Former Z2 employees raise $3.3M for new Seattle game development studio Lightfox Games

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Former Z2 employees raise $3.3M for new Seattle game development studio Lightfox Games

(Lightfox Games Image)

A group of gaming industry vets just raised $3.2 million for a new Seattle studio called Lightfox Games.

Lightfox CEO Ryan Hanft-Murphy. (Lightfox Photo)

Founded last year by former Z2 employees, the 5-person company is focused on mobile games. Its first product is Super Battle League, a 3-on-3 real-time party-based game where players battle each other and the environment.

Lightfox is led by CEO Ryan Hanft-Murphy, who was vice president of engineering at Seattle gaming startup Z2, which was acquired by Candy Crush maker King in 2015. Hanft-Murphy stayed on with King and was executive producer until last year when he left to help start Lightfox.

“This company is the culmination of a lifelong passion for us and we are incredibly excited to bring on more like minded individuals to help us grow,” said Hanft-Murphy, who has shipped more than 30 titles over the past 17 years.

Other Lightfox leaders include:

  • Jordan Arnold, head of product who was a senior product manager at Z2;
  • Rex Downham, head of player experience who was a user experience designer at Z2;
  • Tony Tewes, head of art who was the lead artist at Z2;
  • Haseeb Malik, head of growth who was a senior director of marketing at King and most recently was a marketing director at Epic Games

Super Battle League is live in the Philippines as an early alpha release, with an expansion to more countries planned for next year.

Lightfox hopes to replicate the rich social experience from PC hits such as World of Warcraft and design it for shorter gameplay sessions on mobile.

March Gaming, which launched a $60 million fund this year, led the seed round, which included participation from Hiro Capital and 1Up Ventures.

Gregory Milken of March Gaming said there is “huge demand for compelling synchronous, real-time competitive experience on mobile.”

“We believe the Lightfox offering captures incredibly compelling mechanics and gameplay typically found only in much longer session core platform games,” he said in a statement.

Gaming activity and sales are up this year amid the pandemic. U.S. mobile gaming revenue hit $5.8 billion in the third quarter after a record-high $6 billion in Q2, according to data from SensorTower. Gaming company Roblox just filed for its IPO this week; the company’s sales are up 170% this year.

(Graph via Sensor Tower)

Gaming giant Activision Blizzard, which acquired King for $5.9 billion, shut down Z2 last year as part of larger layoffs.

Z2 was founded by former Microsoft developer Damon Danieli and led in its initial phases by gaming veteran David Bluhm. Lou Fasulo was CEO for four years; Fasulo teamed up with former Z2 employees to launch Seattle studio Starform Games in 2018.



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