Former TikTok game manager to launch blockchain games startup as big players walk away

HONG KONG, July 5 (Reuters) – Short-form video giant TikTok’s former gaming unit chief Jason Fung is launching a blockchain gaming startup as one of two co-founders, a- he told Reuters in an interview, as buzz around blockchain games grows while industry heavyweights remain wary.

The 34-year-old left TikTok last month after two years with the company, and his exit comes as TikTok and its Chinese owner ByteDance have aggressively expanded into the $300 billion global gaming market to take on rival Tencent Holdings (0700.HK), an effort that has yielded mixed results so far.

It also reflects the growing interest of entrepreneurs and investors in blockchain games – a new generation of online games built on blockchains that allow players to trade items in the form of non-fungible tokens (NFTs).

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Fung, whose new venture is called Meta0, said he left TikTok after seeing an opportunity to offer a solution to the current segregated nature of infrastructure options available to developers looking to build blockchain games.

“Right now, if you look at a developer when they implement NFTs or blockchain in their games, they have to choose a single blockchain, whether it’s Polygon or Solana or Binance Smart Chain. But imagine a more interoperable option” , he told Reuters in Hong Kong, referring to popular existing blockchains.

“So we decided, let’s do it. Let’s co-found this company. Let’s give up my cushy corporate life at TikTok and take a giant risk,” said Fung, who was based in Shenzhen and had reported to the chief operating officer. from TikTok, Vanessa Pappas. .

Meta0’s founding team includes six members in addition to the two co-founders, and the company has closed an initial funding round, Fung said.

He declined to divulge details of the other co-founder, the rest of the team or the investment. He said the company is looking to raise funds by issuing tokens, as well as from venture capitalists and strategic investors.

BIG NAMES ARE OUT

Proponents of blockchain games say they will disrupt the gaming industry because cryptocurrencies can make virtual items more transactional and even distribute ownership of games to players. But blockchain games are sometimes also associated with scams, and the virtual economies of some games have crashed soon after players purchase. Learn more

Most established game companies like Tencent, Sony (6758.T) and Microsoft (MSFT.O) have yet to bet big on blockchain games.

Fung, as TikTok’s global head of strategy and operations for games, was tasked with expanding game content and testing new features such as hosting mini-games on the app.

TikTok and ByteDance expanded aggressively into gaming during Fung’s tenure, with ByteDance acquisitions including a $4 billion purchase of game studio Moonton, and TikTok trying out mini-game features on its application. Read more

The efforts have had both successes and setbacks. Last month, data-tracking firm Sensor Tower said that ByteDance’s mobile gaming portfolio had generated more than $1 billion in revenue worldwide in the past 12 months.

However, ByteDance also dissolved its Shanghai-based Studio 101 last month, laying off half of its more than 300 employees. A product of its acquisition of Mokun Technology in 2019, 101 Studio was the first development unit ByteDance shut down as it struggled to operate.

Fung, who ran the esports units of Alibaba Group Holding (9988.HK) and Electronic Arts (EA.O) in Asia before joining TikTok, declined to comment when asked who might replace him. at TikTok.

TikTok did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

BLOCKCHAIN ​​GAMES A HOT INVESTMENT TREND

Despite the mistrust of some in the industry, blockchain games have become one of the hottest investment trends discussed by crypto moguls from Silicon Valley to Dubai.

Prior to the recent crypto market crash, the blockchain gaming industry raised a record $1.2 billion in the first quarter, according to a report by investment banking firm Drake Star Partners in April. Last year, a total of $3.6 billion was raised for the sector.

“We have built a protocol for game developers, and we are taking a flexible, blockchain-agnostic approach to their game development,” Fung said, discussing the future prospects of blockchain gaming.

“With a protocol we are developing, developers can easily expand their gaming strengths by leveraging different blockchains and give the user the flexibility to transfer their NFTs between chains.”

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Reporting by Josh Ye; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell and Bernadette Baum

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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