Venture capitalists are becoming more interested in the concept of truly owning digital items.
The latest evidence: Naspers Ventures led a $15 million round in Immutable Games, the maker of Gods Unchained. Michael Novogratz's Galaxy Digital EOS VC Fund also participated in the Series A funding round.
Similar to the mega-hit Hearthstone, Gods Unchained is a digital card game – but built for non-fungible tokens (NFTs).
Sam Englebardt, the co-founder of Galaxy Digital, said in a press release:
Naspers is a giant firm based in South Africa with a wide array of investments, including large bets on Flipkart and Tencent.
"We believe tremendous economic value can be unlocked in digital worlds using blockchain technology,” Naspers Investment Lead Banafsheh Fathieh said in a statement.
The new funding for Immutable follows a $2.4 million seed round from Coinbase Ventures and other investors.
Similarly, Dapper Labs, the firm behind the ERC-720 standard that spurred the boom in NFTs with its CrypoKitties game, just announced an $11 million round led by Andreessen Horowitz.
These are significant bets by some of the biggest investors in crypto.
Indeed, Englebardt noted that his firm is making a variety of similar investments, but said, "Gods Unchained is in a class by itself amongst trading card games."
The trend is strong enough that EA, a company behind gigantic games like the FIFA and Madden series, trolled crypto on Thursday by tweeting "invest in Crypto" – a sly reference to a new Apex Legends character.
Players who participate in Gods Unchained really will have a crypto option, though, because ownership of its cards can be registered on ethereum, such that players really own their cards and their cards' scarcity is provable.
This creates new challenges.
"Developing decentralized games and economies isn’t trivial, and carries with it existential risks," Immutable CEO James Ferguson told CoinDesk in a statement. "Developers are forced to solve problems that don’t exist with centralized systems."
Nevertheless, Gods Unchained has seen a response. Immutable reports that it's sold more than 4 million cards, breaking $4.5 million in revenue through a “Genesis Sale" that closes Oct. 10.
Despite their success, they've also learned a lot about the complexity engendered by using a blockchain to run a game ecosystem.
That's why the company is turning over the underlying software that powers Gods Unchained to other developers with its Immutable Platform.
Beyond enabling more NFT games, Ferguson said, "We’re also building a suite of interconnected products aimed to solve the highest areas of friction users face when trying to interact with this technology."
Ferguson did not describe how the platform fits into the company's business model. Other video game companies have created game engines that they then license to other developers, such as Epic Games and its Unreal Engine.
Immutable recently made a bit of a departure from the pure decentralization ethos by creating a typical sign-on for users to participate in Gods Unchained.
At first, an ethereum wallet was all that was needed to interact with the site, but now users need to create an account on the website itself.
Ferguson said this is "an effort to reduce confusion amongst new users and improve the general user experience."
With tournaments every weekend, Immutable says it is growing its user base.
"We’re running a raffle where players can earn ERC-20 tokens that unlock prizes by playing the game and giving away beta access to their friends," Ferguson said.
Ferguson told CoinDesk:
Disclosure: Reporter Brady Dale has previously purchased a few packs of Gods Unchained cards.
Gods Unchained image via Immutable Games
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