We got a chance to speak with the team behind an upcoming innovative new technology platform. This is our GameApart Interview. With their launch rapidly approaching we are excited for this new evolution in board gaming. Sure there are many online board game platforms out there, but this is not those, and promises to be so much more.
You can actually be an important part of the process. We are in touch with them and they let us know that you could possibly enter their open beta and provide key insights and feedback. Follow them on social media @gameapart on Instagram / Twitter and sign up for updates at their website http://www.gameapart.com.
They did such a great job of painting a picture for whats to come, we will stop editoralizing and hop into our interview. Enjoy!
Interview Conducted: July 10, 2020
1. In brief, what is GameApart?
GameApart is a platform for moving board games and party games into a digital setting while preserving–or in some cases enhancing–the human interaction aspects of the experience. There are TONS of gaming apps out there, and our intent isn’t to compete with them but rather to carve out a space specifically around taking traditional game nights digital, or at least creating an option to do so.
GameApart is a platform for board/party games with two elements: a tabletop that can be shared over a Zoom (or Hangouts/Skype/Teams/etc.) call or cast to a TV, and a smartphone app that represents a players “hand”, whatever that means in each individual game. We initially envisioned primarily card games, but turns out that the concept applies to dozens (hundreds!) of games and game types – word, trivia, drawing, card, etc.
2. How did this idea come to fruition?
No question it was born during COVID lockdown, and we expect a lot of our initial growth and adoption to be fueled by the crappy fact that it’s looking more and more like we’re going to be stuck social distancing for a while. It started from a realization that there aren’t a lot of GOOD options for playing games over a Zoom call, and was initially just a fun side project for a few friends that we decided to turn into a real product.
Along the way we discovered something surprising: while the biggest reason people are interested in a platform like this (right now, at least) is COVID and social distancing, the next three reasons people are interested (engaging with friends and family too far away to be there in person, finding ways to play games with friends when you’ve got young kids, and introverts who want to engage but aren’t up for going out all the time) taken together are actually a larger demographic!
3. Who are the people behind this project and what about their background make them someone to take this on?
The initial six person team kind of comes from all over the place. The life event that spurred this was week five or six of COVID lockdowns with three of the founding team (James, Holly, and Justin) on a Zoom call with a bunch of other people trying to play games after everyone had run out of things to talk about. They’d gone through Jackbox, and an online Cards Against Humanity that was a cool effort but hard to use, and while searching around for what else was out there, didn’t find much. James, who’s our founder and CEO, decided to try and make a product built for this specific use case…and recruited a team to help.
James’ background is in tech startups. He’s spent most of the last ten years as a CTO and then CEO, most recently was the CEO of Everyone Counts, a blockchain voting company that was trying to bring online voting and next-generation voter registration to government elections while paying the bills by handling the voting for things like the Oscars, Emmys, and other high-profile private events. Since selling the company in 2018 he’s been advising startups and doing some consulting while trying to figure out what the next big/fun challenge looks like.
4. How will the content on it work?
There will be free games and premium games. Free games are provided with absolutely no strings attached whatsoever–no subscription, no ads, no personal data used, nothing. For premium games, users have the option of allowing limited ads or paying a small subscription fee ($4.99/year, with shorter term options) for unlimited access to all the games on the platform. We’ll launch with 2 (MAYBE 3) games, and be adding 2 games/month for the first six months.
Full disclosure, the initial games on the platform will be riffs on common popular party games. We’re of course being careful to respect IP rights in terms of branding and content, but the game mechanics will be pretty recognizable to just about anybody (though we’ve thrown in some unique features that being a digital platform allows). In some cases, either because content is made available through some sort of open source licensing or because we’re working on a licensing arrangement, we’re able to use original content, but that’ll be on a case-by-case basis. So the first 6-10 games on the platform will be our take on time-tested “classics”.
5. People may see this as just another online board game platform, how are you different?
Our goal though is to create a new platform, not just to perpetually recreate old games in an app. Once we have a critical mass of games in our catalog (enough that people can sit down to a game night without running out of things to play!), we plan to branch out in two key areas: first is in working more aggressively to license existing content and brands on popular party games, and provide an easier path to bring them online under an established platform with solid technology and user experience, something which a lot of “one-off” game apps lack.
The second, which we’re really excited about, is providing another path to market for game designers, which we most definitely are not. Starting this fall, we plan to offer game designers another tool in the toolbelt for getting a concept off the ground, where if they’ve got a cool new idea we will subsidize the cost of implementing their game in our platform in exchange for a revenue sharing arrangement on it once it’s live. Under that model, they can get their game out in front of our user base at no cost to them and start building their brand and following, either in a pure digital play or for when they bring their physical game to market.
Our anchor game at launch will be GIFs Against Humanity. Doesn’t take much to figure out what that’s all about! Since Cards Against Humanity releases their content under a Commercial Commons license, we’re leveraging some of it (plus some of our own) and the general game mechanics with a few twists. First, in addition to the usual (hopefully hilarious) text, each card also comes with an animated GIF to go along with it… and that GIF is picked by an algorithm each time you play, so it’s different every single game! It adds a whole new dimension to the game, and–we think–highlights an area where a digital game can differentiate itself from the traditional physical version.
6. What about the gaming industry or the world in general convinced you this was something that was needed.
Our anecdotal experience above was where it all started… but from there, we found a lot of data (since we’re a data-oriented bunch!) to suggest that there’s really something there. For example, 49% of people who responded to our market research survey (we hit 1060 people across the US) have been on a virtual hang out or happy hour in the past sixty days. Of those, 49% have tried playing games over them and 80% would want to. 70% are willing to pay (as long as it’s not an egregious amount) to do so.
But beyond the statistics, we believe that there’s a general trend to digital that’s disrupting pretty much every facet of life. We’re NOT a group that believes everything needs to move that direction; our goal isn’t to replace traditional board or card games at all, but to create a product that provides a similar level of human connection and engagement in a digital setting that can sit alongside those traditional physical games.
With such a product, not only do we serve an immediate need of helping people social distance (whether that’s staying six miles apart and playing from your own couches, or six feet apart playing on opposite sides of the same couch), but helping parents with newborn kids, or friends and families geographically separated stay close and connected.
7. Is there something about the technology or the world today that makes this possible now where it would not have been 3 years ago?
We’ve touched on much of it. At the pure technology geek level, the GameApart platform is built on a 100% serverless architecture, meaning (somewhat obviously) there are no servers anywhere in the platform and consequently no infrastructure cost except for fractions of a penny paid when people actually run a game.
So it’s infinitely scalable (for all intents and purposes) but without users barely costs a thing–right now, while we’re in beta testing with four complete test environments that we’re pounding away at, our infrastructure costs are running about $7.50/month. Not long ago we would’ve spent hundreds if not thousands to get the tech infrastructure for a system like this up and running, which we may or may not have been willing to invest the upfront capital to do.
8. With the launch rapidly approaching, what can people do right now to keep in touch and be the first people to be a part of this?
We’re getting more and more active on social media everyday, @GameApart on both Twitter and Instagram, and people can sign up for updates on our website at www.gameapart.com. We’re very actively looking for beta testers to try it out, give us feedback, and help us get the product across the finish line and into the app store!
With that said, we’re pretty close to being ready for prime time; current plan, baring unexpected bugs or feedback from testers that we just HAVE to incorporate before going live, we’re planning to launch the week of July 27th, with August 3rd as the absolute latest!