Blockchain gaming company Azra Games has raised $15 million in a seed funding round led by Andreessen Horowitz, the venture capital firm that is also known as a16z. The capital will help fund Azra’s first game, a science fiction/fantasy collectibles and mass combat role-playing game code-named Project Arcanas.
A16z invested in Sacramento, Calif.-based Azra Games through its crypto fund and its new $600 million games fund that was announced on Wednesday. Azra was co-founded by entrepreneurs Sonny Mayugba, who serves as chief operating officer, and Travis Boudreaux, along with veteran game designer and Electronic Arts (EA) alumnus Mark Otero, who serves as CEO.
"CEO Mark Otero is a seasoned game director who was at the forefront of mobile free-to-play games with the hit franchise Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes,” said 16z general partner Jonathan Lai in the press release that announced the funding. “We’re excited to partner with Mark and the Azra team as they apply their expertise to Web 3 games in creating new types of gameplay and economy design.”
Other participants in the seed financing included NFX, Coinbase Ventures, Play Ventures and Franklin Templeton. Azra will continue to expand its 24-person team with focuses on game product and development and brand building, Mayugba told CoinDesk in an interview.
Otero, the CEO, told CoinDesk that “we have a rather large innovation budget. And what I mean by that is we really want to revisit all the assumptions of what it means to be a collectable toys plus combat RPG game. To do that takes time … [and] a lot of smart people to go away from existing established conventions to invent new things. And that obviously comes with cost.”
Project Arcanas is a fantasy combat arena game where players battle for wealth and power. Participants can garner non-fungible token-based collectibles and build out legions for combat and rewards.
“As a kid, I spent countless hours role playing with all of my different toys,” Otero said in the press release. “At Azra, we are making a game to recreate this joy, to re-engage adults’ imaginations once again with the ultimate collectibles fantasy, combined with the ultimate fast-paced mix-and-match combat that is accessible yet deeply strategic.”
Azra has been working on the game for over four months, trying to create a visually attractive, fun game that’s also accessible for players.
“We’re doing a lot of exploration on the economy. We certainly studied all of the play-to-earn games out there and, quite frankly, we’re not satisfied with what we see,” Otera said. “We’re starting from a place where the first thing we’re going to do is really … focus on the collection and focus on the value of the things that you can collect within the world.“
Azra has announced that users will be able to collect NFT profile pics called Play Forever Passes (PFP) that will essentially act as game passes as the team builds out the Project Arcanas universe. The company will release the first PFPs with gamification – called Genesis Explorers – within the next several months. Azra plans to release teaser footage of the collectible toy battle experience for the game by the end of next year.
There are plans for additional games within the brand, which Azra views more as game slices of a whole ecosystem pie rather than mini-games.
“We have a very long-term view of the innovations we’re building and the brand that we’re building. And we’re really thinking about the additional games that can use the innovations from our first brand," Otero said.
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