Photo: Tiny Speck
Glitch, a quirky, lovely online game, is closing its doors, and its maker, Tiny Speck, appears to be laying off about 30 employees—all except a “small core team.”Tiny Speck was founded by Stewart Butterfield, the cofounder of Flickr, in 2009, when it raised $1.5 million in seed funding. It announced Glitch, its first product, in 2010, and raised $10.7 million from Andreessen Horowitz and Accel Partners, the venture-capital backers of Instagram and Facebook respectively.
Flickr, bought by Yahoo in 2005, was one of the pioneers of the social Web. That site grew out of its founders’ efforts to build an online game, and Tiny Speck’s project was widely seen as the realisation of that dream.
But its hauntingly lovely graphics and kindhearted gameplay failed to attract a meaningful audience. A key executive, Kakul Srivastava, who had worked with Butterfield at Yahoo as Flickr’s general manager, left in January. (She is now running her own company, an app developer named Tomfoolery.)
The closure seems abrupt. Tiny Speck has posted the names and links to LinkedIn profiles for former employees now in need of a job, encouraging others to hire them. On Wednesday evening, Butterfield appeared to joke with one of those employees, Matt Kump, on Twitter about failing to notify him personally: “I owe you an email.” Kump replied that a colleague had told him about Glitch’s closure.
The closure announcement said that Tiny Speck had failed to find a buyer willing to keep the Glitch game running, and that it was expensive to run. It also noted that the company had bet heavily on Adobe’s Flash, a desktop-oriented Web animation technology increasingly viewed as dated and poorly adapted to mobile.
But Tiny Speck sounded an optimistic note that a future could be found for some of the complex technology used to keep the game’s objects, characters, and actions in sync in real time:
Tiny Speck, the company behind Glitch, will continue. We have developed some unique messaging technology with applications outside of the gaming world and a smaller core team will be working to develop new products.
If a new venture is born out of Tiny Speck’s technologies, it would have an eerie parallel with Flickr, which grew out of a feature that let online game players post photos.
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