Superbloom CEO and co-founder Emily Yim has told us about the reasoning for creating the studio, talked about the games designed with women’s interests in mind, and spoke about current trends in the lifestyle space.
Recently, a new mobile start-up Superbloom founded by Emily Yim and Ksusha Zit who previously held roles at such companies as EA, Glu Mobile, Dots, and Zynga, raised $3 million in a round of seed funding. The pair shared that the fund will go towards developing "elevated lifestyle games" that "tap into the diverse interests of women."
We talked to the company's CEO and co-founder Emily Yim to ask her how the games that were designed with women’s interests in mind will differ from the ordinary games and spoke about lifestyle titles and current trends in the lifestyle space.
80.lv: Please, introduce yourself and your team. Could you give us a little bit of background about who makes up your team? What was the reasoning behind creating Superbloom?
Emily Yim: We are a team of 3 people currently. I, Emily Yim, CEO and co-founder of Superbloom, came from game design and have a product background in mobile games. I started my games career in New York, by joining a start-up called Astro Ape Studio, led by friends and guildmates from World of Warcraft. After the studio's acquisition by Zynga and other gaming startups, I joined Dots studio to lead the Two Dots team.
Later I moved to San Francisco and worked on The Sims Mobile at EA and Covet Fashion at Glu. In the last few years, I have been based in Bordeaux, France where I held the role of a Chief Product Officer at a London-based fashion/gaming startup Drest. In 2021, I left Drest to grow the idea of what would become Superbloom.
Ksusha Zito, CTO and co-founder of Superbloom, started her career as an iOS developer but quickly picked up a game development opportunity at early-stage Dots Studio in New York. She helped grow the company from the prototype stage of Two Dots as a 6 people team, to nearly 70 people by the time she left. Then she joined The New York Times’ games division and helped them scale the games' infrastructure and managed about 30 engineers.
Mickaël Verbeke, Lead 3D Artist at Superbloom has a 3D artist background from studios like Ubisoft Annecy and Eden Games. Mickaël honed his craft in 3D art by working on racing and sports game titles like Gear.Club and Steep. He also has freelancing experience where he worked with clients ranging from gaming startups to retail brands like Simmons.
Superbloom’s vision of creating elevated games that connect women through social play and real-life interests was born when I looked at the games that are targeting women and started to identify the white space, both as a game maker and also as a player. A lot of games that are popular and the top-grossing games had fun and great mechanics but I couldn’t resonate with the way the women are portrayed in these games.
Also, the social mechanic of a lot of these games felt shallow and narrow. Content and theme-wise, specifically in the lifestyle games category, there hasn’t been an interesting take on women’s real-life interests in the last several years other than fashion and home decoration.
As I identified some of the missing elements in the market, the idea of Superbloom’s first game was born and so was the vision to bring these games to life. When I presented the idea and vision of Superbloom to Ksusha, she was instantly on board because she was feeling the same about the games market and wanted to work with someone she trusts and enjoys working with.
80.lv: Could you tell us about the recent round where you received $3 million? What do you think of the market and its volumes?
Emily Yim: We felt that there was a lot of excitement about Superbloom, particularly because of our background of the founding team and the vision we had, as well as the fit between the team and our genre mastery.
We also talked to lots of great gaming founders before she went out to the market for fundraising, which has been tremendously helpful in building a strategy for raising capital. The gaming founder community is very open and caring, we would definitely like to pay it forward when it’s our turn to share knowledge and experience with new founders.
As a free-to-play mobile games company that didn’t have crypto or web3 in the front headline of our pitch, we are very glad we were able to work with our lead investor Scott Rupp at Bitkraft who is knowledgeable about our space, for us to be able to build trust with beyond just the funding. We also work closely with Faye Maidment We really couldn’t hope for better investors for our round and are truly happy to get everyone on board.
Games Aimed at Women
80.lv: As far as we know, the funding will go towards creating mobile lifestyle games aimed at women. Please, tell us about the main concept of these games. How do you think these games will differ from the ordinary games that weren’t designed with women’s interests in mind?
Emily Yim: We believe that the lifestyle games space is primed for an evolution in the content and game mechanics to reach a broader audience and engage the players in a deeper and more meaningful way.
We aim to tap into diverse women's interests that normally get enjoyed by browsing lifestyle content rather than games format. When it comes to deciding which content themes we are experimenting with, we try to look beyond the theme itself but rather the real-life fantasies the audience might have.
We want to bring games where our players can explore these fantasies freely within the games while feeling creative and rewarding. We also focus a lot on how our audience could build connections with each other by having a meaningful social play.
Building a Community
80.lv: You’ve also mentioned that you’re going to build a community around your audience. What is your approach here? How are you planning to achieve this?
Emily Yim: Social play is one of the core parts of Superbloom’s vision. In fact, the name Superbloom came from this visual image of the community of people blooming together. We want to create and foster a community of our audience by implementing meaningful social gameplay in our games where the game interactions mirror real-life interactions. We believe the meaningful connections are only created from meaningful interactions that involve core gameplay, and we hope to create a bond between players that could evolve to be a community.
80.lv: Why do you think developing lifestyle games is a good idea for publishers and developers now, in your opinion? Is the market in need of more lifestyle titles?
Emily Yim: The lifestyle genre is not as saturated as some of the popular categories of mobile games, at least just yet. We think the gameplay and content are ripe for the next evolution which is a good time for developers and publishers to find opportunities. With the recent success of Redecor, which took an interesting take on how interior design games work, we believe the market is thirsty for creative approaches to lifestyle games.
80.lv: Spotting new trends is a key challenge in developing and publishing. What do you plan to do to keep on top of the trends? What are the current trends in the lifestyle space?
Emily Yim: Since lifestyle games are very closely related to content and trends in social media, we get a lot of inspiration from places like Instagram, Pinterest, and TikTok. Becoming a content creator has never been easier, which means the content has become less authoritative and more democratized. We focus a lot on how the lifestyle content gets created and consumed, and the interaction between creators and audience. We believe that gaming plays a big part in the next evolution of lifestyle content.
80.lv: The commercial success of games is one of the crucial points. How are you going to monetize your games? What do you do to gain audiences? How difficult is it to get noticed today?
Emily Yim: Our business model is free-to-play, which has great accessibility for our audience. The game economy is yet to be designed and built but we envision that we’ll monetize largely through in-app purchases. Reaching audiences is very important and a tough challenge in the current climate of mobile games. It is extremely difficult to get noticed without a big marketing budget for user acquisition, and growing your player base.
We have ideas around how we combat these challenges, from reaching players through more unconventional channels to building a game system designed for a greater LTV with deeper engagement so you could scale profitably. Ultimately there is no silver bullet to reaching an audience and monetization, it’s often how you mix existing and new strategies and execute them the best way possible that fits your game and the audience.
80.lv: What do you think it is like trying to release a game during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic? What is your approach to teamwork? And what is your current working model in the post-COVID world where lots of companies switch to remote or hybrid models?
Emily Yim: Superbloom was born during the pandemic and our team really benefited from the flexibility of remote work. We are happy to continue operating our remote and distributed team. We have regular meetings within the team to be able to check in and connect, as well as the flexibility of setting your own schedule and hours depending on your family and personal needs as long as there are some core hours overlapping with the team.
Since our team is still small, we do get to connect on a personal level which is a great perk. While our team is distributed and fully remote, we believe in the power of connection that comes from face-to-face time. This is why we plan to host an annual retreat for our team, and potentially more frequent meetup/off-site for people in closer geographical proximity. Our current team isn’t quite into commuting to office space for both family life and environmental reasons. We plan to continue to listen to our growing team’s needs and are open to catering to them.
80.lv: What's your current roadmap? What did you plan for 2022? What will we hear again from you?
Emily Yim: We are currently working on a prototype of our first game. Roadmap-wise, we imagine lots of testing, feedback, and iteration this year before we could get to pre-production and production. As we are growing the team, we plan to introduce our new team members, update them on how we are working together, building our culture through our company page on Linkedin and our social media. We hope to bring our first game to market next year in 2023.