Muus Collective has raised $5 million for its fashion-centric studio for making mobile games and digital collectibles for diverse audiences.
The Los Angeles company and investor Griffin Gaming Partners want to advance diversity in gaming, Web3, and fashion through inclusion, collaboration and empowerment. The company is preparing to launch its inaugural Web3-enabled mobile game that empowers players to create, have fun and earn.
Muus’ focus on digital fashion innovation with Web3 enablement was a meaningful differentiator behind GGP’s investment. Top mobile fashion titles have grossed over half a billion dollars in lifetime revenue, and NFT games generated $2.3 billion in revenue in Q3 of 2021 alone, according to The Blockchain Game Alliance.
Griffin Gaming Partners led the round, and Emily Wang, managing director at LionTree and Griffin Gaming Partners, helped get the startup off the ground.
“Consumer demand exceeds supply at the intersection of gaming, fashion, and Web3,” Wang said in a statement. “The Muus team has a track record of building innovative experiences across all three spaces, and we’re excited to revolutionize the consumer experience and define the future of this intersection together.”
Muus was started by Sarah Fuchs, cofounder and chairwoman. She has more than 20 years ofexperience building, operating and growing successful game studios. She recentlyserved as vice president and general manager of Covet Fashion, the top fashion mobile gaming platform. That game was created by CrowdStar, acquired by Glu Mobile, and then acquired again through Electronic Arts’ acquisition of Glu Mobile.
She also led production on The Sims Mobile and numerous other mobile games and served as a producer for many PC and console titles (e.g., Spore, The Sims 2, and The Godfather) at Activision, Maxis and Electronic Arts. Fuchs is passionate about making space for female creators and creating products for diverse audiences.
Another cofounder is Amber Bezahler, CEO. She is a digital agency and operations executive who led platform, eCommerce and innovation initiatives for gaming brands.
Bezahler also advised metaverse production studios creating on-chain games and digital collectibles.“We’re witnessing the cross section of two revolutions — one in fashion and the other in gaming,” said Bezahler. “Within the fashion world, designer brands are engaging via games and Web3 with increasingly sustainably minded consumers in ways that simultaneously democratize fashion and reinforce its exclusivity.”
Citing the growing diversity in gaming, Bezahler continued, “The gaming industry is seeing an influx of more intersectional gamers, while more and more players embrace creator-driven communities. We’re excited to launch our first web3-enabled mobile game, enabling players to indulge their passion for fashion while blurring the line between player and creator.”
Nick Tuosto, cofounder of Griffin Gaming Partners and head of gaming at LionTree, said in a statement, “We are thrilled to incubate Muus and support their exciting innovation in the digital fashion space. Griffin continues to focus on finding female founders who are building experiences increasingly tailored for female audiences.”
“As investors, the composition of our portfolio speaks louder than words,” Wang added. “Close to 30% of our portfolio companies have female founders or co-founders, relative to 19% of total US venture deals. With women comprising nearly half of all gamers worldwide, we’re passionate about bringing female-centric products to life by partnering with teams like Muus.”
Wang and Boyoung Kim of Griffin Gaming Partners, will serve on the Muus Collective board of directors. Muus’ advisory board includes Mich Mathews-Spradlin, former CMO of Microsoft, and Felicia Day, actress, producer, streamer and gamer.
Working on Covet Fashion, Fuchs said, “I was really excited about the opportunity to make products for women. Because, as we all know, women make up about 50% of the mobile audience now. And I wanted to create games for women by women. So it was at Covet Fashion for four years that we doubled our bookings. In that time, we made almost $85 million in the last year, and then we were acquired by EA.”
After that, she took a break and found her cofounder through Griffin Gaming Partners/Liontree, where she incubated the studio.
Bezahler said she started as an entrepreneur — founding an advertising digital agency which she eventually sold. She then joined exec teams at the digital agencies for Omnicom and WPP, and she worked with to brands at the intersection of games and fashion. In games, she worked with Activision, Electronic Arts, Nintendo, Playstation, and Xbox. In fashion and beauty, she worked with Bottega Veneta, Holt Renfrew, L’Oréal, Agent Provacateur and Violet Grey. In recent years, she worked in private equity and operations.
“Meeting Sarah and the Griffin team was a dream come true,” Bezahler said. “To be able to leverage their experience and passion for both gaming and fashion — so we’ve created Muus Collective.”
The first project is a Web3-enabled styling game that will be released in the middle of next year on iOS and Android.
“We really see it as a fashion playground where creators can have fun on their sense of style, express themselves and make a name for themselves,” Bezahler said.
Players will be able to earn money based on their creations while they play.
“And all of this has the underpinnings of what we call a kindness concept where in-game actions have positive real-world social impact,” Bezahler said.
Of course, by working with the mobile game app stores, the company will likely have to come up with a version of Web3 enablement that fits with the rules of those platforms. Right now, you can’t pay for items in a blockchain game with cryptocurrency and still operate in the app stores.
“Web3 is really putting power back into the hands of the consumers, and in this case, gamers, allowing them to have more ownership over their data and over the items that they own,” Bezahler said. “We just see tremendous opportunity for us to open up the styling fashion genre, where there is more self-expression and more ability to have ownership and an ability to earn from your creations.”
Part of the hope is that the company will help women and non-binary people — as well as any fans of fashion — get more involved in understanding NFTs and blockchain technology, Fuchs said. The digital collectibles strategy will likely be a good fit for NFTs. But the first mission is to create a fun mobile game, Bezahler said.
“We want to raise the crypto fluency of our player base in a game where it is fun, but not make it mandatory to the core gameplay,” Bezahler said.
The company will disclose more about the tech and the plan for the game over time. If the company decides to use NFTs, “we want to make sure that they have utility for the game,” Fuchs said.
But the company sees some revolutions happening, with diverse audiences picking up games, particularly in mobile, and the transformation of physical and digital businesses, where there is now a big virtual element to businesses like fashion that used to be all physical, Bezahler said.
“I’ve been in gaming for 20 years and often was the only woman on the team,” Fuchs said. “For me, it’s really important that the people who make the game look like the people who play the game. And for that reason, we’re building an incredibly diverse team. We are female-founded, we have a female board.”
As for the hardcore gamers who appear to hate blockchain games, Bezahler said that the bulk of the company’s audience was left out of the first Web3 games.
“They’re curious,” she said. “They’re confused about how to get involved. And yet we are seeing so many activations at the intersection of fashion and Web3. Our game is creating those stepping stones that allow players to easily, and in a very gamified way, get their first taste of the blockchain and rewards.”
The company hopes there will be massive brand partnerships coming in the space, and it is positioning itself to get those partners.
While big companies in games have acquired mobile game companies, or the big companies, mobile is still on the backburner, “and we need to be mobile first,” Fuchs said.