Rick Ellis has his fingerprints all over modern gaming.
His chief claim to gaming fame is his role as founder and lead developer of Valve Software’s Steam gaming and marketplace platform, and he was also a key player in games like Half-Life 2 and Counter-Strike. Before that he negotiated agreements to deliver game development systems for the first Xbox and GameCube consoles while working at microprocessor emulator company Applied Microsystems.
Now, Ellis, along with his wife Susan Mackey-Ellis, are back with a new gaming startup called Sharkbite Games. Founded last year in Bellevue, Wash., the young startup just raised $1.25 million in fresh funding from the likes of SWAN Venture Fund, Alliance of Angels, Puget Sound Venture Club and Seattle angel investors.
The startup’s goal? Create “a high-caliber game studio with a culture and environment where people love to work and play,” Ellis told GeekWire in an email.
Prior to the most recent financing round, all the funding for the company came from Ellis himself, as well as family and friends.
The eight-person company is made up of industry veterans that Ellis has worked with throughout his career. The team is already working on two games.
The first is a casual mobile game set to be released later this year. The other one, Ellis told GeekWire, is planned for a 2019 release and is “a much more ambitious multiplayer game targeting PC and mobile for the ‘mid-core’ space.”
The company is focused PC and mobile game development for now, with the possibility of going into virtual reality in the future. Ellis didn’t want to go into details about the company’s revenue model but said the Sharkbite would announce more later this year.
“We are a group of industry veterans that have worked together in some capacity previously and all share a common passion for building amazing game experiences,” he said.
An avid gamer all of his life, Ellis paid his way through the University of Washington writing embedded software in assembly language.
Ellis said he started building the digital distribution service for video games that eventually became Steam well before he went to Valve. Steam is a big part of the gaming world, encompassing a gaming marketplace, social media hub and streaming service all rolled into one, and it had more than 125 million user accounts as of 2015.
Ellis worked at several Seattle-area gaming companies over the years. He was a director of technology at ArenaNet in Bellevue where he worked on games like Guild Wars 2.
At Kirkland-based Warner Bros-owned Monolith Productions, Ellis worked on games like F.E.A.R. 2 and Condemned 2. He was vice president of at Z2, a Seattle gaming studio that was bought by King, maker of the smash hit mobile game Candy Crush.