Microsoft vets reveal first game from new blockchain startup backed by Andreessen Horowitz

(Irreverent Labs Photos)

The news: Irreverent Labs, a new Seattle startup led by Microsoft veterans that recently raised a $5 million seed round, just revealed its first game.

The details: MechaFightClub is an online “cruelty-free” fighting game that combines emerging technologies including artificial intelligence and NFTs. Players can trade, sell, and use chicken-esque fighters known as “mechabots” that are each unique and live on the Solana blockchain. The game, set to release this spring, uses a play-to-earn ecosystem with its blockchain currency called nuggets. Players can use nuggets to make in-game purchases or withdraw them for use on the wider Solana blockchain.

According to the company: “MFC mixes gameplay elements from Mortal Kombat, Pokémon, UFC, and sports management games while adding unprecedented AI applications in gaming, realistic genetics and breeding, and a hilarious, lore-filled fictional world.”

More background: The startup is led by longtime entrepreneur Rahul Sood, who previously co-founded esports betting startup Unikrn and headed up Microsoft’s VC arm.

There are other growing “play-to-earn” games that use blockchain tech such as Zed Run (Sood is an investor) but Sood thinks there is room for something more accessible and appealing to a broader audience. He is betting that these next-generation games will appeal to traditional gamers.

“Gamers will soon realize that having ownership of the characters within the game and building a relationship with that character over time is actually a really good thing,” he explained.

Sood added: “If the makers of Tamagotchi were to say, what does the ideal Tamagotchi look like in the future? This is it.”

Future of gaming: The industry is evolving and growing rapidly. U.S. consumer spending on video games reached a record $60.4 billion last year, up 8% from 2020. And companies are making huge investments, as highlighted earlier this week by Microsoft’s $68 billion deal to buy Activision-Blizzard.

David Raskino, co-founder of Irreverent Labs who helped lead Microsoft’s VC fund with Sood, said he sees a future where gaming becomes a “legitimate form of work” as the nature of work changes in part due to displacement by machines.

“Gaming as an interface to work is going to become a lot more important,” said Raskino, who was most recently a director of engineering at Microsoft.

Raskino added that the line between gaming and entertainment is becoming more and more blurred. People want to watch a game as much as they want want to play a game he noted.

“This idea of an ‘automated Netflix’ with some ability to interact with the thing is going to become more common,” Raskino said. “We are creating something in that vein, where the characters are developing their own storylines and there’s a procedural storytelling narrative that goes along with it.”

Investors: Silicon Valley firm Andreessen Horowitz led the company’s seed round in November. Andreessen has funded at least 50 crypto startups as part of a huge bet on the emerging sector, and The Financial Times reported today that the firm is looking to raise $4.5 billion for new crypto investments.

Other backers include Chainsmokers Mantis VC, a venture fund led by music band Chainsmokers, as well as Seattle firms Unlock Venture Partners and Keen Crypto, a new crypto-focused fund founded by tech vet Andy Sack. Advancit Capital, which has backed MasterClass, Headspace, and The Athletic, also invested.

Read More