Former EA CEO helps front $5m for Sim City creator's latest venture

Riccitiello backs Will Wright’s Syntertainment

Game industry legend and the mind behind Sim City and The Sims, Will Wright, has raised $5 million for his new start-up Syntertainment which seeks to “blend reality and entertainment".

Neither of Wright’s recent start-up ventures have flourished. Hivemind, which planned to use big data to personalise games for individual user, was buried in litigation, and game studio Stupid Fun Club is now a shell company that has licensed a few of its projects.

VentureBeat reports that the new company, Syntertainment, is co-founded by Wright and Avi Bar-Zeev, and has already secured $5 million from investors like VC firm Andreessen Horowitz and former EA CEO John Riccitiello.

This isn’t the first time Riccitiello has been linked with one of the game designer’s post-Maxis start-up projects; a legal filing revealed last year as part of the litigation war that brought Hivemind to its knees, it was claimed that Riccitiello had verbally committed to a $5 million investment in the company.

There are also more obvious connections, like the recycling of old team members from the Stupid Fun Club, including Wright’s wife Anya.

Though there are definitely links with past projects, Wright says Syntertainment isn’t just recycling the same idea.

“This is not a huge, mega project,” he explained. “It’s an evolution of my interests.”

Just what that means is anyone’s guess – Wright’s interests range from architecture to the Soviet Space Program.

Wright’s business partner is perhaps best known for co-founding Keyhole, the global mapping application that turned into Google Earth.

He has just emerged from four years at Microsoft working on projects connected with the Bing search engine and Xbox, and also contributed tech to Second Life developer Linden Lab.

“I’m better on the tech side of things, while Will is creative,” said Bar-Zeev.

“I’ve been an admirer of his for years. I tried to work with him at EA, but I was offered a job in a different division. So I turned it down.”

Riccitiello is set to join as the third board member at Syntertainment.

“John and I get along great,” Wright said of Riccitello.

“I have always had a good working relationship with him and a lot of fun.”

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