Technology

The Last Gameboard raises $ 4 million to ship its digital tabletop gaming platform

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The tabletop gaming industry has exploded in recent years as millions discovered or rediscovered its joys, but it is also evolving – and The Last Gameboard hopes to be the place for that evolution. The digital tabletop platform has gone from crowdfunding to $ 4 million launch round and is slated to ship by the end of the year after working with some of the biggest names in the industry.

As the company’s CEO and co-founder, Shail Mehta, stated in a TC Early Stage Pitch-Off earlier this year, The Last Gameboard is a 16-inch square touchscreen device with a custom operating system and a sophisticated method of Tracking of pawns and hand movements. The idea is to provide a digital alternative to physical games where it is practical, and with maximum benefit and minimum compromise.

If the pitch sounds familiar to you, it has been tried once or twice. I still remember how impressed I was with the capabilities of D&D on an original Microsoft Surface … in 2009. And I played with another at PAX many years ago. Mehta said that until recently, technology just wasn’t around and the market wasn’t ready.

“People have tried this before, but it was either way too expensive or they didn’t have an audience. And the technology just wasn’t there; They lacked that interaction piece, ”she explained, and I’m sure any gamer will realize that the iPad version of a game definitely lacks physicality. The advancement their company has made is that the touchscreen can recognize not just tap and drag, but also tokens, gestures and movements across the screen, and more.

“No other touchscreen or tablet on the market can do what Gameboard does – it’s not even close,” said Mehta. “We have unlimited touch, characters, passive and active. You can use your chess game at home, lifting and putting down the pieces. We follow them all the time. We can create unique identifiers with tags and custom shapes. This is the next step in how interactive surfaces can be. “

It does this via a not particularly exotic method that saves the gameboard from the fate of the surface and its successors, which cost several thousand dollars due to their unique and expensive makeup. Mehta explained that they work strictly with ordinary capacitive touch data, albeit at a higher than usual frame rate, and then use machine learning to characterize and track object outlines. “We didn’t create a completely new mechanism, we’re just optimizing what’s available today,” she said.

Credit: The last board

At $ 699 for the gameboard, it’s not exactly an impulse buy either, but the fact is, people are spending a lot of money on games, with some titles costing hundreds of dollars for all expansions and parts. Tabletop is now an industry with sales of more than $ 20 billion. If the experience is as good as they hope it will be, this is an investment that many gamers won’t hesitate (a lot anyway).

Of course, the most rugged gestures and features don’t matter if they only had bargain titles and grandpa salon favorites like Parcheesi on the platform. Fortunately, The Last Gameboard has managed to stack up some of the most popular tabletop companies out there and is aiming for the ultimate digital edition for their games.

Asmodee Digital is probably the biggest catch, as it adapted many of today’s greatest hits, from modern day classics Catan and Carcassone to the crowdfunded breakout hit Scythe and the giant dungeon crawler Gloomhaven. The full list of partners currently includes Dire Wolf Digital, Nomad Games, Auroch Digital, Restoration Games, Steve Jackson Games, Knights of Unity, Skyship Studios, EncounterPlus, PlannarAlly, and Sugar Gamers, as well as individual developers and developers.

Credit: The last board

These games are best played in person, but have successfully made the move to digital versions, and it is envisioned that a bigger screen and the inclusion of real-world pieces could result in an improved hybrid experience. There are options to buy games individually, like you do on mobile or Steam, or to subscribe to a model with unlimited access (prices need to be set for both).

It would also be something that the many game stores and venues might want a few on hand. Testing a game in the store and then buying some games in stock or convincing consumers to do the same could be a great selling tactic for everyone involved.

Not only does the device offer a unique and superior digital version of a game, but it can also connect to others to swap moves, send game invitations, and the like. The entire operating system, Mehta said, “is alive and well. If we didn’t own and create it, it wouldn’t work. “This is more than a skin on Android with a built-in store, but there are enough common ones that Android-based ports can be pushed with little effort.

Lee Allentuck, Head of Content, suggested that the past few years (including the pandemic) have started to change the mindset of game developers and publishers about the industry’s readiness for the next steps. “You see the digital crossover is going to take place – people are playing online board games now. If you can be part of this new trend right from the start, you have a great opportunity, ”he said.

CEO Shail Mehta (center) plays Stop Thief on the gameboard with others on the team.

Allentuck, who previously worked at Hasbro, said there is widespread interest in the toy and tabletop industry to be more technological, but there was a “chicken and egg” scenario where there is no market because no one innovates and nobody innovates because there is no market. Fortunately, things have progressed so far that a company like The Last Gameboard can raise $ 4 million for Series A to help cover the cost of creating this market.

The round was led by TheVentureCity with the participation of SOSV, Riot Games, Conscience VC, Corner3 VC and others. While the company hasn’t gone through HAX, SOSV’s involvement has that HAX-y vibe, and partner Garrett Winther makes a compelling recommendation for its approach: “You are the first to effectively combine collaborative physical and digital gameplay without Losing the community, storytelling, or competitive foundations that we all look for while gaming. “

Mehta noted that the pandemic almost brought the company to a boil by derailing their funding, which was originally supposed to come about around this time last year when everything went pear-shaped. “We had our working prototype, we had a patent applied for, we had the traction, we wanted to increase it, everything was great … and then COVID hit,” she recalled. “But we have a lot of time for research and development, which was actually a blessing. Our team was super small so we didn’t have to fire anyone – we only went into survival mode for six months and optimized and developed the platform. 2020 was tough for everyone, but we were able to focus on the core product. “

Now the company is ready to launch its beta program this summer and (based on feedback) ship its first production units before the holiday season, when purchases like these make a lot of sense.

(In this article, this raise was originally referred to as Round A of the last board – it’s actually the germ. This has been updated.)

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Katherine Clark