It’s one thing to develop an online game, but it’s another thing altogether to design one for a major motion picture franchise. And to design one that wins an award from top entertainment industry doyens — as the most entertaining game of the year — is something that most game designers wouldn’t dare hope for in their wildest dreams.
But that is exactly the ladder that Israel’s Funtactix has climbed: The company that designed the online version of The Hunger Games Adventures, based on the blockbuster movie hit The Hunger Games, was named the best mobile game tied to a TV or film franchise by Variety, the bible of the entertainment industry. A panel of judges from top gaming, entertainment, and online news sites gave the nod to the Israeli company’s offering, which beat out tough competition from other wildly popular games such as The Walking Dead: The Game; and Veggie Tales: The League of Incredible Vegetables, both based on wildly popular entertainment franchises.
This is the first year that Variety has awarded the prize. It was given in 10 different categories for excellence and innovation in the entertainment app industry. The awards were distributed at a special dinner last week at the Sheraton Universal Hotel in Los Angeles, where the elite of Hollywood’s technocracy came to pay tribute to the winners.
The Hunger Games Adventures was originally released last February as a Facebook application. The game was a huge success — with over 5 million downloads — and was ranked one of the top five adventure games on Facebook, prompting Funtactix to produce an iPad edition last September. Within days of its release, the app became one of the most popular games in the iTunes App Store.
“It is incredible to see how our game has become a hub which brings together fans of the books and movies. It allows Suzanne Collins, the author of The Hunger Games trilogy of novels, to enjoy constant contact with her fan base,” said Yaron Leifenberg, one of the founding partners of Funtactix. “The game will continue to be developed and updated for many more years on a weekly basis, giving players ongoing access to the wonderful world of The Hunger Games.”
The Hunger Games movie, one of the biggest box-office films of all time, is based on the first book in the trilogy (three more films based on the books are planned), and describes a bleak post-apocalyptic America in which a decimated population is enslaved to produce goods and services for a decadent Capitol. As punishment for an insurrection years earlier, the 13 districts of the country, now called Panem, must send a teenage boy and girl to fight to the death in The Hunger Games. The heroine, Katniss Everdeen, finds solace from her difficult life in the forest beyond the electrified fence surrounding her home in District 12, and the online game lets players follow adventures that she, along with the story’s other heroes and villains, experiences in the forest.
Funtactix is considered one of the leading social-game companies in Israel. The company creates social computer games based on blockbuster films through close cooperation with leading Hollywood studios such as Lionsgate and Paramount. Some of Funtactix’s earlier games include Mission Impossible IV and Rango, both based on popular films. Established in 2006, Funtactix has 30 employees in its various offices in Israel and the United States.
Funtactix is a portfolio company of Jerusalem Venture Partners (JVP), an Israeli VC that has made a commitment to content development, seeing content as emerging as a strong growth sector for Israeli companies in the coming years. Among the other content companies in which JVP has invested is Animation Lab, which develops animated films; and AnyClip, which lets users search in a database for their favorite movie clips. “One of the most important decisions we made several years ago at JVP was to develop and invest in the field of digital media,” said Gadi Tirosh, JVP general partner and Funtactix board member. “Investments in Funtactix have certainly proved their worth. JVP will continue to lead in this field.”