LONDON (Reuters) - This year’s breakaway hit video game, Fortnite, which has drawn a younger generation to free-to-play multiplayer games, sending shockwaves through the console gaming market, has attracted new rivals ready to battle it out for vast mobile phone audiences.
Oh BiBi, a small French studio run by former game designers from Gameloft, on Thursday is introducing FRAG, a first-person shooter that lets mobile phone users stage “short but epic” one-on-one battles that could attract more casual game players.
Like Fortnite, FRAG sets out to break down the barriers that have existed between genres and platforms by bringing the free-to-play format to battle action games, which for technical reasons were once limited to higher priced consoles.
“At Oh BiBi we are on a mission to make mobile free-to-play fun to play by focusing on bringing epic multiplayer action games to mobile,” co-founder and chief executive Stanislas Dewavrin said.
Dewavrin and Oh BiBi co-founder Martial Valery were responsible for Gameloft’s biggest blockbuster titles more than a decade ago: Minion Rush, based on the cartoon character film franchise, which drew 860 million players, and Asphalt, an original car racing concept that counted 650 million players.
Gameloft was later acquired by media giant Vivendi .
Fortnite, created by U.S.-based studio Epic Games and backed by China’s Tencent, the world’s largest game studio and investor, has signed up tens of millions of users in recent months for its last-player-standing “battle royale” format.
The free-to-play game has challenged console-based fighting games for which users typically pay full prices of up to $60 per title.
Oh BiBi, which was founded in Paris in 2012, has previously focused on driving-themed games. Its mobile phone focused arcade racing title SUP has attracted 30 million downloads to date.
With its move into battle games, Oh BiBi is also incorporating social features to FRAG which will allow players to record and share their battlefield record with fellow gamers.
Oh BiBi is set to launch a private beta test of FRAG in July that can be played against single opponents (www.ohbibi.com).
Oh BiBi also said it has raised $21 million in new funding in a round led by Atomico, one Europe’s most successful game venture investors, which has backed Supercell, Rovio, Teatime and Bossa Studios. French firm Korelya Capital also took part.
Reporting by Eric Auchard in London; editing by Jason Neely