PlayCafe Funded for Web Game Shows

PlayCafe, a company we uncovered last year, is expanding its live game show offerings, raising funding, opening a studio in Los Angeles, and has hired a producer with experience at Endemol and CBS.

PlayCafe produces an interactive weeknight online game show, with a live host reading questions, chatting with players, and commenting on the game. It is expanding from two to four hours next week, running 5 to 9 p.m. PT. The company, which is also making an embeddable widget version of its games, boasts an average playing session of 86 minutes, with 250 to 300 players per night. Prizes range from an iTunes song to $1000 cash.

Playcafe CEO Mark Goldenson has a pretty convincing rationale for his venture. “When I look at the landscape of Internet content, it’s mostly passive content,” he said in an interview last week. “It’s great that I can watch Lost whenever I want, but it’s not interactive or social. [Meanwhile,] the main use of live streaming has been life-streaming, like Justin.tv or Chris Pirillo, and I just don’t think that’s compelling, and I think that’s borne out by the viewership.”

Goldenson said 10 to 20 percent of PlayCafe visitors just watch the game rather than playing themselves, which is interesting in and of itself, but especially when compared to television game shows.

We’d heard elsewhere that First Round Capital had made an investment in the company, which Goldenson confirmed, though he declined to state the amount as he said the funding round is still open. While we think this is a cool idea, we’re surprised the company was able to raise cash with such low user numbers. But Goldenson and his partner Dev Nag have had success with previous startups, and also have PayPal and Google on their resumes.

Goldenson, who said the company’s goal is to run games around the clock, vouched that newly hired producer Jon Lawrence, who ran Take the Cake and Midnight Money Madness for Endemol, will bring a “better look and feel” to the site. Goldenson called the current set-up (see embed above) “authentic but not very sophisticated.”

Last week we wrote about another funded startup looking to combine casual gaming and web trivia, but that one’s called PopJax, and does on-demand trivia games rather than live shows.

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