We don’t have the federal video game tax offset yet, but Australian studios are starting to pull in eye-watering amounts of cash. The latest figure is from Sydney-based devs Immutable, the team behind the crypto card game Gods Unchained which just raised $82 million in investor funding.
While you might not have much experience with Gods Unchained, which is Immutable’s flagship game, there’s a chance you might have heard of the company before. They made waves a couple of years ago by publicly pledging to pay out Hearthstone player Chung “Blitzchung” Ng Wai’s lost winnings, who was suspended for publicly supporting the Hong Kong democracy protests.
Gods Unchained has been steadily kicking along since then, and it’s really no surprise that the studio has raised a huge chunk of cash when you consider the context. Gods Unchained is a card game built on the blockchain that tries to marry the style of games like Hearthstone with the hook of being able to trade cards for real-world money.
Given the space Immutable has been playing in for years — Gods Unchained has been playable since 2018, with the game going more public from July 2019 — it’s no surprise the Sydney-based developers have ventured into non-fungible tokens. And despite the significant concern and substantial backlash, the launch of Immutable X — a platform that allows other companies to trade NFTs that’s built on a new protocol that’s trying to resolve some of the issues around the transaction speeds, and costs, of Ethereum blockchain transactions — is generating interest.
I’m not going to get into the complexities of that in this story, but if you want more of a primer on NFTs and their intersection with games, our piece about what happened to The Gardens Between is worth a read. But irrespective of the environmental concerns, or questions about the fundamental value of blockchains and NFTs to the actual gaming experience, there’s a lot of investor interest. That’s why Immutable has raised $82 million, according to Smart Company.
“We want businesses to create their game, marketplace, or NFT application within hours via APIs, with a mainstream user experience. No blockchain programming required,” Robbie Ferguson, the president and co-founder of Immutable, said in a release.
There’ll be a $GODS token released among all of this, and part of the funding raise will go towards expanding not only Immutable’s staff but also broadening support within the company’s games — which includes Guild of Guardians, a mobile blockchain RPG that’s due out early next year — for NFT trading.
It’s a huge amount of money, not for an Australian studio but any studio generally. By comparison, Melbourne studio Big Ant — makers of the Cricket 19 and AO Tennis sports franchises — were bought out by French publisher Nacon for $54.8 million in January 2021, although that full amount is subject to performance incentives.
I don’t think the cash means we’ll see Gods Unchained or Guild of Guardians suddenly featured on stages like The Game Awards any time soon, especially when so many genuine concerns around the core value of NFTs — not to mention the environmental concerns over how they’re minted — persist. But on the flip side, the raising and expansion gives the entire game sector another case study to take to the NSW Government, which still hasn’t come good on their supposed announcements that they were going to make regarding support for the local sector. It’s vastly more complicated than highlighting games like Hell Let Loose or the growth of Sydney-based publisher Blowfish Studios, which has some interesting projects on the boil, but it’s at least something.