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Monday, July 22, 2024

Upstart gaming studio Mountaintop starts its climb with $5.5M seed from friends and family – TechCrunch

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Mountaintop, a sort of supergroup game development studio founded by veterans from a multitude of other major companies in the industry, has collected a $5.5 seed round from friends and family, and announced that their first title will be a PvP shooter.

The company emerged last summer, headed by Oculus co-founder Nate Mitchell and several others from larger gaming concerns that decided to strike off on their own. The idea would be to create an independent studio free from the pervasive culture of crunch and toxicity frequently found (or reported) at bigger publishers and developers.

Being independent also means no allowance from a big publisher, so they needed to get some capital to work with. That manifested from the enviably deep pockets of their families and friends, who I suppose felt more than justified in funding the activities of people whom they know to be successful entrepreneurs and industry movers and shakers.

The $5.5 million seed will go toward their first title, which will be a PvP shooter. Now, this may give some pause, as PvP shooters number among the last five years’ biggest successes (Overwatch, PUBG, Fortnite, Apex) and most notable failures (Crucible, Battleborn, Paragon, Gigantic) — the latter seemingly in fruitless attempts to emulate the former.

But the opportunistic corporate me-too attitude that sunk many a game is unlikely to exist at Mountaintop, a small team with no shareholders breathing down their neck — except their friends and family, who will be too polite to do so. If they think they can make an interesting and commercially viable PvP shooter, I say have at it, I’m tired of the other ones.

It’ll be nice to know that the product came from a crunch-free environment as well — as we’ve seen with Supergiant’s “Hades,” people working on their own schedules to make something they care about can have remarkable results.

As Mitchell put it:

We all know great games and products can be built without crunch. It’s about thoughtful scoping, planning, execution every step of the way. That’s not to say that avoiding crunch is easy — it’s incredibly challenging, especially with unexpected curve balls along the way.

In the end though, it always comes down to leadership and the decisions they make. At Mountaintop, we’re committed to doing right by the team, always.

The company has grown from the founding team of five now to 20. Although Mountaintop wasn’t intended from the start to be a pandemic-proof setup, its remote-first approach did mean that hiring during COVID didn’t mean changing how they planned for the company to work. Currently they have people from Epic, Blizzard, Naughty Dog, Respawn, Infinity Ward, Ubisoft, Raven, Turtle Rock, Double Fine, PopCap and (obviously) Oculus.

But among the team’s other priorities were diversity and inclusion. With 19 of the 20 people on staff men, and 18 of the 20 white, that seems to be presenting more of a challenge to them.

“We’re just getting started, but we’re building a studio with diversity and inclusion at the core, where everyone feels like they belong. We have a long way to go, but we’re committed to seeing it through,” said Mitchell. With a target headcount of about 50, there’s still a lot of room to grow into that promise.

No indication when we’ll learn more about the game, but at the current cadence we can probably expect another tidbit of info this summer.

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