Pixelmon began its crypto odyssey as one of the most egregious examples of NFT FOMO, as collectors shelled out $70 million for knockoff Pokémon creatures that were so ugly, even the game’s founder called the artwork a “horrible mistake.”
But two years and an ownership change later, between a fundraise and an impending token launch, Pixelmon is gunning to have a big 2024.
On Tuesday, Pixelmon announced an $8 million seed raise featuring prominent backers in the crypto world, such as Animoca Brands and Delphi Digital. Additional investors include Amber Group, Bing Ventures, Foresight Ventures, Sfermion, Spartan Labs, and several other firms.
Angel investors include Immutable co-founder Robbie Ferguson, Yield Guild Games co-founder Gabby Dizon, FaZe Clan co-founder and CEO Richard “Banks” Bengtson, and pseudonymous Endless Clouds founder Loopify, among others.
Pixelmon was acquired in 2022 by crypto VC studio LiquidX, several months after the game’s disastrous artwork reveal and subsequent backlash. LiquidX claims that Pixelmon had enough money to keep going for years without the seed funding, but wanted a chance to bring in major allies ahead of its upcoming rollouts.
“Previously, it was just us. Just LiquidX, backing Pixelmon’s vision,” Pixelmon CEO and LiquidX co-founder Giulio Xiloyannis told Decrypt’s GG. “We wanted a list of reputable and significantly helpful partners to join us in that vision. And the way to bring in quality, invested partners like Animoca Brands, like Delphi Ventures, is to give them the opportunity to get involved.”
“The fact that we had more than five years runway before this latest cash injection was actually very attractive to our new investors,” he added.
After overhauling the original clunky, Minecraft-like artwork with more premium-looking, cartoonish creature models, Pixelmon’s current team built games around the crypto IP. They’ve also been working to reframe how the brand is perceived while simultaneously embracing the comically chaotic start that initially made Pixelmon an NFT punchline.
Pixelmon first launched Kevin the Adventurer last October, with the “hypercasual” game drawing some 36,000 active players on Base, the Coinbase-incubated Ethereum scaling network. Kevin is the name of Pixelmon’s ogre-like creature that became a meme sensation—and Pixelmon’s mascot of sorts, even starring in an affordable Base NFT collectible last summer.
Another casual game called PixelPals, blending pet care and trading card elements, is due out this quarter before the launch of a rebuilt version of the larger-scale Pixelmon Arena action game later this year. Another more robust Pixelmon experience, an open-world role-playing adventure called Hunting Grounds, is planned for early 2025.
The diverse output is designed to help Pixelmon’s team experiment while targeting different kinds of audiences and platforms, Xiloyannis said.
“Every three months we will launch a mini-game,” he explained. “We have six people working on quarterly releases of hypercasual games that are very Web3 player-centric with game design that is more about ‘degen leveraging.’ For example, there’s a lot of player-to-player, steal-each-other’s-points kind of mechanics to it.”
“What we’re able to do there is try new things, experiment, and learn a lot,” Xiloyannis added. “For example, we are testing different chains; observing Web3-native interactions between players; and looking at how we might map out the anti-cheat to a blockchain-based game, which, frankly, no one has done yet.”
Between casual and hardcore games, plus planned moves across trading cards, merchandise, and various media adaptations, Pixelmon may be trying to recreate the playbook that transformed Pokémon into one of the world’s largest entertainment franchises.
But the team aims to do it in a decentralized fashion, and it’ll do so via the Mon Protocol—and the upcoming MON token. The Ethereum ERC-20 token will fuel what’s been described as an “IP protocol” to incentivize and reward NFT holders who help grow the Pixelmon brand. It’s set to launch sometime in 2024, with Pixelmon NFT holders being able to sign up for a presale now.
“The Mon Protocol enables the decentralized governance of the Pixelmon IP, effectively allowing monster NFT holders to participate actively in decisions pertaining to the species they hold,” Xiloyannis told Decrypt’s GG. “The MON token will then be the ecosystem token powering the Pixelmon games.”
Edited by Ryan Ozawa.