Final Fantasy Maker Square Enix Backs Bitcoin Gaming Startup Zebedee in $35M Round


In brief

  • Bitcoin gaming startup Zebedee has raised a $35 million Series B funding round.
  • Final Fantasy publisher Square Enix is ​​one of the startup’s new backers.

While a lot of crypto gaming activity is taking place in the Ethereum and Solana ecosystems, Zebedee has consistently banged the drum for Bitcoin over the last couple years. Now the gaming startup has raised fresh funding with a surprising gaming giant in the mix: Square Enix, the publisher of Final Fantasy.

Zebedee today announced a $35 million Series B funding round led by Kingsway Capital, which includes participation from Square Enix and The Raine Group, plus existing Zebedee investors Initial Capital and Lakestar.

Zebedee’s platform makes it possible for game developers to build in micropayments through the Lightning Network, which is built on Bitcoin. Game studios can offer small amounts of Bitcoin as rewards for playing games, for example, and the firm provides an application programming interface (API) for developers to implement the tech and an app for gamers to access their Bitcoin rewards.

Early in 2021, Zebedee showcased the technology by launching special servers for Valve’s popular online shooter, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO), letting players wager and win Bitcoin rewards for competing in online matches. According to the company, the average size of a transaction on its platform is just $0.08 worth of Bitcoin via the Lightning Network.

Zebedee previously raised a Series A round of $11.5 million in September 2021, and the company said that it has thus far raised about $50 million in total. The firm claimed in a press release that its user base has grown tenfold since the Series A round.

Decrypt inquired for more detailed statistics about the company’s growth, but a Zebedee representative said that the company does not provide its user numbers. As for any notable new apps on its platform, the representative pointed to Fumb Games’ Bitcoin Miner and Vestly and said many of its apps “have been seeing lots of sustained engagement.”

Square Enix is ​​a major video game publisher, and the firm behind not only Final Fantasy but also Kingdom Hearts, Dragon Quest, and other popular gaming IP. It was until recently also the firm behind Tomb Raider and Deus Ex, but it sold those franchises and others—plus three of its game studios—for $300 million to help fund its blockchain industry endeavors.

Alongside Ubisoft, Square Enix is ​​one of the most vocal traditional video game publishers in support of how blockchain tech can impact gaming. Square Enix first released NFT collectibles in 2021 in Japan based on its Million Arthur franchise, and will also bring its Dungeon Siege IP to The Sandboxan Ethereum metaverse game that it previously backed in 2020.

Square Enix President Yosuke Matsuda has also written positively about the potential for NFTs and the coming metaverse, a blockchain-backed 3D evolution of the internet. “By designing viable token economies into our games, we will enable self-sustaining game growth,” Matsuda wrote in January.

Square Enix’s moves in the blockchain space have drawn ire from longtime fans and traditional gamers, some of whom have vocally pushed back against NFTs citing the environmental impact of some platforms, plus scams and other concerns. However, the Japanese gaming icon only appears to be getting deeper into the space, as evidenced by the Zebedee news.

Editor’s note: This story was updated after publication to include comments from Zebedee.

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