how one startup is reimagining mobile gameplay as a healing activity – TechCrunch

Data from Sensor Tower shows that mobile apps topped 1.2 billion downloads last year, while leading meditation app Calm raked in $118.2 million in revenue, according to data from Sensor Tower. data from Sensor Tower said. That may lead some to believe that the digital market is essentially settled, but a new startup, Lumi Interactive, believes the opposite is true. The Melbourne-based women-led company has identified a largely unexplored mobile market, which involves turning offline, self-care activities into games as a medium. to relieve our collective stress and anxiety.

While most mobile games focus on users competing against each other or achieving some goal, the startup’s upcoming title, Kinder World’s The main purpose is to help users relax. It accomplishes this through short, snack-sized sessions in which it asks players to care for virtual houseplants by taking care of themselves in the real world.

In the game, players are encouraged to perform simple acts of kindness – such as practicing gratitude daily – to improve their own health and that of the wider community in the game. The game features a bunch of stress-free activities – like watering houseplants, interacting with animal neighbors and decorating a cozy room with plants, among many others.

Image credits: Lumi Interactive

In a way, this is reminiscent of how many of us have spent months in creative play during the height of the pandemic. games like Animal Crossing, The popular Nintendo game features a pressure-free environment that has helped many people relax and get through the Covid-19 lockdown. In Animal Crossing, players design indoor and outdoor spaces, shop for costumes and home accessories, plant flowers, and chat with animal friends.

As it turns out, the pandemic also played a big role in the founding of Lumi Interactive, the company told TechCrunch.

“At the end of 2020, we were a small team of 3, exhausted by the pandemic and a rough year for the business,” explains Lumi Interactive co-founder and CEO. Lauren Clinnick. “We decided to take two weeks to refresh ourselves with the game to create something completely new, and our minds were very good mentally. We’ve all grown closer to nature through Melbourne’s harsh lockdowns too, and wanted to find out why houseplanting has become part of our self-care routine. a lot of people we know,” she said.

That raised the question of whether it was possible to bring home gardening services to the digital world, and as a result the team prototyped Kinder World.

“It created something special in just two weeks, and the concept was tested very aggressively with our target audience right away,” says Clinnick.

Both Clinnick and Lumi Interactive co-founder, Christina Chen, had a background in gaming before founding the new company and have known each other for nearly a decade. Clinnick first entered the games industry as a marketing consultant for games like Crossy Road, co-founded a boutique game marketing agency, then moved into live game development. Chen, meanwhile, has a technical background that sees her work in payments at Xbox Live and then a Senior Producer at PopCap in Shanghai, before co-founding a game publisher Surprise Attack (now known as Fellow Traveler).

The duo have stuck together because of their shared love for data, underserved communities of players, and new opportunities that they believe are still on the horizon for gaming, Clinnick said. on mobile devices.

Image credits: Lumi Interactive

When the team brainstormed ideas for a more collaborative, self-care-focused title, they discovered that many consumers today find no satisfaction with popular apps.

“When we actually interviewed users – especially Generation Z and millennial women and extraordinary people – we found that 97% had dropped out of apps like Headspace and Calm, with the reason they ‘feel like their job’ or become something else that causes them to fail,” says Clinnick. “Instead, they often have sporadic leisure interests such as gaming, houseplanting, collecting Squishmallow gathering, crafting, and ASMR. These are mostly distractions that help ease their anxiety in the short term but don’t help them build important long-term recovery skills,” she said.

Lumi Interactive responded to this feedback by making sure their games are designed in such a way that you can’t fail, no matter how you play. For example, all in-game activities are optional and virtual houseplants will never die.

Clinnick said we made these choices consciously to avoid feeling burdensome for players.

In keeping with their strategy of co-developing the game with their community, the startup turn to TikTok to test different elements, like game design, art style, and to find out what interests their users.

Now a full-time, 12-person team and growing, Lumi Interactive raised $6.75 million in seed funding in March in a round led by a16z — which it officially announced. this week. Other investors include 1Up Ventures, Galileo Ventures, Eric Seufert’s Heracles Capital and Double Loop Games co-founder and CEO Emily Greer.

Startups are using money for team development so it can further develop the larger concept it calls “crowd healing,” informed by Lumi Interactive’s full-time health researcher, Dr. Hannah Gunderman, Ph.D. The company believes that the idea – which refers to sharing kindness with others through self-care style gameplay – could become a new genre of game.

Of course, Lumi Interactive isn’t the first to imagine non-goal-focused games. There are games are interactive stories or graphic novels or other indie projects, but they are often played by gamers to come to a conclusion. Kinder World, meanwhile, will be something players come back to whenever they need to relax, which is why the company is looking at offering subscriptions, in addition to standard in-app purchases. It’s also exploring online-offline experiences with physical items that can unlock certain benefits or game activities.

Kinder World is currently in alpha testing on iOS and Android and is aiming for a full release by the end of 2022.

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