Labworks Closes £500,000 in Funding, Launches Subscription Voice Games Service
Voice game startup Labworks has raised £500,000, about $640,000, in a funding round led by RLC Ventures. The new funding arrives as the company prepares to launch a new monthly subscription service for the premium versions of its games.
Subscribing to Play
Labworks has created several games for play via the Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant voice assistants. It is probably best known for Would You Rather and Trivia Hero. All of its games offer premium extras for a price, but the new model will let users play the full versions of the games for $0.99 a month.
“The subscription service is going to launch imminently and pull all of our games together into a single monthly subscription,” Labworks CEO Tom Hewitson told Voicebot in an interview. “Subscribers will get access to the premium versions of all our games.
The initial subscription will include four Labworks games, with two to quickly follow and more to come in the months ahead. Labworks will build the games for now, but games from other developers may be licensed at some point for the subscription service if they fit with Labworks’ style, Hewitson said.
“We think people want a lot of variety in their voice games, but they’ve been forced to lock down into buying them individually,” Hewitson said. “Everything within the subscription should be high quality, and at the moment, the easiest way to do that is to be the ones designing and building those experiences.”
Labworks was founded on the viral success of its voice games in 2016. The company’s games have now been played more than five million times on smart speakers worldwide. The new funding, which Hewitson described as pre-seed, is aimed at setting up the company for the subscription service and future expansion.
“The funding is mainly about hiring people into the team. We are very lucky to have recently hired Fiona Morgan as our new chief operating officer. She worked on the first live smart speaker game for BBC Radio 1,” Hewitson said. “She masterminded the smart speaker game hosted by Greg James. Now we are going to hire a CTO and other people for leadership.”
Gaming the Future
Labworks lies right at the center of voice gaming and voice app monetization. These two concepts are on the rise as Amazon and Google both work to encourage their voice app developer communities to find ways to monetize their creations. Amazon has been particularly aggressive as it adds the option for monetization to more countries and offers incentives to developers who create premium purchase and subscription options.
Voice gaming is still relatively new, but its potential is evident in the early success of startups like Labworks and DriveTime, which has $15 million in investment for its line of games. There’s also a lot of interest in integrating voice technology into video games as the next generation of Microsoft Xbox and Sony PlayStation will likely offer voice interactions. The Google Stadia video game controller comes with a microphone to talk to Google Assistant, even if it doesn’t include that feature yet. Stadia, like the new Apple Arcade, run on the subscription model, but Hewitson doesn’t see it as the inevitable way games will be sold.
“The right model depends on what you want to do,” Hewitson said. Some games make sense to monetize directly. Subscriptions won’t be right for every game, but it’s a good fit for our game lineup.”