Frozen giants, and why everyone is competing with everyone regardless of what they say
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Hello my dear friends, here’s hoping that you are warm, safe, and happy today. Welcome to the weekend. Today’s Exchange note is somewhat brief, and, I hope, good fun. We’re talking gaming and competition, two of my very favorite things.
Notes on the gaming world
While the venture capital world loses its mind over crypto-based video games bringing fiscally focused activity to the “gaming” space, some builders are sticking to more traditional models.
One such company is Frost Giant, which announced a Series A this week worth $25 million, and is building a de novo RTS game. As a longtime fan of the genre, I am incredibly excited about this. As a business and technology journalist, I am curious as well.
I got on the phone the other day with its founders – the Two Tims – to chat through what they are building. Details are somewhat sparse at the moment because the company is still a ways from releasing its title. But! It will be a real-time strategy (RTS) game, a genre made famous by beloved entries like Age of Empires and Starcraft. It should feature, we learned, a campaign and multiplayer capabilities. And the group is talking to esports players as well so that it works out of the box for more competitive battles.
Per the company, it’s being built to be a game as a service of sorts, with a long shelf life. That’s a big goal. And to do so with new IP as the core is a big gamble. In a good way, I think; this is what venture capital is for – venturing into the unknown. Not just building more B2B SaaS.
For now, Frost Giant is staying mum on setting and anything more substantial about the game’s core elements, so we’ll be keeping an eye on what it’s building.
In a more nuts/bolts sense, Frost Giant raised a $4.7 million seed round after being founded in 2020, later adding another $5 million to that round. Kakao Games, a South Korean game developer, led the company’s Series A, which should provide its team of 25 full-timers and 12 contractors plenty of breathing room to get the game right.
And speaking of taking time to get the game right, let’s talk about Paradox. Paradox is a gaming studio based in Sweden, is the maker of so-called grand strategy games. They are real-time in a sense, but different from the traditional RTS genre in their complexity and length of play. You can K.O. someone in Starcraft 2 in 15 minutes if you know what you are doing. A play-through of Paradox title Crusader Kings 3 (CK3) could take you days and days of plugging away. Not that I am intimately aware of that fact or anything.
Anyhoo, Paradox is executing a natural experiment before our eyes with its first major expansion to CK3, called Royal Court. The company announced it ages ago, only telling fans last October that it would come out this February. The news was a bit of a surprise, but after some hiccups in expansions for some of its other titles, the CK3 player base appeared mostly cool with the later-than-anticipated launch, provided that the new code came out the gate solid as a rock.
February 8, the launch date for Royal Court, is just around the corner, and as Paradox is a public company, we’ll be able to see if its wager that making gamers wait – and perhaps lose interest? – for a big update pays out. I, for one, am buying the expansion, but don’t want to over-index on my own experiences.
In related CK3 news, Paradox just announced that it is bringing the title to consoles this week. I actually got invited to a press event with the company, and the studio it hired to help bring the game to a handset-powered environment. Why folks don’t just buy a damn gaming PC is beyond me, but I will say that I learned quite a lot about how games get ported to other platforms. It’s a lot of work to make a PC game work in a non keyboard/mouse environment, it turns out.
Everyone is fighting everyone
Wrapping on a tiny note, did you catch this story in The Information? At one point, Databricks (soon to be public, worth a bajillion dollars) and Snowflake (public, worth a bajillion dollars) were kinda friends. And if you asked, say, Databricks, about the other company, it might tell you that they were operating in different areas.
And maybe that was true for a while, but as The Information notes, it’s no longer the case.
Why do I bring this up? Simply to make another public request for the Databricks S-1 document? Well, yes, but more to note that startups of all sizes love to talk about how they aren’t really competing with one company or another. But as they grow, they tend to overlap more and more with a greater swath of the market.
So the next time a startup says that they aren’t competing with a similar entity or a major firm in their space, just set a timer. And wait.