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#1: Mini Royale Expands to a Different Land

After Faraway amassed $30M in investment (from notable investors like Lightspeed, a16z, Sequoia, and Pantera), it launched Mini Royale: Nations — a browser-based multiplayer FPS — in late 2021. Player-owned land was one aspect that was always intended to be brought to this game; however, the actual implementation (and thankfully sales) has continued to be postponed in favor of progressively updating the game in other ways. 

This made it all the more surprising this week when Faraway released the open alpha of a brand new web-based, cross-project, city-building game called Faraway Land with economic connections to Mini Royale: Nations but ironically nothing to do with Mini Royale: Nations’s originally aforementioned land gameplay. As the FAQ reiterates, "Faraway Land is NOT the land strategy part of Mini Royale: Nations.” Confusing! The game is connected to Mini Royale: Nations in a few different ways: it uses a player’s same Mini Royale account, allows spending of the off-chain Butter currency from Mini Royale: Nations, and, most importantly, it allows for crafting the newly released mintable NFT gear for Mini Royale: Nations.

Although releasing ongoing mini-games in anticipation of a main game has become an unfortunate norm for web3 titles, this situation is a bit more unique. First, it’s important to note that while the Faraway Land game is a bit of a distraction, it’s actually closer to a real game than a mini-game. Also, the main game, Mini Royale: Nations, has been live and playable since the end of 2021. Second, the connection to an off-chain currency (Butter) from Mini Royale: Nations is interesting in that it’s treated as a premium currency in both games but currently purchasable only in Mini Royale: Nations, with a notice of ‘coming soon’ to Faraway Land.

Normally, for similar connections between games, it makes sense to use an on-chain currency, but Faraway has continued to delay the launch of its on-chain utility token, $CHEDDAR, which was supposed to launch mid-2022. In this case, it’s more like linking a normal premium currency between two games, which is a bit unusual. Lastly, the choice to use Faraway Land as a source of minting a newer type of NFT for Mini Royale: Nations is a bit strange, although the connection there is also a bit deeper. In order to unlock the ability to create mintable Gear NFTs in Faraway Land, a player has to stake 1-3 Premium character NFTs (to unlock 1-3 slots), which at the time of writing has a floor price of $6.60 (in converted SOL) on Magic Eden for this season’s characters.

There are also some in-game prerequisites — such as being Level 24 and having factory blueprints — and players can only choose 1 specific type of factory out of 12 to build. Finally, building the factory costs 1,000 Butter (around $8-10) if not simply earned within Mini Royale: Nations. It definitely seems like the interconnection is intended to help drive interest in Faraway Land rather than it just being a mini-game for Mini Royale: Nations, but it’s a bit confusing why Faraway would choose to push a very derivative casual game with much of Mini Royale: Nations’ roadmap still unfinished.

Nations In-Game Shop
Source: Mini Royale: Nations in-game shop

Mini Royale: Nations has actually managed to see several improvements and new features over the past year. After Faraway launched the game on Solana, the team has upgraded the gameplay, maps, modes, and visual quality and created new blockchain contracts called the Faraway Platform.

Despite all that progress, it has so far been consistently delaying the core web3 elements of the Land-centric resource systems and both its Utility and Governance fungible token launches ($CHEDDAR and $ROYALE, respectively). It’s not hard to imagine that the shifting landscape over the last year has caused Faraway to rethink its original tokenomics design elements, but some FAQ statements have indicated that investors should have received tokens with an unlock schedule. The current roadmap indicates that the token launches are TBA, after continually being promised for mid-2022, and the land gameplay is targeted for 2023 with no specific date.

On the web3 smart contract side, however, Faraway has implemented some interesting features. First was the ability for in-game minting of NFTs acquired through play. Second is an automated Clan reward distribution system for SOL tokens that has evolved into a prize pool for clan leaderboards. Third is a system for attaching the new Gear NFTs to Character NFTs that Faraway calls “NFT Imprinting,” which allows one NFT to own other NFTs and transfer as a whole when buying and selling.

Overall, Mini Royale: Nations is an interesting game that competes primarily with the much simpler EV.IO (also on Solana). We hope that the delays of the more central on-chain tokens — and inclusion of the off-chain Butter premium currency — are a good thing, as the team realizes that once released, the cat will be out of the bag, and it will be more difficult to fix issues.

The team has also been finding ways to reduce NFT inflation. For example, with Loot NFTs that are theoretically uncapped in supply — as opposed to Premium Character NFTs that have a capped supply — the team introduced a fusing system that combines NFTs to create more premium versions. They also kickstarted a new “burn points” system that lets players burn NFTs for a pseudo-currency that can be used to buy a special Premium Character NFT. There is also staking NFTs in-game for rewards to encourage holding. Plus, last year the game moved toward rewarding fragments of mintable NFTs in the Battle Pass instead of whole NFTs as a way of slowing the supply growth. 

While the developers seem to be making many smart decisions, traction appears to be slow-going. The current season’s (which started in December 2022) Premium Character NFTs have so far only seen a 1,142.11 SOL (~$26K) trading volume on Magic Eden, with the previous season reaching 1,426.25 SOL (~$32.5K). Incentives for staking can obviously reduce trading volume, but the low numbers are also likely to be indicative of slow growth. 

The in-game behavior of many of the “players,” along with a suspiciously quick matchmaking time even during very late hours, leads us to believe the game currently uses first-party bots to keep it going. Mini Royale has some potential to do well in a market where solid playable games with decent live-ops are rare, but it’s questionable how large the playerbase is even for a simple browser-based FPS, let alone a simplistic city-builder.

#2: MIR4 Gets a Cross-platform Sequel: MIR M

Source: mmoculture

South Korean developer WeMade recently followed up its moderately successful web3-connected MMO MIR4 with a new PC/mobile cross-platform release called MIR M. MIR4 was notable for not only being one of the less recognized AAA titles with web3 integrations, but also for being available on Steam despite Valve’s anti-web3 policies. MIR4 isn’t exactly putting out World of Warcraft numbers, but it currently has around 33.6K average players, according to Steam Charts

Despite the upsides of using Steam as a distribution platform, WeMade has decided to focus MIR M primarily on mobile app stores, with a PC client available on the game’s website. MIR M also has web3 cryptocurrency connections that may go against Apple’s recent policies, although it does lack any NFTs. Initial impressions of the game on mobile platforms appear mixed. Upon release, the game’s rating landed around 2.5 on the Google Play Store but quickly jumped to 3.5 over the next few days and then rose up to 4.6. Many of the complaints in the reviews cite poor mobile optimization and controls, which may be a result of trying to switch a PC-style game over to mobile while also maintaining cross-play.

Interestingly, the game still sits at a 2.6 rating on the iOS App Store, which might be a result of audience differences — or perhaps manipulation of the rating on Google Play. Google Play indicates that the game has over 100K+ downloads, with currently showing almost 300K downloads worldwide and a cumulative revenue of $690K, although this obviously won’t factor in any web3 revenues. The game also received a release in its native South Korea but without the web3 functionality, as it remains illegal after President Yoon Suk-yeol reversed direction on his campaign promise to lift the ban.

Wemix Easy To Earn
Source: WeMix

The web3 elements of MIR4 and MIR M revolve around a play-to-earn style based on in-game mining. MIR4 suffered from heavy bot abuse of the mining element, and MIR M has introduced more manual requirements to try and reduce that while also requiring a $10 "Hidden Valley Mining Rights Pass” item to be able to mine the Darksteel needed to exchange.

The game uses a two-token model; DRONE is the currency that‘s acquired as a result of mining, and DOGMA is the governance token that can be acquired by staking DRONE (or the HYDRA token from MIR4). Acquiring DRONE requires mining Darksteel Ore, refining it into Darksteel, and then converting 100K of it, plus a tax into a chest item that can be “smelted” into 1 DRONE token. The game caps players at 10 per day per account, with a progressive tax of 10K Darksteel for the first chest and a cumulative 10K more for each successive chest (10K-100K tax for 1-10 chests). There is also a maximum cap of 1M smeltings in total across all servers combined per day to limit production on a daily basis should the bots strike.

The web3 connection is handled by WeMade’s PLAY wallet, which is available as an app and supports the WEMIX 3.0, PLAY, and Klaytn blockchains. Prices of the two tokens have been somewhat stable over the last week, with DRONE hovering between $9-10 and DOGMA between $0.50-$0.60. The benefit of buying DRONE is in either staking it for the DOGMA governance token or converting it back into Darksteel in MIR M to use for crafting / enhancing items or weapons. Avoiding mining or collecting Darksteel manually does provide some reason to purchase the token, although crafting / enhancing still have other requirements.

Divine Staking
Source: MirM

The DOGMA governance token provides an example of actual governance that affects in-game activity. The governance revolves around the eight different servers that compose a “world” with their own playerbases. The DOGMA token allows for players on these servers to competitively vote on four different policies, two of which are focused on spawning monsters and the other two on taxes. The monster-spawning policies are for spawning Field and World Boss monsters based on which top servers stake the most DOGMA. These monsters are high difficulty and drop special rewards.

The other two policies, which aren’t implemented yet, determine how the taxes for the aforementioned Darksteel conversion and a not-yet-mentioned Gold conversion are distributed to the servers. Both of these systems are meant to encourage the players of a given server to band together. With the ability to mine and stake to get DOGMA (or simply buy it outright), this allows both heavy players and whales to contribute to the governance scheme. Due to the fact that MIR4’s HYDRA token can also be staked for DOGMA, it also allows players from that game to transition into governance in MIR M, although at a reduced allocation of DOGMA.

Mir M Staking
Source: MirM

The Gold tax is interesting, as Gold is the premium currency in the game. Rather than WeMade keeping it contained to the game, there exists a $10 “Gold Rights Pass” that allows players to convert 4,000 Gold (plus a tax), which is approximately $50 worth, into a Gold Treasure Chest that can be sold to other players in exchange for the crypto token pWEMIX$ that can be exchanged 1:1 to WEMIX$ (which itself is pegged 1:1 to USDC). There is also a player-to-player market for game items that uses pWEMIX$, so players can buy WEMIX$ via crypto to then buy powerful gear, allowing those players to either cash out the crypto or buy the Gold chests in order to have premium currency to use.

Overall, this could make for a pretty fluid market and an interesting but risky economy. Allowing for a somewhat free exchange between fiat, crypto, premium currencies, and game items can make the P2E elements work better but will definitely encourage a strong P2W bent for the game’s PVP mode.

It’s also worth noting that there are some controls and fixed supply around the DOGMA governance token, along with burning mechanisms to try and keep the supply in check.

Mir M Play To Earn
Source: MirM

It’s too soon to say how successful or not the game will turn out to be, especially given the issues plaguing the mobile version and the PC version making for easier bot development. MIR4 took some time to build up from its single-token offering to the two-token economy it has now, and WeMade will have hopefully learned from any mistakes made in that game, which continues to operate in parallel. Regardless of its success or failure, it will be interesting to follow how the economic flows work with the way the various exchanges have been configured and how it interacts with things like game balance.

It’s unfortunate that South Korea continues to ban web3 games, as developers in the country have been eagerly iterating for a global audience. It will also be worth noting whether or not Apple or Google decide to restrict the web3 elements of the game given that pWEMIX$ can be used to bypass the IAP cut normally taken from Gold purchases. If that does happen, the PC client could become a workaround similar to web-based gem shops. We look forward to the continued expansion of web3 gaming in general across Asia this year, as it’s only just begun.

Upcoming Game Announcements

Beyond Illuvitars
Source: Playtoearn
  • Illuvium announced Illuvium Beyond, featuring Illuvitars and accessory NFTs for launch on March 7th, 2023. Link
  • AI Arena teased an upcoming second beta. Link
  • Smash Stars: Thunderdome released a new Daemons NFT mint and reveal. Link
  • SkateX released a lengthy developer update including milestone progress. Link
  • Nefta announced a partnership with MYSTiC GAMES for wallet integration and NFTs for its upcoming Call of the VoYd game. Link
  • Shatterpoint announced a closed alpha leading up to an upcoming open beta. Link
  • Bitmates, a browser-based web3 MMO, announced a beta launch for March. Link
  • HELIX Metaverse released more info on an upcoming Alpha 2.0. Link

Live Game Announcements

Play To Earn Game
Source: Playtoearn
  • Crypto Raiders launched a special dungeon event to provide whitelist tickets for its teased Cyber Stadium game. Link
  • Treasure DAO launched its NFT idle strategy game, BattleFly, in early access. Link
  • Sunflower Land launched a new Treasure Island event for higher-level players. Link
  • Dark Country released a roadmap for its dark gothic TCG for 2023. Link
  • Planet IX launched new mission control and tile contracts. Link
  • Gods Unchained announced more UI iterations as it works towards a mobile version. Link
  • DragonMaster announced a free play mode along with 30K in DMT token prizes. Link
  • Spider Tanks announced adjustments to the earnings system for better economy balance. Link
  • Cards of Ethernity revealed an Aether Coins Store and a new in-game token. Link
  • Splinterlands announced a new token to represent burned DEC tokens as part of a future discounting system. Link

Funding Announcements

Source: Venturebeat
  • Mino Games raised $15M for a Dimensionals web3 game led by Standard Crypto. Link
  • Mawari raised $6.5M for faster metaverse 3D content delivery led by Blockchange Ventures and Decasonic. Link
  • Hypersonic Laboratories raised $3.5M for its HELIX Metaverse in a pre-seed round led by Play Ventures. Link
  • iLogos Game Studios and the developers of Blockchain Cuties Universe raised $2M for AI-driven web3 metaverse “My NFT Wars” in a private A-round led by Social Discovery Group. Link
  • Xterio invested $2.5M in a new partner game studio, Overworld, to make multiplayer RPGs with digital collectibles. Link

Ecosystem Updates

Dungeon Dragons
Source: NFTplazas
  • Dungeons and Dragons publisher Wizards of the Coast reversed its proposed anti-NFT policy after a community vote indicated interest. Link
  • Junkineering, a story-based PvP metaverse experience, announced a partnership with Spintop to expand web3 gaming outreach. Link
  • WeTransfer, a file transfer service company, announced a partnership with Minima for an NFT-based DRM solution. Link
  • Coinbase NFT announced a suspension of Creator Drops to focus on requested improvements. Link
  • The Prime Minister of Japan, Fumio Kishida, supported increased web3 usage for Japan at a House of Representatives meeting. Link
  • Solana announced a migration to the new “programmable NFTs” standard proposed by Metaplex which was the subject of recent controversy with Magic Eden and others. Link
  • A recent Universal Studios patent revealed plans around NFTs in attractions and games. Link
  • Sky Mavis announced Axie Infinity players can now take out ETH loans by borrowing against their NFTs using MetaLend on the Ronin Network. Link
  • Despite a crypto ad ban for the Super Bowl, Limit Break will still be airing the hyped DigiDaigaku free mint ad with a confirmation tweet from Gabriel Leydon. Link
  • eBay has indicated staffing up for deeper involvement in web3. Link

Notable Market Moves

  • It was a mixed week for the top 10 gaming-related tokens. Most ended up at least slightly in the red (following the broader crypto market), but some still held up decently.
  • ApeCoin wasn’t able to hold its higher value as the Dookey Dash event ended amid some controversy around cheating accusations. There were flaws in the client-side design that left it more vulnerable to automation and were corrected too late.
  • Decentraland also saw some retraction from its previous uptick as interest shifted over to The Sandbox instead. The Sandbox got a good boost from the announcements about Saudi Arabian partnerships as the region continues to invest in tech and games.
  • Render Token finally saw a sharp correction after it made a significant 400% gain recently. Reverting post-hype is no surprise, but there isn’t any new news here. MAGIC is in a similar situation — it’s also facing some correct post-hype surrounding the recent The Beacon event, but interest could rise again depending on the reception of Battlefy, which is in early access.
  • Gala fell about 14% this past week as the hype around its ambitious 2023 roadmap met reality, with its flagship Spider Tanks economy already seeing more adjustments and no live games currently using Gala for anything yet.
  • StepN also had a rough week despite some GMT giveaway promotions, or perhaps because of them. January is notorious for short-term New Year’s resolutions involving exercise that tend to wear off by February, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see it trend down further.

Content Worth Consuming

  • 2023 Predictions for Gaming Startups (Elite Game Developers) - “Initial traction should consist of some user-related KPIs. At a minimum, the numbers should be on user engagement with the game, how much they are playing it, returning to it, and enjoying it. For that second round of financing, the $5M to $10M raise, investors will start to prefer some indication of revenue. Those companies need to cut costs immediately in Q1 2023 and go for revenue as soon as possible. Advice for founders raising another round: how to keep lights on for 18 months and wait for markets to pick up? Maybe you need to raise funding with less favorable terms? Perhaps you need to cut costs? Whatever you do, make sure you can survive the next 18 months.” Link
  • How Generative AI Can Charge Web3 Game Development (Nami) - “Generative AI is a form of deep learning able to generate new content (images, text, audio, etc.) by training a neural network with existing content. This relies on machine learning algorithms that are able to recognize underlying patterns in the training data (the existing content or model inputs) and create all new content without human influence. While it isn’t hard to imagine developers using AI tools to create a wide range of content – from text and images to (eventually) entire game worlds – a pragmatic examination of the technology’s strengths and weaknesses reveals more actionable takeaways for forward-thinking game developers.” Link
  • Little Shapes Founder Gets Crafty to Expose the Scourge of Botnets (NFT Plazas) - “The bot network charges NFT projects only $100 for 1,000 likes, retweets, and replies. Once a project builds enough hype to attract actual investors, they ‘get rug-pulled or fucked over, usually in the course of a few months.’ The individuals behind the scam project end up making $3M to $4M. During the span of his research, he was able to discover about 274 projects that scammed over $200M from investors. What bothered him the most was the fact that ‘we seem to be in a space ranked completely by social capital and fake Twitter engagement where nothing is real.’” Link
  • Solana and Web3 Gaming (Naavik Gaming Podcast) - “Web3 game developers have choices to make regarding which blockchain they build on. In this episode, your host Niko Vuori talks with Solana’s Director of Gaming, Kuleen Nimkar, about Solana’s support for the growing web3 gaming ecosystem, making direct investments into web3 gaming startups, the company’s ambitions for its upcoming Saga mobile phone, and much more.” Link
  • Crypto Unicorns: The Road Ahead & A First Look At Jousting (Delphi Gaming) - “Piers & Yan sit down with Aron Beierschmitt, the CEO and Co-founder of Laguna Games—creators of Crypto Unicorns, a blockchain game centered around unique Unicorn NFTs that players utilize in a fun farming simulation and Battle Loops including Jousting, Racing, and Team RPG. We discuss key insights gleaned from the first year of operating one of the most complex open economies, the regulation of $UNIM supply, the Rainbow Token Marketplace, a first look at jousting, and more!” Link

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