Building With Gardens—Indie Innovation, AAA Ambition

An "S-Tier" syndicate of Krafton, Nintendo, Blizzard, Oculus, Valorant, Microsoft, Sony, Tencent, TikTok, World of Warcraft, and others join Lightspeed to support indie innovation and AAA ambition.

Gardens Interactive: Growing a game inspired by the team’s favorite memories of playing online RPGs, MMOs, and fantasy action-adventure games over the years — particularly moments shared with strangers.

Fundraising: Show, Don’t Tell

Gardens’ standout financing in the current market environment allows the quality, creativity, and velocity of the team’s work to simply speak for itself.

To kick off the fundraising round, Gardens presented a playable prototype behind closed doors at GDC 2023, receiving not only exceptional reviews from investors — but term sheets and even acquisition offers within days. And when a studio builds a game prototype that everyone wants, they can pick whichever investors they want.

GDC Prototype: Lightspeed partner Shan Shan during the Gardens playtest in March 2023.

“It’s inspiring and validating to see so much excitement around our vision for this game and studio, especially from these incredibly accomplished investors and partners. Folks with deep ties to Blizzard, Nintendo, Microsoft, Sony, PUBG, Riot Games, Tencent, Valorant, World of Warcraft, and more are all coming together around Gardens; we couldn’t be more excited for the party we’ve assembled, and the next chapter of our adventure together.” — Gardens co-founder and technical director Lexie Dostal

Syndication: Bringing Together the Best of Gaming

The Gardens team also were able to compose a syndicate without compromises — including connections to all major gaming platforms: Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony. It seems like, in some way, this game is already fulfilling its mission of “bringing strangers together.”

We’re proud to co-lead Gardens’ $31.3M Series A alongside Krafton, with key support from Dreamhaven (co-founded by Mike Morhaime, founder and long-time CEO of Blizzard Entertainment), Transcend, Stephen “Slim” Lim (co-founder of Valorant), Nate Mitchell (co-founder of Oculus), and V Pappas (former COO of TikTok), among others.

With the funding, the company also added former Microsoft Chairman John W. Thompson, former Sony Computer Entertainment America President and CEO Jack Tretton, former Tencent President and Take-Two CEO Ben Feder, and Yamauchi №10 (Nintendo Family) to its advisory team.

Gardens Impressions: Adventurers (1) take a leap of faith, (2) confront a nature deity in the wild, (3) approach a cave beneath windswept grasslands, and (4) combat an overgrown monster.

The Game: Blending Indie Creativity with AAA Ambition

Gardens stands out in contrast to the many of VC-backed game studios that have emerged from Riot Games, Blizzard, and Epic Games over the past few years. It’s challenging to find a comparison for the team’s combination of indie-like design innovation, creativity, and playfulness on the one hand, and global ambition and commercial focus to build a live ops “forever game” on the other.

Gardens co-founder and game director Chris Bell confirmed the studio’s upcoming game will be an ever-evolving online PvPvE fantasy adventure sandbox ARPG.

It’s a game inspired by our favorite memories playing online RPGs, MMOs, and fantasy action-adventure games over the years, memories of crossing paths with strangers. The game builds upon multiplayer ideas and lessons from previous titles I helped design, like Journey, Sky, and even my student game Way, while bringing players into a higher-stakes, shapeshifting fantasy wilderness where cooperation is key — yet betrayal is still possible.

PvPvE Fantasy Adventure Sandbox ARPG: A first sighting of a new friend — or foe.

We’re including novel cooperative gameplay that rewards players who help each other, which can encourage friendship and dialogue with PvP and conflict in interesting and subversive ways. We’re growing the world we want to play in every day, a world designed to offer new experiences every time you play, growing and evolving for years to come. Thanks to our amazing new partners and this latest round of funding, we can continue crafting the best game possible while growing and supporting our incredible team.” — Chris Bell, Gardens co-founder and game director

The Team: Deep Dedication to Craft and Design

The Gardens team includes industry veterans from such acclaimed games as Sky: Children of the Light, Journey, What Remains of Edith Finch, Blaseball, Ultima Online, Outer Wilds, Tunic, Dustforce, and Ashen, and films including The Hobbit and The Adventures of Tintin.

  • Chris Bell is co-founder and game director at Gardens. He is a game designer whose credits include Journey, What Remains of Edith Finch, Sky: Children of the Light, and Way (all four of them awarded “Game of the Year”).
  • Lexie Dostal is co-founder and technical director at Gardens. Lexie has over a decade of experience creating video games as a designer and engineer. He has worked in many different genres, from 2D platformers and first-person shooters to massively multiplayer AR stage productions. He is best known for co-creating the game Dustforce.
  • Stephen Bell is co-founder, writer, and narrative director at Gardens. His credits include Blaseball, What Remains of Edith Finch, Where Cards Fall, Sky: Children of the Light, and more.
The Gardens Team: A photorealistic depiction of the team who built the enchanting GDC prototype.

The Opportunity: Calling the Most Versatile Game Builders

To support development efforts and match the scope of their grand fantasy project, Gardens plans to scale up their team significantly this year. For details on open positions with Gardens, visit the team’s official website, and stay up to date on their development progress by following the Gardens Twitter.

Gardens prioritizes high craftsmanship and sustainable development practices, with robust compensation packages and pay transparency, mentorship, and a continued commitment to diversify the voices within.

Growing the Future of Social Play: Online spaces that bring players together to form lasting relationships and to tend and transform the world alongside their communities, offering new adventures far into the future.

About Lightspeed Gaming

Lightspeed Venture Partners is a global venture capital firm with over $29 billion in capital under management and more than 500 investments across the U.S., Europe, and Asia — including Epic Games, Stability AI, and Snap. Over the past two decades, the firm has backed hundreds of exceptional entrepreneurs and helped build and scale companies to achieve 190 IPOs and acquisitions.

To date, Lightspeed has invested over $350 million into the gaming industry — including with many founders who have led the creation of games like Fortnite, Call of Duty, League of Legends, Wild Rift, Apex Legends, Overwatch, Valorant, StarCraft II, and Warcraft III. For more information, visit gaming.lsvp.com.

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