If history repeats itself, the next social network won’t look like the social networks we know today.
Since the invention of the Internet, there have been places to meet new people who share our interests, deepen our relationships with existing friends, and to learn, debate, joke, and hang out. In the earliest years of the Internet, these were Usenet forums and listserv mailing lists. And as the world woke up to the Internet in the 1990s, the center of online communities switched to places like AOL chat rooms, Yahoo Groups, and Geocities. Later, there were forums, blogging communities, and social bookmarking. And in the last ten years, the dominant center of online socialization have been networks like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
These social networks provide a sort of digital “third place” for billions of people to connect, share and exist in ways online that they might not even have done in real life. And with each generation of new technology comes advancements in speed, functionality and expression. A daily user of AOL would not have guessed that years later, they’d spend all their time in apps that load instantaneously, with vibrant near perfect photos, live streaming video, and even shopping and discovery. And I can’t possibly imagine what a Usenet user would think of where we are now.
Our online identities and communities feel enriched in ways that would have been tough to predict before, but it’s still natural to ask – what’s next? What will be the next paradigm for digital third places, where people spend time with their friends, family, and people with the same interests?
The founders of Singularity 6, Anthony Leung and Aidan Karabaich, have a strong point of view on where the world will go next: large-scale multiplayer, cooperative, immersive games — playable cross-platform and targeting a wide audience.
And this makes sense. There are now billions of gamers globally — entire generations of kids growing up with thousands of hours of creative, social gameplay as part of their daily social lives. And people aren’t just playing the games, they’re watching other people play them too. In 2018, League of Legends had viewership of more than 200 MILLION people simultaneously. That’s more than twice that of the NFL’s biggest event. People desire digital connections with other people in a visual, creative and emotional way.
Interactive entertainment has become more mainstream and approachable than ever before, as technology use is no longer for fringe or techy groups – this new generation of “gamers” is becoming more inclusive of everyone – as immersive, digital experiences will become as accessible and commonplace as the social forums we know and love today.
In the future, commenting on photos will seem quaint for those who grew up playing online games with their friends where they can build huge cities block by block, explore new planets, start an indie band or dance group – or compete to be the last team standing in their favorite sports.
This is why we are proud to be partnering with Singularity 6 for their Series A, where I will be joining their board and working with co-founders Aidan and Anthony as they build the company and their first game.
This investment comes at a time when we are a16z have gotten especially excited about gaming as a sector, as the business of gaming has evolved in tremendous ways:
- First, the market was already big, but has gotten huge: billions of active gamers globally, with new generations joining every year. As technology has evolved, it has become easier for developers to target multiple platforms at once — consoles, PC, and mobile — which together create unprecedented opportunities to play while waiting in lines, at home, and while traveling.
- Network effects have come in force to the industry in a profound way: streaming, in-game social features, gaming influencers, and communities like Reddit/Discord amplify engagement with a game, and create incredible viral growth when a game takes off. We’ve now seen multiple games go from zero to hundreds of millions of users in the past year This will only accelerate as more gamers come online to play new content from an ever-growing catalog of new genres and franchises.
- The same trends that have widely benefited technology startups — open source, cloud computing platforms, and remote work — will help gaming studios as well.
- Finally, there are big platform changes coming from many large players that will benefit gaming studios creating content, platforms that aggregate gamers, and so on. This includes both the cloud gaming revolution coming — via Google Stadia and Microsoft xCloud — as well as the upcoming console refresh and the PC game store battles already afoot.
It’s with these dynamics in mind that we are excited to dive more deeply into the games industry, continuing to invest in the evolution of gaming and online social experiences; from Oculus and Zynga to more recent investments in Bonfire Games, Improbable, Caffeine, Sandbox VR, and now Singularity 6.
Aidan and Anthony have highly relevant backgrounds and complementary skills that make them the ideal team to bring their vision to the market. They spent years in senior roles at Riot Games, the creators of League of Legends, one the most important game developers of the last decade. Riot popularized the category of MOBAs — multiplayer online battle arenas — that is today one of the cornerstones of eSports industry. Anthony served as Development Director, where he led large teams to deliver the company’s core franchise to hundreds of millions of gamers. Aidan was Lead Game Designer, where he led design for an upcoming game from Riot’s R&D teams. Together, they have recruited a top notch group of engineers, artists, and designers from across the industry for Singularity 6.
They’re building a team that’s excited about broadening the curiosity and connectedness of future generations of people online, through storytelling, visual arts and gameplay and we couldn’t be more excited to join them for this journey.