Founder Oskari Hakkinen speaks to Develop about its ambitious new project

How Futurefly plans to change messaging apps with gaming

Finnish start-up Futurefly’s upcoming messaging app is still shrouded in mystery, but the firm has just teased its potential with a $2.5m funding round.

The investment was led by Snapchat, Whatsapp, Twitter and Facebook investors, including VC company Visionplus. This comes on top of a €400,000 seed fund the studio raised last December.

The project is the brainchild of Remedy’s former head of franchise development Oskari Hakkinen, who has put together a team of nine with experience at studios like EA, Sulake and Grey Area to make his idea a reality.

Hakkinen says investors have already been impressed with the team’s use of game development norms in the app world. Simple inclusions such as data, analytics and tracking are unusual in new apps, he claims, while game developers are used to studying this information in great detail on mobile.

The app is being built on Unity, an unusual platform for messaging software, and is merged with native APIs. The gaming side will take advantage of Unity’s animation tools, while a recent press release teased the use of avatars and mini-games as part of its functionality.

Hakkinen believes it’s an evolution of what’s gone on before. He explains that messaging apps like Snapchat and Tinder already act like mini-games in a sense, and Futurefly plans to take that use of game-like mechanics to the next level.

“We’ve already seen the first steps with those kind of apps of game-like features which people are already adopting,” says Hakkinen. “We’re seeing a lot of rich content on the app side – animated gifs, animated emoji – we’re seeing a bunch of stickers and all of these kind of stuff.

“People are actually purchasing this rich content. These have been baby steps, and we’re just taking a leap right now. And we’re going to go full on, bang, right, this is the stuff you’ve had in games before, but now it’s in a messaging environment. It’s extremely rich, you can create your own things, and chat in an environment that’s familiar.

“First and foremost we’re making a messaging application, we’re not making a game. So how the messaging application works from a UI perspective will feel very familiar, but when you go into a chat there’s so much more you can do.”

While the app will be available for free, it will be monetised through deals with brands, IP and even celebrities. It’s an idea inspired by Glu Games’ work on Kim Kardashian: Hollywood, which has used her name and ‘brand’ to huge success.

A number of models will be at play, from revenue share with celebrities, to brands paying for exclusive animations or IP holders introducing exclusive items.

Most of the app will be free, but there may be extra content users can purchases if they wish.

“Most the stuff is for free,” says Hakkinen. “So it’s a free app, and most the content there is free. But then there’s very exclusive content.”

The app will be going into open Beta in October. A worldwide launch is expected early next year, and Hakkinen states consumers could see the app as early as February.

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