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Flowstate Games has raised $2 million and announced its first Web3 arcade game, a car combat game dubbed Smash Stars: Thunderdome.
The Helsinki-based company has been working for a couple of years, and it adjusted its strategy to incorporate its Web3 strategy, starting on Smash Stars: Thunderdome in the spring, said CEO Edvard Groundstroem, in an interview with GamesBeat.
The idea was to develop an arcade full of free-to-play games that prioritized having fun. Groundstroem showed me a demo of the first game, which is a car brawler game where cars maneuver on a Smash Bros.-style 2D arena to get the drop on their enemies with a car-mounted cannon.
Smash Stars: Thunderdome is now gearing up for an alpha test launch in the first quarter of 2023. The car brawler features fast-paced multiplayer gameplay that accessible to anyone from beginners to experts, but it can require a high level of mastery at the most competitive level, Groundstroem said. It’s a physics-based game where understanding gravity’s effects is important.
The game also has wide array of fun vehicles; expressive collectibles, skins, emotes, action figures and more. That’s where the NFTs come in. You can purchase vehicles as NFTs, or put attachments on the car to make it more capable. And you will be able to trade these items on a secondary market.
“Our long-term vision is to create a cross-platform arcade, packed with fun, approachable
multiplayer games, powered by interoperable NFT content, and wrapped in social features that
empower our players to create their own experiences and content,” said Groundstroem.
The Web3 element comes in with player ownership of assets, as Flowstate uses the immutable digital ledger of the blockchain to authenticate ownership of digital items such as cars and accessories. You can play the game without spending money, or you can customize your car and accessories via non-fungible tokens (NFTs).
“When we decided to look into what we could bring to the table in Web3, we noticed that there weren’t a lot of games that were focused on moment-to-moment gameplay and fun, like instant fun,” Groundstroem said. “That’s something that both strikes a chord with our team but also is something where we saw a clear market opening as well. So we started looking at the kind of games that we’ve enjoyed throughout the years and the kinds of games that we’ve played.”
To implement the Web3 tech, Flowstate Games partnered with Immutable X, a game-focused Layer 2 non-fungible token (NFT) scaling solution on Ethereum.
Play Ventures Future Fund led the $2 million pre-seed round, with participation from Elite Game Developers founder Joakim Achrén and his syndicate of angel investors. Equilibrium, builder of core Web3 infrastructure, also participated.
Groundstroem is the latest mobile gaming veteran to move in to Web3. He has over a decade of
experience in casual mobile gaming, and the Flowstate team has a track record of working on
highly accessible and massively popular mobile arcade game titles including Angry Birds 2 and
“We’re a fun-first studio — great games are our priority and our mission is to bring approachable games to web3,” said Groundstroem. “This means making our games accessible to anyone, instantly playable for free, and in evergreen arcade genres.”
Web3 has been controversial among game developers, as many decry it for being full of scam artists and monetization-focused games that aren’t fun. But Groundstroem said Web3 helps the team take its principles of fun and accessibility to another level.
“Our players can not just buy items as NFTs, they’ll also be able to play to get them for free. Our players will have agency in what they do with those items because they own them,” he said.
The company said that Immutable X has addressed issues that have plagued early Web3 adopters, such as security, gas fees, carbon neutrality and scaling NFT trading.
Anton Backman, principal at Play Ventures, said in a statement, “We’re very excited to back the Flowstate
team in their stride to build category-defining games powered by the open primitives of Web3. Arcade remains among the most downloaded genres on mobile and we’re excited to see how player-driven economies can elevate their “fun factor”. Founding teams like Flowstate, with strong and speedy game development experience, combined with ever-increasing curiosity in new technologies, are among the best bets to build games in this budding space.”
I played the game on the web via Chrome on my desktop. I used the A and D keys on my keyboard to maneuver the car one direction or the other on circular 2D track. On mobile, the touch controls will be quite easy as well.
If you go fast enough, you can make a full 360 degrees loop on the track, but if you go to slow, gravity will take effect and the car will drop to the bottom, possibly landing on the rival. If you land on your head, you take damage. The game used WebGL for its grapihcs.
You can use the space bar to jump, and the gun fires automatically. If the gun shoots the head of the avatar of the other car, the enemy takes damage. I fought against Groundstroem, who was in an ice cream truck.
“We [are experimenting] also with both weapons that you manually shoot with or these auto-fire weapons,” Groundstroem said. “For the demo we will release soon we are focusing on auto-fire weapons to ease early onboarding.”
Overcoming NFT opposition
The company is aware a lot of gamers and game developers don’t like Web3. Groundstroem noted that the company isn’t targeting the hardcore gamers who are staunchly against blockchain games. Rather, it’s focused on the web and mobile gamers who are more receptive to experimentation with new kinds of models.
“At the moment, a lot of games in the first generation of blockchain games require you to potentially spend hundreds of dollars upfront before you ever got to try out the game itself,” he said. “We think we really need as an industry to show that there is utility for these items. But there’s a reason why we believe that play-to-own items will make the entire experience more engaging, while having free-to-play players being able to play for free also matters.”
The company doesn’t plan to issue its own cryptocurrency token, as it is focused on the game. He said that too often months pass before NFTs that are sold can be used in games, and the enthusiasm can dwindle in that time. So the company wants to move fast from announcing the project, building the community, and letting players get their hands on the product.
He added, “We focused on this basic idea of a core experience that is familiar to us with vehicles and physics.”
The company is looking at these games as part of an arcade. The Web3 interoperability of NFTs will enable the company to think about having multiple gamers in a universe with interchangeable items.
“We’re definitely looking past this product at a long-term strategy,” he said. “It’s more about showing all kinds of players the use cases for Web3 and NFTs.”