Azra Games, founded by veteran EA game developer, raises $10M for NFT-themed Legions & Legends

February 21, 2023, 2:00 PM UTC
Portrait of Azra Games founder Mark Otero.
Mark Otero, founder and CEO of Azra Games, used to work at gaming giant Electronic Arts.
Courtesy of Azra Games

Azra Games, which is developing a video game that incorporates non-fungible tokens, announced on Tuesday it has raised $10 million in additional seed funding, bringing the total amount it has netted to $25 million.

Andreessen Horowitz (a16z), which last year unveiled a $600 million fund for game investments, led the round, while other investors included NFX, Coinbase Ventures, Play Ventures, and Franklin Templeton. Mark Otero, the founder and CEO of Azra, declined to comment on his company’s valuation.

“We believe that the unique ownership and economic models Web3 provides will revolutionize how people play online games,” Arianna Simpson, partner at a16z, wrote in a blog post announcing the additional investment in Azra.

Games that incorporate NFTs into gameplay are now a dime a dozen; however, the financial backing for Azra, led by Otero, a former general manager at gaming giant Electronic Arts (EA), signals that veterans from the video game industry are now weaving Web3 concepts into big-ticket games. Titans like Ubisoft, for example, have already incorporated, or talked about incorporating, NFTs into games they have released.

“The gaming space within Web3 is still quite small relative to the traditional gaming space,” Otero told Fortune. He said that Legions & Legends, Azra’s forthcoming game, was “an opportunity for us to create something with a potentially new business model for a new platform.”

Otero added that NFTs won’t be the foundation of gameplay for Legions & Legends, which will be released initially on PC and mobile devices, but he and his team plan to include the tokens as in-game collectibles. They also released prelaunch passes as NFTs, whose holders get early sneak peeks of concept art, beta access to the game, and other benefits.

Otero grew up playing Dungeons & Dragons, a tabletop role-playing game that influenced future video games of the same genre, and has had a storied career as a developer. He initially developed role-playing video games in the stockroom of Mochii Yogurt, a frozen yogurt café he owned in Sacramento. Eventually, he left the yogurt business to launch his own game development company, and EA then acquired his firm of more than 70 employees.

At EA, in addition to leading development on Heroes of Dragon Age, he led development for and managed Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes, a game for mobile devices that has generated over $1 billion in revenue for the gaming giant, according to an EA earnings call in 2021.

After his success at EA, he took a break from the video games business, but at the end of 2021, he convinced himself that player-owned assets, like NFTs, were the next evolution in free-to-play games, or games with no upfront costs for players. Assembling some of his own team from EA, Otero launched Azra.

“Ultimately, we see ourselves as the potential content that onboards the next several million users to the Web3 space,” he told Fortune.

Otero said that Azra plans to release the first version of Legions & Legends later this year.

Learn how to navigate and strengthen trust in your business with The Trust Factor, a weekly newsletter examining what leaders need to succeed. Sign up here.