After an initial sale of NFT a year ago and then a fundraising of 4.5 million dollars from renowned investors, the US start-up (but founded in France) Rumble League Studios is nearing the goal. Its CEO Marcus Bläsche (ex-The Sandbox) responds to the JDN.
JDN. Almost a year ago, in October 2021, Rumble League Studio partnered with video game studio iLogos (developer of Angry Birds 2) to make Rumble Kong League, a blockchain and NFT-based basketball game. Where are you ?
Marcus Blasche. We are at a very advanced stage since we have a playable version internally. At the same time, we converted all existing avatars to 2D to make them available in 3D. We are in discussion with several Layer-2 (subnets of blockchains) likely to host the game but we don’t have to make a decision now. Many elements will be on blockchain, avatars that we sold to the public as NFTs in July 2021, accessories but other parts of the game will be centralized, to facilitate the user experience. At the end of the year, a playable version will be available to the public, first on the web before porting it to mobile.
You originally planned a first version for the beginning of this calendar year. How do you explain this delay?
We could probably already have been live with a minimalist 2D or very simply animated version, but we wanted a qualitative, aesthetic and pleasant to play production. We also have a very close relationship with our development studio, part of which is located in Ukraine. This is also a situation we have had to deal with for six months. Thankfully, iLogos has done a great job keeping their team safe. So there were delays. I hope there won’t be any more. However, after 14 years of experience in the video game industry, I also know that these kinds of obstacles cannot be predicted.
Last December, you raised $4.5 million from Web3 figures such as JDS Crypto, Sébastien Borget (CEO of The Sandbox) and Animoca Brands, as well as basketball player Paul George and the US agency CAA Sports. What impact did it have on the project?
Originally, we didn’t want fundraising but we changed our minds because of the strategic value that each of our partners could bring us. With all the entities you mentioned, we have a great combination of players from the sports, gaming and Web3 industry. For example, the basketball players Paul George and Stephen Curry help us enormously as ambassadors of the game, as the agency CAA helps us to educate traditional brands on Web3. This results, for example, in the partnership we just announced: Gatorade. We will be their first partner in the sector. For them, it makes sense and it’s not just a way to ride the wave but to create something of value for the brand and the community.
“Thanks to fundraising, we have enrolled more than thirty people in ten months”
Obviously, this fundraising generates more pressure but it is welcome because we want to make our project a reality anyway. We are really happy with our decision because even if it goes against the culture of the sector, where we are supposed to be in total autonomy without these big companies, we must recognize the reality and the doors that they open, without which it would be very difficult. Thanks to fundraising, we were able to expand the team in order to continue working on quality. In the space of ten months, we have recruited more than thirty people, including a product director with experience in the mobile market and numerous collaborators from the video game industry, in particular Ubisoft.
How do you combine the expectations of these partners with the decentralized culture of Web3, driven by the community that bought the game’s avatars in NFT a year ago?
We try to include our community as much as possible, as you can see on Twitter: this week, for example, we asked our NFT holders if they were satisfied with the size of the basketball courts. Decentralizing some of the decisions is part of the adventure, even if everything related to the heart of the game and its development remains decided internally. The goal is really to create something fun with the community, so that even if you’re not into NFTs or Web3, you have a fun basketball game in your hands.
Legislation has changed enormously in the space of a year, particularly in Europe with the adoption of the MiCa and TFR texts. How are you adapting to this new reality?
Initially, we had in mind an algorithmic game that was close to a game of chance. However, we quickly noticed that the Web3 sector was attracting more and more attention, and more regulation, especially with regard to games of chance. In order to have a game accessible to all, we therefore opted for changes, so that the player is in control. The regulation largely depends on the country where the holder of a wallet resides. It’s really case by case: there are crypto-friendly countries, others which are much less so. Historically, there have been many gray areas around cryptocurrencies, NFT trading, taxation. The further we go, the more texts and advisers there are to guide us. For this reason, we will undoubtedly have to deal with KYC procedures, we are aware of this. Our goal is to be irreproachable: not to be the source of problems at the legal level, while creating the best possible approach in terms of playfulness and ergonomics.
“We have postponed the release of our marketplace due to the bear market”
In addition to the game, Rumble League Studios’ ambition is to build an ecosystem: last February, for example, you announced the launch of your own NFT marketplace. What about today ?
We have postponed the release of our marketplace due to the current state of the crypto market. We are in a bear market. This allows us to focus on other priorities, such as the release of our other NFT collection, the rookies, which was originally planned for a little later. We have also postponed the issue of our tokenand this, to be more in line with the release of the game. Other things are to come: the Kongcubator is a fund that we initiated with Penny Jar (investment company founded by basketball player Stephen Curry, editor’s note) and it will result in a show similar to the Shark Tank show in Web3 version. The jury will be made up of members of the Rumble Kong community, Penny Jar, athletes. We have already received a few applications: podcasts, video projects, creative but also integration developmentAPIs for example. The first jury session will be held shortly and we should release a first show by the end of the year.
You mentioned the current bear market. For example, the current value of your main NFT, Rumble Kong, stands at around 800 euros against more than 15,000 euros at its peak in December. Is this a prospect that worries you?
It’s not just the NFT market that is suffering: when we look at inflation, real estate, we see a very complicated overall situation. As for the bear market, within the team, some have been in the business since 2014, this is not our first rodeo so we are not worried. On the contrary, we are quite confident about the popularity and standardization of the sector in the future. We have enough capital to continue our journey and although a fundraiser is not in the news, we continue to receive very interesting proposals in this direction, which we are obviously evaluating.