Connect with top gaming leaders in Los Angeles at GamesBeat Summit 2023 this May 22-23. Register here.
SuperDuperSecret Co. has successfully raised over $1 million to remake classic games such as chess with the modern element of a ten-player battle royale.
For the oversubscribed pre-seed funding round, investors included Round 13 Digital Asset Fund, Merit Circle, Polygon, Solana, Overwolf, Big Brain Holdings, LD Capital and angels such as Sebastien Borget, Gabby Dizon, and Cristian Manea, among several others.
The company’s launch title, Royale Chess—a ten-player, battle royale chess game—marks the first of many games across their underlying meta-game platform, focusing on multiplayer, evergreen games.
The raise makes co-founder and CEO Jazzlyn O’Reilly the first Latina founder to raise $1 million in venture capital funding in the gaming industry.
GamesBeat Summit 2023
Join the GamesBeat community in Los Angeles this May 22-23. You’ll hear from the brightest minds within the gaming industry to share their updates on the latest developments.
“It’s astonishing that the number of funded female and minority founders in the gaming space is still so small in 2023, especially considering how diverse the consumers of games are; 48% percent of gamers identify as female, for example,” she said. “I can only hope that news like this can help encourage others who don’t as often see people like themselves represented in this space, to take the leap and build companies of their own, and to not be afraid to pursue funding to achieve their vision. It’s not just a matter of numbers; the industry needs diverse founders in order to create truly innovative content for the world’s 3 billion gamers.”
“We really wanted to focus on making this approachable for everybody,” O’Reilly added. “It’s not meant to be for experts.”
It is, by the way, a blockchain game company. O’Reilly doesn’t want it to be seen as yet another Web3 play.
“First and foremost, we are a games company, which is why we downplay the Web3 side (and avoid the ‘Web3 games company’ label wherever possible),” she said. “We’ve felt for a long time that too much focus has been on ‘web3’ for the sake of being Web3 and not looking at UX and what value add is there. As a company we are changing the narrative to be, ‘What additive features can we include in our games by utilizing web3 technology?,’ as opposed to being defined by it.”
She said all the games will be dual economy, meaning you can optionally interact with Web3 elements and take advantage of the ability to own any in-app purchasesor assets from our games (and trade them if you want via blockchain). This Web3 element looks almost invisible to the player, unless they opt-into this flow; otherwise, aLL the games will operate on the surface as traditional games with frictionless UX.
Under the hood, the company creates an anonymous custodial wallet for any new user, and stores all assets a user collects over the lifetime of the game. They can later take ownership via blockchain or, if they choose, never come into contact with touch Web3.
“We are focused on the ‘time-to-fun’ being as minimal as possible; both traditional and ebW3 players of Royale Chess and all our games will be able to jump in without having to connect a wallet or even know what an NFT is,” she said. “Reddit’s approach and success in seamlessly onboarding folks into Web3, for example, [is what] we really admire; we have strong conviction in this kind of approach.”
All the IAP/NFTs do not affect the core rules of gameplay, but they allow players to personalize their game experience (in the context of Royale Chess: skins for the chess pieces, including IP tie-ins, different FX as you move across the board, board customizations, etc.) as well as access as an additional layer of gameplay (e.g. battle passes that enable access to pro-ranked tournaments, themed events, livestreamed events, etc.). This is not a pay-to-win game, she said. Nor is an NFT purchase is required to play.
SuperDuperSecret Co.’s CEO O’Reilly started the company together with cofounder and CTO Mark
McCubbin in early 2022. The team’s experience ranges back to the 8-bit days, including work on critically
acclaimed titles like Shadow of the Beast, Dune II, and the NBA2K series, among others. The team has six people.
“We spent a long time coming up with the SuperDuperSecret Co. name. The reason we chose that name is exactly what happened when you discovered our name was SuperDuperSecret Co. and you actually like cracked a huge smile,” McCubbin said. “That’s really important for our branding. We want to give people some happiness and make them smile. So their first touch point with the company is the name. And literally everyone we share that name with will crack a huge smile.”
Chess has seen an explosion in popularity in the last several years, with over 600 million active players
worldwide and over 65 million hours of chess watched per year on streaming sites like Twitch — not to mention the popular Netflix show The Queen’s Gambit.
O’Reilly is newer to games, with a background in product and user experience design. But she had been coding as a hobby for a while. McCubbin started working on games decades ago, working on Shadow of the Beat for Psygnosis. He eventually went on to lead tech on the NBA 2K series, the MLB series and the NHL series of games.
“As investors, we’re beyond excited to support SuperDuperSecret! Their first game, Royale Chess, is the perfect mix of a classic game and fast-paced action,” said Marco, cofounder of Merit Circle, in a statement. “As someone who’s not great at chess, I can’t wait to see people playing 10 games at once! I’ll definitely be cheering from the sidelines. We’re really excited to get some fun games into our community’s hands and are convinced this will be played a lot.”
Royale Chess brings an innovative twist to one of the world’s oldest games.
Ten players face off in a blazingly fast-paced showdown, making their moves in synchronous matches against each of the other nine players. The game’s AI assist, which enables players to quickly make a move via a button press, is a key component, as the company seeks to make the game as approachable as it is exhilarating.
“The secret is, Mark and I are actually both pretty terrible at chess. But despite our skill level (or lack of),
it’s always had its own charm, and we both had our own stories connected to it,” O’Reilly said. “We wanted to bring a ‘Tetris 99’ vibe to it, making it a really fun and engaging experience even for those
who never thought of themselves as ‘chess players.’”
The pace of the game can get hairy because it’s all simultaneous. You play against nine other people at once. There is a timer running down on each match. Once you make a move on one board, you switch to the next board. If you don’t make your move in time, it will make a random move for you.
But the game’s AI can suggest a move to you as the best possible move. That can speed up your thinking.
“We wanted it to be approachable for newbies as well. The great thing about chess is everybody knows it. Even if you’re not like a chess player,” O’Reilly said. “Everybody has their own kind of chess story, which is something you know, we’ve come to realize ourselves, just talking with people. My siblings used to fight with each other, growing up playing chess. I’m teaching my daughter how to play. So it was important to us and make it approachable for newbies as well.”
Matches may last around 10 minutes. The game will be browser-based and it will have a flat 2D look to it.
“We wanted to be synchronous because we wanted that, that battle royale feel, but you still had the traditional game mechanics,” said McCubbin.
Royale Chess is a web game that is expected to launch later this year, first on PC and Mac, before launching on mobile and console.
Through Royale Chess and the company’s future titles, which target a casual to midcore audience, the team aims to create positive playspaces for millions of gamers worldwide and bring its fast-paced, social gameplay twists to other familiar, yet traditionally underserved, games.
“We’re grateful to have such a strong group of investors from an early stage,” O’Reilly said. “Together with our team we’re able to tap into expertise spanning multiple fields from traditional gaming to the Web3 space. Their belief in our vision, both short- and long-term, is a huge validation of the hard work we’ve put in to get to this point. We’re incredibly excited to be bringing Royale Chess to the public soon, but we’re even more excited to be creating new ways to play and bring people together across all of our future titles and platform.”
“We are focused on creating a very fun, very positive atmosphere,” O’Reilly said.
O’Reilly noted that chess became extremely popular during the pandemic, with shows like The Queen’s Gambit and through its popularity on Twitch as one of the most-streamed games. McCubbin came up with the concept and developed an early prototype of it.
“We started sharing with people just get feedback on it, and people were super excited,” O’Reilly said. “We didn’t know what to expect. It was just the two of us working on it at that point. They gave us a lot of enthusiastic feedback. That’s when we decided to go all in with this as our first game concept.”
The company is focused on the sweet spot of multiplayer games with about 10 players. Both McCubbin and O’Reilly said they are both very introverted but they appreciate multiplayer experiences.”
She added, “I know, at least personally, when I jump into multiplayer games that have a much larger scale, it’s easy to get lost. It can be a little bit more toxic. With a smaller group size, it allows you to get that social experience. but it’s more intimate. You don’t get lost in a sea of people. And it makes it easier to make connections or play together with your existing friend group.”
Louis Castle, cofounder of Westwood Studios, and Tommy Krul, cofounder of Super Evil MegaCorp, are advisers. The company partnered with Ready Player Me for its avatars. That means players can use their previously created avatars from other Ready Player Me games in Royale Chess.
“We’re not actually looking to be a chess game company. This is just one of many games that we’re going to be building,” O’Reilly said.
GamesBeat’s creed when covering the game industry is “where passion meets business.” What does this mean? We want to tell you how the news matters to you — not just as a decision-maker at a game studio, but also as a fan of games. Whether you read our articles, listen to our podcasts, or watch our videos, GamesBeat will help you learn about the industry and enjoy engaging with it. Discover our Briefings.