Hyper-Casual Esports Platform Ready Raises USD$5m (£4.1m)

BITKRAFT Esports Ventures has spearheaded a USD$5m (£4.1m) Series A funding round in competitive hyper-casual platform Ready.

By any technical definition, Ready is an esports offering. At its most fundamental, it lets players do battle in multiplayer games for cash prizes. It's key differentiation from conventional esports models comes from its hyper-casual leaning.

Esports are typically the preserve of the most hardcore, devoted player demographics there are. Professional esports players have strict training regimes, coaches and even sports psychologists to optimise their performance. The many aspiring esports players focus on developing towering skills in demanding, intense games. All of that has founded the notion that esports is inaccessible, and for and elite few. That's all well and good with regard to its cultural clout and status as a rival to traditional sports, but the potential of the esports market could all the more staggering if it were a little more accessible.

And that seems to be the logic behind Ready's hyper-casual approach. Esports' most devoted fans may cock a snoot at the notion of casual games entering their fold. You don't have to stray far from a Google search to find vocal claims that casual games 'aren't real games'. But it may well be that increased accessibility could make those traditionalists but a fraction of the total pool of people participating in and following esports. The participatory point is particularly interesting. If esports owes much of its success to audience numbers, consider this; more players may mean more viewers. Or it may not. Ready is a new idea that is still building momentum.

Ready works like this; each week three new games are releases to the platform, each built using the company's proprietary technology, which emphasises efficiency and expedience of development. Ready is free-to-play, and currently available in the US and Canada as an iOS and Android app titled The Ready Games. Players can practice the active games to their hearts' content, but when it comes to playing for a prize, they are only allowed one turn. The players in the top 20 per cent of the leaderboard get a share of the available prize fund, which appears to total USD$1000 (£821) in total for each title. Players can also buy even more play chances via microtransactions. Subscribers that put down USD$4.99 (£4.09) a month get to take additional shots at prize plays.

The rapid development process Ready employs also means the games can be timely, topical or seasonal. It's a rule of thumb that seasonal updates can ramp up the monetisation of free mobile titles. Ready pushes that one stage further by effectively delivering entire games in place of typical updates. So far Ready has delivered an impressive 130 tournament playable games in six months.

It's a remarkably smart approach that blends some of the methods seen in online multiplayer mobile games, esports, free-to-play engagement and retention theory, and the mass market appeal of causal gaming.

“With touch-enabled devices everywhere, games are no longer exclusive to ‘hardcore’ players. There’s a huge, untapped market for casual games that can be enjoyed competitively by a diverse audience that does not identify as traditional gamers,” said David Bennahum, the CEO of Ready, in a statement quoted on Venture Beat. “With our new financing and leading gaming investors joining us, we now have the resources to make our vision of opening up esports to everyone, a reality.”

“Ready Games’ platform and robust portfolio combined with the team’s topical and humorous approach to hyper-casual gaming appeals to a broad audience beyond traditional hardcore gamers, effectively bringing competitive gaming to the mass market,” added Kai Bond, Comcast Ventures principal.

Comcast Ventures and Eldridge Industries joined the BITKRAFT Esports Ventures funding round.