Chroma Ventures, the investment arm of Dundee-based 4J Studios, has invested a seven-figure sum in Ant Workshop, which will allow the independent firm to devote more time and resource to developing Dungeon Golf, a concept the team recently created.
Ant Workshop was founded in 2015 by Tony Gowland. A games designer with more than 20 years’ experience, he had held senior positions at Rockstar Games – where he worked on major global hits like Grand Theft Auto: Stories series and Red Dead Redemption –and ActivisionBlizzard, which Microsoft agreed to acquire this month for $70bn. Gowland’s vision for his own studio, which celebrates seven years in business this month, was to focus on developing original intellectual property (IP) with a quirky sense of humour.
Ant Workshop's first title was Binaries, a BAFTA-nominated puzzle platform game, which was followed by the Scottish summertime simulator Taps Aff, and most recently the Apple Arcade launch title Dead End Job, a 1990s cartoon-style shooter game. As well as developing its own games, Gowland’s team has brought more than a dozen other titles to current and next generation console platforms.
Gowland will recruit two new full-time employees and additional freelance talent to supplement his existing team of eight developers, whose combined experience extends to more than 40 video game titles. Ant Workshop received a grant from the UK Games Fund last year to develop a prototype of Dungeon Golf, in which minotaurs, goblins, and other mythical creatures compete with one another.
The investment from Chroma Ventures will see its principals, Paddy Burns and Chris van der Kuyl, join Ant Workshop’s board as directors. In 2005, Burns and van der Kuyl founded Dundee-based game developer 4J Studios, which is best known for developing Minecraft for Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo games consoles.
Tony Gowland, founder of Ant Workshop, said: “I’m incredibly excited for the future and what Ant Workshop will be able to achieve with Chroma Ventures’ investment. It not only allows our team to focus exclusively on making our new IP and games the very best they can be, but enables us to tap into the vast experience Chris and Paddy bring, both in terms of developing games and businesses.
“The idea for Dungeon Golf stemmed from a family holiday and watching my six-year-old daughter playing mini-golf with my mum. It struck me that a game like that is a great leveller in that everyone understands the basic concept and regardless of age or ability you can all have fun playing together. We then started to imagine how some of the classic characters found in dungeon crawler games would perform on a golf course and quickly realised we could have a lot of fun mashing the two worlds together.
“If a game is designed well and genuinely family-friendly, there’s no reason it can’t bridge the generations and bring people together in a way that is fun and appealing for all. If we get this right, I’d love to develop a series with different variations on the theme over the next few years.” - Tony Gowland, Ant Workshop Founder
Chroma Ventures channels flexible capital into a range of early-stage and established businesses with high-growth potential, particularly data-led businesses and those developing and deploying innovative technology. Ant Workshop becomes the latest addition to a portfolio which includes two independent Dundee-based games studios in Stormcloud and Puny Astronaut, leading augmented reality (AR) technology company Blippar, commercial insurance distribution and data platform Broker Insights, and television analytics provider TVSquared.
Chris van der Kuyl, principal of Chroma Ventures, said:
“Tony is an experienced and highly talented designer who has gathered an exceptional team around him to deliver great content across multiple platforms. We love their work and the quirky sense of humour that runs through the games they develop. They make games most parents would be happy for their kids to play and that they could find themselves drawn into quite quickly too.
“Having a brilliant concept for a game is just the start. Studios need time and space to focus fully on developing those unique ideas and making them the best they can be. We hope this investment will allow Tony and his team to concentrate on this project and we can’t wait to watch it take shape.”