Mobidictum interview with Anton Bernstein, CEO and Founder of Pocket Worlds

We interviewed Anton Bernstein, CEO and Founder of Pocket Worlds, about the company, Highrise Studio, and the latest version of Highrise, Highrise 4.0.

We interviewed Anton Bernstein, CEO and Founder of Pocket Worlds, the creator behind the innovative virtual world platform Highrise. Anton unveils some exciting updates, including the launch of Highrise Studio and the latest version, Highrise 4.0. These developments promise to revolutionize the landscape of virtual experiences and empower creators. Let’s dive in and discover what these announcements mean for the future of immersive social gaming.

Can you tell us about the latest developments about Highrise?

First, Thanks for chatting with me. We’ve announced some major updates for our virtual world platform, Highrise. We have the launch of Highrise Studio and Highrise 4.0. Highrise Studio is our new suite of development tools that let creators build 3D game modes and experiences, and then deploy and monetize them in our world with one click. Highrise 4.0 is a complete rewrite of our platform in Unity, making our new tools possible.

Why did you create Highrise Studio? And why is now the time to release it?

There are a few reasons why we created Highrise Studio and why this is the time to do it. First, Highrise is thriving. We have 680,000 weekly active users. They’re using the app for 90 minutes at a time, they’re building these authentic representations of themselves and having meaningful conversations and experiences, and we want to provide our users with the next chapter of immersion. Our users are there, and they’re hungry for these features. Next, we definitely see a need on the creator side. We know creators need development tools that empower them and let them think outside the box. Their needs are evolving, and tools should be easy to use from start to finish. I also think we’re seeing a lot of change in the industry, and creators are looking for ways to reach the right, engaged audience. They don’t want to just release a title to a general app store or the wrong platform, cross their fingers, and hope it works out for them. We have a unique audience on Highrise and we want the creators to find them easily. 

What sets Highrise apart from other virtual worlds?

Highrise is different from other virtual worlds. We always say our focus is on delivering positive shared experiences. We designed Highrise to allow users to express themselves, connect with one another, create meaningful friendships, and replicate the feeling of shared experiences in daily life. Our focus isn’t on action, forging, or destroying other people at something. We have a healthy male audience, but we’re especially popular with females, and our users are around 20 years old. They’re hungry for connection and customization. We’ve also designed Highrise to feel as snappy and intuitive as a social app despite being considered a game or virtual world, so people can jump in and chat quickly throughout the day, although they tend to stay a while. We see an opportunity to challenge Roblox, the behemoth in our space. Our product is far more social, our Studio is easier to use (especially if you’re familiar with Unity), and our universe is more accessible with an older demographic that’s interested in a different set of games and experiences.

Can you tell us about why you started Highrise?

For sure. Our company is Pocket Worlds, and I’m a co-founder along with my friend Jimmy, who is also the CTO. We both grew up playing games, and we realized that the most social experiences we had online – the ones where we felt most connected to other people – were multiplayer games, especially Diablo II. So we started to think about why that is – is it because we had a shared objective? Is it because we were forced to pay attention and be present? Is it because we were on a team together? It was all of the above. So we started to explore how we can fuse the idea of a social network with real-time games and experiences.

Can you tell us about the users of Highrise? What is the demographic?

We have 40 million users, primarily across iPhone and Android. We’re also in beta on Mac and Windows. You need to be at least 13 to be in our virtual world, and the average user age is about 20. More of our players are female, which is uncommon. We definitely don’t design Highrise with one gender or user in mind. We want everyone to feel welcome on the platform and be their authentic selves, and we expect to grow our male users as more experiences are added through Highrise Studio. 

Why do you think creators should choose to develop experiences in Highrise? What do you think are the advantages of developers releasing games in virtual worlds like Highrise and Roblox instead of releasing games into app stores?

I think it comes down to a few things. One is going where the audience is. We have 680,000 weekly active users who are hungry for these experiences. Unity is such an accessible engine, and we have amazing tools that let you earn income from sales, as well as player engagement time. Next, not every game mode is right for every platform. Our users and platform lends itself to party games, exploration, festivals. Things like Among Us, Animal Crossing, Farmville. So if you’re a creator with something like that in mind, it makes sense to come to us and not a platform that has younger male users who are looking to battle or have these intense deathmatches, right? There’s also an element of discoverability. App stores can be so crowded, other virtual worlds are crowded, but we’re starting this now, so it makes sense to hit the ground running with us.

What types of experiences do you think creators should make to find success with Highrise users?

We see opportunities in many genres that are united by a common thread of accessibility. We don’t lean into first-person shooters or fighting games. Instead, our community loves social party games (deception like Among Us or Werewolves), crafting games like Stardew Valley or Farmville, life sim RPGs like Animal Crossing, and lots of clothing and dress up concepts. We especially lean into social, multiplayer concepts. Then there’s opportunity for experiences outside of games. Everything from festivals to museums – realistic or gamified and abstract. I’m really looking forward to seeing what’s created and what our users respond to.

What do the most successful Highrise creators make and what have they earned to date?

The sky’s the limit, because we haven’t launched Highrise Studio and our creator program yet. One of my favorite creators on the platform made more than $150,000 in under a year, and to be clear, that’s before Highrise Studio and before our new creator exchange program. That’s just building using our Bots API (think Discord or Telegram Bots, but for Highrise).

What are your aspirations for Highrise? How will you achieve growth?

I want to be the premier destination for bringing people together and having a positive experience. For making your day better, or keeping you connected and engaged with your family and friends. Of course, growth is great, and we want to continue to see our revenue grow, our user numbers grow, and all of those things. And we’ll achieve that by continuing to distinguish ourselves with positive, social experiences and with moves like Highrise Studio that will help make our platform even more unique and fulfilling. We’ll keep listening to our users and listening to creators. We’ll also look to do things like brand partnerships, where they truly make sense and will truly excite our audience. Highrise started as a way to authentically connect people with shared experiences, and we will keep pursuing that. It’s what keeps our users coming back for more. 

Anton Bernstein
CEO and Founder, Pocket Worlds

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