New York-based Bunch has raised $20 million in venture funding to help friends party up with each other in multiplayer mobile games. Bunch’s mission is to create a social layer that keeps people coming back.
Venture capital firm General Catalyst led the round, with participation from top game developers — including Electronic Arts, Take-Two Interactive Software, Krafton, Ubisoft, Mixi, Miniclip, Colopl, Riot Games, Ubisoft, Supercell, and others. This is a rare moment of broad support from game publishers, who are pitching in to make mobile games more sticky.
During the pandemic, the company has seen its user base grow from thousands to millions, Bunch CEO Selcuk Atli said in an interview with GamesBeat. Since the beginning of March, Bunch has seen a 50 times growth in monthly active users. About 60% of its millennial players are female, and its base is growing beyond Generation Z and to reach more male players.
“What I love is that we can help so many people connect with their friends during this time,” Atli said.
In addition to the game companies, investors include LVP, Northzone, Streamlined Ventures, Konvoy Ventures, Redbird Capital, Velo Partners, and Alven Capital Partners. As part of the financing, General Catalyst’s Niko Bonatsos joined Bunch’s board of directors. The company will use its funding to grow its user base and accelerate integrations with popular multiplayer games, Atli said.
Bunch comes with a number of built-in games, including Pool, Mars Dash, Draw Party, Trivia, and a multiplayer version of Flappy Bird. And it is integrated into games like Spaceteam, Brawl Stars, and Armajet. Users can also play third-party games that are lightly supported on Bunch, like PUBG Mobile, Minecraft, and Uno. With these games, players can still party up on video chat through Bunch and open those games together while talking to each other. But users will have to manually party up to play together with these titles when they are inside the game.
When users are playing third-party games on Bunch — with Bunch running in the background — they are still able to video chat with each other using a feature called the Bunch Overlay.
Bunch markets itself as the party app for multiplayer games. It’s an easy way for players to connect with friends over video chat and to jump into their favorite games. Developers can also integrate Bunch into their own games to boost engagement by letting players party up with friends and play together. Bunch is available on both iOS and Android.
Atli and cofounders Jason Liang and Jordan Howlett wanted to recreate the fun they had playing games in-person at LAN parties, where a bunch of friends would congregate. Since that’s no longer possible during the pandemic, online-only mobile solutions like Bunch may offer a timely solution.
One of the reasons the company was able to raise so much money was because of its rapid growth. While Atli doesn’t disclose user numbers, he said fans are using Bunch 1.5 million minutes per day. Among the top 100 social apps, Bunch is usually ranked anywhere from 10 to 40 on a daily basis.
The company currently employs 20 people. Atli said he was delighted to have Bonatsos join the board, as he has known Bonatsos for more than eight years and is impressed with his industry knowledge. Atli said the company is going to pursue integrating Bunch into more games, where it is embedded or optimized to fit a game’s multiplayer experience.
Atli is fond of saying that “games are the new social network.” With games growing at higher rates than other forms of entertainment during the pandemic, he said that’s more true than ever.