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Phoenix Games has raised $150 million to create a new breed of blockchain gaming publisher.
The idea is to create a publisher and platform company that will play a key role in bringing blockchain games to market. Fenix Games intends to acquire, invest and publish both existing games and blockchain games of the future.
The investors are Phoenix Group and Cypher Capital. The new company suggests that blockchain gaming — which has been going through something of a Cambrian explosion in recent years — is headed for a consolidation where big companies will emerge by acquiring or funding all the strong startups. In other words, Fenix Games hopes to be in a good position to bring many companies together into one strong company with a large portfolio – one that can survive the current slump in blockchain games.
“You can think of us as a VC fund,” said Chris Ko, CEO and co-founder of Fenix Games, in an interview with GamesBeat. “The market is comparable to before [mobile gaming at the rise of free-to-play games] but it hasn’t found its Clash of Clans for blockchain games yet. We use the VC arm to fund the next generation of games. We’re actually going to start with a huge capital base to invest in those studios. We also want to use our balance sheet to acquire some existing games in the Web2 space to build a portfolio. And that will be the right basis for our portfolio.”
Historically, the gaming industry has had participants who provided a market or platform for both
gamers and game developers. In consoles, the platforms were Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo. And for mobile, the platforms are Apple and Google.
In both cases, an entire market was created and this led to an ecosystem to enable consumption of content. However, for blockchain gaming, this market does not currently exist, Ko said. The company was founded by a group of veterans from the gaming, blockchain and financial markets.
“We plan to acquire, invest, publish and operate games and studios in certain cases,” said Ko. “We will have a few hundred million to deploy to execute our strategy.”
The chains represent a potential platform similar to past game cycles, but don’t appear to be focused on building the market for gamers at this stage, Ko said.
“We believe this is temporary as the main apps in chains will be gaming,” said Ko. “The infrastructure, tools and support just aren’t there. We believe there is an opportunity for Publishing’s role to increase its role in the gaming ecosystem.
More experienced game developers are looking to expand into blockchain gaming, especially in the wake of Apple’s privacy push in mobile games. But Fenix Games believes that a very limited number of games are being developed for blockchain platforms so far.
“We believe there is a structural gap. We are aiming to fill this gap with a redefined publishing group that leverages some of the traditional publishing functions, but with a new feature,” said Ko. “As in mobile free-to-play games, there was a combination of analytics and the product management function to launch, scale and operate live services. We believe blockchain gaming will see a similar ‘blending’ of features.”
Fenix Games aims to combine its people’s skills in game publishing and product management. The functions will be rooted in product management, but adopt disciplines and capabilities from financial services, primarily wealth management.
The company calls the combination of these disciplines game market economies. In the simplest terms, that will create the market for a game or games to maximize the potential players for a game. A key function of games market economies will be to scale the community before games are launched.
Similar to the function of live operations created to support a game for years after launch, Fenix Games believes market economies for games will play a vital role in the months and even years leading up to a game’s launch . This activity is required to fill the gap in what used to be filled by the platform owners.
“It’s a little roll-up, but it’s also investing,” Ko said.
Fenix Games will focus on the marriage of game market economies and live operations to provide publishing services for all game models – premium, free-to-play and blockchain gaming across all platforms.
“I see a huge gap right now with different developers experimenting with game infrastructure, middleware and more. There’s no one really playing the publisher role trying to figure out how to go to market successfully,” said Ko. “By taking a publishing approach, we abstract ourselves from the technologies. We play against Switzerland when it comes to technology and we limit risks.”
In addition to raising its own funds, Fenix Games also gains access to allies among investors with much more capital – in the hundreds of millions of dollars -.
Ko said that Fenix Games is a next-generation game publisher enabling the transition of the next billion gamers to a blockchain-integrated future. While traditional Web2 games have mature distribution platforms and markets that bring together billions of players and developers, Web3 lacks the infrastructure, tools, and support to facilitate mass adoption.
As more and more quality developers embrace blockchain technology and design principles, Ko said the company sees an opportunity for publishing’s role to increase its value in game design, go-to-market and operation.
“And what that means is we’re not tied to a single technology, we’re not tied to a single ecosystem,” Ko said.
Ko previously served as senior vice president of business development for Mythical Games. He has nearly 20 years of gaming experience and has held general manager positions at Electronic Arts and Kabam. Prior to that, he was a portfolio manager at Blackrock and an equity research analyst at JPMorgan.
Other Fenix Games co-founders include Rudy Koch, chief business officer and co-founder of Mythical Games. Koch has 15 years of game development experience with the biggest names in the industry: Club Penguin, Call of Duty, Skylanders and World of Warcraft.
Antonio Hallack is the CIO/CTO and co-founder. Hallack previously served as global head of electronic trading at Credit Suisse; head of prop trading, market making, CTO and other senior roles in IB (Citi, Merrill, Goldman, Salomon Smith Barney, Bridgewater, etc). He has been involved in prop trading, market maker and wealth management in crypto markets since 2017.
Matt Nutt is chief operating officer and co-founder of Fenix Games. He previously served as chief operating officer and head of games at Mythical Games. Prior to joining Mythical, he served as Vice President and Group General Manager for EA Mobile. Previously, he oversaw studios at Glu Mobile, ran indie studio Cie Games (and sold to Glu for $100 million in 2014), and held management positions at Blizzard Entertainment and Square Enix, in business development roles.
“The four of us are stepping into the company to expand what we have done in our past lives into “blockchain gaming markets,” Ko said.
And a happy Thanksgiving to you all.
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