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During the height of the pandemic, no one was driving cars, and that force a big pivot for Drivetime, which made voice-driven games for people to play in the car. And so the company raised $5 million and changed its name to Blockstars.
The company raised the funding through a combination of an equity and token financing round led by Play Ventures through its Future Fund. Existing shareholders Makers Fund, Solana, Magic Eden, Merit Circle, and Citizen X also invested.
Niko Vuori, CEO of Blockstars, said in an interview with GamesBeat that company is building its next game, Blockstars, a music management simulation game built on the Solana blockchain. Vuori is visiting Lisbon to join the Solana Breakpoint event in Portugal.
In the game, players put together musicians called Blockstars who write, record, and release singles. And they package their greatest hits into albums and put in the time and effort to improve their skills and ultimately work towards the goal of earning enough money to start and upgrade their own.
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The game is designed and balanced to allow both experienced players as well as complete beginners to compete for spots on the leaderboards, based on a variety of factors that enables competition across many varied play styles (so yes, you can of course still min-max your way to a top spot on one of the leaderboards if that’s your jam, but there will be multiple different ways to compete, win and earn).
Winners of across various categories of competition earn rewards in the form of $ROC, the game’s main token on the Solana blockchain. The token is used for major game actions (such as minting, buying and selling Blockstars and other in-game NFT assets, as well as determining governance structure), and is being designed to be resilient to inflationary pressures that some other play-to-earn games have experienced through careless economy design, the company said. There is a second, in-game utility currency called that is used day-to-day for basic game actions.
Besides Vuori, the founding team includes Cory Johnson (CTO), Sherrie Chen (chief product officer). Johnson and Vuori co-founded Drive.fm, and Rocket Games (acquired in 2016), and they worked together at Zynga in the early days. Chen joined at Drive.fm as chief product officer, and she also previously worked at Zynga. That moment,
Vuori said that Drivetime had a strong business in 2019, when the company previously raised a round.
“Everything was going great, but then the pandemic hit and nobody was driving in their cars anymore,” Vuroi said. “So we had to do this. It’s a totally different genre and a totally different space. We made the very difficult decision to halt production on Drivetime.”
Blockstars started building the new game in the summer of 2021, just as all of the excitement was happening around Web3 games. The car game — where players use voice commands and spoken answers to answer trivia questions — continues to operate and generate revenue.
But the company is pouring all of its energy into the new game, where the players serves as the manager of a band. You try to grow your music empire.
“I’ve been a huge fan of management simulation games for a very long time,” Vuori said. “It’s my favorite genre of all time.”
Vuori has been playing Football Manager, about European soccer, since 1992. He thinks management games are great candidates for blockchain games as the economies are deep and players stay with them for a long time. Players can own their bands and can buy and sell band members. The game will have tokenized economics with player ownership.
“We chose music as a theme, and music management, as music is so universal,” Vuori said.
Vuori also started following blockchain in 2016 and he believed it would enable new experiences, consumer products, and games. He saw Solana’s efforts to create a new kind of chain with faster transactions and no fees.
The company has 15 people and it is expanding.
“We saw what was enabled through these new technologies and the interesting new design choices that developers can make through digital ownership and open tokenized economies,” Vuori said. “So we decided to drive in.”
The company will be making multiple Web3 games, with Blockstars being the first.
“We’re choosing to focus on where we see the most heat right now, which is absolutely still blockchain despite crypto winter, you know,” Vuori said. “We believe in the exciting new things that game designers can do with blockchain technologies. And so we’ve been very encouraged with our early up adopters.”
The company is considering using generative AI to create the songs.
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