Ottawa mobile game developer Magmic has signed a multimillion-dollar, five-year deal with Major League Baseball and its players’ association to develop the first licensed baseball game using blockchain technology.
Magmic CEO and president Mohammad Agha says, in a way, the long-standing boutique gaming studio is now moving into the major leagues itself.
“A lot of gaming companies in Canada and Ottawa are work-for-hire shops. They don’t build a lot of their own original content or the original (intellectual property). So this is, I feel, a big deal because it’s one of the largest brands in the world and we’re building, we’re licensing. So, we own the game,” Agha said of the project, which is slated for release in late 2024.
The tycoon-style management game will use non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and blockchain technology to add scarcity trading and a collectible system like trading cards. Players will use NFTs during gameplay.
The deal will also see Magmic, which is known for apps like Texas Hold’em King and Passport Rummy, more than double in size, from 21 employees to 40 and ultimately to 60. It will also seek to raise $20 million in additional investment, Agha says.
All of this beneath the shadow of cryptocurrency uncertainty.
“We are taking quite a risk here,” Agha said, noting that Magmic has already weathered a paradigm shift or two. “We’ve been doing mobile games since 2002. We started on the PalmPilots. The calculator app on PalmPilot was the first application released.”
Magmic was the biggest BlackBerry developer in the world before pivoting to successful Android and iPhone games. It was founded by Ottawa serial entrepreneur John Criswick and current chief technology officer Joshua Ostrowalker and has developed more than 100 mobile games including major titles for Mattel and Hasbro. Agha joined Magmic in 2007 and became president in 2016 and CEO in 2018.
Magmic has partnered with California-based Forte IO for the new project. Forte IO specializes in blockchain-based payment systems and tools for game developers.
Agha says 15 months of diligence went into courting Major League Baseball, but feels it ultimately came down to being in the right place at the right time.
“We did start developing blockchain-based games around 2018. So, five years ago, before all the hype,” Agha told OBJ. “It’s kind of positioned us in a way to be able to secure quite a bit of funding to secure this license and then get MLB on board for us to make this game right.
“It really wasn’t easy. It’s a very big deal,” he added.
The deal places Magmic among major blockchain players such as Vancouver-based Dapper Labs, Paris-based Sorare, and California-based Mythical Games; companies that count staff in the hundreds and valuations in the billions.
Agha likens the move toward blockchain-based games to the shake-up when BlackBerry gave way to iPhone.
“I think this is going to be a big shift and a lot of investment has gone into it over the last few years,” he said, noting video games and sports are probably the sweet spot for using blockchain technology in a financially viable way.
“You’re already kind of taking from people’s pre-existing habits of collecting baseball cards,” he explained. “So there already is a market out there that is pre-built. And it really kind of fits sports really well.”