Pittsburgh Technical Council

It’s An 8-bit World: MegaBits Launches its First-Ever Retro, Location-Based MMO Game

It’s An 8-bit World: MegaBits Launches its First-Ever Retro, Location-Based MMO Game

Article Published: February 13, 2015

By Jonathan Kersting, Associate Publisher

It’s been a long, two-year journey for MegaBits to go from an idea at Startup Weekend to the latest Massively Multiplayer On-line (MMO) monster game available at the Apple Store. MegaBits CEO Patrick Perini has been on the journey every bit of the way.

From solving unexpected technical challenges days before launch to securing funding to waiting for anticipated mapping features in Apple’s iOS 7, Perini and his team have poured their collective souls into the company.

By deploying Apple Maps, MegaBits is the first MMO monster training game of its kind to be location-based, while embracing an old-school 8-bit look and feel.

“Like millions around the globe, the developers at MegaBits have always wanted to be bona-fide monster trainers,” said Perini. “To separate it from the competition made famous by Digimon, Tamagotchi and Pokemon, MegaBits is not only a location-based, retro-style monster training MMO, but it was built with the player in mind. It immerses players further into the universe that mirrors their actual surrounding conditions.”

According to Perini, MegaBits’ grand vision is to create an ecosystem of games and products that knit together in-game content with facets of the real world to increase interaction between players while defining the future of entertainment gaming.

Before Perini ever thought about building a gaming company, he was a dyed-in-the-wool gamer, programmer and obsessed with all things tech. Perini grew up in Maryland, but came to Pittsburgh to attend the University of Pittsburgh for computer science and UX design.

“I came to Pittsburgh a few times, hung out and liked it,” he said. “I chose Pitt over CMU because I really liked the curriculum.”

Plugging in to Pittsburgh’s tech and entrepreneurial scenes, Perini attended the second Startup Weekend as part of a team led by Lex Liu, now with TreatSpace, a healthcare IT startup.

“Ninety percent of what MegaBits is today was conceived at Startup Weekend,” said Perini.

As Perini and his team began to move the company forward with a KickStarter, it became apparent that there had to be a formal structure.

“I had a clear idea of what needed to be done,” said Perini. “Our mentors were saying that there had to be structure. We needed to pick a leader.”

Perini and the MegaBits team received guidance from some of the top tech, design and business minds in Pittsburgh, including Rick Cancelliere of TreatSpace, Mickey McManus of MAYA and Rustbuilt’s Kit Mueller.

“Pat and his team are the ultimate in Pittsburgh perseverance. Despite not winning Startup Weekend or with their Kickstarter, they hustled into AlphaLab, raised a round, and brought their awesome MMO game to market,” said Mueller. “The best thing we can do to help new entrepreneurs like Pat is to pull together as a community to make connections and support the sh** out of what they’re doing.”

One of Perini’s best advisors and supporters has been his father, John.

“He has over 30 years’ business experience running a nursing home. He knows HR and logistics,” said Perini.

As Perini got more involved and obsessed with building the company, he wanted to do it full time and put his studies on hold at Pitt. In fact, his father encouraged him to take the risk and build MegaBits full time.

“I talked through leaving Pitt with my dad,” said Perini. “We thought about what that would mean. He saw the traction we were getting and I got his blessing.”

Here’s what Perini had to say when asked about taking the risk of building MegaBits full time:

“My worry wasn’t that I was three quarters of the way through college and would never graduate. I was worried what would happen if I didn’t do this. Everything in my gut said to do this! The worst thing that could happen is that I get experience building something.”

Shortly after making the decision to go full-time, MegaBits was accepted as one of nine startups in AlphaLab’s 11th cycle in July 2013. He said the experience at AlphaLab was invaluable and it is a key resource for Pittsburgh’s startup sector.

“The first word I think of when I think of Patrick Perini and MegaBits is ‘passion,’”  said Jim Jen of AlphaLab. “Patrick and his team have been passionate about making MegaBits a reality from the moment they pitched it at Startup Weekend and that passion fueled them during AlphaLab and since.”

After leaving the comfy confines of AlphaLab, Perini’s father helped to lead a $250K angel round to accelerate MegaBits based on a million-dollar valuation. MegaBits then took up office space in North Oakland for the six-person team to go full throttle toward the product launch.

As the game was ready to release in mid December, a third party that provides MegaBits’ weather information received a large overhaul. This change was so drastic that MegaBits’ app crashed instantaneously upon opening, and would have failed Apple’s review on the spot. That same day, MegaBits was pulled from review, the crash was fixed, and the code made more resilient against potential future changes.

After waiting through the App Store’s holiday app approval blackout, MegaBits was approved and ready for the millions of MMO players to download on January 1, 2015.

“It was exhilarating, terrifying and relieving all at the same time!” exclaimed Perini. “This was years of my life and a big risk, but it feels good to get this into people’s hands.”

In the first two weeks of launch, more than 2,000 downloads met the team’s initial expectations. And users had lots of feedback.

“The best thing about our awesome community is that they will tell you what needs to be fixed,” said Perini.

He knows that this is just the beginning and now even more work is set to begin. Monsters don’t create themselves!

AlphaLab’s Jen is bullish on the monster game. He said:

“Aside from the fun and games aspect of MegaBits, there is also a large opportunity with MegaBits. We all know the dominant growth of mobile gaming, but no one has really created a game like MegaBits that uses the real world as the gaming arena and allows you to play as you move around. So we are very excited to see MegaBits take off and create a new genre of mobile games in the market.”

MegaBits: How it Works

If you move in real life, you move in MegaBits. Your game is created by combining actual map and weather data within the 8-bit world. The objective is to capture and battle monsters anywhere you go: commute to work, walk in the park, on the way to dinner. Battle friends across the globe or battle MegaBits trainers near you.

Depending on physical surroundings, users face monsters that are unique to your specific region as well as the current weather.  This opens up the opportunity to capture and battle monsters that your friends have never had the chance of encountering, creating a unique experience.

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