Village Studio raises $2.3M for cross-game Playken avatars


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Village Studio has raised $2.3 million to create cross-game Playken avatars based on non-fungible tokens (NFTs).

The Web3 platform was founded by games industry veterans Will Luton (SEGA, Rovio), Cyril Barrow (Rovio, EA) and Tak Fung (Microsoft, Zynga).

Animoca Brands, which has made more than 200 blockchain game investments, led the round with participation from Venrex, AngelHub, K3 and WinZO as well as angel investors including Jas Purewal (chairman, Facepunch) and Phil Mansell (CEO, Jagex).

Village Studio wants to solve the problem of interoperability in Web3 games, starting with the Playken avatar platform and portfolio of games. Playkens are game portable avatars dressed in NFT wearables that can be purchased and traded. Each wearable will have unique attributes that can be utilized across multiple games, the company said.

Playken's founders. Will Luton is on the right.
Village Studio’s founders. Will Luton is on the right.

Luton, cofounder and head of product, said in a statement, “It’s great to have Animoca Brands on board with us for this journey. They instantly got what we were looking to achieve and the problems we are here to solve.”

The funding round will allow Village Studio to make key hires and begin to build out the platform and its games.

Cyril Barrow, cofounder head of operations, said in a statement, “Making game items interoperability valuable for players and developers is our vision. Having Animoca Brands by our side and backing us is a great opportunity for Village Studio.”

Interoperability is something that decentralized technology can bring to game items such as character avatars, but it requires a lot of agreement among game companies on how to technically achieve it. Many developers believe it won’t bring much useful to games, but Web3 advocates say that it will enable true ownership for gamers and user-generated content. That can be valuable in a world where gamers are left with nothing if they switch games or a game company shuts a game down.

Yat Siu, the executive chairman and co-founder of Animoca Brands, said in a statement, “Village Studio, a team that has strong experience and a clear vision for the future, is building novel experiences in gaming with an emphasis on interoperability. We’re thrilled to be a part of this project and look forward to its success.”

Village Studio didn’t say which games it will make interoperable with its avatars, but it has a white paper here. The company plans to presell its own NFTs, but it noted that it will focus on sustainability. That means no-proof-of-work blockchains (like Ethereum, which uses a lot of energy), no pump and dump “ponzinomics,” and repeat and affordable ways for players to spend.

The team has four people and the company started in November.

In an email to GamesBeat, Luton said, “We’re really excited about the possibility of interoperability as a fundamental building block for a more open future of games, which some call a metaverse. The founders started talking about how someone should make an avatar system that moves game to game backed by portable stats. Slowly, we realized that we should be that someone.”

Some gamers and game developers have had a negative reaction to NFTs. I asked Luton about that and he said, “I was early in (free-to-play) F2P and so it’s very familiar. I think there’s always a great resistance to change in games. In this instance, there are some really valid concerns about rug pulls and ponzinomics, plus it’s a complex space so it’s hard to see the potential. A lot of Web3 game makers, ourselves included, are now in a focus mode. The discussion is over and we need to go and prove it.”

That’s why the company has a big focus on sustainability, he said.

“That covers the environment, such as supporting alternative proof chains, as well our players. We aim for our tokenomics to build value slowly over time, with players spending in the game year on year, rather than being pump and dump. The sell is fun, not player profit,” Luton said.

As for the business model, the company is selling wearables for the Playken avatars.

“These can also be traded in our marketplace. Proceeds will fund a treasury which will distribute to ourselves and developers implementing Playken avatars in their game,” he said.

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