The world of gaming has had to contend with the emergence of Roblox as both a powerful platform and a YouTube-like ecosystem that offers real rewards to its millions of user-creators. Not to be outdone, Microsoft found an exciting way to bring its open-world game into, well, the real world, with the debut of Minecraft Earth. And Apple came up with the ultimate subscription service for gamers, at a time when it increasingly relies on services to drive revenue. The other companies on this list are similarly finding compelling new ways to marry virtual and real, whether they’re working in esports or board games, stationary bikes or surgical training.
For creating not just a game but an ecosystem for gamers where they can develop and sell their own titles
The online gaming platform has scaled—more than 100 million global active users spend more than 1 billion hours on Roblox each month—by continually developing tools and resources for its ecosystem of creators. In 2019, they earned some $100 million in revenue by selling virtual goods and other in-game upgrades.
Read more about why Roblox is one of the World’s Most Innovative Companies of 2020.
For winning gamers with the subscription service they craved
For just $5 a month, Apple Arcade offers users unlimited access to more than 100 games for the iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple TV. It’s a great value for consumers and a smart way for Apple to make money off of the 1.5 billion active devices it has sold.
Read more about why Apple is one of the World’s Most Innovative Companies of 2020.
For prodding millions of young gamers to get out of the house with Minecraft Earth
After a beta launch last spring, the augmented reality mobile game has been rolling out to different geographies, bringing the massively popular open-world building game into the real open world.
Read more about why Microsoft is one of the World’s Most Innovative Companies of 2020.
4. Level Ex
For putting doctors’ clinical skills to the test in games that are fun and earn continuing education credit
Level Ex’s free mobile-based simulations allow doctors to practice clinical procedures—removing polyps, inserting stents—in games that everyone from med school students to licensed gastroenterologists actually like to play. The American Medical Association approves too: It now awards continuing medical education credits to Level Ex’s doctor-gamers.
5. Two Bit Circus
For making IRL arcades cool again with games tailored for physical spaces
Two Bit Circus is bringing the video arcade into the 21st century with VR-based and escape-room-type games that allow friends to fly, shoot ’em up, and even perform surgery. Independent developers create games specifically for the physical space, using a specialized game engine that the company will release publicly this year.
For turning the stationary bike into a video-game controller, with users collectively peddling 1.5 million miles daily
Where Peloton devotees essentially participate in online spin classes, Zwift users compete against one another in massive online races that combine real-world team cycling tactics with bonuses and power-ups. Users, who pay $15 a month to use the service, can attempt to out-pedal one another in races that take place everywhere from the Italian Alps to the streets of London to the game’s made-up city, Watopia. The company boasts that a third of the participants in the real Tour de France use the game to train.
7. Epic Games
For sharing the wealth in its games store, giving 88% to publishers and generating $680 in its first year
When the company’s digital video-game marketplace opened with dozens of free games last December, fans mobbed it, creating 85 million user accounts in its first four months. Game publishers flocked too, thanks at least in part to Epic’s generous revenue-sharing policy. Epic has since signed exclusives with makers of hit games Borderlands and Red Dead Redemption.
8. 100 Thieves
For synthesizing the worlds of esports, media, and fashion
Founded by former pro gamer Matthew “Nadeshot” Haag, 100 Thieves manages a professional gaming team, produces an esports reality series and gaming entertainment content, and issues limited-run streetwear apparel, such as a line of T-shirts and hoodies that rang up $500,000 in five minutes.
9. Exploding Kittens
For blowing up the traditional board-game business
In 2019, following the success of its namesake card game, which has sold some 8 million copies in four years, the company raised $30 million, money it plans to spend developing three new board games a year as well as producing Burning Cat, a board-game convention for offbeat and independent game makers.
10. Nerd Street Gamers
For professionalizing the world of esports, with training centers for aspiring athletes
Nerd Street operates four training centers where aspiring pro gamers can hone their skills and compete in the National Championship Series, an esports academy and tournament now sponsored by Kellogg’s. The Philadelphia-based company developed college varsity programs and educational curricula at Rowan University and Harrisburg University of Science and Technology, where students can earn a bachelor’s degree in esports business.
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