December 3, 2023

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Jason Fung, the former head of short video game giant TikTok, said he is launching a blockchain gaming startup as one of its co-founders, he told Reuters in an interview, amid an uproar over blockchain gaming. It is growing while the heavyweights in the sector remain cautious.

The 34-year-old left TikTok last month after two years with the company, and his exit comes as TikTok and its Chinese owner ByteDance are aggressively expanding into the $300 billion global gaming market to take on rival Tencent Holdings (0700.HK), an effort that has resulted in Mixed results so far.

It also reflects the growing interest among entrepreneurs and investors in blockchain games – a new generation of online games built on the blockchain that allow players to trade items in the form of non-fungible tokens (NFTs).

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Fong, whose new project is called Meta0, said he left TikTok after seeing an opportunity to offer a solution to the current discrete nature of infrastructure options available to developers looking to build blockchain games.

“Right now, if you look at any developer when they implement NFTs or blockchain in their games, they have to choose one blockchain, whether it’s Polygon, Solana, or Binance Smart Chain. But imagine a more interoperable option,” he told Reuters. Hong Kong, referring to the popular block chains that exist.

said Fong, who was based in Shenzhen and reported to Vanessa Pappas, COO of TikTok.

Fong said Meta0’s founding team consists of six members in addition to the founders, and the company has closed its first round of funding.

He declined to reveal details of the other co-founder, the rest of the team, or the investment. He said the company was looking to raise funds through the issuance of tokens, as well as from venture capitalists and strategic investors.

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Blockchain game advocates say they will disrupt the gaming industry because cryptocurrencies can make virtual objects more transactable and even distribute game ownership to players. But blockchain games are also sometimes associated with scams, and the virtual economies of some games have collapsed soon after players buy them. read more

Most of the well-established gaming companies such as Tencent, Sony (6758.T) and Microsoft (MSFT.O) have not placed any big bets on blockchain games.

As the global head of strategy and gaming operations for TikTok, Fung is tasked with expanding gaming content and testing new features such as hosting mini-games on the app.

TikTok and ByteDance expanded aggressively into gaming during the Fung tenure, with ByteDance acquisitions including the $4 billion purchase of game studio Moonton, and TikTok experimenting with mini-game features on its app. Read more

The efforts have seen successes and setbacks. Last month, data-tracking firm Sensor Tower said its mobile gaming wallet ByteDance has generated more than $1 billion in revenue worldwide over the past 12 months.

However, ByteDance also disbanded Shanghai-based Studio 101 last month, laying off half of its 300-plus employees. The product of its 2019 acquisition of Mokun Technology, 101 Studio was the first development unit ByteDance closed as it struggled for performance.

Fong, who led the e-sports units of Alibaba Group Holding (9988.HK) and Electronic Arts (EA.O) in Asia before joining TikTok, declined to comment when asked who might replace him at TikTok.

TikTok did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Blockchain gaming is a hot investment trend

Despite the caution of some in the industry, blockchain gaming has become one of the hottest investment trends being discussed by crypto tycoons from Silicon Valley to Dubai.

Before the recent crash of the cryptocurrency market, the blockchain gaming industry raised a record $1.2 billion in the first quarter, according to a report by investment banking firm Drake Star Partners in April. Last year, a total of $3.6 billion was raised for this sector.

Discussing the future prospects for blockchain games, Fong said, “We have established a protocol for game developers, and take a flexible and neutral approach to their game development.”

“With the protocol we are developing, developers can easily build their own strengths in upgrading the game from different blockchains, and allow users the flexibility to move their cross-chain NFTs.”

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Reporting by Josh Yee; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell and Bernadette Baum

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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