Blockchain gaming projects like Illuvium have reached remarkable valuations in the tens of billions in recent weeks, despite sometimes featuring highly stripped-down or no currently playable games.
It’s an environment in which Ethereum- and Solana-based gaming studio Ex Populus is attempting to find its footing, one that co-founder Soban “Soby” Saqib calls a “predatory” investment landscape built on hype.
The project announced Tuesday an $8.5 million funding round, part of a push to bring different player earnings models to blockchain gaming – and a more down-to-earth valuation, currently at $80 million.
The company closed the round with participation from Akatsuki Inc, Gerstenbrot Capital, Blockwall Digital Assets, Citizen X, Fisher 8 Capital, Perpetual Protocol, Yolo Ventures, Libra Capital Ventures, 8186 Capital and Sneaky Ventures, among others. Ex Populus also previously raised a $3 million seed round led by Animoca Brands in October.
“We think as more people start this play-to-earn model, there will be a supply shock and a race to the bottom,” Saqib said in an interview with CoinDesk.
He compared the phenomena to forks of popular decentralized (DeFi) protocols that “out-bribe” other platforms by printing tokens. In the same way, blockchain games can currently reach large market capitalizations but offer little by way of players, earnings or other important metrics.
Ex Populus is also hoping to attract attention with a novel token distribution method: 40% of the platform’s forthcoming token supply will be earned by players, with the majority going to the best players in a “proof-of-skill” distribution system – a play on “proof-of-stake” and “proof-of-work,” two foundational consensus and mining mechanisms in blockchain.
The company’s long-term goal is to become a multi-game platform and publisher, similar to Steam or Enjin. Blockchain gaming platform Enjin is also an investor in Ex Populus, according to Saqib.
“That’s what I’m excited about – bringing really good, complete games into the ecosystem, because I don’t understand how people can go and buy something at a $20, $30, $40 billion valuation. Nintendo is at a $42 billion valuation. It’s disgusting,” Saqib said.
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