Shrapnel, a futuristic shoot-'em-up game built on the Avalanche blockchain, has completed a $7 million token sale that included participation from Dragonfly and Three Arrows Capital, as well as angel investors, such as Keith Nunziata of Citadel Global Equities and Jason Zhao at Kleiner Perkins.
Neon, the games studio building Shrapnel that is a spin-off from HBO Interactive, raised $10.5 million in a November seed round led by Griffin Gaming Partners alongside Polychain Capital.
With the excitement around decentralized finance (DeFi) cooling somewhat, and blue-chip non-fungible tokens (NFTs) now well established, venture capital is gravitating towards the GameFi catchall, where players typically earn cryptocurrency and NFT rewards by completing tasks and battling other players.
But it’s early days in GameFi, with lessons to be learned, suggesting a need for lots of new tokenomics infrastructure and greater interoperability.
Shrapnel CEO Mark Long, who has worked on blockbuster games for platforms ranging from Sega Genesis to Playstation 4 for clients including Disney, Ubisoft and the U.S. Army, said the first generation of play-to-earn suffers from a “particularly egregious form of digital sharecropping,” with low earners in places like Peru and the Philippines grinding away to create returns with characters they can’t afford to own outright.
Long also mentions the Quartz fiasco, Ubisoft’s overly hasty plunge into NFTs, when it comes to shaping his vision for how Shrapnel, which he says is the first store-quality production on Avalanche, should operate.
“I think the first developer that publishes the opportunity for players to make a game, a core competitive game of their own, could be one of the next major franchises, and that’s exactly what Shrapnel is,” Long said in an interview. “It’s completely built around the ability for players to mod the game. So we’ll give them the same level of tools that we have as professional developers.”
Developers have introduced metagame, sandbox-style creativity in various ways: Epic Games’ Fortnite Creative uses ledgers to keep track of all the content in the game, for instance. But that’s a process that costs tens of millions of dollars and takes years of development, Long pointed out. “Blockchain is essentially free,” he said. “It’s a technology that anybody can download and mint on.”
Shrapnel is using Avalanche’s subnets architecture, application-specific chains that can be customized to suit the needs and rules of a game. Being able to spin up a blockchain on Avalanche removes a lot of headaches and reduces security risks, said Ed Chang, director of gaming at Ava Labs, the developer of Avalanche.
“We have some game developers who are seeing this as almost like a publishing opportunity,” said Chang in an interview. “If they can build a meaningful enough subnet following for their game, they can attract other games to actually deploy on their subnet as well. So if they have the other games using their token, there’s more value and governance attributes.”
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