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Ex-TikTok gaming head to launch blockchain games startup as big players keep away

By Josh Ye
    HONG KONG, July 5 (Reuters) - The former head of short video
giant TikTok's gaming unit, Jason Fung, is launching a
blockchain gaming startup as one of two co-founders, he told
Reuters in an interview, as the buzz around blockchain games
grows while sector heavyweights remain wary.
    The 34-year-old left TikTok last month after two years with
the firm, and his exit comes as TikTok and its Chinese owner
ByteDance have been aggressively expanding into the $300 billion
dollar global gaming market to take on rival Tencent Holdings
 0700.HK , an effort that has yielded mixed results so far.
    It also reflects ballooning interest among entrepreneurs and
investors in blockchain games - a new generation of online games
built on blockchains which allow players to trade items in the
form of non-fungible tokens (NFTs). 
    Fung, whose new venture is called Meta0, said he left TikTok
after seeing an opportunity to offer a solution to the current
segregated 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 a single
blockchain, be it Polygon or Solana or Binance Smart Chain. But
imagine a more interoperable option," he told Reuters in Hong
Kong, referring to popular existing blockchains. 
    "So we decided, let's do it. Let's co-found this company.
Let's give up my cushy corporate life at TikTok and take a giant
risk," said Fung, who was based in Shenzhen and had reported to
TikTok's chief operating officer Vanessa Pappas.
    Meta0's founding team comprises six members in addition to
the two co-founders, and the firm has closed a first round of
funding, said Fung. 
    He declined to disclose details of the other co-founder, the
rest of the team or the investment. He said the company was
looking to raise funds through issuing tokens, as well as from
venture capitalists and strategic investors. 
    
    BIG NAMES STEER CLEAR
    Advocates of blockchain games say they will disrupt the
gaming industry as cryptocurrencies can make virtual items more
transactable and even distribute games' ownership to players.
But blockchain games are sometimes also associated with scams,
and the virtual economies of some games have collapsed soon
after players buy in. urn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nL3N2W10A0    
    Most established gaming companies like Tencent, Sony
 6758.T  and Microsoft  MSFT.O  have yet to place any big bets
on blockchain games. 
    Fung, as TikTok's global head of strategy and operations for
gaming, was 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 Fung's tenure, with ByteDance's acquisitions including a
$4 billion purchase of gaming studio Moonton, and TikTok trying
out mini-game features on its app.  urn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nL2N2XB0IY urn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nL1N2M704X
    The efforts have seen both successes and setbacks. Last
month, data tracking firm Sensor Tower said ByteDance's
portfolio of mobile games had generated more than $1 billion of
revenue worldwide over the past 12 months. 
    However, ByteDance also disbanded its Shanghai-based 101
Studio last month, laying off half of the 300-plus staff. A
product of its 2019 acquisition of Mokun Technology, 101 Studio
was the first development unit ByteDance has shut down as it
struggled to perform.
    Fung, who led the e-sports units in Alibaba Group Holding
 9988.HK  and Electronic Arts  EA.O  in Asia before joining
TikTok, declined to comment when asked about who might replace
him at TikTok.
    TikTok did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
 
    
    BLOCKCHAIN GAMES A HOT INVESTMENT TREND
    Despite the wariness of some in the industry, blockchain
games have become one of the hottest investment trends discussed
by crypto tycoons from Silicon Valley to Dubai. 
    Prior to the recent crypto market meltdown, the blockchain
gaming industry had 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 the sector.
    "We've built a protocol for game developers, and we take a
flexible, blockchain-agnostic approach to their game
development," said Fung, discussing future prospects for
blockchain gaming.
    "With a protocol that we're developing, developers can
easily build their game-leveraging strengths of different
blockchains, and allow the user the flexibility of transferring
their NFTs cross-chain."

 (Reporting by Josh Ye; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell and
Bernadette Baum)
 ((Josh.Ye@thomsonreuters.com;))

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