Cerberus Interactive raised $1.75 million this week to develop its first game, “Atlas Empires.”
Founded in 2017, the Austin-based game studio is crowdsourcing “Atlas Empires’” development process, under the assumption that engaging gamers will reduce market risk along with research and development costs.
“Gamers are pretty vocal, they’re one of the most vocal groups on the internet, so it’s natural to use that to our advantage to build a studio,” Co-Founder Sami Khan said.
Khan, who has a background in digital marketing, said the idea of crowdsourcing game development was inspired by his own frustrations as a gamer. He said that most games are sequels or reference pop culture figures, but that he wanted to play something with a fresh storyline and original characters. After talking with a few game studios, he realized they were hesitant to introduce new concepts since they presented a market risk.
“If the biggest hurdle is the potential gamers won’t adopt to the new concept, why not actually market the concept before building the game?” he said.
He decided Cerberus designers should still create “Atlas Empires” but that a group of “Team Alpha” gamers would vote on the final characters to appear in the game. Three thousand gamers paid for the privilege to make their voices heard, Khan said, and have been admitted to a private Facebook group, where they can post comments, directly chat with him and call out which dragon they like best.
"So the group goes, ‘Oh I love this ice dragon way more than this bubbly, cute, fire-breathing dragon,” Khan said. “It gives us a concept, picking the thing gamers are relating to.”
Users paid between $5 and $60 to join the private Facebook group, named “Atlas Empires Developer Group,” and Khan said the firm raised more than $50,000 from the contributions. Nearly 85 percent of these users are based in the United States, although Khan said the beta version of the game is only available in Canada, New Zealand and Australia.
"Atlas Empires” is a location-based, mobile game, where players build empires and attack enemies.
In it, players claim a physical plot of land — Khan said the most common spot people claim is their home — and then place outposts like mining centers around the world. Where gamers place outposts presents a strategic advantage.
“Certain hotspots in certain areas of the world maybe produce extra gold, a more rare character to deploy in battle, things like that,” he said.
“Atlas Empires” is free to play and gamers can purchase items within the app. Khan said users can also be rewarded for watching optional video ads during certain parts of the game.
So far, the beta version of “Atlas Empires” has had 70,000 downloads and about 1,000 daily players. Khan said 80,000 people in the U.S. and the United Kingdom have signed up to be notified when the game launches commercially, which should be during the middle of the first quarter next year.
Following today’s cash infusion, Cerberus plans to add four developers to its 11-person team.
Investors include Reddit chief operating officer and cofounder, Steve Huffman; Mobilityware, which developed the infamous Solitaire app; and chief business officer of TikTok Blake Chandlee. Khan said a social media influencer who goes by the Facebook name “Mr. Technical Difficult” — and who has about 6,000 Facebook followers — is also one of the group’s corporate investors.