Venture Capital Floods Into Esports, Backing Warner Bros., Zynga, and LucasArts Veteran to Build Games Exclusively on the Skillz Platform

Warner Bros.Zynga, and LucasArts veteran Andrew Bell announced new financing to make mobile games exclusively for Skillz, the marketplace company connecting over 20,000 game makers and 30 million players through fair competition. Integrating the patented technology from Skillz has proven to promote strong player engagement and retention to help game makers better monetize their content. As CEO and founder of Big Run Studios, Bell is building a cutting-edge studio dedicated to making interactive and competitive mobile games for traditionally underrepresented audiences in the gaming community.

Skillz is a hotbed for venture capital investments as a leader in the mobile gaming space, which represents 45 percent ($68 billion) of the $150 billion gaming market with an audience of 2.6 billion mobile gamers worldwide. According to Pitchbook data, venture capitalists have poured $3.3 billion into esports-related startups since 2013, including $1.4 billion invested in 2018 alone. While venture capital has been reticent to invest in new enterprises in the later stages of the angel investment cycle, Skillz presents a unique opportunity to advance the industry whose market size already eclipses music, movies, and television. Skillz provides game makers with an additional monetization solution beyond legacy models like ads and in-game purchases, while better aligning the game maker revenue model with the player experience to drive greater business outcomes.

“Our ultimate goal is to bring together players of all backgrounds through mobile gaming, the most accessible and affordable form of entertainment available for mass audiences worldwide,” said Bell. “Modern game development requires monetization strategies that compliment player motivation. Skillz aligns revenue models with the player experience, so game makers like us can build successful businesses doing what we love. Our investors recognized the promising upside of taking an inclusive, audience-first approach to building games exclusively on the Skillz platform. Big Run is inspired by Skillz, which is driving the future of interactive entertainment by connecting millions of people through fair competition and a positive player experience.”

When the New York University theatre major transitioned into game development, Bell kick-started his career producing noteworthy franchises like “FarmVille,” “Star Wars Battlefront,” and “Harry Potter: Wizards Unite.” At Zynga, “FarmVille” rose to global popularity, with 83 million monthly active users at its peak. With LucasArts, “LEGO Star Wars” and “LEGO Indiana Jones” became classic hits, titles Bell directly produced. Most recently at Warner Bros., Bell built a large-scale distributed game team from the ground up, overseeing over 100 developers to produce “Harry Potter: Wizards Unite.” Bringing one of Hollywood’s most beloved franchises to mobile attracted 15 million game downloads in its first month.

Andrew Bell has built some of the most popular mobile games in the world, and now he’s partnering with Skillz to tap into the most prolific market for mass media entertainment,” said Andrew Paradise, CEO and founder of Skillz. “Big Run Studios’ mission to create engaging content for diverse audiences worldwide aligns with our vision of adding every kind of game to our platform. Together, we’re empowering every player to find competitive and entertaining games they love to play, practice, and can turn into a lifelong sport – just like running, skiing, or any other skill-based activity.”

In addition to the outpouring of recent venture capital investment, mobile gaming has attracted billions of dollars of investment from traditional sports teams and leagues, professional athletes, pop stars, private equity, media moguls, Fortune 100 corporations, and a diverse array of game publishers. Big Run Studios boasts a team of established industry professionals with reputations for delivering high-quality games to a variety of platforms. Bell’s commitment to building a diverse and inclusive can be seen through his hiring practices, as women comprise half of Big Run Studios. As the first gaming or esports company to take the ParityPledge®, Skillz shares Bell’s commitment to advancing diversity and inclusion in the gaming industry. Women comprise over half of its 30 million player base, and seven of the top 10 Skillz competitors were women in 2018.