Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Project Awakening - The Web3 Game

No, this post is not referring to Cygames upcoming RPG for the Playstation 5 due to release this sometime in 2023. Yesterday CCP Games, a subsidiary of Pearl Abyss, announced a $40 million round of venture capital funding for its upcoming video game based on blockchain technology. No official name was mentioned in any of the various press releases issued yesterday. Instead, press outlets started to refer to the effort by the URL of the information page that went live at the same time, Project Awakening.

As is my practice, the main portion of the press release is below:

Reykjavík, Iceland – 21 March 2023 – CCP Games, creators of sci-fi spacefaring MMO EVE Online, announced today that $40M in financing has been secured from external partners. This financing will allow CCP Games to build upon the discoveries of its research & development team to enable the full-scale development of a new AAA title utilizing blockchain technology, set within the EVE Universe.

"Since its inception, CCP Games’ vision has been to create virtual worlds more meaningful than real life. Now, with advancements made within blockchain, we can forge a new universe deeply imbued with our expertise in player agency and autonomy, empowering players to engage in new ways. This financing has marked an exciting frontier in our studio history as we begin our third decade of virtual world operations. We are humbled by the confidence from our partners in the development of this new title,” said CCP Games CEO, Hilmar V. Pétursson.

With key game systems developed on-chain, this new project will also leverage smart-contract blockchain technology, focusing on persistence, composability and truly open third-party development to create a new relationship between virtual worlds and players.

This financing was led by Andreessen Horowitz (a16z), with participation from Makers Fund, BITKRAFT, Kingsway Capital, HASHED, Nexon, and additional participants.

“CCP Games is a pioneer in virtual worlds and digital economies with 25 years of experience creating living sandboxes with unparalleled depth. They're a veteran team and we believe in their ambitious vision to deliver incredible player experiences at the intersection of best-in-class game design and blockchain technology,” said a16z General Partner, Jonathan Lai.

“The depth and nuances of EVE have become a frequent point of reference in blockchain gaming and we are therefore thrilled to support the team's impressive vision of expanding the EVE Universe utilizing this technology. As a former employee, it's a great personal joy to be reunited with CCP and to witness their continued passion for creating truly meaningful virtual worlds," said Makers Fund Principal, Alli Óttarsson.

“We've long marveled at stories of interstellar war, spaceships forever lost, and the constant challenges of staying ahead of emergent, sovereign play patterns. Hilmar and the team's experience is unmatched, and we're excited to see how they use blockchain to let players dream further,” said BITKRAFT Ventures Partner, Carlos Pereira.

Alongside independent financing, this new title’s production is separate from current and previously disclosed projects, including EVE Online, which is now in its landmark 20th year.

CCP Games looks forward to sharing updates as development progresses. Register at for future news and announcements. To learn more about open positions at CCP Games, visit the careers page.

I will definitely need to do research into the topic, because this sentence threw up some serious red flags:

With key game systems developed on-chain, this new project will also leverage smart-contract blockchain technology, focusing on persistence, composability and truly open third-party development to create a new relationship between virtual worlds and players.

Quite frankly the sentence sounds like something Bethesda's Todd Howard and Cloud Imperium Games' Chris Roberts cobbled together. The only thing missing was that the new game's world would hold 16 times the resources of EVE Online.

In an effort to learn more about why venture capitalists would throw $40 million in CCP's direction, I began looking into the lead company, Andreessen Horowitz, also known as a16z or AH Capital Management, LLC. Specifically, what was the attraction of CCP Games?

Perhaps a Twitter thread from Jon Lai, a general partner at Andreessen Horowitz and a founding investor of a16z Games Fund One, sheds some light.

I've said for what has turned into years now that EVE Online was built for the concepts of web3, the blockchain and, most importantly, play2earn mechanics. Here is a professional basically backing up my beliefs.

Now we get to the profit motive. When writers convert major null sec battles into real world monetary values, eventually the money people notice. I don't know if anyone pointed out to the folks at a16z that, if included in the monthly economic reports, RMT tokens like PLEX and skill injectors and extractors make up approximately 50% of the EVE economy. Just as the null sec powers skim ISK off the PLEX trade in Perimeter's Tranquility Trading Tower, the investment consortium probably envisions skimming real life money off of every sanctioned RMT transaction in the new game.

If Lai is calling Hilmar a founder of CCP, maybe he hasn't done enough research into the company (CCP Games was founded by Reynir Harðarson, Þórólfur Beck Kristjónsson and Ívar Kristjánsson). Then again, perhaps fluffing up the CEO of a target company is just part of the job.

Apparently EVE Brand Director Sæmundur Hermannsson is heading up the project. I believe his CCP dev name is CCP Goodfella. Hopefully Lai's positive impression is based more on the people actually working on the project and less on the front man doing the talking.

I included the last tweet for completeness. The disclaimer about investment advice is important and I don't want to contribute to any misunderstandings. Plus, given the subject of this post, I thought the warning was appropriate.

I learned one additional fact from yesterday's news. While Pearl Abyss wants to publish Web3 games, we now know the company does not have the money to develop Web3 games. If our overlords in Anyang had the money, CCP Games would not have had to go seek out venture capital to complete development. As the world discovered on the Q4 2022 earnings call, Pearl Abyss lost $35.6 million in 2022. The amount raised in this first round of funding was $40 million.

I will have to follow-up on the story as I did not include so much information. But I wanted to get something out quickly before I fell too far behind the news. Hopefully readers found the post informative.

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