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A $32 million seed round for Chris DeWolfe’s next gaming biz defies 2023 trends – TechCrunch

A $32 million seed round may seem like a throwback to lighter times like. . .2021. But that’s how much PLAI Good just raised in a deal led by Andreessen Horowitz (a16z).

It’s a lot of moolah in a volatile market, even coming from two separate a16z funds: the company’s $600 million debut gaming vehicle and its $4.5 billion crypto fund, both of which were announced last May.

On the other hand, PLAI Labs ticks all the boxes on VCs’ wish lists.

First and foremost, the LA-based outfit was founded by veteran tech entrepreneurs Chris DeWolfe and Aber Whitcomb. The pair previously co-founded the once-popular social media platform MySpace (which originally sold to MySpace for $580 million in 2005) and mobile game studio Jam City.

The latter remains privately owned, but after scrapping plans to go public through a dedicated acquisition company, it managed to snag $350 million in 2021 funding from Netmarble, Kabam and affiliated funds managed by Fortress Investment Group, suggesting that things are going just fine. (Indeed, Jam City, which claims to have 30 million monthly active users, announced this morning that a third co-founder, Josh Yguado, is now run the show after previously serving as COO and president of the company.)

PLAI (pronounced /plā/) is not only launched by seasoned founders, but also apparently weaves every buzzy trend into one offering, describe its own mission to “harness web3 and generative AI technology to deliver the ultimate online social experience.”

cryptocurrency? Check. Generative AI? Check. A new social platform? Where do I write the check, the a16z team must have wondered.

For what it’s worth, PLAI’s initial offering sounds compelling. We’ll talk to DeWolfe for more details in the next few days, but in a blog postthe team at a16z describes that project, “Champions Ascension,” as a “massively multiplayer online role-playing game where players can transfer their existing non-fungible token (NFTs) characters, go on quests, trade items, fight in the Colosseum, their own custom dungeons, and more.”

PLAI, the post continues, is also “building an AI protocol platform,” one that aims to help users generate their own content and assets using generative art protocols the outfit says it developed.

Again, more details to come.

Meanwhile, the bet is the last of investor Andrew Chen, who currently runs the betting practice at Andreessen Horowitz. Just two days ago, Carry1st, a publisher of social games and interactive content across Africa, said it had raised $27 million in “pre-Series B” funding from investors including a16z.

Andreessen Horowitz also recently led one $8 million round in Gym Class, a VR-based basketball app that went through the famous accelerator Y Combinator.

In the fall of 2021, before a16z gaming practice existed, the crypto team bet big on another NFT game, “Axie Infinity”, which invites users to “play to earn” crypto tokens that allow them to create and play with characters called “Axes.” While the game was big and growing at the time of that investment, the Ronin blockchain on which “Axie Infinity” is based was hacked last July and $620 million worth of crypto was stolen.

The company, which is still trying to get money back from usersreopened for business soon after.

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