You may not know of the team at Gardens, but judging by the response to their recent round of funding, this is a name that is going to be heading right to the top of the gaming world.
Founded by developers previously behind the likes of Journey, of What Remains of Edith Finch, Dustforce, Outer Wilds and more, Gardens is a team that is looking to build the social side of gaming. They aim to create online spaces in which players can create long-lasting relationships, transforming the world and their communities.
The funding of Gardens is well underway
They are starting that ambitous journey via Series A funding, having picked up no less than $31.3M from a range of sources. That support has come in via some seriously big guns too. Bandai Namco, Blizzard, TikTok, Sony, Microsoft and more are all mentioned.
Lightspeed Venture Partners and Krafton co-led the round with participation from Dreamhaven (co-founded by Mike Morhaime, founder and long-time CEO of Blizzard Entertainment), TIRTA, Rendered VC, Stephen “Slim” Lim (co-creator of Valorant), Nate Mitchell (co-founder of Oculus), Annie and Jeff Strain (co-founders of Prytania Media, co-creator of Guild Wars and State of
Decay), Seth Sivak (VP of Development of World of Warcraft), V Pappas (former COO of TikTok), Julien Merceron (CTO of Bandai Namco) and Craig Kallman (CEO of Atlantic Records), among others. Early supporters, including Seed round lead Transcend Fund and Funplus, also increased their commitments.
With this funding, the company also adds former Microsoft Chairman John W. Thompson, former Sony Computer Entertainment America President and CEO Jack Tretton, former Tencent President and Take-Two CEO Ben Feder, and Yamauchi No.10 (Nintendo Family) to its advisory team.
A super positive response
Gardens co-founder and CTO Lexie Dostal was heartened by the positive reception:
“It’s both inspiring and validating to see so much excitement around our vision for this game and studio, especially from these incredibly accomplished investors and partners. Folks with deep ties to Blizzard, Nintendo, Microsoft, Sony, PUBG, Riot Games, Tencent, and more are all coming together around Gardens; we couldn’t be more excited for the party we’ve assembled and the next chapter of our adventure together,” said Dostal.
An online fantasy adventure awaits
Gardens co-founder and game director Chris Bell confirmed the studio’s upcoming game will be an ever-evolving online PvPvE fantasy adventure sandbox ARPG:
“It’s a game inspired by our favorite memories playing online RPGs, MMOs, and fantasy action-adventure games over the years, memories of crossing paths with strangers,” said Bell. “The game builds upon multiplayer ideas and lessons from previous titles I
helped design like Journey, Sky, and even my student game Way, while bringing players into a higher stakes, shapeshifting fantasy wilderness where cooperation is key, yet betrayal is still possible. We’re including novel cooperative gameplay that rewards
players who help each other, which can encourage friendship and dialogue with PvP and conflict in interesting and subversive ways. We’re growing the world we want to play in every day, a world designed to offer new experiences every time you play, growing and evolving for years to come. Thanks to our amazing new partners and this latest round of funding, we can continue crafting the best game possible while growing and supporting our incredible team.”
A playable prototype?
To kick off the fundraising round, Gardens presented a playable prototype behind closed doors at GDC 2023, receiving exceptional reviews from financial and strategic investors, platforms, and publishers:
“Gardens’ demo is innovative and, above all, joyful. The gorgeous fantasy wilderness is filled with other adventurers, magical creatures, and a charming landscape to explore. The multiplayer co-op elements emphasize tactile interactions between players as they collaborate to navigate the world, solve puzzles and awaken dormant magic, like riding atop a friend’s shoulders to fetch fruit from a tree, leaping across a chasm into the arms of a stranger, tugging armor off a giant monster together, or joining forces to cast a magic spell. It’s amazing to see what the team has accomplished in such a short time. We see a ton of potential for this ambitious project and can’t wait for players to one day experience it for themselves.,” said Maria Park, Vice President and Head of Corporate Development at Krafton, who is joining Gardens’ board of directors.
Innovation in design
Investors noted that there is no comparison for Gardens’ combination of indie-like design innovation, creativity, and playfulness on the one hand, and global ambition and commercial focus on the other.
“Gardens truly stands out in contrast to the hundreds of VC-backed game studios that have emerged out of Riot Games, Blizzard, and Epic Games over the past few years,” said Moritz Baier-Lentz, Partner and Head of Gaming at Lightspeed Venture Partners,
who is joining Gardens’ board of directors. “Having led investments of over $100 million dollars in the gaming industry to date, Gardens manages to feel magically different from anything I’ve seen. I’m convinced we’re in the early days of something very special, and we couldn’t be more excited to put Lightspeed’s collective dedication and resources behind making Gardens a masterpiece of global success.”
What game are Gardens creating?
Expect to hear more from the Gardens team as they ramp up their development efforts over the next year or so. Promising to deliver indie creativity with AAA ambitions, the online PvPvE fantasy adventure sandbox ARPG that is on the cards, should well be one to check out.
We’ll keep you posted.