Blockchain enthusiasts often refer to gaming as the industry most ripe for Web 3.0 disruption. So far – and notwithstanding the current backlash from traditional gaming communities – most of the conversation and funding around blockchain games hinges around the games themselves, as well as the infrastructure that enables them. Overwhelmed by the constant flurry of investments, game announcements, and a blitz of headlines, many industry observers fail to see that some of the best Web 3.0 applications in gaming are actually not in games themselves but in game communities and game-peripheral verticals.
Legionfarm is an example of a gaming company that operates outside of the traditional studio model, leveraging NFTs in a unique and powerful way. Let’s dig in and explore why.
Legionfarm is a Series A startup with a platform that connects pro players with gamers willing to pay for highly skilled teammates. Right now, the business is focused on two battle royale games: Apex Legends and Call of Duty Warzone. Legionfarm’s mission statement summarizes its business well: We connect gamers with professional players for in-game training and companionship.
The two inputs for the Legionfarm platform are:
- Supply: Professional players who get paid to play with others and coach them. These pros can make $6k+ a month and are typically from lower income countries, which makes Legionfarm a primary source of income. Typically these pros are in the top 0.5% of players.
- Demand: Players that play Warzone or Apex Legends that are looking for strong teammates or coaches. These players are typically high income, competitive, and willing to pay to make their gaming experience more enjoyable.
The Legionfarm team has built out a suite of technologies that improve the coaching and customer experience. Pro players have access to a coaching CRM that tracks in-game KPIs like how active voice chat is, the in-game distance from customers, and a scoring of how positive the play experience is based on in-game metrics. Customers get access to aim trainers, live feedback, post death reports, and more. Matching aspiring players with coaches isn’t a new idea, but as we’ll cover below Legionfarm is increasingly leaning into a unique value proposition.
Historical Go-To Market Strategy
Originally, Legionfarm leveraged an à la carte business model in which customers would pay per session (~$12/hr). In 2021 a subscription product was added, which is now the default option for customers; the subscription is $50 a month and grants unlimited access to group play sessions (playing with a pro and other customers, like Uber pool). Individual play sessions are still charged on a per hour rate. In addition to the subscription and a la carte products, Legionfarm also added another business model offering in 2021: Guild Masters.
The Guild Masters program allows investors to pay for aspiring pro players (“Aspirants”) to use the Legionfarm platform to play/train with pros, in the hopes of becoming a Legionfarm pro (and working for Legionfarm). This program helps bolster both the supply and demand sides of the business: Aspirants add demand to the platform, and eventually some convert into pros increasing the supply of pro players. Guild Masters sponsor specific players by paying their training costs (Legionfarm revenue), and if the Aspirant goes pro the Guild Master gets a share of revenue (for five years) on the earnings of that pro Legionfarm player.
If this model sounds familiar, then you are probably familiar with organizations like Yield Guild Games. These guilds employ a similar type of sponsorship program in blockchain games, which often have high costs to play with potentially high returns (on game tokens earned through gameplay).
Legionfarm’s Web 3.0 Debut
On January 26th 2022, Legionfarm made its first foray into NFTs by launching 4,000 “Legionfarm Gaming Heroes” NFTs. These NFTs provide the following benefits:
- Access to the Legionfarm DAO (not yet live but coming soon)
- A lifetime subscription to Legionfarm group play sessions (a value of $50+ per month)
- Opportunity to unlock rarer NFTs from base NFT attributes
The remaining 6,000 NFTs of the planned 10,000 will be dropped across the rest of February and March. The price of the initial batch of NFTs has risen from ~0.8 Eth to ~1.8Eth (as February 16th). The move into Web 3.0 for Legionfarm was mitigated by its existing business model, which lends itself well to NFTs. Further, Legionfarm’s push into Web 3.0 is also related to another strategy shift for the business: adding celebrities to the Legionfarm roster. Right now, UFC icons like Khabib Nurmogomedov and Max Holloway are pros on the Legionfarm platform, giving fans the unique opportunity to engage with these athletes via games. Going forward I expect that Legionfarm will lean further into this niche. In addition to the competitive players, the company will likely also cater to casual players looking to engage with athletes, actors, etc., in a more personal way than Cameo, where people can pay celebrities to make personalized video messages (like saying happy birthday, etc.).
Positioning Legionfarm as a Cameo competitor may lead to enhanced value for Legionfarm DAO members, through lifetime tickets to metaverse gaming and celebrity events. For example, on February 12th Legionfarm hosted an event dubbed “The First Metaverse fight in the history of the Earth” which featured a VR boxing match between Khabib Nurmogomedov and Max Holloway. The event had 550k live views (a massive audience for the first metaverse event hosted by the company), and Legionfarm customers were able to join virtual rooms to watch the fight and interact with the fighters.
Spurred by the success of this event, Legionfarm is hosting another metaverse event in early March that will feature Apex Legends and Warzone tournaments, another VR Boxing match with UFC fighters, and the launch of the Legionfarm DAO.
Assuming Legionfarm continues to host metaverse events with celebrities and pro gamers, and Legionfarm leans into its DAO, it’s reasonable to assume that eventually these events will only be available to members of the DAO - a very palpable benefit of Legionfarm NFTs. Furthermore, the Legionfarm DAO will also be compelling to the existing customer base of competitive battle royale players. Assuming Legionfarm continues hosting Apex and Warzone tournaments with real prize money, then it would also follow that eventually some or all of these tournaments will require DAO membership to enter - another strong tangible benefit of NFT ownership.
Legionfarm is a first mover on a variety of fronts, and it’s easy to get excited by imagining all the possible permutations of its business that are enabled by NFTs. It’s clear that Web 3.0 has been a massive accelerant for Legionfarm: the company offers more services, offers ownership possibilities to the community, has expanded its addressable market in the process, and the legacy platform business remains largely unchanged.
Could Legionfarm continue running it business without NFTs, offering play with pro services and cool metaverse events? Most definitely, but Legionfarm would then forgo the benefits of having its customers invest to be part of a community. NFTs create more loyal customers and stickier engagement with its services. NFT sales also provide the funds to invest more into growth (like metaverse events) that contribute to acquiring new customers, who, in turn, increase value of NFTs through demand. When executed correctly, NFTs can lead to a virtuous positive feedback cycle.
Legionfarm is a case study in how game-peripheral companies can leverage NFTs to grow and scale their products and communities. The key for Legionfarm’s NFT success is tied to two value drivers: 1) clear utility (lifetime access to the Legionfarm subscription), and 2) participation in community events (through the Legionfarm DAO) - benefits that are natural extensions for the Legionfarm community. For other companies that have subscription products and engaged communities, Legionfarm provides a blueprint for implementing NFTs.
A final thought provoker: very long-term, Legionfarm could be uniquely positioned to run a guild for competitive FPS blockchain games. Eventually, there will be competitive shooter blockchain games that reward players for winning at a high skill level. Because Legionfarm has some of the top FPS players in the world on its payroll, it could run a guild sponsoring its pros into selected games to reap collective rewards.
While it’s still early days, I’d bet that in a year we will look back and marvel at this inflection point for the company and its community.
Big thanks to Alex Summers for writing this essay!