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Brooklyn-based startup Turbo gets SoftBank investment to build 'cross-screen' core games

Michael McWhertor is a journalist with more than 17 years of experience covering video games, technology, movies, TV, and entertainment.

Turbo, a newly formed game studio based in Brooklyn, New York, announced an investment from SoftBank Ventures Korea and plans to release its first game later this year. Turbo's game development venture, which is focusing first on mobile, aims to bring refined gameplay mechanics to "natively developed cross-screen core titles."

Leading Turbo, which is comprised of game developers formerly from Nintendo, Sony, Riot, Q-Games, Rockstar Games, Zynga and others, is CEO Yohei Ishii, former vice president of business development at CCP Games North America.

"We're driven by the desire to create AAA-quality entertainment with multiplayer components across devices," Ishii said in a release. "Natively developed cross-screen core titles with seamless functionality and fun have been elusive. We're enabling elite development talent to innovate on today's digital platforms because quality is what matters, not of-the-minute trends."

Turbo's first game is slated to launch in late 2014, and while details about that game are still under wraps, Ishii says the studio is "focusing on creating AAA quality games tailored to the pursuits and expectations of the core gamer, a community that hasn't really been properly embraced in mobile."

"Our goal is for players to connect with their game anywhere"

"Since the mobile space casts such a wide net, it can be easy for a company to spread their game concept too thin to appeal to both ends of the spectrum," Ishii told Polygon in an email. "We're taking the opposite approach, going vertical instead of horizontal.  Since we're gamers ourselves, it's important for us to not only develop titles that get the gaming community excited, but ones that we actually want to play as well.  I certainly feel like we have the pedigree to pull it off.  We have so many talented people working at Turbo who have helped develop genre defining games for companies like Rockstar, Nintendo, Riot, CCP, Sony and Square Enix to name a few.

"Our ambition is to create amazing games that engage players for years to come, not just days or months."

Turbo's approach to game development, creating "cross-screen" games, Ishii says, is about "the ubiquity of having amazing connected game experiences when and whatever way suits you." Promising to share more details soon, Ishii says cross-screen is about connecting with a game from multiple devices.

"Right now it seems people are making games for PC and console with perhaps a companion app, or a mobile title without much consideration for other platforms," he said. "There is still a distinct separation, but we feel gamers are looking for a connection that feels genuine, not forced. The experience should be fun on any platform that is a doorway into a game. Our goal is for players to connect with their game anywhere. Our first game is optimized for mobile, which we believe is the true next gen gaming platform."

Ishii says every developer at Turbo "is a gamer." That means when its employees aren't making games, they're playing them, and "that sets a stratospherically high bar for ensuring that all our games provide the fun and depth core gamers come to expect with a AAA quality experience."

"Each of us have been a part of the traditional gaming space for a long time," he said, "and starting Turbo was our way of breaking out of the innovation stifling legacy loop that every large corporation with big brands is challenged by. Watching a truly talented group of individuals get unleashed on creating a new kind of core title has been unbelievably inspiring to me. These are people that have not only accepted that the rules in gaming have changed; they are passionate about the new possibilities."

"Our focus on the core community is going to be what separates us from the rest of the pack"

SoftBank Ventures Korea, an investment arm of Japanese telecom and Internet company SoftBank, which has also made key investments in Clash of Clans developer Supercell and Puzzle & Dragons developer GungHo, bought into Turbo based on its pedigree and its future plans.

"We're working with Turbo because they have the seasoned background and visionary ideas to reinvent how games are played," said Daniel Kang at SoftBank Ventures Korea in a release. "Our meticulous investment choices have led to a strong position in gaming and we hope to benefit from the expertise of other subsidiaries of SoftBank Group, such as Supercell and GungHo..."

"They just got it," Ishii said of SBVK. "They understood our vision and development philosophies. SoftBank has a long-term vision on driving the mobile universe to new heights, which aligns perfectly with Turbo's aims to elevate the next chapter of gaming. They have an extraordinary track record of successfully joining with a select few of the best game developers in the world..."

"The last thing I want to do is just throw around a bunch of clichéd terms," Ishii said, "but I honestly believe that our company DNA, high production development approach, and unabashed focus on the core community is going to be what separates us from the rest of the pack ... So while it's true that the [mobile] marketplace is crowded, a big part of that crowd is currently made up of very forgettable factory processed gameplay experiences.  At Turbo, quality and knowing our community is what matters, not of-the-minute trends."