Former Riot Games Exec Partners With Indie Veteran on Treehouse Games

Michael Chu- Ryan Sullivan - Publicity - Split - H 2020
Treehouse Games

Michael Chu and Ryan Sullivan aim to offer experiences that combine genres and create collaborative gameplay at the Los Angeles-based company.

Former Riot Games product lead Michael Chu has partnered with indie games veteran Ryan Sullivan on Treehouse Games, a new venture designed to bring people together through multiplayer, collaborative gameplay.

The company, which has raised $2.6 million in a seed funding round led by London Venture Partners (LVP), will be headquartered in Los Angeles and aims to serve a global audience of players.

"Games have become a default social activity that are just as meaningful as meeting up with friends for a meal or coffee," said Chu, co-founder and CEO of Treehouse Games, in a statement. "Ryan and I have always seen games as a vehicle for creating great memories with our loved ones, and they can be just as memorable as friends or family taking a road trip together. Now, more than ever, we are seeing that games have the power to connect people, and to help friends share a laugh and an adventure, even when hundreds of miles apart."

At Riot Games, Chu worked on battle arena title League of Legends for seven years, a game known for being very competitive. He tells the The Hollywood Reporter that at Riot he was exposed to "the sheer number of people who didn't really care about the competitive aspect and just wanted to be able to play and have that quality time with their friends." He emphasizes how that idea spoke to himself and Sullivan, adding that there are tens of millions of people who use games every day, but don't necessarily call themselves "gamers" — it's just another way to spend time with their friends. For Chu, that was an "incredible trend" to watch. 

Sullivan's background in games includes working for developer Industrial Toys straight out of art school. He also co-founded Sirvo Studios in 2016 and released RPG Guildlings on Apple Arcade last November. Sullivan has also taken contract work on a variety of mobile games.

He and Chu are interested in games that evoke the experience of a shared journey — for example, a road trip amongst friends where there is camaraderie and a feeling of generosity. Sullivan mentions competitive cooking game Overcooked, noting that the accessibility and approachability of that game is something that Treehouse Games is thinking about with its products.

"Competitive games have gotten so much love and there's so much unexplored territory for collaborative experiences," says Chu. "We’re looking at a big divide between these accessible, quick pick-up-and-play games and the incredible long-term progression of huge games as a service, and it seems like there this huge gap that is yet to be covered in games that pull the best lessons from both." Speaking toward the mission of Treehouse, Chu notes that real-life moments can be examined for their potential to inspire and become playable digital experiences.