Meet Moonfrost maker Oxalis Games, Supercell’s first web3 investment

 

You’ve probably read about a new studio making a crypto game funded by a bunch of VCs and Animoca Brands before.

But one name in Oxalis Games’ list of investors caught the eye when it announced its $4.5m seed round earlier this week: Supercell.

Increasingly, the Finnish giant is acting like a VC itself, having invested in a multitude of partner studios, and just last week it took majority stake in Love and Pies maker Trailmix.

The Oxalis investment is a first for the Clash of Clans maker – or the first to be made public, at least: a toe in the waters of crypto gaming, with a new studio making a Stardew Valley-inspired game with web3 elements. 

Oxalis co-founders Ric Moore and Gina Nelson worked together at The Secret Police, which made Stardew Valley’s mobile edition plus battle RPG Dragon’s Watch. Moore was also co-founder of Bossa Studios, and Nelson was most recently an art lead at Mediatonic on Gears Pop. 

The duo founded the studio in August of 2020, and after pitching a licensed game that didn’t work out, decided they could make a crypto game that was much better than the games out there at the moment. 

Oxalis co-founders Ric Moore and Gina Nelson.

“The games were always pretty horrible and didn’t interest me at all,” says Moore. “So our kind of original pitch was along the lines of: ‘we’re going to build the stardew metaverse.’” 

“And so yeah, we put together a deck and then it was just Gina and me pitching it. And we had about 30 million in offers on the table from all these various investors and we had to whittle it down to a more reasonable size so we didn’t get too diluted.”

Blocore, a giant Korean VC firm, led the round and “made us an offer almost straight away,” says Moore. There’s potentially a second funding round coming, too.

But let’s get to the Supercell bit. It turns out the Finnish firm already had a loose relationship with Oxalis’ co-founders, from their work on Secret Police game Dragon’s Watch. 

“When we were at The Secret Police, they actually flew us over to Helsinki to pitch the game to them,” Moore explains. “They passed on it, but we got to know them a little bit. And then we just got wind that they were exploring things, and one of our angels Juha [Paananen] is the brother of Ilkka [Paananen], who said they were looking into things like this. So I just I reached out, we had a call, and yeah, they liked the pitch so that’s how we got them involved.”

The game itself, Moonfrost, is pitched somewhere between Stardew Valley and Animal Crossing, but with cooperative elements and questing, plus collectible items purchasable as NFTs for players who are really into it.

The Moonfrost team isn’t shy about its main inspiration, Stardew Valley.

Moore insists that the crypto side of the game won’t get in the way for the majority of players who just want to have fun with it for free. 

“We’re hoping that the end result is something that won’t feel like a free to play game despite being free, because it’s not going to be designed to try and nag people into spending,” says Moore.

Indeed, Moore goes onto say that the crypto element of the game will be barely noticeable for most players. “Just like current games, or any free to play or premium games, people can just play, get items in the game, people can make purchases at the click of a button – that’s how crypto games should be. The fact that it’s, you know, on Solana, or Polygon or whatever, should be irrelevant.”

In the last six months, Moore and Nelson have hired around 15 people to build Moonfrost, and there are a few more folks incoming from other studios who are currently working out their notice, says Moore. 

“We wanted to hire very experienced game developers, people who have worked for reputable studios,” he tells us, adding that the core team is drawn from studios like Epic, Naturalmotion and Sumo. Oxalis is also entirely remote, with most staff based in the UK but a few folks dotted around Europe and elsewhere.

And they’re quick workers, it seems: Moore says that Moonfrost was only started in earnest earlier this year, but a 1.0 could be ready for release late 2023.