Axie Infinity has shown the world that NFT gaming is booming – with over $2.8 billion in NFT transactions to date – so it’s no surprise to see new companies making cryptocurrency gaming plays. Today, startup game studio Faraway joined the party, announcing an investment round co-led by cryptocurrency exchange FTX and Lightspeed Venture Partners.
Faraway revealed today that it has raised nearly $30 million in funding to date, including a seed round (stealth raised) of over $8 million earlier this year, plus a new $21 million Series A. In addition to FTX and Lightspeed, Faraway’s investors include Andreessen Horowitz, Solana, Jump Capital, Sequoia Capital, and Pantera Capital.
The company was co-founded by Alex Paley and Dennis Zdonov, who have a long history of developing “mid-core” mobile games with CTO Duc Nguyen.Paley and Zdonov were formerly studio heads at game publisher Glu Mobile and then worked together at another mobile game developer, Scopely, as product Vice President.
“Mid-core” games straddle the casual and hardcore barriers, in some cases combining robust gameplay mechanics with streamlined interfaces and modes designed for quick hitting action.Faraway’s first game, Mini Battle Royale: Nations, fits that description perfectly.
It’s a first-person shooter that looks and plays like a premium game – but the matches are tight and approachable, it’s completely free, and it runs entirely in a web browser. You don’t need a powerful device to get into the game.
It’s also powered by the Solana blockchain, enabling the use of collectible, resellable NFTs to purchase items like weapon skins, character skins and accessories, as well as future additions like plots and buildings. Mini Battle Royale: Nations will also implement a governance token (a token that grants voting rights) and a separate utility token, giving players a sense of ownership over the community and its future development.
Mini Battle Royale: Nations is already launched and playable, according to Paley, with about 300,000 active users per month. And while the Solana-based NFT and crypto token features are still a work in progress, the plan is to launch them in December as Faraway tries to expand the experience to a potentially larger market.
It’s being billed as the first live multiplayer game on Solana, a blockchain network that has seen a spike in NFT and DeFi activity, with other anticipated games like Star Atlas and Aurory coming soon.Paley says it’s the only blockchain platform they’ve found that’s well suited to handle the fast-paced 3D multiplayer games like Mini Royale needs. State.
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“We’re making a real-time multiplayer, super-social, super-complex economy game, right, and Solana is actually the only chain that allows us to make that type of game,” he told us.” It’s super fast. It’s super cheap as far as transaction costs go. The protocol has a ton of liquidity and there’s a ton of ecosystem momentum.”
Amy Wu, a partner at Lightspeed, said Faraway was initially formed around the idea of developing robust, complex browser-based games before the cryptocurrency side came into the picture with the success of Axie Infinity proving the concept of NFT games. Thanks in part to the native cryptocurrency wallet support, she believes games built to run in a web browser are best suited for an NFT-centric web3 experience.
“There’s a unique opportunity for the best team creating a browser game to meet Web3,” Wu told us.” We really encouraged [Paley] to explore this path, and that’s the basis of our co-leading the Series A round.”
While the NFT and crypto elements can now be seen as a trendy addition to the game, Paley said Faraway has stuck to a core mentality: people will only play long term if the game is fun and their friends are playing it. He believes that the cryptocurrency component can only benefit this approach by incentivizing community building and potentially rewarding investment of time and money into the game.
Leading free-to-play games in the mobile space, such as China’s Honor of Kings and PUBG Mobile, can garner up to 100 million daily active users. With an easy-to-use browser-based design and the addition of NFT and crypto tokens, Paley believes the sky is the limit for Mini Royale with Infinite: Nations.
“You have [people] playing Axie who have never played a game in their life. They’re playing for hours a day, making a living at it, and forming these social relationships and communities at it,” he said.” [Blockchain gaming] greatly expands the definition of what and who is a gamer. I think that once you evolve into that model, you’re well over 100 million daily active users.”