'Dark Absurdist' Online Game Blaseball Is Going Mobile After Its $3 Million Seed Round

Francesca Billington

Francesca Billington is a freelance reporter. Prior to that, she was a general assignment reporter for dot.LA and has also reported for KCRW, the Santa Monica Daily Press and local publications in New Jersey. She graduated from Princeton in 2019 with a degree in anthropology.

'Dark Absurdist' Online Game Blaseball Is Going Mobile After Its $3 Million Seed Round

In the self-described "absurdist horror fantasy" video game Blaseball, almost anything goes: the antagonist in the first season was a giant peanut. A squid named The Monitor makes an appearance from time to time.

"When players die, they're usually incinerated by umpires," said Sam Rosenthal, founder and CEO of the video game startup behind Blaseball. "There's a lot of this dark absurdism."

Rosenthal said the baseball simulation game that lets players bet on fake teams and win currency went viral quickly after launching in July of 2020. On Tuesday, his Highland Park-based startup closed a $3 million seed round to expand into mobile.

Instead of playing baseball themselves, gamers place bets and vote on changes to the virtual league. Rosenthal compared his game more to the ESPN app than to a traditional video game. The "text-based game" flashes stats and score updates of the virtual league, but most of the drama comes from Blaseball's community of players, who make up stories and conspiracies about the simulated baseball games.

"Since it is so stripped down, the fans create their own artwork," he said, likening Blaseball to other tabletop role playing games like Dungeons & Dragons. "They show us what they think they're seeing."

Gamers can use their earnings to vote on whimsical changes to the sport like adding an extra base or dropping the number of strikes batters get in each inning.

The startup also uses that format — and its sense of humor — to weave in sponsorships from podcasts to video game brands to coffee subscription companies like Yes Plz. Apart from a crowdfunding campaign, which closed with Tuesday's round, sponsor deals remain the startup's primary business model.

"All the players have a favorite type of coffee that you can see in their stats page," Rosenthal said. "It's not like a programmatic ad; they're deeply embedded into the game."

Rosenthal started the company to build out his thesis project from USC's Games Program, which he called "Where Cards Fall," in which players solve logic puzzles to slowly build a house of cards. Each step unlocks new memories from the protagonist's past.

"We don't tell you too much and we ask the player to put the pieces together themselves," he said. "It has that in common with Blaseball."

Makers Fund is behind the startup's first fundraising round, which will be used to hire and adapt Blaseball to an app format, as well as other undisclosed projects. 1UP Ventures and Matthew Ball also participated in the round.

A previous version of this article stated the company will hire 15 employees. The Game Board will grow its team to 15 in total.


Subscribe to our newsletter to catch every headline.


Hoopla’s Deron Quon on Keeping Perspective as a Founder

Minnie Ingersoll
Minnie Ingersoll is a partner at TenOneTen and host of the LA Venture podcast. Prior to TenOneTen, Minnie was the COO and co-founder of $100M+ Shift.com, an online marketplace for used cars. Minnie started her career as an early product manager at Google. Minnie studied Computer Science at Stanford and has an MBA from HBS. She recently moved back to L.A. after 20+ years in the Bay Area and is excited to be a part of the growing tech ecosystem of Southern California. In her space time, Minnie surfs baby waves and raises baby people.
Hoopla’s Deron Quon
Image courtesy of Deron Quon.

On this episode of the L.A. Venture podcast, serial founder and angel investor Deron Quon discusses the human side of entrepreneurship and how a founder’s ethos can impact company culture.

Read moreShow less

Pasadena's Numerade Believes Tutoring Is The Solution To Online Schooling Setbacks

Decerry Donato

Decerry Donato is a reporter at dot.LA. Prior to that, she was an editorial fellow at the company. Decerry received her bachelor's degree in literary journalism from the University of California, Irvine. She continues to write stories to inform the community about issues or events that take place in the L.A. area. On the weekends, she can be found hiking in the Angeles National forest or sifting through racks at your local thrift store.

kid looking at computer screen for online school
Andria Moore

Nationally, kids whose schools met online in the 2020-2021 year performed 13% lower in math and 8% lower in reading compared with kids who had in-person schooling.

Nhon Ma, co-founder of online tutoring platform Numerade believes that this issue will continue to persist unless more students gain access to tutoring outside the classroom.

Read moreShow less