Genvid wants to bootstrap a new category of large-scale interactive games that unfold in real-time — based on well-known movie, comic book or gaming franchises.
It’s banked a big $113 million round to form Genvid Entertainment, a new game publishing unit dedicated to producing what the company calls “massive interactive live events,” or MILEs.
To lend Genvid Entertainment a hand in navigating Hollywood, the company has recruited Cindy Holland, an 18-year Netflix veteran, as a strategic content adviser. Holland, former VP of original content at Netflix, founded and ran its original series and documentary initiatives for eight years before exiting the company last year amid a larger reorg. For Genvid, she’s providing guidance on content strategy and acquisitions. Other advisers include Matthew Ball, former head of strategy at Amazon Studios, and Bad Robot Games CEO Anna Sweet.
Jacob Navok, CEO and co-founder of Genvid, told Variety that the company has finalized several deals for “eight-figure projects” with a several large intellectual property owners for MILE adaptations (but he declined to identify them). The first project is expected to be released in 2022.
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The formation of Genvid Entertainment comes after the company released “Rival Peak,” a massive interactive live event that ran exclusively on Facebook from December 2020 to March 2021. Co-created with game developer Pipeworks Studios, “Rival Peak” was presented as a reality-competition show featuring “Tamagotchi-like” AI contestants whose fates were controlled by viewers.
Genvid unveiled a trailer (available at this link) for a new proof-of-concept live game experience, the zombie-themed “Project Raven.” That will not be available to the general public — instead, it’s designed to show partners what its massive interactive live games will look like.
“The success of ‘Rival Peak’ has accelerated our plans and growth dramatically, with dozens of major IP holders, streaming and social media platforms, and other global brands seeking to create MILEs around their properties,” Navok said. “They recognize the opportunity to build new entertainment experiences that merge lean-back entertainment [like TV] with interactive entertainment [games] to both grow fan bases substantially and further monetize existing fans.”
According to Navok, unlike traditional massively multiplayer online (MMO) games, Genvid Entertainment’s MILEs let players influence the storyline. “In these MILEs, we’re watching together like a movie, but deciding specific events” — for example, the audience deciding that Frodo fight Gollum in a hypothetical “Lord of the Rings” game — “and that becomes canon.”
For “Rival Peak,” according to Navok, “we literally wrote it as the community engaged in it.”
Regarding Genvid’s engagement with Holland, who began working with the company last month, Navok said, “while I have a tremendous amount of game experience, we didn’t have a media background.” Holland is working on the Genvid Entertainment media strategy and “reviewing narratives and stories for our upcoming slate,” he added. Prior to founding Genvid, Navok led worldwide business development and strategy for Square Enix Holdings and built the company’s cloud gaming division, Shinra Technologies.
Genvid Holdings is the parent company of Genvid Entertainment and Genvid Technologies, a developer of interactive livestreaming technologies and services. The Series C funding round of $113 million brings the company, founded in 2016 a spinoff of Japanese game giant Square Enix, to a total of $166 million in funding to date.
Existing investors Valor Equity Partners and Atreides Management co-led the round. New investors Dan Loeb’s Third Point Ventures, Cobalt Capital, LightShed Ventures, XN, and Lux Capital participated in the latest round alongside existing investors Galaxy Interactive, Horizons Ventures, OCA Ventures and Makers Fund. Strategic investment partners Huya, NTT Docomo Ventures and Samsung Ventures also participated.
“Interactive media as we know it is evolving beyond video games, and becoming a critical part of all entertainment content,” Brandon Ross, general partner at Lightshed Ventures (and media and technology analyst at LightShed Partners), said in a statement. “Genvid is a category-defining company pioneering this new kind of storytelling that all major IP holders and distributors will come to embrace.”
Genvid, whose headquarters is in New York, has about 80 employees. Navok expected headcount to reach 130 by year-end and 180 by mid-2022. He noted that Genvid Entertainment will be a game publisher but that the company is not creating game studios.
(Pictured above: Genvid CEO Jacob Navok, Cindy Holland)