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Brier Dudley's blog

Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

September 13, 2010 at 2:12 PM

Smith & Tinker drops game hardware, adds Marvel

After a rocky start last year, Bellevue game startup Smith & Tinker is overhauling its online game platform for young boys.

The company stopped making handheld devices to play its “Nanovor” action-collecting game offline and instead is focusing on browser-based gaming and gaming on Apple devices and Facebook.

Nanovor-Battle-1.jpg

It also announced a major licensing agreement with Disney’s Marvel portfolio for games that will appear starting in the second quarter 2011. The new Nanovor game is appearing this fall, and versions for Apple iOS devices are planned for the fourth quarter.

“We’re in a fairly good place from a development standpoint at this point and our existing investors are continuing to be supportive of us,” said co-founder Joe Lawandus, who was earlier vice president and general manager of Disney Toys & Sporting Goods.

Smith & Tinker launched Nanovor with a major promotional campaign and retail presence last holiday season, using $29 million raised from Paul Allen and other investors.

By December it was cutting staff and now employs 25, less than half its level at launch.

The smaller team was still able to re-create the Nanovor game with new 3-D graphics and social networking features in a lighter software package that runs in browsers, without the download client the game originally required.

Nanovor-Nanocenter-Chat1.jpg

The sci-fi game is aimed at pre-teen boys, who can buy collectible characters and then upgrade them with achievements earned by playing games on the site.

The underlying platform will now be used to support games using Marvel comic-book characters. Those games will aim for a broader range of players and be playable on Facebook, as well as in browsers and on Apple mobile devices.

Co-founder Jordan Weisman, a former creative director at Microsoft’s games business, said the plan was to eventually use the platform for characters developed outside the company.

“It’s always been in the back of our heads,” he said. “Whenever you do a bunch of innovation, one of the things you look at is how can you exploit that innovation and investment over more franchises.”

Lawandus said the company’s planning to raise more money this year — under $10 million — to carry it through to profitability.

Comments | More in | Topics: Games & entertainment, Startups, startups

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