After an initial NFT sale a year ago and then a $4.5 million fundraiser from high-profile investors, American startup (but based in France) Rumble League Studios is closing in on its goal. Its CEO Markus Blesche (ex-The Sandbox) answers JDN.
Marcus Blasch, CEO of Rumble League Studios. © RLS
JDN. Almost a year ago, in October 2021, Rumble League Studio partnered with video game studio iLogos (developer of Angry Birds 2) to create Rumble Kong League, a blockchain and NFT-based basketball game. Where are you ?
Marcus Blashe. We are at a very advanced stage as we have a playable version for internal use. At the same time, we have converted all existing avatars to 2D to make them available in 3D. We are in talks with several Layer-2 (blockchain subnets) that will likely host the game, but we don’t have to make a decision right now. Many of the elements will be on the blockchain, the 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, the game version will be available to everyone, first on the web and then transferred to mobile devices.
You originally scheduled the first release for the beginning of this calendar year. How do you explain this delay?
Perhaps we could already live with a minimalistic 2D or a very simple animated version, but we wanted a high-quality, aesthetic and enjoyable production to play. We also have a very close relationship with our development studio, part of which is located in Ukraine. This is also a situation that we had to deal with for six months. Thankfully, iLogos has done a great job of keeping their team safe. So there were delays. I hope there won’t be any more. However, after 14 years in the video game industry, I also know that such obstacles are impossible to predict.
Last December, you raised $4.5 million from Web3 figures such as JDS Crypto, Sebastien Borge (CEO of The Sandbox) and Animoca Brands, as well as basketball player Paul George and US agency CAA Sports. What impact did this have on the project?
Initially, we didn’t want to go into fundraising, but changed our minds because of the strategic value that each of our partners could bring to us. With all the organizations you mentioned, we have a good mix of sports, gaming and Web3 players. For example, basketball players Paul George and Stephen Curry are helping us a lot as representatives of the game, and CAA is helping us educate traditional brands on Web3. This is expressed, for example, in the partnership we just announced: Gatorade. We will be their first partner in this sector. It makes sense to them, and it’s not just a way to ride the wave, but to create something of value for the brand and the community.
“Through fundraising, we enrolled over thirty people in ten months”
Obviously this fundraiser creates more pressure, but it’s welcome because we still want to make our project a reality. We are very pleased with our decision, because even if it goes against the culture of the sector, where we should be in complete autonomy without these big companies, we must recognize the reality and the doors they open, without which it would be very difficult. Through fundraising, we were able to expand the team to continue working on quality. In ten months, we hired more than thirty people, including a product director with experience in the mobile market and numerous employees from the video game industry, in particular from Ubisoft.
How do you balance the expectations of these partners with the decentralized Web3 culture driven by the community that bought NFT game avatars a year ago?
We are trying to get our community involved as much as possible, as you can see on Twitter: for example, this week we asked our NFT holders if they are happy with the size of the basketball courts. Decentralization of some decisions is part of the adventure, even if everything related to the heart of the game and its development is left to be decided internally. Really the goal is to create something fun with the community so that even if you’re not into NFT or Web3, you still have a fun basketball game in your hands.
Legislation has undergone huge changes during the year, especially in Europe with the adoption of the MiCa and TFR texts. How are you adapting to this new reality?
Teaser of the lands of the game Rumble Kong League. © RLS
Initially, we had in mind an algorithmic game close to gambling. However, we quickly noticed that the Web3 sector was getting more attention and more regulation, especially in regards to gambling. Therefore, in order to make the game accessible to everyone, we have made the choice in favor of changes so that everything is under the control of the player. Regulation largely depends on the country in which the owner of the wallet resides. It’s really individual: there are countries that are crypto-friendly and others that are much less so. Historically, there have been many gray areas around cryptocurrencies, NFT trading, and taxation. The further we go, the more texts and advisers for us. For this reason, we will undoubtedly have to deal with KYC procedures, we are aware of this. Our goal is to be flawless: not to be a source of problems on a legal level, while creating the best approach in terms of playfulness and ergonomics.
“We have postponed the release of our marketplace due to the bear market”
Beyond the game, Rumble League Studios’ goal is to build an ecosystem: last February, for example, you announced your own NFT marketplace. How 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 collection of NFTs, Rookies, which was originally planned a bit later. We also delayed the release of our token, and this is more in line with the release of the game. Other things in the future: Kongcubator is a fund that we initiated with Penny Jar (an investment company founded by basketball player Stephen Curry, editor’s note), and the result will be a show similar to on the Shark Tank show in the Web3 version. The jury will include members of the community Rumble Kong, Penny Jar, athletes. We have already received several applications: for example, podcasts, video projects, creative, as well as the development of API integration. The first jury meeting will be held soon, and we should release the 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, is around €800, up from over €15,000 at its peak in December. Are you worried about this prospect?
It is not only the NFT market that suffers: when we look at inflation, real estate, we see a very complex overall situation. As for the bear market, some of the team has been working since 2014, this is not our first rodeo, so we are not worried. On the contrary, we are quite confident in the popularity and standardization of the sector in the future. We have enough capital to continue our journey, and although fundraising is not in the news, we continue to receive very interesting proposals in this direction, which we obviously appreciate.