Third Time raises $3.5M for mobile/web horse racing game with NFT

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Indie game studio Third Time Entertainment has raised $3.5 million in funding to develop mobile and browser-based blockchain games.

The funding was led by gaming industry expert London Venture Partners (LVP), with additional funding from Reciprocal Ventures, Coinbase Ventures, 6th Man Ventures, Folius Ventures, Big Brain Holdings and Maven Capital.

Founded by former Madden NFL Creative Director Ian Cummings and former EA SPORTS, FanDuel and Zynga veteran
Developers Paul Fleetwood and Brian Fleming, Third Time will use the money to grow the team and its portfolio of games, specifically designed for players to earn rewards as they play.

The company offers non-fungible tokens (NFTs) to players so they can own, breed, and trade the racehorses they use in-game. Players can sell the NFT horses on a marketplace. The game is visually more appealing than rivals such as Zed Run, a popular rival crypto-based horse racing game.

Third Time wants to recreate the thrill of being on the track.

Ian Cummings, CEO of Third Time, said in an interview that fun is a key element missing in blockchain games, and the company sees this part of its games as essential to developing an ecosystem for gamers that rewards them. in multiple ways.

Third Time has built a huge community of gamers with realistic horse racing simulator Photo Finish and sports-themed social hub The Suites, with several sets of NFTs (Stylish Studs, Fine Fillies, and The Suites) already traded among the best collections on the Solana ecosystem.

“Third Time is uniquely positioned to deliver engaging and immersive experiences for sports fans, combining Web 2 quality with the functionality of a decentralized economy,” LVP investor Harry Hamer said in a statement. “Ian, Paul and Brian draw on decades of game development experience across mobile, social and player-driven trends, and know their genre intimately having produced some of the leading horse racing and horse racing games. Their vision of building a sustainable but rewarding economy for gamers – aided by their deep expertise in free-to-play – immediately appealed to us.

Photo Finish Live, the spiritual successor to the team’s previous mobile horse racing games, is poised to be the fastest growing and most authentic horse racing game in history – now with an ecosystem built on the blockchain. Later this year, players will be able to earn, breed, buy, sell, train, and auction their NFT horses on the open market. Just like in real life, races can be affected by horse strengths and weaknesses, weather, track conditions, distances and a variety of other factors. Photo Finish Live will also host two native fungible tokens, $CROWN and $DERBY, which drive all in-game interactions and can be traded on exchanges.

Third Time created Photo Finish Live.

The Suites is an exclusive sports-themed metaverse of virtual social spaces. Suite owners can invite their friends and join other fans to hang out, watch live streams of their favorite sports, esports and events, and participate in live competitions. Suites can also be personalized with games and contests, giving fans the chance to win real prizes and $SUITE tokens.

Cummings said the Suites recreates the feeling of attending a special event in an exclusive private space and gives brands and partners the ability to reach new customers inside the metaverse. This product will become a launch pad to create and monetize differentiated content, unique gatherings and experiences for fans, athletes, celebrities and brands.

The move is interesting for an established developer, which has 12 employees.

Third Time had previously worked on a game called Photo Finish Horse Racing, and in 2016 worked with Tilting Point to acquire users for the game. Some things didn’t go as planned and so Third Time and Tilting Point broke up through legal proceedings. Third Time reincorporated in Delaware and still owns the intellectual property.

“It’s been amazing since we moved to Web 3,” Cummings said. “We were testing the waters with an NFT launch in September and we sold 10,000 NFTs. Then we sold another 5,000 and raised venture capital, while expanding our core business of horse racing games.

NFT hate and learning experiences

Cummings said he knows many hardcore gamers are worried about NFTs. But he did not meet with fans of his company.

“There’s a lot of hate from NFTs from different angles and from traditional gamers,” he said. “For us, and for the horse races and games that we have organized, it is much better. It made a lot more sense when we talked about it as a team.

Cummings acknowledges that the NFT market has seen many scams, which has put many players off. But in this case, NFTs make sense and fans have taken to them, Cummings said.

He said you can basically own the horse and raise the horse. Horses age over time and players must buy them back with real money. This prevents inflation in the game economy from spiraling out of control. Players have a chance to breed the horses and score a winning horse which they can then sell on the secondary market.

“It’s a much more sustainable system. It’s different from having to pay into the bottomless pit of free games,” Cummings said. “We were excited to try it out and it was a wild ride to find our way to Solana. We had to learn all this blockchain stuff. We had never built anything on-chain and so it was a crazy but really exciting learning experience.

The company has around 20,000 fans in its Discord where gamers talk about the game. For the first launch, the company set up 1,500 NFTs and sold them out within 20 minutes for around $20-30 each. Players who bought at these prices saw 20x or 50x return to start, now prices have stabilized. In total, the company has sold around 50,000 NFTs and the company is getting a 5% take for resales.

“A huge differentiator for us is that we’re much more modeled after real horse racing,” Cummings said. “And that’s what we’re trying to build. It’s almost a one-on-one virtual version of real horse racing. Money can be earned in horse racing by winning races, and it can also be earned through long-term breeding. And so we have all kinds of different racing stakes. So if the value of the horses goes down, then people get into lower stakes, races, competitions a little lower, just like in real life. If you happen to have a horse and they just aren’t very good, there will always be levels of races they can enter. And you’re kind of like moving through the stakes swim lanes.

Running horses, winning races and raising them takes skill, and so gambling is now legal in dozens of states where players can bet on the races. In these titles, skill-based gambling is not considered illegal gambling. Horse racing has also been established in a number of states, but Cummings acknowledges that the legalities are complicated and require the company to hire numerous legal experts.

“I don’t think that’s enough to burn the studio down,” Cummings said. “It’s taken months and months and months to earn the same amount we earned overnight on demand, for example. But that’s the most lasting part for me and I can’t wait for it to happen. I don’t know exactly which model will work perfectly. But as a developer, I’m so sick of having to squeeze people out of loot boxes. I’m done with that. It’s not so not fun. Whereas in this model, if it works, you just do good things, and then there’s just this stream of royalties coming your way, as long as there are people playing it.

He added, “It’s so much more fun than having to sit there and tweak how sticky animations are on loot boxes or whatever, you know. I’m very excited about this and hope it works. I think it’s much better for the end user. For us, it’s really about creating a robust horse racing economy.

Meanwhile, fans who arrived early became proselytizers for the game, Cummings said.

You can breed the NFT horses and make one that can compete in races. Players can swap their horses and try to find the best matches. The game itself, Photo Finish Live, is still in development and will begin beta testing. It is the company’s third horse racing game.

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Casey J. Nelson