#1: Sony Vets Bringing Web3 to a Different Kind of Network
Michael Mumbauer and John Garvin, two established AAA game developers with deep roots at Sony, recently announced the formation of a new studio, Liithos, and a Web3 game called Ashfall. John Garvin, one of the two leads, described the game as somewhat of a spiritual successor to recent post-apocalyptic hit game Days Gone (2019, 76 on Metacritic). Besides Web3, it is looking to venture into a lot of new territories all at once. First, the project is intended to be a “cinematic transmedia experience,” with partnerships for comics already in place, which isn’t too big of a stretch given the popularity of video-game-based films. Second, it is looking to check a lot of boxes, the idea being it starts as a single-player game that evolves into an open world multiplayer PvE/PvP game with user-generated content. Third, the network of choice is a “hashgraph network” known as Hedera, rather than a typical blockchain network.
At the moment, Hedera doesn’t seem to have any active games despite previous announcements from Animoca Brands and Ubisoft. As of February, Hedera does support Solidity-based, EVM-compatible Smart Contracts, which may improve the situation, but the network choice still seems like a big risk. There is, of course, the financial incentive that funding appears to at least partially be coming from The HBAR Foundation which funds development on Hedera. Participating in the Web3 portion is mentioned as optional for the "build, sell, and grade" experience, which makes sense for such an ambitious AAA project. Developing for an EVM-compatible network does at least offer the potential for pivoting over to another EVM network should Hedera not ultimately work out. But given the difficulties that game developers have faced with Web3 tech, this would likely prove an expensive venture. Neither of the founding pair has any Web3 experience, so some key hiring will be critical even if Hedera is providing a good level of support.
Despite supposed backlash against NFTs and other Web3 concepts from game developers, there have been quite a few cases of experienced people splitting off from AAA studios to go and try their hand at blockchain games. With constant rallying cries around “fun first,” the support from very experienced AAA game developers should make a positive impact. The immediate issue is AAA development takes years, and with such a large scope for this project, it’s unlikely that we’ll see the benefit any time soon. Michael Mumbauer and John Garvin both have an extremely solid track record, so expectations will be high, and we can add this to the list of anticipated AAA Web3 games we won’t get to see until at least 2023.
#2: Crypto Raiders Ready to Put Up a Fight
After a long development period, the Unity client releases on July 1st with not only the existing features but 7 new dungeons and the most important thing, Live PvP. The player base may be small, but the game has already had some very exciting “Permadeath” tournaments with live streaming and commentary. With the characters in the game currently having a level 10 cap, a lot of players are looking for endgame activities, and PvP has been a great fit so far despite not being truly integrated. With a lot still on the roadmap, including the highly anticipated class and ability system coming mid-July, this summer or fall might be a tipping point in the game’s history. We see so many games with pump-and-dump economies that it’s refreshing to see instead a game with a small but passionate community, a dedicated development team, good tokenomics, and consistent delivery of updates.
- Sky Mavis closed Axie Infinity Classic at the conclusion of Season 21 on June 24th and will focus entirely on Origin. Link
- VulcanForged announced a major roadmap update to VulcanVerse. Link
- Splinterlands continued tweaking the previously discussed new rewards system. Link
- Spider Tanks announced a new tournament for Gala Gold members running from June 29th to July 2nd. Link
- Cantina Royale announced an upcoming NFT launch and token sale. Link
- My Neighbor Alice launched its Season 1 Alpha for land owners on June 30th. Link
- Sky Mavis announced funding for 200 fellowships in “The Creator Academy” as a parallel initiative to its Axie Creator Program. Link
- Magic Eden raised $130M in a Series B funding round led by Electric Capital and Greylock Partners at a valuation of $1.6B. Link
- Soba raised $13.5M for its multiplayer no-code Web3 creation tools in a funding round led by Lightspeed Venture Partners. Link
- Solana announced a Solana-network-powered Web3 mobile phone called Saga. Link
- Sky Mavis re-opened its ETH-RON Ronin bridge that had been closed due to the hack in March. Link
- Hackers stole $100M worth of tokens from Harmony’s bridge, which hasn’t impacted DeFi Kingdoms as of yet. Link
- UniSwap acquired NFT marketplace aggregation platform Genie. Link
- WeChat, China’s leading social media network, announced a new policy banning all crypto or NFT activity on the network. Link
- Ledger, hardware wallet makers, announced it will be launching its own NFT marketplace and Web3 services platform which includes a game called Ledger Quest designed to teach players how to earn money using NFTs. Link
- Loco launched Loco Legends, an Indian platform for NFT esports. Link
Notable Market Moves
- Most of the market continues to see an overall downtrend as we creep further into the bear market and shakeouts cause a negative outlook. Some game tokens still fared better than others, mostly around events that gave a sense of renewed optimism around the projects.
- ApeCoin saw a boost thanks to continued celebrity support of BAYC in the form of a Snoop Dogg and Eminem music video using BAYC likenesses. It may also have seen some interest related to StepN teasing some APE-related announcement for Friday July 1st, but this is all mostly hype and limited fundamental substance.
- StepN got a jump on the announcement of a 3rd “realm” in addition to the existing Solana and Binance Smart Chain realms. The announcement was also followed up by a raffle for APE shoes, which is causing speculation that the new realm will be in some way related to ApeCoin and BAYC.
- The Sandbox seemed to see some benefit from the recent Metaverse Standards Forum announcement lending more legitimacy to the future of the metaverse concept.
Content Worth Consuming
- Web3 Use Cases: Today (Not Boring) - “Many web3 projects today lean too hard on the shiny new financialization levers – partially because it’s an easier way to make money, partially because that feels like the point, partially because it’s still early and great user experiences take time, and partially because the infrastructure is still being developed – but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t any use cases today. We’ll start with the most straightforward use cases: the ones where we can take what’s happening at face value without extrapolating out any further.” Link
- The Story of Gods Unchained, The Web3 Game Ahead of Its Time (Naavik) - “This is about Gods Unchained (GU), a TCG (trading card game) that went into development in 2018 and launched its beta in 2019. GU is one of the first games to incorporate blockchain technology into its economy and its WAU and DAU sit around 80k and 8-12k, respectively. The game was developed on Immutable X, a Layer 2 solution utilizing Starkware to trim down on proof of work Ethereum consumption. I believe GU is one of the most legitimate and underrated blockchain gaming experiences to date as it has bucked several anti web proclamations such as ‘it’s a ponzi scheme’, ‘it’s bad for the environment’, and ‘it’s not secure’. In my conversation with Chris Clay, the game director for GU, in late May of 2022 he said ‘we often don’t get credit for many of the pain points we’ve solved’.” Link
- The 3 Pillars of Blockchain Games (P2Evo) - “Players make up the core of any game. They are the main value driver throughout all of the pillars and are ultimately what will make or break a project. In this section, we will focus on how projects can target and onboard the right players before moving on to the different types of players and token design decisions. The early stages in conceptualizing a game determine who the end players will be (demographics, preferences, income, location, etc.) as well as the thickness of the player base, i.e. how many happy gamers there will be. When designing a game, some important considerations will be made early on as to whether it is Free-to-Play or Pay-to-Play. This will have a direct effect on the size of the potential player base as well as the mechanisms designed to attract and retain these players.” Link
- Unlocking the Metaverse: New Opportunities in Games Infrastructure (Future) - “For a long time, games were primarily monolithic, fixed experiences. Developers would build them, ship them, and then start building a sequel. Players would buy them, play them, then move on once they had exhausted the content—often in as little as 10-20 hours of gameplay. We’re now in the era of Games-as-a-Service, whereby developers continuously update their games post-launch. Many of these games also feature metaverse-adjacent UGC like virtual concerts and educational content. Roblox and Minecraft even feature marketplaces where player-creators can get paid for their work. Critically, however, these games are still (purposefully) walled off from one another. While their respective worlds may be immense, they’re closed ecosystems, and nothing can be transferred between them—not resources, skills, content, or friends.” Link
- The Road Ahead for Gaming Guilds (Embernodes) - “Gaming guilds should ultimately aim to become a net value-add to a game’s ecosystem where the guild should also benefit players in the collective, very much like guilds in traditional games. One of the main reasons players want to be part of a guild is to be part of a community, especially games that allow for social interactions. Accruing more rewards (in-game) and actually winning the game (because you cannot win as an individual) also motivates people to be part of a guild. Guilds should also consider working towards augmenting player’s experiences within the game ecosystem, which in turn helps add value to games by retaining players, guiding different players, and sequentially increasing player fulfillment.” Link
- Better than Axie Infinity: Kieran Warwick’s 2032 Plan for Illuvium (Coin Telegraph) - “Instead of flipping crypto, the younger Warwick tapped into his taste for burgers in 2016 to create the Burger Collective, described as an ‘app made for burger lovers’ that hosted reviews and discounts to nearby restaurants. With 200,000 users, the app experienced initial success and an imminent integration with DoorDash, before the COVID-19 pandemic caused restaurants to close for in-person dining. ‘Our product was all about going to the store,’ Warwick explains regarding why the company had to wind down in May 2021 after running out of money. It was while his burger app was beginning to fail that Kain peer-pressured him ‘to get back into crypto,’ even loaning him $100,000 to do so. “I ended up making a whole bunch of money — 10x in six months,” Warwick recalls. In June 2020, he had the fortune of learning about the play-to-earn game Axie Infinity, which fascinated him.” Link
- Web3 Gaming Evolution and 5 Economic Challenges (Part I) (Alex Takei and Sophia Weng) - “In web2, digital assets usually have cosmetic or utility value and web3 is no different; however, ownership of web3 assets can be transferred. As of today, common assets sold to the community are Access NFTs (units needed to play the game) and Utility NFTs (assets or tools that help a player play the game better or more efficiently). These non-fungible tokens can be purchased on third-party marketplaces (e.g., OpenSea, Magic Eden, ImmutableX) or game marketplaces (Axie Marketplace). Often, minting or buying NFTs consumes some form of token (could be game (AXS) or exchange token (ETH)). In terms of services sold to the community, blockchain games have been offering their players voting rights, i.e. permission to influence decision making around the game, in exchange for some form of governance token lockup (however, there’s been wide variety on how these are designed). Tokens can also be used for in-game activities like crafting and upgrading, adding to the utility of soft and hard tokens specifically. Finally, since the governance token is akin to equity in the game itself, it acts as a form of asset speculation where holding the token is akin to holding stock in a company.” Link