Rockstar and Rovio veterans Black Block are making The Sprawl, a GTA-inspired web3 game


The Sprawl is a new GTA-like web3 game being built by Helsinki-based former Rockstar and Rovio veterans Black Block.

The studio describes the title as a “vast and bustling web3 sandbox city where players can live their best life, and achieve the American Dream.”

Black Block has raised $1.5m from Play Ventures, which led the round, plus Joakim Achrén’s angel syndicate, Brilliant Problems and Business Finland.

The Sprawl is pitched as an immersive sandbox game with ownership/web3 elements.

CEO Robin Squire is a former director of consumer engagement and marketing at Rovio and its publishing label Rovio Stars. Prior to co-founding Black Block he was marketing and bizdev director at PlayRaven, which was acquired by Rovio in 2018.

Black Block CPO Paul Kurowski was lead artist at Rockstar North during the development and release of GTAIII, Vice City and San Andreas. Since then he has served as writer at Realtime Worlds, development director at Spicy Horse, creative director at Crytek and game lead at PlayRaven. CTO Stanislav Semakin was backend developer at PlayRaven before it got acquired, and advisor and company chairman Matthew Wilson is an investor and former Rovio bizdev director.

Black Block, from left to right: Stanislav Semakin, Paul Kurowski, Robin Squire, Matthew Wilson.

“The Sprawl is PC-first but we definitely have ambitions for mobile,” CEO Squire told us. “We view cross-platform as an opportunity to bring different entry points into the same shared, persistent open world. So your experience on PC will be different to your experience on mobile, but you’ll still be interacting with the same community. And still be participating as a citizen – just from a different vantage point.”

“Our goal with The Sprawl is to utilize web3 technology to put the community at heart of the experience,” he continued. “With a dynamic job economy, players can contribute to an online society of real people by living their childhood dreams of becoming a police officer, a firefighter or a number of different careers available.”

Black Block says players of The Sprawl will have a say in how the city operates.

The idea with the blockchain element is that players in The Sprawl can own and trade in-game items like vehicles, homes, furniture and more. The game will be run by a DAO which means players can potentially govern the city and its economic and political landscape.

Founding partner of Play Ventures Harri Manninen said of the raise: “We’re glad to join Black Block’s seasoned founders on their mission of creating an open world gaming experience that is first and foremost fun, and turbocharged with true player ownership, economic exchange, and alignment of incentives between developers and players.”

“We’re bullish on web3 gaming in the long-term and believe players deserve more from their web3 gaming experiences,” he added. “The Sprawl promises to deliver on all fronts, and we’ve great confidence in the Black Block team.”

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