Q&A: Rebel Monkey Talks Casual Space, $1M Funding

As developer Rebel Monkey announces it has raised $1 million in funds to develop connected casual game experiences, Gamasutra talks with co-founder Margaret Wallace about what that means, where innovation in the casual space might come from, and how a dia
Upstart New York-based casual game developer-publisher Rebel Monkey has announced it has raised $1 million in a first round of financing from Redpoint Ventures. Founded by Diner Dash lead designer Nick Fortugno and Skunk Studios vet Margaret Wallace in 2007, Rebel Monkey is focused particularly on connected, community-focused casual games. The company says it will use the funding to further its stated goal of "taking casual gaming to its next level by focusing new kinds of community-centric casual game experiences to attract and connect players." Gamasutra recently spoke to co-founder Wallace, and asked her all about the new venture. How did you come to create Rebel Monkey? From its inception, the company was formed to take the casual games industry in all sorts of new directions – whether in terms of finding new audiences, creating popular and enduring casual game genres, or exploring new and emerging business models around the creation of casual game content. Could you talk a bit about the company's design philosophy? To innovate, but not to the point of absurdity. Our goal is to push boundaries, but never to render ourselves obsolete or to alienate our players. A lot of press has come out lately that people who play casual games are passive and uneducated about the genre. We couldn't disagree more; casual game audiences aren't undiscerning masses, but rather a vibrant community of players with a wide range of knowledge, interests and abilities. Part of our design philosophy is that our players are smart and engaged. We set out to design games that show a healthy respect for the intelligence of our players. A lot of attention is paid to pacing and flow and the unfolding of the experience over time. You said you want to focus on "connected" casual experiences -- can you define that a little? Connected gaming and social experiences stand to transform our very society. The idea that an in-game currency can trade against any of the real-world currencies and the way communities of friends and family can connect to each other via social media is mind-blowing. What market will Rebel Monkey be reaching out to, and how do you plan to go about it? While we plan to continue to serve what has become known as the "core casual" game audience – predominantly female players in their 30s and 40s – a complementary focus will be on attracting players from all age groups, including the millions of people in their teens or twenties who are collectively forging new ground in terms of how online communities are formed and how content is consumed. We just raised a Series A round with Redpoint Ventures and plan to put that to good use exploring and expanding these boundaries. How is development coming along so far, and when might you be ready to announce the first Rebel Monkey game? The first Rebel Monkey products are coming to market in early 2008. We are keeping an incredibly tight lid on all of our creative and development activities, mostly so that we can focus on the work at-hand and not succumb to any distractions. Our motto is "focus like a laser beam." There are eleven of us working full-time to fulfill these goals. It's a wonderfully collaborative environment and everyone is sworn to absolute secrecy, but we are frankly bursting at the seams to release these first titles. Are there any industry, gameplay, or market trends that you would like to see more of in the future? I would like to see more of a dialogue between the social/virtual world scene and casual game industry types. I am surprised at how little these two segments of the games industry seem to interact. I expect to see the innovation, the "next big thing," coming from the edges of the mainstream game industry. It's heartening to be in a place where we can realize our vision of building original IP for hopefully ever-growing audiences.

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