Halo lead dev scores $29m for game/toy project

Halo lead dev scores $29m for game/toy project

By Rob Crossley

August 25th 2009 at 12:05PM

Lead designer-cum-serial entrepreneur Jordan Weisman enjoys strong support for youth market plans

Washington-based start-up Smith & Tinker has won around $29m in VC funding for its new range of games and toys based on its emerging Nanovor franchise.

A Venturebeat report claims the investment – pooled from two rounds of venture capital funding – is the biggest of its kind this year.

Though investment in the past two years has – in most sectors – proven difficult to secure, VCs are manifestly more confident in Smith & Tinker’s focus on the younger markets.

Nanovor is a Pokemon-esque online card-battle game targeted at the lucrative 8-12 year-old boys market. The company will offer a $49 handheld gadget that allows players to battle each other and upload their results to a PC via USB.

Smith & Tinker was founded back in 2007 by Jordan Weisman, head of FASA Interactive; a studio responsible for titles such as MechWarrior 4: Mercenaries and the Xbox 360 title Shadowrun.

Commonly described as a serial entrepreneur, Weisman was the lead designer of the first Halo project.

Microsoft closed the studio down the same year S&T was founded, the Xbox manufacturer subsequently licensed the rights to produce electronic adaptations of FASA games back to Weisman.

"With the release of Nanovor, we have put a stake in the ground as the first company to merge the best of a game studio, entertainment shop and toy company all under one roof, and with the sole mission of reinventing play for today's connected kids,” said Weisman in a company statement.

Weisman’s shift to the youth market is reminiscent of Free Radical’s reported shift to the child market in the few months before it closed. Develop reported that the Free-Radical spin-off, known as Pumpkin Beach, was trying to develop free-to-play Flash-based MMOs aimed at the child market.
 
A source told us: “They looked at the success of Club Penguin [an MMO for the younger market, acquired by Disney for up to $700 million] and really wanted a piece of that action.”

The generous investment into Smith & Tinker is indicative of that desire to tap into the lucrative youth market with video games.

"Just like our executive team, Smith & Tinker's investment partners include some of the most well-known and experienced names in software, toys, gaming and entertainment, providing deep insight and vision into the markets we are pursuing," Weisman added.