The past few years have been busier than ever for Andrey "Reynad" Yanyuk. As his esports' organization, Tempo Storm, has continued to expand across the industry as new titles have popped up, it has made numerous investments in other forms of digital entertainment. Streamers, web shows, and even their own game: Tempo Storm explores everything the consumer of today is interested in.
Last week Tempo Storm announced their latest milestone. The Bazaar, a digital, multiplayer strategy game fully developed by Tempo Storm, received a $3.3 million investment to boost its production. Reynad sat down with Inven Global's Tom Matthiesen to talk about the investment, what it means for The Bazaar, and how Tempo Storm is paving the way for other organizations in the video game entertainment industry.
Let's first talk a bit about the development of The Bazaar. The last update you posted was in November and talked about how you had hired new members to the development team. What has happened to the game since?
There have been a lot of good changes. We're composing the soundtrack, we're refining the art of the game, that kind of stuff. We started really developing the art of the game last April for PC. But now we want to get it all ready so the game can be launched on PC and on mobile at the same time.
Were you first going to launch just on PC, with mobile rolling out later? Has that been a change in your approach?
It's not something we had solidified before, but you only get one chance to release your game. I think it's pretty important to have the launch of your game go well, and that you're not just adding something else to your game months later.
Let's talk about the investment. You raised about $3.3 million for The Bazaar.
Yeah, the actual round was a little bit bigger, around $3.6 million, if we count all of the convertible notes. But yeah, we announced the $3.3 million.
For outsiders, it may be hard to put into perspective how much this investment is. Is it what you had hoped for?
The investment is a pretty modest amount, but it is enough to fully develop and launch the game. Luckily, card games are a little bit less expensive to make. We're focusing on gameplay and feel. We want this to be a game that's just as fun to play after you have ten thousand hours in it as when you just finished your first hour in it. We can put fewer resources into the visuals, 3D modeling, flashy effects, et cetera, and focus more on gameplay and design.
It's enough to ship the game, but in the grand scheme of things, it is a very small budget when it comes to game development. That's kind of how we wanted to do it though. We didn't want to dilute it too much. We wanted to raise a conservative amount, release this project, see if this kind of model works. If it does, we think our company can be paving the way for any type of game publisher or esports team.
Let's take American football as an example. If you were a game designer and you'd show that ruleset to your boss he would fire you. Most traditional sports are not the most fun games from a design perspective, but they do become these massive cultural events because they have all this history. Esports is an example of games that are well-designed, and also start to build that sports history. I think there's a balance you have to hit. If a company like ours pops up and we have experience on the game design side of things, but also on the esports side of things, that's a pretty unique pairing. We can handle both sides of the equation pretty well.
Back when you announced The Bazaar you ran an Indiegogo campaign for the public, which raised a bit more than $100,000. This investment now is quite an increase.
So there were a lot of reasons for us as a company to decide to make a game. We were already doing a lot of game promotion with our stream network, our pro players and our studio. We were getting bigger and bigger contracts from publishers to promote their games. We just realized that these campaigns were going well, we have the distribution, so why not own the product?
We decided to announce an Indiegogo campaign for it for a number of reasons. The Indiegogo was never meant to raise money to fully fund the game. We knew that was pretty unrealistic. It costs like seven figures to make. But we were really happy with the results we got from the Indiegogo campaign.
"There are very few people that invest in games as projects. They're just inherently a very high-risk product."
The important thing it did for us was giving us a loyal community behind the game. That gives us accountability, forces us to release updates and keep people informed about the project regularly. That's been really helpful and I think people will see the effects of that later this year when we start integrating the community more into the design process. We're gonna be doing regular polling where, for example, we'll pull up three sketches for the same card on Twitter, and our fans can pick which one we'll finalize. Integrating Twitch music artists or streamer cameos in the game, little things like that. The game kind of comes from the Twitch community and the Indiegogo campaign was a key part of that. But we needed more funding for the game, so we did our traditional VC rounds as well.
Could you share a bit about the investment process and rounds? What was it like to talk to people to get them invested in The Bazaar?
It was definitely a longer process than we expected, but it went pretty smoothly. People understood what we were going for, and they liked trying the game in-person when we spent some time playing with them. I noticed a pattern though. There are very few people that invest in games as projects. They're just inherently a very high-risk product. I think it's only Makers Fund that does a lot of regular equity investment in games. There are probably other funds too, but it's very rare. It's an atypical ask in the startup world to say, "Hey, come fund my game!" I think the fact that our game ties into the esports team, the interactive shows we do, and the whole Twitch ecosystem made it interesting for folks.
I think card games have a bit of a stigma right now. Not just among publishers, but among viewers too. It’s something that’s really interesting to us. I actually think the gameplay of a game like [Hearthstone] Battlegrounds and certain types of card games is pretty similar. TFT, Auto Chess... those don't look like card games, but they play like card games.
There are a lot of people who are FPS fans who think they hate card games, but they like TFT. It's something about making the card a rectangle that makes people roll their eyes a bit. *laughs* We're still creative with our design process. We're gonna see if our card game will end up having physical cards or not. We're still trying to figure that out.
On the digital card game market, Hearthstone still reigns. Magic: The Gathering Arena is on the rise, and then we've had countless other new card games: Eternal, Gwent, The Elder Scrolls: Legends, Artifact, and now Riot has Legends of Runeterra. As someone who has followed the digital card game scene for over five years, it seemed like the audience got tired of "yet another card game." Is that a hurdle?
Well, people definitely are tired of the games that you listed. But I disagree with you saying that they're new card games. I don't think any of those games are new. I think you just described six different variants of MTG. They're all the same game, just with a different IP, you know? You're always going to start with a 1/1 creature for 1 mana. You're always gonna give that creature an ability. Inevitably your four-drop looks like Chillwind Yet, your progress is a collection of cards, and people can just copy decklists online. You get into all these problems inherent to that Magic: The Gathering model. It's just not optimal for a digital game. The Magic model works really well for a paper card game, but for digital, I don't think the progression system should be unlocking cards.
So in The Bazaar, we got rid of that card collection. I don't think that people should be able to netdeck the best lists online, making the entire ladder experience you playing against the same three decks. I think that's a pretty shitty experience. So that's something we got rid off—it's impossible to netdeck in The Bazaar.
There are a lot of drastic gameplay changes you can make to the card game formula that people just haven't been willing to take the risk on. That's where we come in, doing what we're doing with The Bazaar. We're not trying to slap an IP onto yet another Magic clone. What we're doing is trying to make the best strategy game we possibly can. The best strategy game we can make happens to be similar to a card game.
Slay the Spire is a deckbuilding game that was fairly popular for a while. Do you draw inspiration from there, then?
Yeah, definitely. I think the best way to describe our game is 'multiplayer Slay the Spire'.
Earlier you mentioned that you hope that this investment, this project of The Bazaar, paves the way for other esports teams. But certainly, this also paves the way for Tempo Storm to become a larger media company, right? When we spoke in December 2018, you mentioned that you envisioned Tempo Storm as a media company.
I don't think our goal is to become a media company—I think we already are a media company. That's how we've operated ever since 2014. We put more of a focus on content production, the streaming ecosystem et cetera. A lot more than purely focussing on competitive play and getting involved in bigger and bigger games. When people focus so much on esports they kind of miss the actual movement that happened. I think the actual movement was people wanting to see interactive shows and be entertained in an interactive way. I think the live streaming part of Twitch is a lot more important than the gaming part. I think the gaming part is just for the early adopters of that platform. I think most of the growth in this space that we're going to see is from getting these viewers that aren't gamers. We're pushing more in that direction.
To conclude the interview: now that you have this investment for The Bazaar, what can people following the game, following Tempo Storm and following you expect for, let's say, the coming year?
To the fans, this means that the game is coming out. I mean, it was always coming out, but now we have a timeline and we're knocking off milestones. It's fully in development. They're also going to see a big change in content, so we're going to be doing a lot more interactive shows. We started with Game Changers, our travel show, but we also want to do a dating show, we want to do all sorts of different formats. From there it's mostly the content on the game side of things.
On the esports side of things we're also getting into more games, and we're performing better. We just won the Magic: The Gathering World Championship a couple of weeks ago with Paulo [PVDDR]. We just picked up a Rainbow Six Siege team that got promoted, and we're going to continue to keep growing the esports brand as well.
Also: merchandising. It's always something that we didn't put a whole lot of focus on, but we definitely are going to launch a pretty interesting merch strategy. We're doing it in a different way than these other teams. I don't think this whole "HYPEBEAST merch" trend is very on-brand for us.
Another esports company that does a lot of merchandise is 100 Thieves. Is that something you're looking at?
No, not really. I think their main focus is merchandise—we don't plan to make that our "big product" to grow our company where we're releasing all the time. We just want to release purpose-driven merchandise. We want it to be a way for fans of the brand to show support in a way that they feel good about.
I do think that what we're doing is to some degree similar to 100 Thieves. The main problem I've always had with traditional esports teams is that it's just a service company. They don't own a product, they don't own a game, they don't own anything and have very little control over their future. I think the future for esports teams—and I've been saying this for years—is trying to be more of a product company an less of a service company. For us, our product is our game. For 100 Thieves, their product is their merch. And as I said our other product is continuing to build with things like interactive shows. That's what we're focused on at the moment: content and The Bazaar.
Storyteller by heart. If something is competitive, I am interested in it.