What Happens After Angry Birds Is Played Out? Meet SkyVu’s Battle Bears.

Now that Angry Birds has created millions of gamers on the iPhone, what will come next?

Many game makers are preparing for an opportunity to create edgier games as players begin to move upstream after cutting their teeth on simple mechanics, like slingshots.

To that end, a new crop of companies are forming to bring some of the classic first-person or role-playing elements found in console games to the phone and tablet market. The trend is not just happening on mobile, but Facebook, too, where new players were first introduced to gaming with farm-like mechanics, but now want something more.

SkyVu, which is announcing today that it has raised a first round of funding, is just one of those companies going after the so-called mid-core market.

The company’s games tend to attract a smaller user base, so they don’t reach the top of the charts and are not as well known, and being based in Omaha, Neb., has kept it off the radar of Silicon Valley. But SkyVu has been true to its target.

“We were one of the first to make mid-core action games on iOS. We stuck to our guns — no pun intended — and it has gone well for us,” said Ben Vu, the company’s co-founder, who was an animator for the movie ”Coraline.”

“We do not compete with Angry Birds,” Vu added.

For instance, one of its games, Battle Bears Royale, is a cross between Activision’s Call of Duty and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. In the game, bears slice off heads and shoot guns, but there’s never any blood. Instead, the funny action shooter — targeting boys age 9-15 — relies on rainbows and other wacky elements to entertain. To add to the Ninja Turtle vibe, the bears talk a bit like California surfers. In the words of Michelangelo, “Cowabunga, dude!”

Terms of the round were not disclosed, but investors include Lightbank, which is known for its investment in Groupon; Nextview Ventures; Great Oaks Venture Capital; Michael Chang, former CEO of Greystripe; and the Nebraska Angels. Vu noted that the company was profitable before it received today’s investment.

Battle Bears is a free-to-play game that is monetized through in-app purchases. So far, the company’s games have been downloaded 18 million times. That’s far fewer than Angry Birds, but because they draw in a more dedicated audience, Lightbank’s Paul Lee said, they still monetize well because the average user spends about three times more money than in other games.

According to AppData, which tracks the performance of apps across both Facebook and iOS, Battle Bear Royale’s top three in-app purchases were a small gas can ($2.99), a medium gas can ($9.99) and a gas tanker ($19.99). The game, which has more than 4,000 reviews and a rating of 4.5 stars, is currently the 329th top grossing iPad app in the U.S.

Higher engagement and better monetization are just two traits of a mid-core game, which may not attract as many players but can end up doing just as well or better as tamer titles.

The round of funding will be used to help launch the company’s two upcoming games and to open an office in the San Francisco area. The company, which has 22 employees, also has plans to extend the brand beyond games to merchandise, such as plush toys and T-shirts, and film and television deals. Updates will be announced soon on both of those fronts.

“These guys have done a good job of creating a cult brand,” said Lee, who reviewed 80 to 100 games before deciding to make SkyVu Lightbank’s first game investment. “This is like Rockstar Games (the maker of Grand Theft Auto) crossed with Angry Birds. We really like that.”


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