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Drop Fake raised $9 million in seed funding to hit the reset button on games that support diversity, emotion, and authenticity. It hopes to turn the game industry on its head, starting with creating a cool strategy game.
The company is the brainchild of CEO Katherine de León, a former vice president at Electronic Arts and veteran of the game business. March Gaming led the round. Other investors include FunPlus Ventures, CourtsideVC, 1Up Ventures, and Aream & Co.
As the moniker indicates, Drop Fake is focused on dropping the fake things from the corporate view of gaming and focusing on authenticity and diversity. It’s working on a 4X strategy game for mobile devices that will also run on other platforms like the PC.
She and her team founded Drop Fake because they wanted to create a progressive games company characterized by autonomy, directness, and free, open culture, said de León, in an interview with GamesBeat.
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“The thing that I love about the games market today is how many different ways there are to win,” she said. “Activision Blizzard came up with a strategy that worked for them for Call of Duty. For us, our strategy is that we are going to make a free game because access is very important to us. And we want to make a game that’s available to everyone, which is where cross-platform comes in. Fairness is a key pillar of our game design. And for us, that means that there’s a meaningful free experience that you cannot pay for power.”
The company will focus on social gaming experiences. Its vision is to create a vast multiplayer universe that supports humanity, emotion, and interaction — all while amplifying the individuality of every player. To kick it off, Drop Fake is building a cross-platform strategy game.
The multiplayer sandbox
De León is very focused on a multiplayer sandbox.
“I often say that I am not a storyteller. I don’t make games that are stories,” she said. “I make games where there are as many unique stories as there are players. And so for me, my passion is around galvanizing as many people as possible to experience the joys and the anger and the frustration and all of the emotions that come with really powerful multiplayer, social games.”
Gregory Milken, the managing partner of March Gaming, said an email to GamesBeat he was impressed with the team’s vision for creating social gaming experiences that promote meaningful and enduring connections.
“For me, since meeting the team, I have consistently been impressed on how they leverage their past experience and knowledge to articulate a clear vision for new social games,” Milken said. “I look forward to conversations with the Drop Fake team because our meetings are fun, informative, and productive and always leave me feeling energized.”
In an email to GamesBeat, Chris Petrovic, the chief business officer at FunPlus and principal at FunPlus Ventures, said that as a global leader in the strategy genre, a longtime strategic investor in innovative teams, and a big believer in the cross-platform market, FunPlus Ventures couldn’t think of a better team to support on their journey towards this massive intersection of opportunity.
Drop Fake’s people have worked on games such as EverQuest, Skate, Command & Conquer, Game of War, and Marvel: Contest of Champions. Its nine-person founding team includes Paul Beasley, Jeff Howell, Amie King, Adam Koerner, Vincent Mar, Wylie Styles, Ben Talbot, and Rich Waters.
De León got her start in the industry at Linden Lab’s Second Life, the early virtual world, as a community manager.
“My first job ever was to be an evangelist for the player,” she said. “It was exactly the right framing and right time for me.”
At the time, Linden Lab had decided to open-source its client, which she saw as a progressive decision.
“I got this exposure to this very progressive work structure and work culture, and I had this amazing job where I got to evangelize for the people who were using the product,” de León said. “And I think that set the tone for my career in a big way. Because I went on to continue to work in the metaverse. I tell people I worked on the metaverse before the metaverse was cool.”
De León also worked a few years on PlayStation Home, Sony’s version of a virtual world. She tried a startup in machine learning to make recommendations for videos on YouTube and Vimeo. It got acquired, and then she went to GSN to work on web and Facebook games. She moved to Shred, a startup created by SimCity creator Will Wright, and then moved to Zynga, where she worked on both Empires & Allies and Dawn of Titans. Then she moved to Electronic Arts for 2.5 years on projects such as Command & Conquer: Rivals and Command & Conquer: Remastered.
The latter was a mobile game, and fans weren’t happy with it, as they wanted a hardcore revival of that game on the PC.
She said, “2020 was a tough year, and that’s when I left. It was tough for a lot of people. Many people had to reevaluate their situations, and I was one of those people. And I knew who I wanted to work with. And we together saw an opportunity in the market that we really wanted to pursue. And we decided to team up so that we could do great work on our own terms and build a company that was in the spirit of the values that we shared.”
De León left EA, took some time off, and then worked on the new company beginning April.
Focusing on 4X
“If you look at the PC, there isn’t a lot in the way of persistent strategy games, while in mobile, they dominate,” she said. “There are some very interesting trends happening in the market right now particularly with the multiplayer strategy genre, where PC is integrating more and more multiplayer into their games.”
She added, “If you look at mobile, it’s integrating more single-player ways to play.”
De León believes that the different kinds of strategy games on the PC and mobile are converging.
“We want to build a cross-platform, 4X strategy game,” she said.
Her colleagues like Howell worked at Kabam and built Marvel: Contest of Champions.
“This is the fastest-growing subgenre of strategy for mobile,” she said. “We don’t see the same growth rates in this category on PC yet. But the genre has been growing on mobile year over year. And the thing that I like about it is that there are so many different ways to win. So you have branded games, you have original intellectual property, you have games that are set in ancient civilizations, you have games that are set in a post-apocalyptic near future. So there is a lot of fragmentation and growth in mobile. And we’re still seeing new games enter into the top 10.”
De León said she isn’t against the latest buzzwords like nonfungible tokens or user-generated content. But she said that her team is focusing on prototyping and finding the fun that can bring people back over and over, as well as creating the right company culture that encourages diversity. The team is working across the U.S. and Canada, with de León based in the Bay Area.
“One of the things that we committed to was that we didn’t want to ever ask someone to move for a job,” she said. “We wanted game makers to live in the places that inspired them most.”
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