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Midnight emerged from stealth today to announce $7.5 million in seed funding earmarked to build a studio and platform to create Web3 games with “never-ending stories.”
Midnight’s mission is to build games for players first, that delight players with both never-ending experiences and economic participation. To achieve this, it’s building a slate of free-to-play and premium games for diverse audiences, with a Web3-based “forging” system that creates true interoperability and a robust economy, said Steve Wade, CEO of Midnight, in an interview with GamesBeat.
“While others are betting that fake ‘ownership’ and its associated economics will bring the masses to boring [non-fungible token] NFT-driven games, we firmly believe that participation and a secondary market need to be both meaningful and additive to players’ stories,” said Wade. “Our games are designed to be fun without the NFT layer, and we are targeting the broadest swath of gamers. It shouldn’t matter whether someone is crypto-native or not — they’ll find something for them at Midnight.”
The company, founded in late 2021, now has more than 60 full-time equivalent people working on four titles and is scaling rapidly. Midnight has big ambitions, and Wade believes he will raise more money in the future. But he noted that, rather than make a $60 million game, he has always thought it would be better to make 20 games for $60 million.
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“Even in this current market, I’m not inclined to worry about capital,” said Wade. “High-quality projects are going to continue.”
The company’s focus will be on PC and console games at first, and mobile might come at a later date. Wade said one of his ambitions is to aggregate a lot of studios doing Web3 games under a single company.
As for Web3, Wade said the aspect of it he likes is player ownership.
“It’s still disingenuous to say that people are really owners, but they’re beyond renters. And so now they’re participating. And that was the thing to get really excited about,” Wade said. “People should participate in a meaningful way.”
Midnight said its team is led by some of the gaming industry’s most commercially successful creators. Its
executive team includes acting chief product officer Chris Heatherly, recently executive vice president of games for NBCUniversal and former general manager of Disney Mobile Games.
Heatherly is also an experienced brand builder, having helped build franchises such as Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, and Jurassic World into global, multi-billion dollar businesses.
“Midnight is thinking differently in a time where most web3 companies are thinking the same —
game and gamers first, not crypto first,” Heatherly said in a statement.
It also includes head of game design Geoffrey Hunt, designer of commercially successful 4X strategy games like Star Trek: Fleet Command and Game of War: Fire Age.
“Games have grown considerably in their social and economic complexity over the years, and NFTs are another step in that direction,” Hunt said in a statement. “Midnight is at the forefront of trying novel approaches to integrate NFTs into classic game experiences in ways that enhance the experience, not get in the way of it. After all, giving players new ways to play together is where a designer’s heart is.”
And it includes chief creative officer Bill Roper, a designer on games such as Diablo, Warcraft and StarCraft. His recent roles include helming Disney Interactive Central Creative and serving as chief creative officer at Improbable. Roper was also CEO of Flagship Studios and chief creative officer at Cryptic Studios.
“I’ve always looked at what games can do with new technology that makes for a better experience for players. If you’re focused on making a great game experience first, the technology becomes a means to an end,” Roper said in a statement. “I’m excited to work with a company that’s focused on using new tech, like blockchain and NFTs, to create real value and utility for players.”
The company was founded by CEO Steve Wade, a gaming investment banker who has built and sold three game companies.
Wade has launched 45 online games, four gaming payment solutions, and eight game portals. As a banker, he has counseled companies through more than $1 billion in venture capital, private equity, debt and M&A financings; and he has negotiated more than 50 IP/tech licenses and commercial contracts.
Most recently he was managing director at Atlas Technology Group heading the firm’s video game M&A team; and got his start in the late 1990s as a pro gamer competing in Ultima Online. Wade got involved in investment banking in deals involving Trio Worlds and later Gazillion.
“Most of my background was in operations and a lot of free-to-play publishing,” Wade said.
The company plans to be both a developer and a publisher.
Wade said it’s likely that the company will focus on building its own games and developing its own intellectual properties. But over time, he hopes the company will build IPs that can be connected, like the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And eventually it could roll up a bunch of properties together.
“They started with comic books and moved into movies,” he said. “We’re still in the comic book stage, making a bunch of smaller titles.”
Another cofounder is Steven Spagnolo, former CTO at SoundCloud. He was also senior director of technology for King and founder of Blue Tongue Entertainment (acquired by THQ) and Twiitch (acquired by GREE).
“We bring unique and proven experience in building household name-IP, multi-billion grossing game design and cross platform technology to enable a seamless experience. In short, we have the people to make blockchain additive and reach the wider games market,” said Spagnolo, in a statement.
Rounding out the core team are art director Darren Pattenden, who has held art leadership roles at EA, Trion Worlds, Manticore and 2K Games; and acting CMO Anthony Gabriele, recently head of marketing and GM at SoundCloud and director of subscription marketing for Apple’s media and entertainment businesses.
Midnight has raised $7.5M of seed funding led by Shima Capital and a number of crypto gaming investors, including blockchain platform Forte, popular gaming community Snackclub, guild and mod platform Overwolf, the founders of gaming companies Illuvium and investors Woodstock Fund, FJ Labs, Bixin Ventures and more.
“Midnight stands out from the crowd. Their pitch — to focus on building great and accessible
games for diverse audiences; to use blockchain technology as a layer that creates real value
and utility for players, rather than a crutch; and to meaningfully weave connections through the
games, to create a universe of IP — is unique in the space. Shima thoroughly believes in
Midnight’s team of industry heavy-hitters to make this vision a reality,” said Shima Capital’s Yida
Gao, in a statement.
Games already in development at Midnight include Legion, a 4X MMO; Next Protectors, a 2D
pixel brawler. The company plans to build a slate of first and third-party games across platforms and genres for diverse audiences.
As for the name, Wade recalled playing games way past midnight, and those were the times when he enjoyed some of his favorite games.
“The best games are the ones that keep you up past midnight. But also, there’s so much potential magic and things that happen at midnight, things that happen under that cloak of darkness. So I think there’s some exciting stuff that we’re going to develop there around that that theme,” Wade said.
The company will release more info in the coming months on its games. Wade said the company had a coming out party at Two Bit Circus, an entertainment and VR center in Los Angeles.
“We’re focused on making the games great first and adding blockchain as we need it,” Wade said.
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