The Portuguese game industry is growing.
The Lisbon, Portugal-based Bica Studios today announces that it’s secured its first round of seed funding from Portugal Ventures, the Western European country’s largest venture capital group. The studio behind iOS arcade game Smash It! Adventures plans to use the funding to move locations, create new mobile intellectual properties, and support emerging technologies like augmented and virtual reality.
The investment is the first of its kind for five years in Portugal, according to Nuno Folhadela, chief executive officer at Bica Studios. Folhadela told GamesBeat that it shows increased confidence in a Portuguese game industry that has grown significantly over the past 12 months.
“This investment puts Bica Studios leading the boom of gaming startups in Portugal, where in the last year more studios appeared than in the last 30 years,” said Folhadela via email.
Microsoft’s game developer camp in Lisbon last year helped highlight some of the emerging talent in Portugal’s development scene, including Game Studio 78,Nerd Monkeys, and Wingz Studio. “We are witnessing a turning point in the Portuguese videogame development community,” said Nerd Monkeys founder Filipe Duarte Pina in Microsoft’s Portugal game studios spotlight.
“In the last 2 years, the amount of people producing video games in Portugal has doubled or even tripled,” he added. “The quality of the titles produced has also increased, and the bonds between all these companies have been strengthened. If there ever was a time to invest in all of us, that time is now.”
Formed in 2013, Bica Studios was born out of frustration in building games for other companies “where quality was never a request.” With the first seed round closed, the team is moving from Startup Lisboa to a new incubator, Vodafone Labs, which Folhadela says will “help us to reach the success that we aim for.”
Bica Studios is set to release Smash Time this summer, which is an “evolution” of its first iOS release, Smash It! Adventures. “[Smash It! Adventures] reached our expectations regarding player reaction, where we have collected good reviews and great attachment to the story and characters presented,” said Folhadela. “With the feedback received and with everything that we learned, we are now improving the game under the name of Smash Time.”
It’s an example of the studio’s focus on mobile gaming — particularly the smasher genre, where players smash enemy characters in a Whack-a-Mole style — but cofounder Miguel Tomas said that the team is also keeping an eye on emerging technologies such as virtual and augmented reality.
Marcos Osorio from Portugal Ventures and Nuno Gonçalves Pedro — currently the managing partner of San Francisco’s VC fund Strive Capital — are joining the board of directors at Bica Studios.
“What excites me most about Bica Studios is the new approach to casual gaming,” said Gonçalves Pedro in a statement, “[with] a more immersive storyline, deeper characters, and great gameplay. I look forward to this journey with the team with a view to becoming a significant global player in the space.”
“With Portugal Ventures at our side, we are now leaving the warm-up phase and ready for the challenge of having a successful gaming company,” said Folhadela.