nearly 50 employees, has raised a total of $36.5 million in seed and Series A rounds. After some success with the first game one expects to raise further capital. However, Horrigan told TechCrunch that the ultimate plan is to generate revenue and, over time, become a profitable standalone company.