A group of video game industry veterans have teamed up to form Web3 gaming company Avalon Corp and have raised $13 million in funding in a round led by Bitkraft Ventures.
Hashed, Delphi Digital, Mechanism Capital, Coinbase Ventures, and others participated in the round. The round also secured funding from angel investors like Twitch cofounder Kevin Lin and former Microsoft exec Charlie Songhurst, to name a few.
The Avalon team consists of experienced game developers who have previously worked at the likes of Electronic Arts, Microsoft, Blizzard, and Sony. Avalon is the startup gaming studio’s flagship product, which is being built in Unreal Engine 5 and will have some MMO and metaverse elements.
But Avalon Corp CEO Sean Pinnock and Chief Product Officer Jeffrey Butler told Decrypt in an interview that they don’t see Avalon as a metaverse per se because of how the word has been co-opted and misused.
“Everyone’s kind of hopping onto this word and just beating the poor word to death,” Butler said of the word “metaverse,” explaining that virtually every major brand—from fashion to fast food—have proclaimed they’re building their own metaverse.
“At Avalon we are creating an interoperable universe for creators to build the content of their dreams. And [in] our vision of something like a—not metaverse—we imagine that to build such a thing is incredibly challenging and in fact impossible for a single company to do it,” Pinnock said.
“We’d like to empower gamers, creators, anyone to build worlds. And then those worlds over time interconnected could become something like an Oasis from Ready Player One.”
Pinnock and Butler believe it will be game developers—not consumer brands—that bring the truest version of any “metaverse” into reality because developers have the required experience to bring a AAA game to fruition.
That said, they do believe that once developed, Avalon could host major brands looking to stake their claim in its universe with their own intellectual property and customized experiences (Pinnock shared that Avalon’s COO was previously the Head of Business Development at Bandai Namco’s North American division, which has IP rights to iconic Japanese properties like Dragon Ball Z, Naruto, and One Piece).
While Avalon hasn’t committed to a specific blockchain yet to underpin and enable its interoperable economy, Pinnock expressed a strong affinity for Ethereum Layer 2 protocols (i.e. Polygon, ImmutableX).
“I personally am a big fan of Layer two Ethereum protocols,” Pinnock said. “What’s great about that technology is the gas price for transactions is significantly less than the cost of a credit card swipe, which has great low environmental impact. We're also able to get the scalability we need for transactions. In terms of how blockchain will be used in Avalon, digital ownership is going to be key here. So all of our assets inside of Avalon will be certified through the blockchain.”
The Avalon team firmly believes that crypto is the best way to offer a truly decentralized metaverse—when done correctly and not as a “walled garden.”
“This is going to be one of the most invasive technologies ever built by society, it's incredibly important that this technology is actually decentralized,” Pinnock told Decrypt. “How do we do that? That's a really tough problem to solve.”
Butler has worked in the video game industry since 1999 and worked at Sony Online Entertainment for nearly a decade on titles like Everquest. He says that new tech like Unreal Engine 5 allows the team to build the kind of massively multiplayer universe that they want, at an accurate scale.
But Avalon will be much more than just a digital realm to explore—it will also be gamified and give users the ability to transfer assets from one “world” to another using crypto and NFTs.
“For us, gamification is incredibly important. I grew up modding Warcraft III a lot, I was actually not the creator, but I was an original Dota modder and made my own Dota spinoff as well as a ton of other games,” Pinnock said.
“And what I believe made Warcraft III’s modding community so successful was that there was a game to build around, there was a framework. And so we are going to build our own framework.”
Avalon is also exploring the possibility of using generative artificial intelligence (AI) technology to allow users to create their own worlds, and is looking to partner with AI firms to implement such a feature in the long term.
While the developers’ goal is to make Avalon a AAA-quality game, the team also acknowledges that not every game may have the PC hardware required to experience such a game smoothly.
“There will be a cloud offering for Avalon,” Pinnock said of his plans for a cloud gaming component, where data is hosted and rendered online as opposed to on the user’s computer. “Anyone with a web browser could play this game.”