Gardens Raises $31.3m of Series A Funding
Other participants include Dreamhaven, TIRTA, Rendered VC, Stephen “Slim” Lim (co-creator of Valorant), Nate Mitchell (co-founder of Oculus), Annie and Jeff Strain (co-founders of Prytania Media, co-creators of Guild Wars and State of Decay), Seth Sivak (VP of Development of World of Warcraft), V Pappas (former COO of TikTok), Julien Merceron (CTO of Bandai Namco) and Craig Kallman (CEO of Atlantic Records).
Early investors of the studio also participated in the round. In Jul’21, Gardens closed a $4.5m Seed round led by Transcend Fund, with participation from 1UP Ventures, FunPlus, and a private investor David Baron.
With this funding, the company also adds 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 No.10 (Nintendo Family) to its advisory team.
Founded in 2020, Gardens is led by Chris Bell, Lexie Dostal, and Stephen Bell, who previously worked on such games as Journey, What Remains of Edith Finch, Blaseball, and Sky: Children of the Light. The studio’s team has also worked on Ultima Online, and fantasy adventure films like The Hobbit and The Adventures of Tintin. The company is currently developing an online PvPvE fantasy adventure sandbox ARPG. The title of the game is yet to be announced. As the developers describe it, the game will be an “ever-evolving fantasy sandbox”, with a strong emphasis on co-op elements. The visual style of the game was inspired by concept art of an Australian artist Ma-ko, art direction by Leighton Milne (Ashen, The Hobbit), and an art team led by Ryan Benno (Spider-Man, Ratchet & Clank). The company presented a demo of its game behind closed doors during GDC 2023 and received acclaim from their financial and strategic partners. The release date has not been disclosed yet.
“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,” said Chris Bell, co-founder and game director of the studio. The aim is to blend indie creativity with AAA ambitions.
Moritz Baier-Lentz, the head of Lightspeed Gaming said: “Gardens truly stands out in contrast to the hundreds of VC-backed game studios that have emerged out of Riot Games, Blizzard, and Epic Games over the past few years. Having led investments of over $100m in the gaming industry to date, Gardens manages to feel magically different from anything I’ve seen. I’m convinced we’re in the early days of something very special, and we couldn’t be more excited to put Lightspeed’s collective dedication and resources behind making Gardens a masterpiece of global success.”
As a result of the round, Moritz joins Gardens’ board of directors to further support the studio and work closely with the founders. This goes in line with the company’s “quality over quantity” approach. This means Lightspeed does care about the studios it backs and helps them through the full lifecycle. You can learn more about the practices of Lightspeed Gaming in one of our previous publications.
This is the second announcement by the newly-formed gaming subdivision of Lightspeed Ventures. Earlier we covered another big Series A round co-led by Lightspeed Gaming, when Believer Company secured $55m funding to develop a next-generation open-world game.
Last year, Lightspeed got to our Most Active VC Investors CY 2022 with a total of eleven investments throughout the year. You can learn of other Lightspeed Venture Capital investments from the table below.