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Frost Giant Levels Up; $25M Series A Boost

Frost Giant Studios has yet to release its first video game, but the Irvine-based startup is quickly rising up the ranks of Orange County’s better-funded game developers.

The firm, founded in 2020 and run by execs hailing from highly successful gaming franchises at Irvine’s Blizzard Entertainment, recently closed on a $25 million Series A financing round, led by South Korea’s Kakao Games Corp.

The deal brings Frost Giant’s total funding to $34.7 million, with money earmarked toward technology upgrades for its operations, as well as a rapid boost in staffing and office space for the firm, which is one of the first tenants at Irvine Co.’s new Innovation Office Park campus in the Spectrum area of the city.

“We’ve been pursuing this for some time,” said Tim Morten, the Frost Giant CEO and production director, of the Series A.

The company is expected to announce its first PC-based game later this year; although its release is still a ways away.

“We’re still a good distance out from having a game ready for players to play,” Morten said.

There will be a period of development time after the game is announced by the independent game studio, he added.

Industry data pegs the development costs of large multiplayer video games to be anywhere from $25 million to $50 million.

RTS Return

Frost Giant is developing a real-time strategy, or RTS, game.

RTS generally refers to games where players build structures and raise armies to compete against each other in real time as opposed to taking turns.

This type of game brought great success to Blizzard and other developers in prior years—they “used to dominate sales charts and spawn entire esports leagues,” noted a recent profile in tech magazine Wired—but domestically the genre has been eclipsed of late by mobile-centric, shooter-focused and various types of multiplayer online games that often tend to be more immediately profitable to game studios.

Frost Giant’s execs believe they can revitalize this segment of the industry.

“Real-time strategy has a tremendous heritage in gaming, and it’s ripe for a renaissance,” Morten told the Business Journal in September.

The company’s stated goal: “to build the next great PC real-time strategy (RTS) game!”

Morten and company co-founder and President Tim Campbell previously led production and design for Blizzard’s StarCraft II and Warcraft III offerings, respectively. Both are considered among the most successful RTS games.

Korean Connection

The backing of Kakao Games is notable, officials say, noting that RTS-type games are still particularly popular in South Korea, and have built up a large following there over the years.

“It was somewhat of a natural extension that we’d wind up partnering with a South Korean company,” Morten said.

“The original Starcraft game was in many ways a cultural phenomenon in South Korea. It was on prime-time television for competitive events. There were very large, well-attended competitions in Korea and regular esports leagues that spun off over there before Blizzard was even creating such leagues themselves.”

The Series A represents one of Kakao Games’ largest investments in the U.S. to date. Founded in 2016, Kakao Games is a publisher of online and mobile games.

“We are grateful to Kakao Games and our other investors who share our vision for the future of the real-time strategy genre,” Morten said.

Frost Giant’s team has “already proven they have strong development capabilities, creating beloved RTS hits in the global market in the past,” said Kakao CEO Kyehyun Cho.

The CEO added: “We look forward to seeing them present their first game as a studio and will actively work together to showcase good work through our close partnership.”

Other investors in the Series A included previous investors Bitkraft Ventures, Global Founders Capital, and Riot Games, as well as new investors Gaingels and Mantis Venture Capital.

Staffing, SF Boost

Frost Giant is planning to expand its headquarters and recruit additional workers in the near term.

It has 25 full-time employees “mostly in Irvine” with 12 more contractors working predominantly remotely, Morten told the Business Journal on Jan. 26.

The company aims to have about 50 employees for the product team launch as of next year.

Frost Giant was advertising for nine positions on its website as of Feb. 1, including animator and 3D artist.

“We certainly are excited to keep making games and continue to grow the company,” Morten said.

The company said it will be looking to expand its space at Innovation Office Park, the office development at the intersection of Sand Canyon Road and the Santa Ana (5) Freeway. Frost Giant moved in there last summer.

“As we grow, we will work with the Irvine Co. to add space here at Innovation Office Park, where we’re currently headquartered,” Morten said. “We’re fortunate to be in a project that Irvine Co. is actively developing.”

“They’re constantly adding new capacity.”

Local Base

Morten said Irvine and Orange County have “definitely” become a hub for video game development.

He ticks off the names of developers that have found homes here: Dreamhaven, Ready at Dawn Studios, Bonfire Studios, TenCent, Amazon Games and his company’s upstairs neighbor Notorious Studios.

“The list goes on and on,” he said. “It really does seem to be increasing.”

Many of those firms count execs with ties to Blizzard, such as Dreamhaven, founded by former Blizzard co-founder and former President Mike Morhaime. 

FTC Reportedly Probes Activision, Microsoft Deal 

Tim Morten, a driving force behind video games startup Frost Giant Studios, looks back fondly at his time at fellow Irvine gaming firm Blizzard Entertainment.

“We really loved our experience at Blizzard. We continue to have a lot of friends who work there,” Morten told the Business Journal on Jan. 26.

He cites the “storied history and large scale” of Orange County’s largest software company by number of employees, with some 2,700 local workers.

Blizzard, which has seen several changes in ownership structure over the years, is in the midst of another likely change.

Microsoft Inc. (Nasdaq: MSFT) said last month it plans to buy Blizzard’s parent, Activision Blizzard of Santa Monica for $68.7 billion, in the largest ever all-cash purchase of a U.S. company in history.

The deal faces its share of regulatory review prior to closing.

The Federal Trade Commission will review the proposed acquisition, the Wall Street Journal said on Feb. 1.

The Journal quoted a person familiar with the matter as saying the FTC will scrutinize whether the tech giant’s move to expand its video game business will substantially lessen competition.

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Kevin Costelloe
Kevin Costelloe
Tech reporter at Orange County Business Journal

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