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CCP Games has raised $40 million in funding to make a new triple-A blockchain game set in the Eve universe.
The new game is a big project and that’s why Reykjavík, Iceland-based CCP Games went beyond its owner Pearl Abyss to look for external funding. Andreessen Horowitz (A16z) led the round, with participation from Makers Fund, Bitkraft, Kingsway Capital, Nexon, Hashed and additional participants.
This financing will allow CCP Games to build upon the discoveries of its research and development team to enable the full-scale development of a new triple-A title utilizing blockchain technology, said CCP Games CEO, Hilmar Veigar Pétursson, in an interview with GamesBeat.
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.
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“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,” said Pétursson. “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.”
Eve Online launched in May 2003. In September 2018, Black Desert creator Pearl Abyss of South Korea bought CCP Games for $425 million. It was a huge sum for a company running a game that has been around for almost 20 years and is still a big success. But this new idea called for outside investment.
The game features spectacular battles between spaceships of multiple factions in a sci-fi universe. And Petursson said earlier that, after much discussion, Eve Online itself would not feature blockchain technology such as non-fungible tokens (NFTs).
But that didn’t mean that the company was averse to NFTs. Rather, it meant that it would attempt to create a brand new game in the Eve universe that used blockchain tech. And that’s evidently what was interesting to the outside investors.
“CCP Games is a pioneer in virtual worlds and digital economies with 25 years of experience creating
living sandboxes with unparalleled depth,” said a16z General Partner, Jonathan Lai, in a statement. “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.”
“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,” said Makers Fund principal Alli Óttarsson, in a statement. “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.”
“We’ve long marveled at stories of interstellar war, spaceships forever lost, and the constant challenges
of staying ahead of emergent, sovereign play patterns,” said Bitkraft Ventures partner Carlos Pereira, in a statement. “Hilmar and the team’s experience is unmatched, and we’re excited to see how they use blockchain to let players dream further.”
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.
A long journey to Web3
Pétursson said the journey to this project started around 2015, when someone asked him about putting game assets on the Bitcoin blockchain. Pétursson said he didn’t know much about the topic but he began talking to others and learning about it.
“I started my little journey of trying to figure this out. Even if I have a degree in computer science, it was an embarrassingly long process to pick it up,” he said.
He watched the rise of CryptoKitties, which featured NFTs people could buy and sell, in 2017. The company started exploring its own projects. But there were so many limitations at the time, such as scaling the transactions up to huge numbers. Still, Pétursson remained curious because the space was intellectually rigorous.
“Frankly, some of the deepest thinking on game economies I have observed happens at blockchain conferences, due to the fact that everything had to be so sparse and you had to be very deliberate about what to do,” he said.
Over time, during the pandemic, Pétursson explored the ideas even more. The industry solutions improved, particularly with the success of the early blockchain games in 2021. So CCP Games started experimenting on a larger scale.
“We learned many things on the potential from that with” players who were concerned about whether the company would change the rules of Eve Online. And so the company eventually released a statement that it would not make any changes regarding Eve Online when it came to blockchain tech.
“In that announcement, we also said that we would continue to experiment with in another context,” he said. “People were very keen to join us in this experimentation. So we were talking to many people and were talking to investors.”
And so they decided to work on blockchain tech for a new game. The company has been testing the idea with users to get feedback.
“One of the motivations to do this is actually smart contracts, which are a very useful construct to organize development from third-party entities into an ecosystem,” Pétursson said. “Throughout the history of Eve Online, ever since we started to open up the API gateway, people have been making software outside of CCP. A lot of the players have created a basic programming around the game that provides some of the core services.”
Outsiders came up with the data for tracking in terms of what gets destroyed in the game and other info.
“There are many other examples where people have created software and an API gateway is a fine way to do that. Smart contracts represent a lot of new ways to organize. So immediately, as we were doing this, we saw we can now in this new game have the great the idea that everyone can build with us concretely by using smart contracts.”
He said the company can internally create consistent and immutable digital physics world, and then outsiders can join in building the infrastructure on top of it.
“And I think that is a pretty powerful thing,” he said. “We’ve also found out that the road to make these things scale is at the beginning stages. But many of the techniques we have used to have an online scale are actually quite transferable. So even though this is a new world for us, there’s a lot of familiarity to the challenges. While Eve Online is not a distributed computing platform in the blockchain sense, it is still a distributed platform, even if it’s all hosted around data centers. And some of the techniques we’ve developed in Eve Online are actually quite useful to help with scalability.”
Pétursson said that the company offers a form of digital ownership in Eve Online, but it’s subject to a lot of caveats on the end-user license agreement.
“We have certainly seen a path where over time, by building the game on a blockchain, we can reduce the number of caveats to the digital ownership, and it can end up in a state where we can offer digital ownership without the caveats,” he said.
Using new technologies
In addition to blockchain, the company is in a position to take advantage of other new ideas and technologies such as generative AI and user-generated content, Pétursson said.
“Smart contracts and UGC can go in many ways. Already, we have a lot of UGC in Eve Online. But it’s in the form of creating alliances and corporations and politics and drama. That’s the UGC of people writing software against our API gateway,” Pétursson said. “So we’re now seeing this as a way of further empowering the ecosystem to join us in the creation of a universe. So, we have many new opportunities resulting from that. And I think that is one part which makes people excited about these things is that they do give you new affordances to build the world in a different way.”
As for generative AI, Pétursson said that he believes that in a few years we’ll be living in a world where everyone is using generative AI to help them do the work they’re doing in all facets of life.
“That’s just gonna automatically happen,” he said. “We don’t really have to do anything special to enable it. But we can certainly capture all the output of that by providing a different type of platform to allow people to change the creation of the new world.”
The investment is focused on the game project itself, so this means that the new investors did not acquire a stake in CCP Games or in its parent company Pearl Abyss.
“We feel it’s quite important to separate this,” Pétursson said.
Pétursson said that A16z was knowledgeable about investing in blockchain games and games overall, and it was “extremely enthusiastic” about what CCP Games was doing with th enew project.
“The more we talked with them, we saw they could bring us quite a bit of help,” Pétursson said. “They have a very big team that has been learning about these things for a few years now. And even almost decades if you start at the inception of their journey into this.”
Pétursson said the company should be ready to talk about the game in more concrete terms in th next year, but he isn’t sharing details now.
Pétursson said the new game will have team that will draw upon people within CCP Games as well as those who used to work at CCP and are returning because they’re excited about the new project. And the company has hired people from the blockchain gaming community as well and is adding more.
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