Unicorn on Debut: Instant Play Gaming Startup Playco Launches as a US$1B Company, Announces US$100M Series A

Playco has already secured partnerships with major social media platforms Facebook, LINE Messenger, Rakuten Viber, and Snapchat

Tokyo-headquartered instant play gaming developer Playco has become a gaming unicorn on launch, according to a statement by the company yesterday.

Premiering as ‘the world’s first instant play gaming company’, Playco has secured US$100 million in a Series A round of financing at a valuation of $1 billion, the statement noted.

The round was co-led by tech entrepreneur and investor Josh Buckley and Sequoia Capital Global Equities, it added.

Participating investors include 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, and Makers Fund, among others, the statement also said.

Playco facilitates multi-player instant gaming, wherein users around the world can play games directly on platforms such as social media apps without having to download the game.

Playco has already secured several partnerships in the pipeline with Facebook, LINE Messenger, Rakuten Viber, and Snapchat, the statement said. The company will be utilizing the capital towards further securing partnerships with global social and messaging companies, and towards hiring efforts, the company 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,” Co-founder of Playco Michael Carter said in the statement.

“Whether it’s Parcheesi (an Americanized version of Pachisi or Ludo) or an MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game), we believe there is a game for everyone and that how we play together is a crucial part of how humans socialize,” Carter added.

Carter is also the Co-founder of Game Closure, a multiplayer gaming tech company that is now part of Playco. The startup’s co-founding team also includes Zynga Co-founder Justin Waldron, executive producer at DeNa Takeshi Otsuka, and senior producer at Game Closure Teddy Cross.

The company also announced a slew other appointments in the statement.

Carter’s Co-founder at Game Closure Tom Fairfield will be joining Playco as a founding board member. Further, Deyan Vitanov, Co-founder and former CEO of gaming company Chobolabs, which was acquired by Game Closure last year, will also be joining the company as its CMO.

Additionally, Everwing-creator Jimmy Griffifth will be joining Playco as Senior Producer.

Playco’s team is spread across Seoul, Tokyo, San Francisco and Los Angeles. While the company is headquartered in Tokyo, it operates out of Delaware, U.S. and functions as a ‘distributed-first company’ looking to hire globally, the statement said.

Playco’s business model is based on creating free games targeted at massive audiences, monetized by in-game purchases and opt-in advertizing.

“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,” Waldron noted in the statement.

Adding that Playco’s game engine allows the company to partner with all platforms that are integrated with instant play, Waldron added, “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.”

This year has been significant to the gaming industry and its community of 2.7 billion gamers, especially due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

While nation-wide lockdowns and remote working have resulted in big strides for the gaming industry this year, mobile gaming is pegged to be its fastest growing segment, accounting for 48% of the global games market.

“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,” Cross and Otsuka’s joint statement said.

“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,” they added.

Header image of Pixabay on Pexels


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Sharon Lewis
Sharon is a Staff Writer at Jumpstart


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