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The Los Angeles-based studio is making a game called Kinfire Chronicles, and it is making its original fantasy world, characters, games, and transmedia experience for people who want to meet in person.
Jane Chung Hoffacker is the CEO of Incredible Dream. She was an executive producer on Riot Games’ Arcane, the popular animated TV series on Netflix, and she was also an early leader in the development of League of Legends. General Catalyst led the round.
She said the studio wants to modernize tabletop games for people who crave shared escape. It’s been a record year for the $12 billion tabletop industry with popular games like Dungeons & Dragons, Magic the Gathering, Pokémon, and more. Kickstarter has helped tabletop gaming a lot, as it is like Steam for board games. And the gaming boom has spilled over to help tabletop games as well.
“We managed to get a lot of triple-A gaming talent,” Chung Hoffacker said. “And we’re all here making board games. Part of the reason is that we see gaming as a lifestyle that not just limited to screens and video games. And we really do see an opportunity with, as we move toward the metaverse and online presence, how we spend less time together in person. And I think an outcome of that is that the few moments that we do spend together in person are going to become way more meaningful for us.”
There’ve also been a record number of indie board games raising over $1 million on Kickstarter. Incredible Dream sees this as a reaction to the increasing dominance of digital consumption in our lives, Chung Hoffacker said. The team is developing games, content, and tools to connect more people to social, offline gaming experiences.
She added, “For everything that the internet and the metaverse promise to solve, the one thing they can’t solve is loneliness. And that is something that like in-person experiences do solve. We are trying to create those moments where people want to take a break from their digital lives and want to spend that time together.”
Incredible Dream wants to bring players back to human connection and playful immersion in the real world. When people — who are learning, working, and playing in front of screens — finally take their break to meet up with friends IRL, Incredible Dream is crafting rich in-person experiences for a satisfying game night, the company said.
The conversion to tabletop gaming
Chung said she played typical family board games while growing up, but she was more like a video gamer first. During the pandemic, she played games over Zoom with friends, but that got tiring. By contrast, playing D&D was an immense joy.
“When I was younger, I dismissed it because it wasn’t as cool and sexy as the latest Xbox,” she said.
She went on to work at Riot Games for nine years and Activision for three years. And she saw how the bigger companies weren’t able to take creative risks. That led her to starting her own company.
On Arcane, Chung Hoffacker learned a different part of the business. She helped get the TV show through its greenlighting process, which wasn’t easy as the expectations for an expansion into a new business was high. It either had to be brilliant, or not done at all. She helped assemble a writers room, reconfigured the preproduction process, and helped the external studio scale up to produce animated content. She left after most of the first season was done.
“I learned a lot from the creative process,” she said.
After she quit and began her startup, it wasn’t easy to raise money, as Chung Hoffacker said she got rejected by hundreds of investors. She was pleased that General Catalyst understood the problem of loneliness that the company is addressing.
“We spent a good chunk of the pandemic at home isolated from everybody just on screens,” she said.
The company’s first game launch will be The Kinfire Chronicles, a co-op role-playing game about a group of adventurers who must fight against a mysterious global threat, magic, and saboteurs to save their city.
By modernizing, Chung Hoffacker said she means that friends shouldn’t have to sit down to a tabletop board game that has a 50-page manual. It shouldn’t be like assembling furniture from IKEA, she said.
“You have to watch a 30 minute YouTube video to understand what’s going on,” she said. “And by then, the whole night fizzles and everybody loses interest.”
So the Incredible Dream team is approaching the design more as video gamers would and thinking about the user experience. Eventually, some of the ideas could become video games, Chung Hoffacker said.
“It’s something we talk a lot about because the upside potential, with any intellectual property, is that you can take it anywhere,” she said. “But I believe that you can’t just start out saying that we’re gonna build a massively valuable brand. If you start there and focus too much on that, I think you kind of miss the mark.”
The team has 11 people. Chung Hoffacker also worked on titles including League of Legends, Call of Duty, and Guitar Hero. Cofounders include Tucker Roberts, president of Spectacor Gaming; and Jamie Seltzer, a serial entrepreneur and investor.
Chief technology officer Chris Butler was the former director of engineering at Riot Games and cofounded Riot Games St Louis. He was an early architect of League of Legends’ platform. Others include game design director Kevin Wilson, art director Kate Redesiuk, narrative consultants Mateusz Tomaszkiewicz and Jakub Szamalek, and game designer Adela Kapuscinska. Advisers include Felicia Day and Kevin Reilly.
Incredible Dream’s Seed funding will be used to develop and ship original intellectual properties as the company continues to build dynamic game worlds.
Besides General Catalyst, other investors include from Advancit Capital, Lighshed Ventures, Courtside VC, Slow Ventures, Abe Burns (Ambridge Capital), and David Birnbaum (Five Four Ventures).
The company has received previous funding and angel investments from notable figures in the game industry, including Strauss Zelnick of Take-Two Interactive, Mike and Amy Morhaime, Kevin Lin, Brent Bushnell of Two-Bit Circus, Shane Debiri, and Pete Vlastelica. This funding has established Incredible Dream as one of the most funded startups in the board game industry.
“We decided to partner with Incredible Dreams because we were super impressed with the team’s bold vision during our first zoom chat. Jane’s enthusiasm is absolutely infectious!” said Niko Bonatsos, managing director at General Catalyst, in a statement. “Our partners at General Catalyst also loved the fact that she recruited an elite team of industry veterans for such an early stage company. There is a unique opportunity to shake up the board game industry as we know it today given the excellent timing for this venture and the team’s DNA.”
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