Why we invested in Zero King


We're excited to share our first investment from Hillfarrance Fund II! Say hello to Zero King!
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So much of video game investment is predicated on creating IP that lasts. Some examples of this are:

  • The Call of Duty Series by Activision Blizzard

  • League of Legends from Riot Games

  • Counter-Strike by Valve Corp

  • Elite Dangerous by Frontier Developments plc

  • Minecraft by Mojang Studios

These games have five key characteristics or attributes that make them so replayable and loved for years:

  1. Balance;

  2. Community;

  3. Eventfulness;

  4. Competition; and

  5. Player Investment.

We see this in Zero King, and we are very excited to be leading their first external Pre-seed capital raise.

What is Zero King?


Zero King (or ZK for short) is a next-generation video game studio based in Auckland, New Zealand. Their first game slated for production is a cyberpunk space fighter configuration and duelling game, self-titled; Zero King.

Players create supremely customisable spaceships to modify and upgrade all parts of their performance in battle with other players in both Player vs. Environment (PvE) & Player vs. Player (PvP) combat. What we find incredibly exciting is that ZK will be a rich universe with its own unique art style that blends elements of different cultures with Cyberpunk and rogue squadron-type aesthetics. With almost limitless composability and combinations of spaceships players can build, this will be a game that is replayed for years on end.

ZK is also being built on a custom form of architecture that has never been seen before in the gaming industry. As it's still early days and IP is hush-hush, there's only a little bit we can share for now publicly 😉

We'll be sharing more content over the course of the next year.

The Founding team


In early-stage startups, the team is numero uno (#1). Without the calibre, pedigree and execution capability of the team, there is no business. It is fortunate, then, that ZK has some of the most gifted and brightest minds in game development, engineering and art we have seen.

Founder - Hal Smith Stevens

ZK is Hal's brainchild. As a seasoned founder and operator, ZK is now his second venture in NZ. Before founding ZK, Hal Co-founded Altered State Machine (ASM), a decentralised protocol that allows anyone to own, train and trade unique Artificial Intelligence via digital ASM Brains. These brains could be used within avatars, games, worlds and other Metaverse applications.

Prior to founding ASM, Hal had an extensive tenure within tech, having been the Head of Engineering at AirShare, and the Head of Web for Vital, a startup using AI in hospitals.

Hal's prior experience uniquely positions him to tackle game development in a way that existing legacy systems and tools can not do.

Hal has also brought an amazing team of game enthusiasts and industry veterans on the Zero King journey. These are:

  1. Kerey as their Platform Lead. Kerey has extensive experience in software development, having recently been a tech lead at Pushpay. Kerey also has experience in game development and building front-end tools for game development.

  2. Jono as their 3D Generative Lead. Jono is a savant in all things 3D, having built proprietary tools, programmed several games and built strong production pipelines.

  3. Edwin as their Narrative Designer. Edwin has had decades of experience writing lore and leading narrative design in several gaming studios across the world. He is most known for writing the narrative for Path of Exile.

  4. Pulasthi Bandara as their CTO. Pulasthi has had deep experience in building high-performing teams and designing innovative solutions to tackle complex engineering challenges. He's had experience across a number of startups in the lead engineering position, including ASM, Immutable, Vital & Crimson Consulting.

  5. Alexey Botkov as their technical artist. Alexey is a technologist, balancing his creative practices between software, hardware, digital and analogue. He specializes in interactive applications, video games, and digital media, having been the Lead Technical Artist at RemotelyHQ, Art Lead at Joy Business Academy & 3D artist at Gameloft.

This type of game has proven to be a hit.


There are many examples of games in this genre that have reached critical acclaim and popularity. Here are some comparable games in which ZK is succeeding:

No Man's Sky

Developed by Hello Games, "No Man's Sky" pushed the boundaries of what's possible with explorative survival games with their infinitely procedurally generated planets & worlds. The game initially got off to a rocky start but won the player base over with constant upgrades and patches to the game, incredible additional content & and listening to their player base's feedback.

To date, No Mans Sky is estimated to have sold over 10 million copies of the game.


Developed by Bethesda, Starfield will be an open-world explorative survival game like No Man's Sky. However, this will be more lore driven. Bethesda has had a track record of creating fabulous games such as Skyrim and the Fallout series. Starfield is the latest of this bunch of IPs that are getting huge critical acclaim and popularity from the fan base.

Space Engineers

Since its release back in 2013, Space Engineers by Keen Software has been a powerhouse in space exploration games. The game is a sandbox game about engineering, construction, exploration and survival in space and on planets. With nearly 5 million copies sold to date and continued concurrent players, Space Engineers is a huge part of our thesis in Zero King.

Elite Dangerous

Elite Dangerous is the massive online multiplayer behemoth of the space exploration genre. With a deep world and narrative around several factions and planets, combined with a rich multiplayer element and thriving economy, Elite Dangerous by Frontier Developments has had great success, having sold almost 5 million copies sold.

Why we are believers


Creating games is a passion project. Nobody really gets into building games as a money-making endeavour. However, oddly enough, the most passionate projects are the ones that ultimately do become hit successes. We are believers in Hal's vision for the studio and Zero King, the game, because of our deep fascination with exploring the edges and boundaries of what's possible. Like with our investments in frontier AI/ML or the climate space, we are investing in the future of media, content & gaming. Zero King represents a literal universe-wide vision combined with all the fundamentals we see for a game of this nature.

The calibre of the founding team, combined with their industry expertise, makes the well-suited build Zero King. Again, we'd love to tell you more, but we'd have to kill you...

More updates to come, and you can read all about it once you sign up for our Village News down below:

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