The new studio, co-founded by ex-Riot product manager Michael Chu, will focus on cooperative game experiences.
Treehouse Games, a new development studio based out of Los Angeles, has announced that it has secured $2.6 million in seed funding to get up and running. The studio was co-founded by Michael Chu, formerly product lead at Riot Games, who said that Treehouse’s focus will be on cooperative, collaborative gaming experiences.
“As lifelong gamers, cooperative gaming has been the source of some of our best memories with friends, and our favorite way to spend quality time together,” Chu, who serves as CEO at Treehouse, told GameDaily. “Now we see people all over the world, who would never call themselves gamers, spend hours playing games with their friends as a way to hang out. There’s so much opportunity in building new cooperative experiences to serve the millions of people who want to play games as an everyday social activity.”
Leading the funding was London Venture Partners, an investment firm that specializes in the games industry. In the past, LVP has invested in studios like Supercell, Unity, and Playfish, among many others. Chu said that working with LVP has been a very positive experience.
“The collaboration has been fantastic. LVP and our other partners are all seasoned investors, but also have a ton of experience as entrepreneurs themselves,” Chu explained. “On top of their deep insight into the industry, they also have a wealth of knowledge to share as game developers and operators. We couldn’t be luckier to have their support.”
Naturally, a studio focused on cooperative games is built on close collaboration among team members, but the COVID-19 pandemic had other plans. Chu said that the Treehouse team has mostly been able to adjust to being dispersed, though.
“Starting a new studio has definitely had its share of challenges in 2020,” he said. “Quarantine has meant adapting our planning and communication processes to work with a fully remote team. We’ve been using Discord every day for ad-hoc discussions, and running regular team game nights for team-building and social time.
“In his years of working with small and agile indie studios, [co-founder and president] Ryan [Sullivan] is a pro at managing teams that are fully remote,” Chu continued. “That’s helped us improve the ways that we can collaborate virtually, which will be really valuable as the team grows.”
Although Treehouse isn’t ready to talk about its first game, Chu said that he’s excited at the prospect of evolving the cooperative space in unexpected ways. Notably, Treehouse is interested in exploring the potential of live-service elements within the genre.
“It’s too early to share details, but we’re hard at work on a game that the team is super passionate about,” he said. “The co-op space is underexplored, and we see a huge opportunity to combine accessible gameplay with the long-term progression of great games-as-a-service.”
Chu said that his team is constantly looking to real-life social experiences for inspiration. The camaraderie of a road trip, for example, is something that evokes strong feelings of togetherness. Drawing from such experiences is what will help push the co-op space forward, he explained.
“Players who are looking for quality time spent with friends don’t have many options right now,” Chu said. “Treehouse, and our first game, are built around the conviction that games have the power to deepen and improve our friendships. We want people to share experiences and create lifelong memories in our games, and we’re taking inspiration from a lot of real-life experiences that let you do that.”
It will be interesting to see what comes of Treehouse Games’ lofty co-op ambitions, especially in this age of live-service experiences built on extreme competition. Given the tumultuous state of the world at the moment, we could certainly all use some unity.
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