How one startup is reimagining mobile gameplay as a healing activity – TechCrunch

Mobile wellness apps topped 1.2 billion downloads last year, while leading meditation app Calm alone brought in $ 118.2 million in revenue, according to data from Sensor Tower. It may lead some to believe that the digital wellness market is essentially solved, but a new startup, Lumi Interactive, believes the opposite is true. The Melbourne-based, women-led company has identified an under-explored niche in the mobile market that involves translating offline, self-care activities into games as a means of reducing our collective stress and anxiety.

While most mobile games focus on getting users to compete against each other or achieve some sort of goal, the startup’s upcoming title Kinder World’s main purpose is to help users relax. It achieves this through short snack-size sessions, asking players to take care of virtual houseplants by taking care of themselves in the real world.

The game encourages players to perform simple acts of kindness – such as practicing daily gratitude, for example – to improve their own well-being and for the wider community of the game. The game offers a number of non-stressful activities – such as watering houseplants, interacting with animal neighbors and decorating a cozy room with plants.

Image credit: Lumi Interactive

In some ways, this is reminiscent of how many of us spent months in creative play during the height of the pandemic, engaging in games like Animal Crossing, the popular Nintendo game whose stress-free environment helped many relax and pass the time during COVID-19- lockdowns. In Animal Crossing, players designed indoor and outdoor spaces, shopped for outfits and home accessories, planted flowers and talked to animal friends.

As it turns out, the pandemic also played a big role in the founding of Lumi Interactive, the company TechCrunch said.

“At the end of 2020, we were a small team of three, exhausted by the pandemic and a tough year for the company,” explains Lumi Interactive’s co-founder and CEO Lauren Clinnick. “We decided to take two weeks to refresh ourselves with a game jam to make something completely new, and mental well-being was very much on our minds. We had also all become closer to nature over the harsh closures in Melbourne and wanted to investigate why houseplants had become part of a self-care routine for so many people we knew, ”she says.

This gave rise to a question about whether houseplant care could be brought into the digital world, and the team made the prototype of Kinder World as a result.

“It had a spark of something special after just two weeks, and the concept tested very strongly with our target audience right away,” Clinnick says.

Both Clinnick and Lumi Interactive co – founder Christina Chen had a background in gaming before founding their new company and had known each other for almost a decade. Clinnick first entered the gaming industry as a marketing consultant for games such as Crossy Road, co-founded a boutique gaming marketing agency and then moved on to direct game development. Chen, meanwhile, had a technical background that saw her work on payments on Xbox Live and later as a senior producer at PopCap in Shanghai, before co-founding game publisher Surprise Attack (now known as Fellow Traveler).

The duo had bound themselves over their mutual love of data, underserved player communities and the new opportunities they believed were still on the horizon for mobile gaming, Clinnick says.

Image credit: Lumi Interactive

As the team explored the idea for a more collaborative title focusing on self-care, they discovered that many of today’s consumers did not find satisfaction with regular wellness apps.

“When we actually interviewed users – especially Gen Z and millennial women and non-binary people – we found that 97% had dropped out of apps like Headspace and Calm, citing that they wanted to work or became another thing for them to fail. ” says Clinnick. “Instead, they often have fragmented relaxation hobbies such as games, houseplants, Squishmallow collection, crafts and ASMR. It is mostly distraction activities that helped their short-term anxiety but did not help them build important long-term resilience,” he says. she.

Lumi Interactive responded to this feedback by ensuring that their game was designed in a way that you could not fail no matter how you played. For example, all the activities in the game are optional, and the virtual houseplants will never die.

We have deliberately made these choices to prevent a strained feeling for the players, ”said Clinnick.

Consistent with a strategy to develop the game with their community, the startup approached TikTok to test various elements, such as game design, art style, and to find out what interested their users.

Now a full-time team of 12 and growing, Lumi Interactive closed at $ 6.75 million in start-up funding in March in a round led by a16z – as it officially announces this week. Other investors include 1Up Ventures, Galileo Ventures, Eric Seuferts Heracles Capital and Double Loop Games co-founder and CEO Emily Greer.

The startup is using the funds to grow the team so that it can further develop the larger concept it calls “crowd healing”, informed by Lumi Interactive’s full-time wellness researcher, Dr. Hannah Gunderman, Ph.D. The company believes that the idea – which refers to sharing kindness with others through gameplay in self-care – could become a new game category.

Of course, Lumi Interactive is not the first to imagine games that are not goal-focused. There are games that are interactive stories or graphic novels or other indie projects, but they often still have the player to go through the experience to come to a conclusion. Kinder World, meanwhile, would be something players return to when they need to relax, which is why the company is considering a subscription offer in addition to standard in-app purchases. It is also on exploration online-offline experiences with physical objects that can unlock certain game benefits or activities.

Kinder World is currently in alpha test on iOS and Android and aims for a full release later in 2022.


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