Introducing 13th Bridge and “Run The Court”
In 2020, I sat down with a long-time friend and fellow basketball and video game junkie. We’d been talking about pursuing a business venture together but hadn’t come up with an idea we both loved just yet.
And then he said “My kids play a ton of basketball and a ton of video games…but they really don’t play basketball video games much.” After a few minutes of reminiscing about the sports video games we’d grown up with- games like NBA Jam, NBA Street, Arch Rivals, Madden, NBA Live, and NHL Hockey to name a few- we started talking about what was missing from today’s sports video games.
It came back to one thing: fun.
Today’s sports video games are amazing…but most of them are highly simulation-focused. They employ complex controls that allow you to be incredibly creative, but require a 45 minute YouTube tutorial just to get started. They have amazing graphics (perhaps you’ve heard that you can see beads of sweat in 2K?) and equally amazing player movements thanks to the use of motion-capture equipment. But, lost in all the frenzy to be hyper-realistic is the fun- the escape from reality so many of us hope to get out of our games. I mean, I can go in my driveway and make lay-ups all day, but what I really want to do is launch myself into a 360, between-the-legs, windmill dunk.
To some, “fantasy” video games are “World of Warcraft” and “Zelda”, but for me, throwing down a dunk like Vince Carter or Ja Morant has always been the fantasy.
My friend felt the same way, and we decided we couldn’t be the only people that shared this sentiment.
We started to look into the possibility of making a video game. We called a few development studios. A leading studio set up a call with us. We told them we wanted to make a 2v2 fighting game (intent on keeping our true plans a secret). They said they’d send us a sample pitch deck after an initial call, showing us what they could do. The pitch arrived..and to our surprise, it was a pitch for a basketball game, a game they wanted to make but hadn’t found a partner for. We set up another call, came clean on our concept, and signed a deal to develop the game.
At the time, we planned to make a Free-to-Play game. Our focus was on bringing together many of the things we loved in one game, for people who shared our interests to enjoy. That meant basketball sure, but it also meant the cultures and sub-cultures that make up the rich world we know- sneakers, hip-hop, fashion, movies, comics, games, and more. We wanted our game to feel authentic, like you’re playing basketball when you play, but have a strong arcade element as well- “reality + 40%” is how we thought of it. And we wanted it to be true to the culture that we know and love, a tribute to the worlds and influences that shaped us and that continue to surround us.
But a funny thing happened as we were building our game, tweaking controls and experimenting with gameplay options- new technologies became more accepted, enabling new types of games to gain traction with a larger audience. Games like Axie Infinity, SoRare, and Blankos Block Party became well known entities, “NFTs” and “cryptocurrency” became mainstream topics, and we sensed an opportunity to do something bigger and better with our game, something far more interesting to the audience we set out to serve, and far more valuable to the people in our community.
But we knew we’d have to do it the right way.
Before we get into that however…let me tell you about Run The Court, a basketball game like no other…in my next post.