YooMee Games Opens the Chuck E. Cheese of Online Arcades

What do you get when you give casual game players the chance to compete for cash and prizes?

A really addictive experience.

Or at least that’s the hope of YooMee Games, which is unveiling a new gaming platform today (yes, another one!) that allows developers to add features to their games, like tournament play and one-on-one challenges.

The San Francisco-based company’s founder, Prita Uppal, jokes it is the Chuck E. Cheese of the Internet because of the tickets.

It starts with players placing wagers or buying tokens for a chance to win money and tickets that can be turned in for prizes. “It’s an arcade. You buy coins and then compete with others in tournaments and get tickets based on the outcome, which can be turned into cash or prizes, based on how many tickets you have.”

Think skee ball, but with better prizes than Tootsie Rolls.

At the start, YooMee will have more than 30 games to choose from, including popular puzzle games, like Bubble Town and Cube Crasher, and word games like WordStone. Prizes include Amazon gift cards, digital cameras and other gadgets.

Uppal said the company is not a casino and people are not gambling on the site, because the games are skill-based and not based on chance. “It’s completely skill-based competition. It’s legal. All the casual games you see and play on the Web are skill games–so you can wager and compete and earn money.”

Still, the business model is complex, having to optimize winnings for the player while also distributing money back to the developer and keeping some for itself.

Users don’t have to pay to play–instead they can play for free and view ads, such as a video pre-roll. That business is doing well, and allowed the 22-employee company to reach profitability in October.

Uppal says YouMee isn’t competing against other companies that are providing developers other services, such as leaderboards, comments or rankings. Rather, it can be used in addition to those services. It also uses Facebook Connect, so friends can easily find one another from their regular social network.

Commonly, a player will be introduced to the “arcade concept,” which Uppal is also “calling social competition,” after playing one of the games. A message will appear that says something like, “If you had paid 50 cents, you would have made $10 with this score. Do you want to enter this competition?”

In founding the company, Uppal placed a few good bets of her own.

She met her first VCs on the ski-lift chair in Park City, Utah. Directly from the ski slopes, U.S. Venture Partners flew her to Silicon Valley–she was without a computer and practically still wearing her ski boots–to give a 45-minute presentation. She had a term sheet two days later.

And she found her second VC after seeing a psychic, who predicted that the letter “A” and foreign money were going to be really important. That led her to take meetings with Altos Ventures, which has roots in Asia. “I wouldn’t have ever spoken to them if it weren’t for the psychic.”


Latest Video

View all videos »

Search »

The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald