Did you miss a session from GamesBeat Summit 2022? All sessions are now available to stream. watch now.
The company is run by Mark Otero, who previously led the development of the popular “Electronic Arts” mobile game Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes while at Capital Games. (last year , Star Wars has reached 100 million downloads).
Andreessen Horowitz (from both the newly announced Game Fund and Crypto Fund) led the tour, with input from NFX, Coinbase Ventures, Play Ventures and Franklin Templeton.
In an exclusive interview with GamesBeat, Otero said Azra Games is on a mission to create deep and immersive game worlds, with a specialized in-game economy and virtual collectibles, powered by Web3 technology such as Non-Stage Tokens (NFTs). This seed funding will be used to accelerate the development of the first Azra game – an epic collectible, fantasy and team combat RPG titled Project Arcanas.
“As a kid, I spent countless hours role-playing with all my different toys,” Otero said. “At Azra, we’re making a game to recreate that fun, to re-engage the adult imagination once again with the ultimate collectibles fantasy, along with the ultimate fast-paced mix-and-match combat that is accessible yet highly strategic. Imagine a role playing giant monsters, robots and creatures. , and lead your favorite heroes and villains into battle – on top of satisfying game sessions, a vibrant marketplace and a sustainable economy based on true value that only web3 can unlock to deliver the most compelling and complete gaming experience.”
Otero works with fellow entrepreneurs Sonny Mayugba and Travis Boudreaux. The company has also hired veterans from Capital Games. Their new title should be exciting as Electronic Arts recently announced that those who remained at Capital Games are working on a very exciting mobile game based on Lord of the Rings franchise.
“CEO Mark Otero is an experienced game director who has been at the forefront of free-to-play mobile games with the Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes franchise,” Jonathan Lai, general partner at A16z, said in a statement. “We are excited to partner with Mark and the Azra team as they apply their expertise to web3 games in creating new types of gameplay and economic design.”
Otero said Azra Games is reimagining the fun of collecting games and limited edition items through a custom NFT system. Azra’s first game will be the ninth for prolific game maker Otero in collectible and combative RPGs, joined by a veteran gaming team with a deep history in the genre.
“We are incredibly impressed with what the team is building,” NFX general partner Gigi Levi-Weiss said in a statement. “I believe Azra will be the first gaming company that will unleash a happy blend of gaming and digital ownership and deliver absolute value and entertainment to gamers.”
Azra Games’ backers represent eclectic and successful key figures across companies and investors in the gaming and cryptocurrency space, and also include industry figures such as YGG co-founder Gabi Dizon, Twitch co-founder Justin Kahn, and Dapper Labs co-founder Roham Gharegozlou.
Michael Chang, founder of Mavent Partners, is an advisor to Azra Games, knowing Otero and his team back in the days when the former Otero was acquired by Electronic Arts, Click Nation, which became capital games. (Zhang, who was formerly at EA, met Otero at a GamesBeat event.)
“We closed this down rather quickly. We started raising this round [in mid-February]. We closed this tour about a week ago, Zhang said. “These groups very quickly realized there was something interesting here, and they moved appropriately.”
After leaving Capital Games some time ago, Otero took a breather from playing. Then he started trying to do some programming on the blockchain, feeling that he had had an “aha moment” where he fell in love with the concept of players being able to own the game assets they purchased. Players usually rent out the things they buy, and if the publisher goes out of business, players lose their entire investment. With NFTs, Otero felt that players could authenticate and truly own their own unique items.
“Others have talked about it, but it kind of struck me that players can own assets, and with ownership, they can do a lot of things with them,” Otero said. They can reintegrate it with other assets, they can rent it and sell it. And so this was a real property for the first time, and I just knew it was coming to gaming in a way it hadn’t before in the free-to-play world. When players buy virtual items, they don’t really own them. They can use the assets. And that’s all there is to it “.
This idea prompted Otero to start the new company and go to work on his ninth collectible and fighting RPG.
“It’s a literary genre that I’ve honed over the years. And you know, I made a lot of mistakes, and then I learned what worked and what didn’t, and it kind of pushed me to innovate with each mistake.”
Otero has also worked on Dragon Heroes, Super Heroes, Age of Heroes, and City of Superheroes. During his time at KlickNation/Capital Games, the team grew to 76 people and produced the smash hit Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes.
As for the new game, Otero said, “I won’t go into too much detail today. I’ll save that for another conversation. There was one big thing I wanted to solve in the RPG world, and I think we solved it. And it’s an opportunity for us to reimagine what RPGs need in terms of The way the player plays. And what I mean by that is, growing up as a kid, I think you can relate to this story, is that I have a chest full of broken toys and inappropriate games like GI Joe and Star Wars and more. And I remember fighting these epic battles just mix and match.”
He added, “And I never felt like I was able to capture this in any of the games we’ve done before. And so these childhood memories inspired me. Now that I’m a father to two boys, I can just watch them play with their toys, and they don’t have any rules like games. So I’m Only able to witness their unlimited ability to role-play, mingle and match. In fact, this is the inspiration that brought me back.”
The new studio is located about a mile from the original game studio, and about 70% of the new team at Azra Games worked at Capital Games before. Azra Games now has 24 people.
“We’ve assembled a team here and it’s very cool,” he said. “I’ve worked with them for years, and released multiple games with them. We’ve put the band back together, you know, to build an incredible RPG experience on the series.”
Otero, who grew up in South Korea playing Dungeons & Dragons and eventually immigrated with his family to Sacramento, said he would enjoy being a dungeon master again. (I noticed that gave me an idea, because he obviously didn’t say he’d be a Jedi again.) As for wasting the opportunity to make a game based on The Lord of the Rings, Otero said, “In a few months’ time, when we reveal more about the game, I think it will get the players out there excited.”
Otero said the round was oversubscribed and investors agreed with the vision.
As for the specific type of blockchain technology the company will use, Otero said in an interview, “We take our time and are not in a hurry. [to identify the tech stack]. This is because we focus on the quality of gameplay first. We aim to build a genre-defining game for the RPG space in general. And the blockchain is really going to amplify that experience. We need technology that amplifies the experience rather than making it the game and so we focus religiously on the gameplay.”
When asked about the objections some developers and hardcore gamers have about blockchain technology, Mayugba said that a lot of developers have raced into the blockchain space with the wrong approach.
“They created games with unsustainable economies,” Mayogba said. “Having read a lot of different white papers, I can say that [the bad reputation] It is definitely well earned. And so when we get into space, we do so very carefully and thoughtfully. So first of all, we feel no pressure to do anything but build a great game. And so we’re going to build a great game first and foremost. And then it just so happens that blockchain will amplify our gameplay.”
Otero hopes the team’s credibility will help him succeed with the NFT-based game. This is why the company started funding it through credible game VCs instead of selling NFT tokens.
Otero said he has his own philosophy on fun and how to build great games. He noted that some NFT gamers had never built games before.
This became very clear. So there is a bit of a backlash against that. And again, that’s very fair,” Otero said.
The hardest thing, Otero said, is building a fun game, but once you do, you’ll keep your users, and they’ll want to keep playing the game.
“So the assets within the game itself have an immediate utility. Thus, the usefulness of the assets is really a function of the quality and fun of the game. And that’s the part that most people miss because I don’t think they know how to design a fun game,” Otero said. “And this is one. Second, once you design a fun game, the assets will immediately have a variety of utilities. Some things are very, very obvious like after you finish using something, you can rent it out to other people to enjoy, or you can resell it in the market. And so on. Right away, it’s very clear, that you have an immediate benefit because your game is fun and the players want those assets.”
He added, “The second thing is this. Blockchain and ownership also provide a new type of player type where players can create many of their own assets, and players can specialize in building assets within a game that is interesting to other players.”
Mayogba said the company has yet to reveal what technologies it will use. But he said the company will look closely at how the technology affects the user experience. It will evaluate the different trade-offs between the available technologies in terms of the types of blockchains or partners.
“We want to make sure we have a partner who can work with us and expand with us,” Mayogba said.
GamesBeat creed When gaming industry coverage is “where passion meets work”. What does this mean? We want to tell you how important the news is to you – not only as a decision maker in a game studio, but also as a game fan. Whether you’re reading our articles, listening to our podcasts, or watching our videos, GamesBeat will help you learn about the industry and enjoy interacting with it. Learn more about membership.