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TenthPlanet, a game studio started by former TikTok gaming leaders, plans to launch some ambitious blockchain games.
The company is working on some ambitious games including Mech Angel, a massively multiplayer online role-playing game inspired by Genshin Impact, and a digital cat metaverse dubbed Alien Meow.
The studio was started by William Wei Chen, a former game development leader for TikTok, and his colleague Kevin Yeung. He started Mokun Technology and sold it in 2019 to Bytedance, owner of TikTok, for more than $250 million. His company’s games have generated more than $600 million to date. Chen’s role was head of production.
Chen took the money and started TenthPlanet to make a series of new games to take advantage of Web3 technology, which uses the blockchain to authenticate unique digital items. TenthPlanet has more than 100 game developers working on Unreal Engine and Unity titles with triple-A production values, Yeung said in an interview with GamesBeat.
“We’ve been building mobile games for the past 10 years,” Yeung said. “Our goal is to make games that last for a decade. We are positioning ourselves as digital nation builders, digital world builders.”
Chen’s former team at Mokun Technology was responsible for creating One Piece, which launched in April 2021 and generated more than $200 million in revenues for TikTok. The rest of TenthPlanet’s executive team and advisers have worked at Final Fantasy, Forbes, Solana, Tencent Gaming, NHN, and Hashed.
All told, Chen’s 10 games have generated more than 200 million users, and he managed more than 1,500 game developers. Yeung formerly worked at Morgan Stanley and has made various venture capital investments.
While the founders are from Hong Kong, TenthPlanet is a virtual production house built for “new game economies driven by digital ownership, with deep comprehension of blockchain community engagement,” Yeung said. Most of the team is in Shanghai.
“We believe in free trade of virtual assets, decentralized governing of online communities, and true digital
possession,” Yeung said. “To build and realize this gaming future, we have gathered a best-in-class production team, with proven track records in gaming/blockchain/VC, with M&A and secondary exits.”
The self-funded titles include Mech Angel, a Unity-based MMORPG game coming to both mobile and PC platforms. The mobile titles have completed beta demos, and the team hopes they will have hundreds of hours of gameplay by the time it launches, Yeung said.
The animated world is similar to Genshin Impact’s anime style, and it features young women fighting Japanese-style mech robots. The company has invested more than $6.5 million in the game so far. The game has player-versus-environment shooting gameplay and is friendly for onboarding new players, Yeung said. And it will have player-versus-player gameplay as well.
Mech Angel had playable demos debut already on Android and iOS this year. The company is completing a funding round for those titles and is developing in-game wallets, an NFT marketplace, virtual assets, and more in the second half of the year. The company will develop a PC version demo for the fourth quarter and launch the PC beta in the first quarter of 2023.
“We’re very close to finishing that game and we’re very excited,” Yeung said. “We have hundreds of playing hours now. As we saw with Genshin Impact outside of Asia, animation is kind of taking over the world now. You see how much of Netflix’s volume comes from its animation genre.”
Alien Mews is a digital cat life simulation metaverse. It’s a digital cat breeding and nurturing world being built with Epic Games’ Unreal Engine 5. It’s a virtual pet game that allows gamers to try to generate in-game value from breeding, much like CryptoKitties. The company has poured about $2.5 million into the game so far, Yeung said.
They describe it as a vast, open playground that could be home to any kind of pet in the galaxy, where players can collect, breed, upgrade, train, tame, and enter competitive mini-games with their new furry
companions in the most fun and rewarding metaverse experience ever where Nintendog meets Pokémon.
Each cat is highly detailed and has as many as 500,000 strands of hair. Alien Meow is expected to have a video demo in the third quarter and a playable demo in the fourth quarter. The aim is to launch a beta version of the cat metaverse in the first quarter of 2023 with multiple mini-games.
Building out the team
Yeung said the company has begun raising funding from external game companies. He believes it will go well because the team has a history of making hit games, including One Piece, Fighter of Destiny, Three Kingdom, Project Ragnarok, and Heroes of Storm. Most of these were hits in China.
Other executives include Tony He, head of technology, and Vanessa Tso, the blockchain lead.
Advisers include Yoshihisa Hashimoto, technical director and producer on Final Fantasy; Jeff Yam of Forbes; Neo Liu, head of Tencent Gaming in the U.S.; Alex Shin, founding member of Hashed; Paul Walborsky, founder of AI Reverie; and Kit Low, formerly of Goldman Sachs.
The company is focusing on blockchain because it felt that the needs of mobile users were not served in the past decade when it came to trading in-game assets. Such trading was “very inefficient and non-transparent,” Yeung said.
“If you went back a decade, people would meet physically offline to trade usernames and passwords with each other and trade in cash,” Yeung said.
Now blockchain tech will enable players to trade seamlessly with transparency, he said.
“It’s changing a pure entertainment experience into an entertaining and economic experience,” Chen said. “Gamers have put so much time and financial investment into a game and it is a one-side spending experience,” Chen said. “We cannot do it alone. But we are very encouraged by what happened over the past 18 months. We think there will be a lot of partners that we can grow together.”
Chen added, “With or without blockchain, it has an economy of its own. And blockchain just provides a seamless platform for us to make that happen finally. The second point is we are very experienced in open worlds, as you can see from some of the videos of One Piece game that we created. Some of the One Piece virtual assets were very popular among users to buy. So we’re excited about a seamless and transparent economic platform that we can finally create with blockchain in the future.”
He is aware that gamers in the West have expressed their opposition to blockchain technology in games, as they’re concerned about over-monetization or scams. But Chen said there will be a big difference between Web2 gamers and Web3 gamers. Not everything in the game will involve non-fungible tokens, or NFTs.
“It goes back to the core idea of whether a game is an entertaining experience,” he said. “Our job is to let you enjoy your screen-time dollars. Gamers won’t have to think about the blockchain when they play our game. It will be like any entertaining experience for normal gamers.”
He added, “And if they want the blockchain, they can claim the wallet, and then they can begin trading the NFTs, the virtual assets, the virtual land, and upgrade their weapon path acceleration.”