With new funding, a local video game developer is looking to launch the first step toward the creation of a whole new virtual universe.
Worldspark Studios, a Farmers Branch-based video game development studio, announced its first outside investment with a $3 million seed funding round. The raise was co-led by Hong Kong’s Animoca Brands and early-stage venture capital firm Shima Capital. Now Worldspark is gearing up to launch its first video game tied to blockchain technology.
“The dream to build a studio and create games to compete with the massive corporate players in the space has always been just that, a dream,” said Chandler Thomlison, Worldspark’s co-founder and CEO, in a Medium post. “With the rapid growth of blockchain and the incredible opportunities it presents, our dream is becoming a reality and we’re ecstatic to engage our community to build the best studio and products possible.”
Battling on the blockchain
The company’s first title is Edenbrawl, a tech fantasy-style online multiplayer battle game. Within the game, players will be able to purchase and trade non-fungible tokens. However, the company notes it wants to avoid “pay-to-win” elements, meaning the NFTs will be tied to things like character skins and weapons skins, rather than on add-ons that will help players compete better.
While Worldspark has yet to select a blockchain network to build the game upon, it said it’s planning to host a token sale in about seven to eight months, with the goal of launching a closed beta version of Edenbrawl toward the beginning of next year. Eventually the company hopes the game will become part of the competitive esports scene.
“Worldspark values the social connections that can only be made through gaming, which is why we design specifically around social features, accessibility, and new player experience to ensure our games can be enjoyed by all,” Thomlison writes.
Worldspark intends for Edenbrawl to be the first part of a metaverse surrounding the virtual world of “Eden,” a hub where players can socialize and trade NFTs. From there, the company plans to launch other games to the universe, including an expected action role-playing game called Trials of Eden—a concept Thomlison likens to an old-fashioned arcade.
“When you go to the arcade with your friends, you meet in the lobby to socialize and group up,” Thomlison. “From there, you’ll take off toward the main floor to play whatever arcade machine you want. Eden is our lobby and Edenbrawl is our first Arcade machine.”
Adding industry expertise
According to Thomlison, the game, formerly called Circuits and Shields, has been in the works for nearly five years, without any full-time employees. However, according to the outlet Decrypt, the work has been aided by nearly 240 contract developers. Thomlison said the company, then known as Koza Games, initially tried to fund the project via a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign.
With the new funding, Worldspark says it’s now able to bring people on full-time. And it’s already attracted experts in the industry. According to LinkedIn, Chief Creative Officer Edmundo Sanchez is a former creative art lead at Riot Games—best known for the title League of Legends. Chief Product Officer Sebastian Cardoso also held leadership roles at Riot and Electronic Arts, in addition to previously serving as CEO for game developers Symbiotic Entertainment and Flower Blade. And Chief Technology Officer Tristan Root previously served as an engineering and feature lead at Bungie, the developer of the game Halo.
“We’ll be heads down for the next few months revamping our art style, building out Eden, and making drastic improvements to Edenbrawl gameplay,” Thomlison wrote.
Other investors joining Worldspark’s seed round included AAG Ventures, Alameda Ventures, Double Peak Group, Forward Analytics, Infinity Ventures Crypto, Jump Capital, LD Capital, Lucid Blue Ventures, Moon Holdings, Onchain Group, Pillar VC, Sfermion, SL2 Capital, ViaBTC, and YGGSEA—the sub-DAO of crypto gaming group Yield Guild Games.
“Worldspark’s strengths lie largely in the traditional…gaming space so we’ll lean heavily on our seed partners to fill our gaps and bring the best possible product to market,” Thomlison wrote.
North Texas is gaming central
The North Texas region has long been a hub for video games. In addition to being the home of the National Videogame Museum, Frisco is home to Gearbox Software, the maker of gamers like Borderlands, Half-Life, and Brothers in Arms. Other notable local video game developers include Richardson’s iD Software, one of the older operators in the space with its first-person shooter Doom being released in 1993, as well as McKinney-based Playful Studios and Dallas’ PeopleFun, the developer of mobile game series Wordscapes.
The concentration of developers in the local ecosystem has also given rise to North Texas’ spot as a leader in the competitive esports industry. The two biggest players are Dallas’ Envy Gaming, which recently merged with OpTic Gaming and includes celebrity backers like Post Malone, and Complexity Gaming, which was acquired by GameSquare Esports last year and includes the Jerry Jones family as stakeholders. Envy also owns the operating rights to Esports Stadium Arlington, which claims to be the largest in North America.
The Dallas Cowboys owner isn’t the only big-name local investor in the esports space. Goff Capital is also a stakeholder in Complexity, while Texas Rangers President Neil Leibman formerly formed Infinite Sports & Entertainment, which was acquired by Houston’s Immortals Gaming Club in 2019. In addition, local billionaire Mark Cuban formed Mavs Gaming in 2018 and has invested in a number of esports-adjacent startups in recent years.
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