As games continue to make virtual life look more like reality and technological advances immerse gamers in new worlds, the industry's rise doesn't look like its calming down anytime soon. And, wherever there is potential for innovation, there are Israeli minds at the forefront.
IronSource and Playtika are two impressive examples of this. Both went public this year with valuations of around $11 billion. When it comes to more serious gaming, the Israeli footprint is not as obvious as the casual gaming success coming out of the ecosystem. But that doesn’t mean it’s nonexistent. The last PlayStation 5 launch was teased by Sony and included the first Israeli-developed game ever to be played on the console. The Israeli gaming revolution doesn’t stop here. The following startups (and a bonus at the end) are offering their own solutions to top the leaderboard:
The gaming world is overflowing with creative minds, ready to innovate and improve every game. However, the tools and support to do so have been out of reach, reserved just for the professional coders. That’s where Overwolf comes in.
Overwolf is a guild for in-game creators. It is the all-in-one platform that enables any creator to build, distribute, and monetize in-game apps and mods in a user-friendly manner. The company is on a mission to unite the creator community and empower them to make a living doing what they love – developing awesome gaming experiences.
The startup has over 30,000 creators and 20 million monthly active users. Overwolf is based in Ramat Gan and was founded in 2010 by CEO: Uri Marchand and VP Product: Alon Rabinovitz. Overwolf has raised over $75 million from investors, including Insight, Ubisoft, Griffin Gaming Partners, Marker, Intel Capital, and Liberty Media, to name a few. Additionally, it sports partnerships with Intel, Logitech, Ubisoft, HiRez, Twitch, Cloud9, among others.
Do you ever feel nostalgic for the days when you could just run down the street to your local arcade and play games until it got dark? Well, you’re not alone. Gigantic, an Israeli startup, wants to help you feel like you are back in the good old days. Its flagship product, Clawee, is just like your typical arcade-based claw machine - except players can tap into their chance of winning a prize by connecting via an app and playing the machine via a live stream.
Gigantic develops mobile arcade games connected to physical devices and builds the units in Israel to be played by millions worldwide. The machines have specific sensors and transmitters to give the player complete remote control in real-time over their game. Then, their prizes are delivered to their doorstep. For now, the company is remaining in the arcade game arena, meaning more claws, shooter games, basketball, golf, and football units.
The startup was founded in 2017, and Clawee already has 8 million players per month. It is headquartered in Tel Aviv and led by CEO and Co-Founder: Ron Brightman, CBO and Co-Founder: Oded Frommer, and CTO/VP R&D: Alex Benish. Gigantic has raised $9 million to date.
Games such as poker are as much about playing and winning as they are about social interaction and connection. We can all relate to the feeling of when lockdown began, and we were deprived of this, forced to play in a much more isolated manner. However, Israeli startup Comunix had an answer for us all along. The company has integrated live video, voice, and text chats into their games to help us maintain human connection and have some fun in the virtual world. Now, you can see your friends and family smile, bluff, and fold as you play together, making for the best gaming experience despite physical distance.
Comunix’s most popular game is called Pokerface, or “The Zoom of poker,” as Or Ben Shimon, CEO of Comunix, told Geektime in a recent interview. Pokerface allows you to connect with both old friends and new faces using a freemium app.
The company was founded in 2018 by CEO and Co-Founder: Ben Shimon and COO and Co-Founder: Idan Shriki. Comunix recently closed its Series A funding with a $30 million round.
Do you ever find yourself watching a live stream and zoning out? Or, do you live stream yourself and ever wonder how engaged your viewers really are? If so, keep reading. MadSkil, an Israeli startup, is gamifying live streams to make it a more active experience. In addition to keeping the chat open for engagement, MadSkil has added a gaming component, where viewers can predict through cards what will happen in the live-streamed game. This is done by competing against other players, moving up levels, and getting ranked on leaderboards (all while representing your favorite content creators).
With MadSkil, the streamer is also the game, increasing their channel’s engagement, retention, and even discovery. MadSkil supports Twitch with notable games: Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS: GO), Fortnite, League of Legends, and Valorant.
Madskil is led by CEO: Ori Shaked, CTO: Alex Sharabudinov, Co-Founder and CPO: Liat Adir, COO: Guy Ezra. Founded in 2019, the company is quickly expanding and gaining traction among gamers, content creators, and streamers alike.
As a game developer, you often wonder how to use unused screen real estate without it being a distraction. Anzu.io is on a mission to make gaming as realistic as possible by putting real ads throughout games (such as behind soccer goals, on billboards, around race tracks, and anywhere else you would see one in real life). This also allows the advertiser to gain more exposure and traction, a win-win for both the developer and the company advertising. Anzu.io also provides advertisers with a dashboard to manage marketing campaigns and analytics.
As CEO and Co-Founder Itamar Benedy explained in a previous interview with Geektime, “we seamlessly implement ads in the game environment, without interfering with ongoing gameplay. Our ads help create a more realistic gameplay, because our ads are located in places people would expect to see marketing campaigns.”
The startup has partnered with Ubisoft, Xbox, Samsung, Vivid Games, and more. Anzu.io was founded in 2016 by CEO: Itamar Benedy, CTO: Michael Badichi, and CPO: Ben Fenster and has raised $17M to date.
We couldn’t write an article about games without mentioning Coin Master or the minds behind the game, Moon Active. If you regrettably have not heard of Coin Master before, it is a single-player, casual, free mobile game with the objective to win as many coins as possible to help build up your villages. It has over 100 million downloads globally and has made the list of top-grossing mobile games in both the UK and Germany.
Coin Master has brought in over a billion dollars in revenue to Moon Active. The company joined the Israeli Unicorn club in 2020 after Insight Partners purchased 10 percent of the company for $125 million, propelling the company's valuation over the $1 billion mark.
Moon Active is based in Tel Aviv, with offices in London, England, and Kyiv, Ukraine. The Israeli gaming company acquired Melsoft, a casual games developer, at the end of last year to support their expansion plans. The company was founded by CEO Samuel Albin in 2012, who has made Moon Active one of the largest B2C companies in Israel.
Although not directly gaming-related, audio is a large part of the gaming experience: communicating with your friends, listening out for your enemies, etc. Unfortunately, these sounds can also be a nuisance to those around you. Yes, headphones are a solution to this; however, there is a new technology eager to replace them. Noveto, an Israeli startup, has created a personal speaker that only you can hear.
The technology, called Smart Beaming, uses AI-based built-in face tracking, voice recognition, and a built-in 3D smart camera to locate a specific individual’s ears and send two different pockets of sound just outside both ears. There is also a self-calibrating built-in microphone to communicate as clearly as you can hear. Now, you can game your heart out while your loved ones are sound asleep next to you.
The technology pairs with any device through Bluetooth 5.0. Noveto is headquartered in Petah Tikva, with offices also in Switzerland, Germany, and the US. The startup is led by CEO: Christophe Ramstein and CTO and Co-Founder: Tomer Shani.
A lot goes into creating a game; it’s not all left up to the developer. Once the game is made, a publisher has to step in and take it to the next level. OVIVO Games, a Tel Aviv-based publishing house, does just that. It focuses on hyper-casual games, and its platform guides developers through everything from completing the product (through UX, user interface, etc.), to user acquisition, to data analysis, and even monetization.
The games they have published so far include Disc Wars, Omega Run, Igloo Rush, Splash Rush, GoToy, Ball vs. Lines, and Duck Flip. The startup is led by CEO and Co-Founder: Roee Raz and is looking to help game developers take their games from code to gamer.
Live streams are as much about the content that is being shared as the visuals of it. Not many people will continue to watch a video if constant alerts are popping up, an unattractive setting, and other off-putting features. Israeli startup StreamElements is an an-all-in-one platform for creators to customize their live streams and generate as much viewer engagement and retention as possible.
Streamers using the platform have access to many perks; these include: personalized themes and overlays, customizable alerts, integrated chat into OBS, tipping management, merchandise, audience engagement tracking, giveaways, and spam protection. StreamElements is entirely cloud-based, allowing you to store all of your customized setups and use them anywhere. The company works with Twitch, YouTube, Facebook Gaming, and Trovo.
StreamElements was founded in 2016 by President: Doron Nir and Or Perry. The startup is based in Tel Aviv and has been quickly growing, now being used by over 780k channels.
Training is as important as the actual game. We train hard for competitive sports; why shouldn’t we practice for competitive online gaming as well? Novos, an Israeli startup, asked themselves the same question before developing their platform. Focused on Fortnite, Novos provides gamers with personalized training routines and frameworks designed by professional coaches and content creators to improve their game (including aiming, editing, building, game sense, and all other aspects of Fortnite).
Novos is a subscription-based platform, with popular aiming and content coaches already committed (including OA Manu, AIMER7, Teadoh, and more). It was also created with the help of psychologists to ensure the player’s wellbeing was also considered in the design. Novos includes mental training tools, stretching, and mental breaks into the schedule.
The startup is a graduate of Intel Ignite, Intel’s startup growth program. Based in Tel Aviv, it is headed by CTO and Co-Founder: Shai Arnon and CEO and Co-Founder: Or Briga. In total, Novos has raised $750K in a funding round led by Reimagine Ventures, with participation from Overwolf through The Overwolf Fund, in partnership with Intel (among other investors).
Even though this article is about startups, we’d be remiss if we didn’t talk about the first Israeli-based VC to just focus on the gaming sector. VGames, run by former Head of Gaming at Google Israel, Eitan Reisel, is on a mission to incubate and scale the next gaming superstars. According to a Geektime article written last year, the fund has secured $30 million to invest in early-stage projects and has a portfolio of 14 companies.
In the same article, Reisel told Geektime, “I want to invest in companies that are part of less popular genres,” further adding that “with funding, connections to top gamers and a little patience, a generation of AAA games doesn't look like a pipe dream.”