#1: Ring Games Enters the Web3 Scene with ARPG Stella Fantasy
South Korean game developer Ring Games released its web3 action RPG (ARPG), Stella Fantasy, on April 13th for Windows with a mobile release slated for sometime in the future. Branded as a "Premium Character Collectible NFT RPG," the ARPG is focused on high-quality action and a deep in-game economy. Ring Games received $6 million in funding for the game from investors like Animoca Brands and Krust Universe in 2022.
Unlike many of the web3 games released in 2022, Stella Fantasy adopts a "game first" approach, prioritizing gameplay while still deeply integrating web3 elements. The game uses play-to-earn (P2E) mechanics, tradable tokens and NFT assets, PvE and PvP gameplay, and an in-game economy revolving around two currencies: on-chain “Stella Fantasy Tokens” (SFTY) and off-chain “Manarings.”
The core gameplay revolves around assembling a team of up to four characters to battle through main story missions and special dungeons called "Abyss Rifts." In addition to the basic Abyss Rifts, there are Unique Abyss Rifts, which are private to individual players and only available for a limited time. These Abyss Rifts offer greater rewards such as SFTY tokens, resources, Manarings, characters, and special crafting materials. There are also competitive elements like PvP combat and ranked PvE challenge to provide long-term goals and endgame play, as well as seasonal rewards.
Players progress by collecting resources, leveling up characters, crafting, and expanding their private town, known as Frontier Town. Frontier Town is a central aspect of the game in which players manage resource production facilities to obtain wood, leather, minerals, and Manarings used for crafting. Characters not being used for the combat gameplay can be assigned to production facilities to improve production, and the productivity of the infrastructure can be increased by upgrading various elements within the town. Manarings, the off-chain currency, can be earned through town production, quests, and clearing Abyss Rifts. It can be spent on character and equipment upgrades in addition to content entrance fees.
Progressing through the main PvE storyline provides materials needed for crafting basic items toward higher-level content, and character upgrades as part of the P2E aspect. Players can acquire and improve NFTs such as characters, equipment, and eventually runes through their town via crafting and as Abyss Rift rewards. These NFTs can be traded on the marketplace for BNB tokens or used to enhance a player's team, allowing players to take on more difficult content for better rewards. High-tier equipment requires rarer materials for crafting, which increases marketplace trade value. Each piece of equipment has two types of options: main options, which are fixed by type, and randomized sub-options, which provide unique characteristics and value as NFTs.
The combat system is designed to be fairly accessible rather than heavily skill-based. It allows players to control one of their four characters at a time, with the other three fighting automatically. Players can switch which character they control at any time. There’s a very simple rock-paper-scissors style element system typical of most team-based RPGs. The game supports keyboard and mouse controls, but the on-screen button design clearly indicates a future in which mobile touch controls are supported.
New players receive three non-tradeable, non-NFT basic game characters. These characters can be used in all the in-game content to allow for a free-to-play experience, although players will need to acquire a fourth character through play or purchase to fill out the team. Additional characters can be acquired through the in-game “Stella Shop,” as rewards in Unique Abyss Rifts, or by purchasing them as NFTs on the marketplace. Characters can be leveled up through combat or by using EXP potions. Characters and equipment come in five rarities: Common, Uncommon, Rare, Super Rare, and Super Super Rare (SSR) which gives the game some gacha elements. Stella Fantasy also includes an in-game staking mechanism for characters called the "Star Sanctum,” which enhances a specific team combat mechanism called "Stella Strike.”
Stella Fantasy Tokens (SFTY), the on-chain currency, is used for character NFT minting, accessing end-game content, crafting high-grade Gear NFTs, and purchasing high-grade items from the in-game shop. SFTYs can be gained as rewards for completing events, such as special SFTY Abyss Rifts, Boss Raids, and Asynchronous PvP rankings. The SFTY Abyss Rifts have weekly entry limits and offer various difficulty levels. Both entrance fees and rewards scale with the difficulty of the Abyss Rift to reward players proportional to the challenge.
Ring Games also wants to emphasize decentralization and governance, with SFTY allowing holders to propose and vote on governance proposals to govern game operation, determine policies, and decide on future features or upgrades. Participating in the DAO requires users stake SFTY tokens as an indicator of commitment, but further details aren’t available yet. While it’s unfortunate that this aspect isn’t as fleshed out, it’s an area that most web3 game developers haven’t executed well on, which makes it hard to find a working strategy to use.
It’s good to see more web3 titles coming out of South Korea, especially projects developed by established game developers with a strong variety of experience. The web3 aspects are more prevalent here than in some of the other South Korean ARPG/MMOs such as Mir M (which we covered more in-depth here). It’s not great to see the concept of P2E still featuring so prominently, but depending on how constrained the earning is it may be more palatable in this context than what we’ve seen in the past.
The constant need for Character and Equipment NFTs may consume a majority of the player’s resources, although it’s likely that over time we’ll see the market supply flooded as players build up the production facilities in-game and use excess characters to increase resource generation. The gacha rarities and high-end item systems do make for some chase elements that could potentially absorb some of the economy inflation, but it depends on the desirability and requirement for players to put more into the system than they get out. This will put a lot of pressure on the PvP and competitive PvE aspects to drive the endgame of Stella Fantasy’s economy.
Providing resources from PvE gameplay grinding is always a risky thing to do as Axie Infinity illustrated. Stella Fantasy does constrain some rewards to the Abyss Rifts, especially the Unique Abyss Rifts, but these will be accessible both to players with multiple accounts and bots for the purpose of grinding. Between the main story content, Abyss Rifts, and town production, it’s likely resources could start inflating rather quickly.
Even with some of the main crafting resources being non-tradable off-chain, the ability to craft NFT equipment from basic play and a small minting fee will be one of the bigger issues of supply glut from multi-account players and bots. The upside is that if the need for the minting fee outpaces the outflow of SFTY tokens from Abyss Rifts, then that more value could be retained in the long term. It’s unclear if there are some global distribution control mechanisms on the SFTY rewards to ensure that it doesn’t create inflation as the player base scales up.
Regardless of sustainability issues from its P2E design, Stella Fantasy represents a much-needed high -quality web3 experience with a more economy. We expect a lot more games of this caliber or higher to release out of Asia in the future, and especially so from South Korea over the next year. While the economy designs still leaves room for iterations, the gameplay improvements have the potential to expand the audience for web3 titles and encourage experimentation from less crypto-native gamers.
It is ironic that the country putting out many of the more polished web3 games can’t even release them locally given ongoing restrictions from the South Korean government, but our hope is that these restrictions will loosen as time goes on. Stella Fantasy is F2P and should at least provide some decent content regardless of the economy, making it worthwhile for web3 gamers looking for a more polished experience to try.
#2: Solana Releases its Saga Smartphone
The Solana Saga, the hyped $1,000 flagship web3 phone, started shipping on April 20th for pre-order customers. The design is a high-end OV1 Android device from U.S. manufacturer Osom, with integrated hardware and software the company is calling the Solana Mobile Stack, which is supposed to provide native web3 integration. Solana is also providing some bonuses for early adopters, including a welcome pack with 0.01 SOL for gas and $20 in USDC.
Additionally, there will be a limited-release collection of Saga genesis NFTs, which future Solana-based projects can use to identify and reward early supporters. In terms of gaming rewards, assets from titles such as Genopets and Honeyland are available, along with exclusive music from Audius, $25 in USDC from Magic Eden, and access to the web3 mobile network Helium for U.S. buyers.
The Saga is a premium Android 13 experience with solid hardware design, 512GB of storage, 12GB of RAM, a Qualcomm Snapdragon+ Gen 1 CPU, and a long lasting 4,110mAh battery. The Gen 1 CPU isn’t top of the line at the moment, however, with the Galaxy S23 — another $1,000 flagship phone — and other high-end Android handsets sporting superior Gen2 chips.
The hardware elements crucial to the web3 functionality are the Seed Wallet storage and fingerprint sensor, the latter of which is used for signing transactions securely. Overall, the specs are pretty aligned with the price, which could make the Saga a reasonable choice for crypto enthusiasts that might be planning to upgrade to a similar premium Android phone anyway.
The Solana Mobile Stack, which the company says is open source, consists of three main components: a Mobile Wallet Adapter, Seed Vault, and Solana Pay. The wallet adapter connects Android apps to any Solana crypto wallet stored on the device. The Seed Vault securely stores wallet seed phrases and passwords in hardware, separated from apps and the phone’s OS. That means it combines the security of a hardware wallet with the usability of an internet-connected wallet.
Solana Pay is comparable to Apple Pay and Google Pay, allowing users to transact using SOL tokens or other Solana-compatible tokens like USDC. There is currently no indication that other networks are supported, so using Ethereum or Bitcoin would require using those tokens’ wrapped Solana versions. Solana says the combination of the special software and hardware is the key selling point of the device over using a separate phone and hardware wallet.
The contents of the dapp store itself are also limited in this early stage, with no games available yet, although Solana states gaming apps are “coming soon.” Web-based games like Mini Nations: Royale also don’t seem to work. Given the lack of games on Solana as it is, this doesn’t seem like a very promising distribution platform for web3 gaming just yet. Newer, more demanding games are also likely to suffer from the Saga’s more constrained Gen 1 chip.
Solana sees the Saga as a “moonshot” bet designed mostly to target crypto enthusiasts seeking a smartphone without the web3 restrictions Apple and Google currently impose on their respective mobile stores. The big question is whether a large enough audience for dedicated web3 hardware exists, or even enough killer dapps to support such a ecosystem.
Solana co-founder Anatoly Yakovenko previously described Saga as a “developer play” and said he would be “very happy” to sell thousands of units in the device’s first year. If the Saga inspires developers to build mobile dapps and adopt the platform, it could pave the way for more affordable successors and a wider audience. Yet given the slowdown in Solana activity, the Saga isn’t likely to have much of an impact in the near future.
Overall, the Solana Saga represents an interesting move into the web3 mobile world. With unique features, rewards, and a hopefully growing ecosystem, the device at the very least provides an alternative to the Apple and Google duopoly. Given the growing expansion of the Ethereum-based ecosystem with varying Layer 2 networks, it would probably make more sense to have a phone either built around that technology or, better yet, one that supports both.
But we don’t expect the Saga will make much of an impact on the mobile web3 ecosystem, especially gaming given the current state of Solana gaming. Perhaps some StepN or Genopets users might find the experience beneficial given how important step tracking is to both of those experiences. For anyone interested, new orders for the Solana Saga will be open starting May 8th.
Upcoming Game Announcements
- Mighty Action Heroes announced playable weekend from April 28th-30th and revealed new updates. (Link)
- Digidaigaku released the crafting quest to convert the Baby Dragons from the Super Bowl release into Giant Dragon NFTs. (Link)
- Crypto Unicorns team announced a Leaderboard event for its auto-battler Team RPG Prototype. (Link)
- SHIB The Metaverse announced plans for a partial launch by end of 2023. (Link)
- Unioverse announced its first playable experience, Proving Grounds, for 26th April. (Link)
- Citizen Conflict announced a second Alpha for Q2. (Link)
- The Kiba Inu team announced their upcoming fall guys like game, Kiba Games, has been officially approved for release on the Epic Games Store. (Link)
- InfiniGods launched a beta of its browser-based tower defense game Immortal Siege. (Link)
- Kaidro, an anime webtoon, announced a story-based RPG to launch on Immutable. (Link)
- Axie Homeland launched Season 2 of its alpha. (Link)
- Qorbi World announced a F2P 1v1 FPS called One Tap. (Link)
Live Game Announcements
- Crypto Unicorns announced a shift of more governance control to active players. (Link)
- Mocaverse announced a play and earn event for Arc8. (Link)
- UFC Star Henry Cejudo announced an event partnership with Zed Run. (Link)
- GOALS raised $20M for its soccer game in a round led by Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian’s VC firm Seven Seven Six. (Link)
- Gameta raised $5M in a seed round led by Binance Labs. (Link)
- P2P.org, a blockchain infrastructure firm, raised $23M in a round led by Jump Crypto, Bybit, and Sygnum. (Link)
- Berachain raised $42M for a new EVM compatible L1 blockchain built on Cosmos SDK, in a private token round led by Polychain Capital. (Link)
- Karate Combat, a virtual martial arts fan engagement platform, raised $18M in a round led by BITKRAFT Ventures. (Link)
- Xsolla announced an undisclosed investment in “phygital” fashion startup Pillz. (Link)
- Eldarune launched a public testnet for its blockchain gaming platform with NFT rewards. (Link)
- Square Enix announced a strategic partnership with game platform Elixir Games to drive web3 adoption. (Link)
- Animoca Brands announced it landed a spot on the Fortune Crypto 40. (Link)
- LandVault, a “metaverse construction company” announced a partnership with Super League for Middle East metaverse gaming. (Link)
- WAX announced some big improvements to its chain from the recent Antelope Upgrade. (Link)
- Ultra announced support for BNB’s Kickstart Program and the addition of The Bornless and Undead Blocks leading up to its April 25th launch. (Link)
- Kapital DAO launched Odyn, a browser-based gaming platform. (Link)
- iLogos announced a partnership with Immutable for web3 games starting My NFT Wars. (Link)
- Oasys ran a pop-up shop in Shibuya on April 15th-16th with NFT rewards for visitors. (Link)
- Truth Labs, developers of popular NFT Goblintown, caused some chaos in favor of royalties. (Link)
- Gala Games announced version 2 of its token with a 1:1 airdrop in May. (Link)
- The Metaverse Standards Forum announced it’s been incorporated as an independent non-profit industry consortium. (Link)
- Merit Circle announced plans for a gaming-focused subnet on Avalanche called Beam. (Link)
Notable Market Moves
- Render again performed well this week with an even stronger 32.8% increase compared to last week’s 21.8%. Part of this is due to some large purchases from some RNDR whale holders. Render has also been going through a successful series of proposal votes lately that may be boosting confidence in its governance.
- Immutable jumped into the list this week thanks to it now being tracked on Coinmarketcap. The IMX token has been going through some ups and downs lately after a large boost and drop around the news at GDC of the company’s Polygon partnership. The token had actually been in the green all week until a large drop after co-founder Robbie Ferguson spoke at NFT NYC.
- Gala also came out positive this week thanks to the news about the migration to a version 2 of the token in May. With this v1 token being removed and replaced its likely that some may have seen the token price as undervalued and decided to buy prior to the airdrop swap.
- As always we recommend looking and thinking long term. While funding may be lower right now, there is a lot of building and dealmaking going on that could impact the entire market over the next year or two as these projects release.
Content Worth Consuming
- How Aurory is building a web3 gaming universe (BlockchainGamer.biz): “More games in the Aurory universe will come and will use the same creatures and assets, albeit with some expansion. After Tactics, we’ll see Aurory Speed Blitz arriving on the scene and then Aurory Adventure. Speed Blitz will resemble a lightweight version of Tactics that will dovetail neatly with the heavyweight Adventure experience.” (Link)
- How Horizon is making blockchain games accessible for everyone (BlockchainGamer.biz): “Skyweaver’s game director Eddie Fear, adds: ‘Additionally, the web3 technology is not applied universally where it isn’t necessary. One of the issues I’ve seen in web3 game development is that people declare, ‘We’re making a web3 game’, and so they want to web3-ify everything. Everything has to be a tradable asset, and a token, and available on the chain. Whereas you could make some of these things standard in-game tokens, which just ends up being better for absolutely everyone! You have better control of your economy. You can keep some ratios standard between different units within the game. And just the parts that are exciting to be web3, can be web3.’” (Link)
- Leveling up esports (Nami): “We believe that web3 can help with some of these issues, especially around financial management and transparency. The most apparent way that blockchain technology can be valuable is by ensuring the transparent flow of funds. This could be achieved through smart contract escrows for player and prize payments, as is already the case for Axie Infinity, where leaderboard-based payment systems are used to pay out AXS rewards at the end of each season.” (Link)
- Mark Otero: Building Billion Dollar Games (Real Agency): “A podcast interview with Mark Otero of Azra Games.” (Link)
- Pre-launch Marketing 101 for web3 (Doubl3Tap): “Join Alex Wettermann & I as we dive deep into all things Web3 gaming. Topic #1 is Web3 Community Building & Sam Steffanina will be here to discuss pre-launch marketing 101.” (Link)