After QuizUp and Trivia Royale, Thor Fridriksson’s next act is a mobile MMO – TechCrunch

Startups

QuizUp founder Thor Fridriksson is at it again. The Icelandic serial entrepreneur is two-on-two in making viral mobile games, but has so far gone out of his way to turn them into viable businesses.

Today he comes out (a bit) out of stealth to announce his third attempt: Rocky Road.

Named after Fridriksson’s entrepreneurial journey, Rocky Road is a casual open world mobile game. Yes, a casual mobile MMO.

Fridriksson won’t go into the details of the game – launch is still about a year away – but one thing we do know is that it’s based on real map data.

The general premise is that players enter the game and travel around in the real world, rather than the fantasy worlds on which most MMOs are based, and play minigames on their own, with others or with friends in that world.

The key is balance: Rocky Road wants to make sure that the games-in-the-game are casual enough for mobile, but that the progression within the overall world is compelling enough to maintain stamina.

It is an ambitious project, but not the first of its kind. It’s an interesting mix of already popular mobile games like Pokemon Go and Genshin Impact, with the goal of eventually reaching 1 billion players.

Fridriksson has been on quite the entrepreneurial journey for the past 10+ years. He founded QuizUp, which was a viral sensation that almost franchised itself on an NBC show before the whole thing went bust. The game itself was a hit and at one point it was the fastest growing iPhone game in history.

But monetization was a problem. Fridriksson didn’t believe in pumping the product full of ugly interstitial ads, and was rather intrigued by native ads where brands could launch their own quizzes on QuizUp. It kind of worked – the team partnered with Coca-Cola and Google Maps. But it wasn’t scalable at all.

When the NBC deal fell through, the only option was a takeover bid from Glu Mobile for $7.5 million. It was a disappointing lottery for a game with tens of millions of users that had raised about $40 million from investors.

TeaTime made a similar, albeit shorter, trip. The platform itself was meant to let people play mobile games together. And by together I mean with a built-in video chat component. It came with Snap-style overlays so players could ‘dress up’ as different characters, interactively and showing emotion, without having to show their real faces to strangers.

Fridriksson and co. launched Trivia Royale on the TeaTime platform in June 2020 and within a few weeks saw 2.5 million downloads. The man knows how to make a popular game!

However, after stalled takeover talks with a “big tech” company, TeaTime went on the run when the deal never went through. Takes us to today.

It wouldn’t be a surprise if Rocky Road became another viral hit. Fridriksson has become a master at understanding the landscape of mobile gaming and repeating or combining the best elements in a product that is delightful enough to tell a friend. He’s also stayed close enough to the ground to understand and use the marketing landscape in mobile games to his advantage – Trivia Royale, for example, made a big bet on TikTok and it paid off.

However, it remains to be seen whether Fridriksson can find a way to monetize this next venture.

His strategy now is to focus on cosmetics and aesthetic upgrades, which makes sense given the importance of these types of virtual goods in MMOs.

He added that the mobile gaming landscape has changed.

“When we did this with QuizUp, we put [in-app purchases] and game subscriptions used to be a really tough thing to do, whereas the norm now, with the younger generations coming up, is that it’s easier to make money through in-app purchases, subscriptions, and so on,” he said.

Rocky Road has raised $2.5 million in seed led by Crowberry Capital and Sisu Game Ventures.

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