Game Built on SoftBank-Backed Platform Released to Public

(Bloomberg) -- The first video-game built using technology developed by Improbable Worlds Ltd., the virtual reality startup backed by SoftBank Group Corp., has been released by British developer Bossa Studios.

Worlds Adrift uses Improbable’s SpatialOS software, which lets programmers create realistic simulations of massive scale and complexity and run across a cloud-computing network. Softbank acquired a non-controlling stake in London-based Improbable for $502 million in May 2017 in a deal that valued the company at more than $1 billion.

Bossa Studios itself has received more than $10 million in funding from firms that include Atomico, the venture capital firm started by billionaire former Skype co-founder Niklas Zennstrom, and London Venture Partners.

Worlds Adrift itself is a massively multiplayer online game in which players create airships to explore floating sky-islands. Actions players take will permanently alter the game for all other players. For example, a dragon slain by one person will not reappear for others to fight.

Henrique Olifiers, Bossa’s co-founder and chief executive officer, said in an interview that building the game on Improbable’s simulation software let the developer use real-world physics to let players permanently alter the virtual landscape’s appearance, and in ways all participants would see simultaneously. This contrasts with popular multiplayer games such as World of Warcraft and The Elder Scrolls Online, in which environments reset for new players, or simply can’t be destroyed at all.

Worlds Adrift will cost $25, and if it proves to be a hit, it’ll be a boost for SoftBank-backed Improbable, which has been trying to position itself as an important player in the games industry. So far, the company has generated little revenue, and no profit. It had sales of 7.8 million pounds ($8.9 million) in the 12-months through May 2017, and an operating loss of 8 million pounds, according to its latest financial filings with U.K. business registry Companies House. The majority of that revenue came from a contract Improbable had with the U.S. Army.

In an effort to further engage players, Bossa has let them craft key elements of the game. Olifiers said that many of today’s gamers grew up playing Minecraft, where there are almost no limits on what players can do and build in the game, and that they are demanding this freedom of action in new games.

So the 300 different and floating "sky islands" available for exploration in the released version of the game were all designed by the public, using software Bossa made available a year ago. Most of the games features were also based on suggestions from players, Olifiers said.

"The whole game is crowd-sourced," he said. "These guys are not passive consumers anymore."

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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