The metaverse and Web3 aren’t going to build themselves. That’s why Firefly Games CEO Michael Zhang decided to pivot into the new space from mobile games and start a new studio called MetaWorld Entertainment.
Earlier this summer, MetaWorld Entertainment raised a few million dollars in seed funding from The Sandbox, Com2uS, Crit Ventures, and Formless Capital.
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While Firefly will focus on Web2 games such as mobile games, Zhang has moved to become CEO of MetaWorld Entertainment. Last Friday, The Sandbox and Atari announced that MetaWorld Entertainment had remade Crystal Castles, a classic Atari game that is one of nine that will be introduced with Atari’s new experience inside The Sandbox metaverse.
“We’re providing high-quality content on top of the metaverse platforms,” said Zhang, in an interview with GamesBeat. “We want to be part of it and want to provide the highest-quality content.”
The key partners in this new metaverse company include The Sandbox, a decentralized virtual gaming world and subsidiary of Animoca Brands, and Com2uS, a global multi-content platform leading the way in the blockchain gaming space.
Over the years at Firefly Games, Zhang’s company made games such as DreamWorks’ Universe of Legends, Skydance’s Terminator: Dark Fate, and MGA Entertainment’s match-three mobile game LoL Surprise! Room Maker.
At first, Zhang, a 15-year game veteran, was skeptical about the poor quality of blockchain games. As the industry progressed, Zhang began thinking about MetaWorld Entertainment’s formation in 2020. He got more serious last year, when he was listening to me (of all people) talk about the metaverse on Clubhouse. The concept of the metaverse was new to him, and he started examining blockchain at the same time. The more he the concepts behind the ideas, the more he excited he got. He decided that Web3 and the metaverse were becoming pivotal in the digital age. And so he raised a new round of funding.
Zhang sees the metaverse as the venue for entertainment where audiences will play, engage, and interact with new levels of immersion, unlike anything we have seen before. When he first tried, it took him a couple of days to create a cryptocurrency wallet. Now it can be done in five seconds, he said.
Rather than make its own titles, MetaWorld Entertainment will start out by making content for others, like with the Atari/The Sandbox project. He said MetaWorld Entertainment will be an all-encompassing entertainment company, bringing concerts, events, and games to the global market through metaverse platforms, including The Sandbox.
“Everything started from you. The first time when I heard metaverse was in March 2020, right before the pandemic, when you (and Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney) started to mention it,” Zhang said. “I started to learn and then I started talking to The Sandbox. They hired us to do a theme park project. They all feel like this is the right time.”
Zhang noted that a lot of companies in the metaverse and blockchain space are providing technology infrastructure. But he didn’t see studios that were making high-quality content that could keep fans engaged for a long time with online virtual spaces.
“We are creating high-quality games, DJ concert experiences, celebrity content, and we’re partnering with other companies on their platforms,” Zhang said.
There are about a dozen people from Firefly who are now working on content at MetaWorld Entertainment in Los Angeles. And Zhang is hiring additional senior people, while Firefly has under 10 people still.
Over time, Zhang will share more about the roadmap, including the company’s first Web3 game and which blockchain partner it will support. No one seems perfect on that front yet. He is excited about providing fun content for Kpo fans and others who engage with celebrities.
He noted that MetaWorld Entertainment is just a game company. It is focused on the broader idea of entertainment. Zhang is talking to some big brands about doing games and metaverse work for them.
MetaWorld will serve as both a developer and publisher of multiple experiences and games, empowering audiences around the world to interact with the metaverse like never before. MetaWorld will maximize the immersive experience using the support of key partners such as Agora and their real-time audio technology.
MetaWorld will also utilize the Web2 game publishing experience of its partners to target a massive gaming audience while using the “play-and-earn” model that offers high-quality and engaging games through which players can also earn virtual currencies. By combining and utilizing its unique gaming resources, platform advantages, and business cooperation in technology and entertainment, MetaWorld plans to bring brand-new play-and-earn entertainment experiences to the Web3 era to drive broader adoption. Sebastien Borget, COO of The Sandbox, and Com2uS president Kyu Lee are optimistic about Zhang’s company and his team’s experience as builders.
Zhang acknowledges gamers have to overcome their objects to blockchain games, and he thinks that will happen when the games become more fun and the onboarding process for Web3 becomes even easier.
“We try to remove the entry barrier to the general public and encourage more people to play first and later on the if they feel like it, they can trade things like non-fungible tokens (NFTs) as well,” Zhang said. “We want to use some of our experience from Web2 games as we move to Web3.”