Barnyard Games is a team of veterans who have raised $3.4 million to venture into the brave new world of making games for Fortnite.
The Encinitas, California-based company is making a title called Mega Golf Fun Zone. Menlo Ventures led the round, with participation from BetaWorks, Alumni Ventures, Charge VC, and key strategic angels Eden Chen and Nate Mitchell.
Barnyard Games boasts a highly experienced team composed of industry veterans Matthew Armstrong, the co-creator of Borderlands; John Blakely, who has worked with Sony Online and Zynga; Mark Cieslar, who has also worked with Sony Online and Daybreak Studios; and Chris Sturr, who has contributed to THQ and Sony Online.
Together, this talent will leverage their extensive expertise to create innovative, engaging, and high-quality social game experiences, starting with their initial project on the Unreal Engine Fortnite (UEFN) platform.
Mega Golf Fun Zone will be a nine-hole golf adventure and Game Zone where players can compete in arcade-styled mini-games. Notably, Mega Golf Fun Zone marks the debut of the company in the user-generated content (UGC) world. Players can catch a glimpse of the game in action on the Barnyard Games – Fortnite channel.
Community engagement is a top priority for Barnyard Games. The company has established a dedicated Discord server, providing players with a platform to engage in a constructive dialogue with the development team. This approach allows players to influence, shape, and improve games over time, fostering a strong sense of community and collaboration. Players can join the conversation by visiting the Discord server.
John Blakely, CEO of Barnyard Games, said in a statement that there is a lot of enthusiasm for the untapped potential offered by the UEFN platform, describing it as an unexplored landscape that allows for experimentation to give players a role in shaping their virtual worlds.
Blakely stated, “We’re excited to see how gamers resonate with Barnyard’s fun and quirky style of game-making, and we’ll continue to iterate with our players as we learn more about what delivers uniquely amusing game experiences and cultivates strong social connections.”
In addition to Mega Golf Fun Zone, Barnyard Games has already released four unique UEFN game experiences, including Driftboard Gun Game (Island Code: 1468-5105-6162), Launchapalooza (Island Code: 2545-1770-9151), Taco Time (Island Code: 8396-4010-0684), and Volcanic Rails (Island Code: 4453-0668-2549).
Menlo Ventures’ latest partner
Barnyard Games’ partnership with Menlo Ventures marks the first gaming investment for partner Amy Wu, who was hired in June to strengthen the firm’s consumer technology and gaming practice. Wu was previously head of games at FTX before that blew up into a big scandal. Wu, a former game-focused partner at Lightspeed Venture Partners, left FTX after nine months and then took six months off to clear her head. Then she started anew at Menlo Ventures. She expressed her confidence in Barnyard Games’ potential for success in the ever-expanding gaming market.
The Barnyard deal is Wu’s first deal at Menlo Ventures. While she invested in blockchain games in the past, she is now looking for a real product-market fit that can work at scale. She hasn’t written the whole space off but will have a different focus.
At Lightspeed, she backed a dozen game studios in different stages across mobile and triple-A games.
“We will take a harder look at what will allow a young startup game studio to break through the noise,” she said. The focus will be on investing early in studios strong expertise and a unique take on an existing genre or platform.
She noted that it has been a banner year for new games this year, but almost all the hits are major franchises. With platforms like UEFN, startups have a chance to differentiate themselves with original intellectual properties. Track record will be important.
“Barnyard has a very experienced team going after a new platform,” she said. “I think that was what made this that’s so exciting for us.”
She said Menlo Ventures is focused on investing early in seed rounds and Series A investments. Series A rounds may be anywhere from $3 million to $20 million. The focus will be on a few investments a year, a slower pace than usual. Menlo Ventures is looking at tools for AI that will make asset creation faster. But the firm hasn’t found an investment there yet.
While consumers and creators have embraced AI, game developers and artists have been more reluctant, she said, as there are questions around IP rights that have to be worked out. Still, AI tools will likely accelerate content creation. They key for an AI and games startup is to produce tools that are better than open source or proprietary company solutions.
Wu said the metaverse concept has fallen out of favor because Web3 advocates may have overused it. But she believes that people will be spending more of their social time online in compelling gaming solutions.
“I just think people don’t want to necessarily call that the metaverse right now, for all the implications,” Wu said.
She also thinks entrepreneurs are excited about XR tech with the impending launch of the Apple Vision Pro in 2024. Wu said that game companies will continue to deal platform risks with the big companies that they’re dependent upon. That’s one reason Barnyard went with UEFN, which has favorable terms.
Dave Baszucki, CEO of Roblox, recently said he believes a Roblox developer will be worth $1 billion in the next five years. Wu said she think it is possible.
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