We recently sat down with Michael Wagner, Co-Founder & CEO of Star Atlas. Star Atlas is a space-themed video game metaverse of grand strategy, open-world exploration, territorial conquest, and political domination. In this conversation with Michael, we discuss Star Atlas’ vision, roadmap, history and technology, and dig deeper in the potential of Blockchain-enabled gaming and what it will mean for the future of the Metaverse. This is an edited and abbreviated transcript. Enjoy!
Formal Career & The Beginning of Star Atlas
Welcome to the Metacast Crypto Corner. This is the first episode in a new series where we’re planning to discuss the intersection of blockchain and games. Today, I'm joined by Michael Wagner, the CEO of Star Atlas. Michael, welcome to the show.
Great to be here.
To get started - I'm curious to know more about you. What’s your story and how did you end up as the CEO of Star Atlas?
My formal background and career is in traditional finance and capital markets. I'm a CFA charter holder, so I previously worked in portfolio management and investment and security analysis, focused on both institutional and high net worth private wealth management with registered investment advisors.
I got introduced to Bitcoin in 2013, right at the peak of the bull cycle that year. I was on a bike ride with a friend of mine, and he was telling me about trading on these old coin markets and mining with GPUs.
To shed more context on me - I was part of a video gaming group back in high school called the LANarchists. This was in the '90s, when broadband internet wasn't widely available. We mostly spent our weekends bringing our computers to someone's house, playing video games, and eating pizza. Through that, I had a chance to build my own computers, so I was familiar with tinkering around with electronics.
Back to Bitcoin - when my friend told me about creating these custom GPU rigs, it immediately caught my attention. Plus with my financial background, I was also interested in the potential of this to become an emerging technological asset class. I even would end up trying to get wealth managers I worked with to include Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies into client portfolios. At the time, it was all very nascent and perceived as black market, so it never really took off.
Nevertheless, that was my entry point. It wasn't a lucrative business for me to get into crypto mining, but it did a great job of captivating my interest in the potential of the technology. In some ways it was bad timing, the market ended up entering a bear cycle as soon as I got interested. But bear markets tend to be a great time to dedicate yourself to learning because they’re slower, filled with less hype, and there are fewer opportunities to chase after. At the time I took two years to focus on learning as much as I could about the underlying technology and potential opportunities. Ultimately, in 2015 I made the call to go full-time in crypto and give up my “formal career”. I launched a mini-fund with a small group of friends where we traded and speculated on old coins.
Which brings us to 2016, the year I conceptualized my first business, called Tokes. It sat at the intersection of crypto and cannabis - we were focused on providing decentralized financial services to the legal cannabis industry, given the obstacles the businesses faced with legacy financial services like banks and credit cards. Funnily enough, that business is actually still up and running.
It was through Tokes I eventually met my co-founders for Star Atlas: Daniel Floyd, our chief product officer, and Jacob Floyd, our chief technology officer. We also have Pablo Quiroga who joined us as our chief revenue officer.
After all these experiences in crypto, I’ve come to realize there’s so much innovation and opportunity that pops up, it’s tough to keep pace, particularly when you’re building a business. That being said, there’s this drive to be in the know, particularly when you’re an operator, so I always kept a pulse on the trends that were popular. DeFi really came into public attention in 2019 and 2020, providing one of the best use cases for blockchain to date and helped with the emergence of NFT collectibles and blockchain gaming.
As I mentioned earlier, I’m a long-time gamer, as is the rest of the Star Atlas leadership team. We sat down one weekend and started conceptualizing what we thought could be a premiere product in blockchain gaming. Most of the products in market at the time were relatively gameplay-wise: turn-based games, card-style games, often with lower quality graphics. We felt that there was an opportunity to develop something that was truly Triple-A. Thus, Star Atlas was born. That was back in mid-2020. We took the remainder of those six months of 2020 to go through some pre-production planning and determine what the product would look like. We raised our seed round at the end of the year and made our formal debut in January 2021. It's been a wild ride ever since.
The Features of Star Atlas
Could you share more about the vision behind Star Atlas? A lot of people are curious about what you're building and what games you draw inspiration from.
I'd give Danny, our chief product officer, a tremendous amount of credit on the general gameplay and mechanics. He has deep experience and background in Triple-A game development, which has been invaluable in executing our vision.
What we’re building really consists of two categories - this Triple-A game with blockchain financial services integrated in, to deliver the play-to-earn model. But we’re also building a true Metaverse concept. We think of the game itself as the entry point into what the Star Atlas Metaverse will be at some point in the future, we’re trying to build a product with a perpetual lifecycle, unlike a lot of other games today.
At its core, Star Atlas is a space-themed massively multiplayer online game. It's centered around space exploration, territory control, and political domination. Players will be able to purchase and own ships, land, buildings, structures, crew members, all as NFTs, be able to navigate the stars, take over planets, attack other players, complete missions, and just explore the universe in a way that we can't physically do today.
Outside of the NFT integration, we have built our crypto-native assets: ATLAS and POLIS. All of the transactions, both the earnings and the operating costs across the Metaverse, are all denominated in ATLAS. Then our unique governance structure, which is based on the Star Atlas DAO, is denominated in POLIS. That governance structure is what enables us to decentralize the product over time. Through the emission and inflation of POLIS, players are able to take a governance stake in the DAO and be able to determine the future outcome of what the Star Atlas Metaverse actually becomes.
When you're talking about DAO, is there one DAO, or will you have sub-DAOs?
We have a pretty novel hierarchical system of DAOs. There's the external DAO, or master DAO, that governors can stake to, which enables them to earn emissions. It also enables them to submit and vote on proposals related to things like game design and development, and asset release schedules. They can also impact the economic structure and taxation rates across the universe, and earn a part of the economy itself.
We also have this approach of separating the revenue streams that flow into the business as both a game development and design studio, as compared to the economic value being created and transacted across the Metaverse itself. All of those operating costs, which are denominated in ATLAS, are ultimately recaptured and transferred into the DAO. Then the DAO itself has the ability to determine what to do with those financial resources.
DAOs also place a role in the game itself, tying closely to the political strategy element of the gameplay. There are separate factions across the universe - the MUD, the ONI, and the USTUR, which represent humans, aliens, and a sentient android species. Each of those factions, which are at war with one another, are controlled by a sub-faction of DAOs. In turn, these groups split down into regional DAOs that control anything from a local planet to a solar system or even a cluster.
Finally, we conclude with what we call decentralized autonomous corporations, or DACs. That's the guild system through the game. In each of those categories, various real people will be elected to positions of power and will be able to determine economic events, depending on which level it is.
For the DACs themselves, we're creating a DAO framework that allows them to not only register their guild, select their name and banner, but also select from a series of DAO components, and manage their guild treasuries. What we're building is driven towards collective cohesion, and partnering to execute effectively across the Metaverse.
So you have this POLIS token which is your governance token. You'll be able to stake that in the master DAO which is a governance DAO around Star Atlas itself. Is that token also involved in the other sub-DAOs, so within each faction, etc.?
It's involved in faction and regional level DAOs. Part of this other DAC and DAO framework that we're building for the guild registration will also enable those guilds to create and mend their own token which then they can use to capitalize the DAO, their guild itself, utilize that capital to purchase assets, and share the upside of their earnings through actual gameplay. We want to empower these guilds to be able to do a lot of things and have a lot of control over the treasury itself and its own financial resources.
The Future of Star Atlas
Could you tell us more about the roadmap, where do you see this all going over the next few years?
It's a very ambitious project with a long roadmap. To be honest, we don't ever envision it as being fully completed. That's partially because of the whole decentralization element of the DAO itself. While we maintain pretty strict control over what exists inside the Metaverse in the short-term, in the next 3-5 years we plan to lose our majority control over governance as it all develops. That would indicate to us that people from all over the world are taking ownership of the decision-making about what the Metaverse becomes.
That also means that at some point external creator content, business models, and ideas can be contributed and facilitated. We want to create this sandbox for innovators and entrepreneurs to create their own business models. We see a major future in things like social experience inside the digital world.
These two elements - the video game itself and the Metaverse behind it - are distinct. While the game lives inside the Metaverse, not everybody will want to participate in those mechanics, and vice versa. It's very possible for somebody to enter into the Metaverse and just create a merchant storefront, a digital shopping experience, and ignore the gameplay mechanics completely. Hypothetically this could even be a mainstream brand - Nike could set up a shoe store inside the Metaverse on one of our central space stations. Then players, via their avatars, could go shop at that store, purchase shoes, maybe even have them delivered to their physical residence, and of course get that same pair of shoes delivered to them as an NFT which they can then equip on their avatar, without Nike influencing or participating in the actual game itself.
In regular Triple-A games, development has a 5-7-year life cycle to deliver a fully polished concept. We have the additional complexity of the blockchain integrations. In reality, we see it as building two concurrent products: an in-browser web application and a concept built in Unreal Engine 5. We even have separate production teams on both projects.
We actually just released a lot of our roadmap yesterday. The community was screaming for it, so we felt we had to oblige. It’s important to us to make sure that people are as informed as possible, so we released our future plans, to give people some transparency into where we’re headed. A couple of upcoming features we’re excited about are something we call SCORE (ship commissions on remote expeditions). It allows players to take their ships, commit them to the faction, manage a set of four different resources, and earn ATLAS as a result of that. We expect that to come out in November.
The next iteration will ultimately be land development. Players could own land, but place buildings and structures, like mines or farms, on that land. Then we build crafting-based gameplay loops on top of those structures. People that mine extract minerals and ore that can be refined and become input materials used in the creation of new NFTs. For example, if players have the blueprint for a specific ship, once they obtain all of the materials and the blueprint, they're able to print a new NFT which then they can either use themselves or sell it on our decentralized marketplace.
We also expect to have orbital space stations - which are complementary space stations that provide facilities for your land operations. You have your mining equipment, which you can take to your space station and use in your refinery. The space stations will also have fuel stations, hangar bays, commerce decks, trading decks. It’s like you’re building a personal hub with compounding utility over time.
Right now, all of these features are in development, with most of them rolling out over the course of 2021 and into 2022. The most technically immersive experience we’re working on is a showroom model. It’ll let players enter into the Unreal Engine via a game client and start to experience what the world is going to look like ahead of time. Building in Unreal Engine has given us the capability of delivering this cinematic quality, hyper-realistic gameplay experience. We want players to feel as immersed as possible in the digital world to the extent where it's almost indiscernible from their real life.
NFTs Inside Star Atlas
Maybe it's a good moment to talk about the NFTs that you’ve already issued. I'm curious to understand how you thought about those.
So far, we've sold two categories of NFTs: collectibles and game assets, both of which are built on the Solana blockchain. We were in discussions with them in August and September of last year and made the determination that that would be the appropriate partner for us for the layer one.
One of the downsides of that decision is that some of the features, sets, and protocols that existed on other chains didn't necessarily exist yet on Solana, so we’ve had to build them on our own. The product we built was actually an NFT marketplace that was fully integrated with Project Serum. Serum is the decentralized exchange protocol that exists on top of Solana. We delivered that marketplace to the community in April this year. Then we utilized that same marketplace to release our own NFT campaign that we called ReBirth: Genesis of a Metaverse.
The ReBirth campaign included these collectibles, what we call multimedia meta-posters. All of the creative content, the art itself, was created by our team. Then we worked with third parties, like Shape Immersive out of Vancouver, to create augmented reality overlays, and also some mainstream musicians like Blondish, Bassjackers, and Deadmau5, to produce audio soundscapes to underlie the posters. Again, all in the service of trying to create the sense of immersion at a very early stage.
These collectibles are actually still available for viewing and purchase on secondary markets on play.staratlas.com. If you just want to check them out, anybody can view them. We'd highly encourage people to do so. That was a 14-week campaign where we released one poster every week. Not only was it a way for us to generate revenue, but what we really wanted to accomplish was growing our community through the revealing and unveiling of the background, history, and lore of the Star Atlas universe. Each week you get a little bit more information about how we got to the year 2620 in the Star Atlas Metaverse.
In September we also launched what we call the Galactic Asset Offering which was the initial sale of game assets. That included a series of ships. We've continued to sell new items every couple of days or weeks, related to those game assets. At some point in the future, possibly before the end of the year, we'll start selling some of the land assets as well.
Is the land that you're selling fully limited in terms of the land plots?
We have a strong emphasis on the economics of the game. Yes, the land assets are short-term, finite in supply. They're limited, with the exception that we believe that the potential of the Metaverse can attract billions of users from all over the world. What we try to balance out is the release of new assets over time, based on growth and user adoption, such that we don't experience hyperinflation across the universe, so that it can continue to be inclusive. We want to ensure that somebody that comes in a year from now doesn't have to spend $100,000 to try to participate in the game while maintaining the value of those assets.
In April you launched a campaign to share a bit more lore with the community. Can you tell us about that?
The goal with that campaign was to tell the world we existed, and then start to deliver this collectible series. The campaign also included a number of extra benefits. Each poster had various reward tiers, and when players purchased a set of posters up the reward tier of their choice, they also were airdropped in-game assets. Even with the first poster, which sold at an MSRP of $64, players were given a ship, some land claims, an orbital space station, some custom skins, some emotes.
We originally projected that the value of all of the in-game NFTs that came via the posters to be around $58, but after we got through the complete economic analysis and valuation of those assets, it was closer to $120. People who bought a $64 poster got to capture a moment in time, $120 worth of in-game assets, and access to an allocation during our IEO and IDO token-generation phase.
What are the KPIs that you look at with regards to your community?
The most basic metric we observe is community growth: what is the month-over-month change in users. We're also looking at growth in the guild system because it’s an ecosystem we’re working hard to cultivate. We believe in the power of collectivism and efficiency that can be generated by operating collaboratively with other players. This has led us to believe that the guilds are going to be the most powerful units across the game.
The guilds also play into the way we've designed the economics of the game. The assets themselves are made to be aspirational and wealth-driven, which is to say that we have assets that almost anyone around the world can purchase for something like $20, but also assets that we believe could sell for upwards of $10 million. There’s no intention for a single person to own those million-dollar assets, rather guilds can collectively pool their capital, purchase the assets, and then use it as a home base to travel the universe. That’s part of why guild growth is so important to us.
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Integrating Blockchain Into Star Atlas
You talked about having to make a decision on what blockchain you'd choose to build your game on. What were the criteria that you were thinking about? What was important to you? Why did you end up choosing Solana?
We did analyze a number of chains, including Cosmos, Avalanche, Flow, BFC, Solana, and a number of others. What first captivated my interest in Solana was that we had a need for the technology needed to be scalable given the potential user adoption in our products. Solana does this quite well, and they do it as a layer one solution without any sharding. This in turn creates a high degree of efficiency across the network. In practical terms, when we talk about scalability, we're talking about things like transaction throughput. In the case of Solana, the blockchain is doing greater than 50,000 transactions per second. That kind of scale is key for a game with logic built on-chain because almost every action that a user takes is going to be recorded on the blockchain in some way.
We also had a need for a solution that delivered sub-second finality in state of change, because the longer those actions take on-chain, the longer they take in the game. On Solana, we’re looking at 400 milliseconds, which lets us avoid lag and maintain low latency. All of these considerations were really based on one question: was the tech capable of delivering what we needed?
The simple fact that we were early to Solana was promising because it gave us the opportunity to collaborate and be mutually beneficial for one another at a very early stage with the community. Solana had about 20-25 projects that were built in the ecosystem at the time. We were the only game in the ecosystem, so they were willing to contribute resources to us in terms of marketing support and communications, and delivering our concept to their community. It helped us grow very rapidly.
In hindsight, seeing the overall ecosystem growth of projects, DeFi projects, really benefited us from a development standpoint. It opened the door for investors from all around the world who want to build products that seamlessly integrate into the Star Atlas Metaverse. We don't have to build those products anymore, and they’re still mutually beneficial for everyone.
You talked about integrating DeFi into your game. Could you elaborate a bit on that?
In a way, we're trying to help onboard users into the blockchain space. I think that blockchain games are going to lead to one of the greatest mass migrations of users into crypto because we can deliver an experience that’s fun while still exposing people to this new technology that otherwise might be monotonous. It's not that fun to read through a ton of blogs and try to learn how DeFi works, or even watch YouTube videos. But if you're playing a game, and it's just an element of the gameplay mechanics, you're much more prone to dedicating time to it and figuring out how you maximize the resources that you're earning.
It’s part of why our players have the potential to take some of their earnings that were denominated and derived in ATLAS, and then deploy those to things like liquidity pools, or AMNs, or even lending pools. This also empowers them to compound their wealth over time.
Thinking philosophically about the current state of the global economy, the reality is that it all sits on unstable grounds. We're starting to see major rises in inflation, and central banks are just printing infinite amounts of money. If you're taking money and putting it in your bank account, the reality is that you're losing purchasing power every year, because you're getting paid nothing, and inflation is anywhere from 2% and creeping up to 5%, which means that the value of your dollar goes down, you're not earning anything. However, in DeFi you might be able to pick up 20, 30, or even 100%, depending on how far out on the risk spectrum you want to go with those assets.
There are those core protocols, but also the DAO framework itself that we're introducing as a DeFi tool. We’re also working on asset lending protocols, which we're collaborating with Jet Protocol on, to integrate into the game. This would allow players to take any assets that they own, and when they’re not in use, contribute them to the pools, let someone else borrow that, and pay a fee or rent on it. We essentially create the sharing economy inside the Metaverse for game assets. Somebody who maybe didn't have the capital necessary to purchase a ship can now borrow a ship, pay a short-term lending rate, and, in theory, earn net income through the dedication of their time to playing.
On the other side of that, the people that are lending the assets out get residual income off of it. Obviously, you're not going to be playing the game 24 hours a day, so it's like flipping the switch. You earn while you're playing, and then you allow your asset to earn for you while you're not.
You talked about introducing players to blockchain technology. How do you think about making onboarding as easy as possible? Do you require players to have their own wallets? Will you try to also take that away over time?
We don't want to take that ownership way. We want to encourage users to have complete custody over their assets. That is at the center of the ethos of crypto - self-sovereign management of wealth. Obviously, that comes with the challenges of educating all of these new users on security protocols and functionality of these tools, and just generally how to use Web3.0.
We took the approach of focusing on the crypto community first, people who have a fundamental understanding of all of these principles, and then, going into the future, we'll create education programs that might be part of a university that also exists inside the Star Atlas. What's really cool, thinking long-term, is it's very possible for someone else around the world to actually design the curriculum and teach a course in a university inside the Metaverse, that other players might want to take. The person that created the curriculum is the one that can monetize that, should they want to, or maybe they provide it as a free service.
We want to make sure that our users aren't getting compromised and taken advantage of, especially given the prevalence of scams that exist across crypto since inception. It's a delicate balance between protecting and empowering people. We're trying to walk the line. We're working on building those education programs now.
Looking at all the people who play any type of blockchain game, almost all of them are crypto natives. Right now I think we're at 2-3 million. What will it take the bring the next 100 million people to blockchain gaming?
I want to give Axie Infinity some credit just for being pioneers in this space. I think they've been building since 2017. They had extremely slow growth over the first three years, but in many ways, the pandemic was beneficial for them and this sector as well, because Axie's success demonstrated the potential of play-to-earn.
Part of that was also driven by Yield Guild Games and what they did through things like scholarship programs. Yield Guild Games was a major guild across Axie. They were largely a community of people from the Philippines. As people were unemployed because of the pandemic, looking for work, YGG was able to provide these new users with assets that they could then go utilize. These people became effectively the operators and the labor force for Yield Guild assets, with shared revenue potential. What was really impressive is that those people in the Philippines that were playing the game were earning 3-4 times their earnings potential by working a job in the local economy. It was fortuitous that they got unemployed and got onboarded into Axie because they realized what the distributed earnings potential could be globally.
This is one of the reasons why we want to put some emphasis on guilds. One, it helps us with the dissemination of information, especially given that there are so many cultural and language differences around the world. It's difficult for a single company to communicate effectively with everyone. But if we're working with leadership across guilds, they can distribute and distill that information down to their users. Through empowering them, they can help us with onboarding those next 100 million users.
How do you think about operability? One of the big promises of the Metaverse is that assets within Star Atlas could potentially be used to build another game. How do you think about that in the design of Star Atlas?
I'm less optimistic about it in the short term, but I believe in long term. Right now, we’re building two very high graphical fidelity standards. Essentially, we want to ensure that any content that's released into Star Atlas meets our standards, and there are not many people that have the expertise and talent around the world to meet that expectation. As a result, we're pretty restrictive right now in terms of what assets we import. Also, from a business standpoint, by not setting that high bar we'd be fairly competitive with ourselves, and it doesn't feed into the economic model to allow for the incorporation of external game assets.
What I think is promising in the long-term is interoperability across protocols and the utilization of those same lending pools to either fractionalize and/or participate in lending pools on any protocol. I think at some point what we're going to develop is a standard that would define what the graphical development requirements would be, to integrate within Star Atlas.
At the same time, through decentralization, it's possible that the DAO decides that they don't care if everything is cohesive and looks consistent across the universe. For us, it's just important that we get that polished product that leads our vision out to the world. If the world decides at some point that that's less important to them, and they don't care, they just want to incorporate assets from other games, then that's the action that we'd take, and we'd make that implementation possible. We just want to deliver our vision before we get to that point. I don't necessarily want to use the term, but we don't want to create a Frankenstein product in the short term.
With that being said, the other component that's promising is that by being built on blockchain, we can't, nor would we, prohibit some other developer from wanting to recognize the assets that we've already released, and create some product around it. They can create their own revenue and economic models around the product itself. If they're not driving their income through the sale of NFTs directly, then it adds a lot of value in the fact that we've already created all the assets, we've invested an enormous amount of money in our creative team to build the assets, and then they can integrate those into their world. They just find some novel approach to monetize that.
Longer-term, we'll probably have a multiverse model, whether it's all-encompassing in a single Metaverse or you're navigating from one environment to another, and as you switch over, your avatar and assets switch over. I believe that that's the future, just not the immediate future.
The Value of Play-To-Earn
As you mentioned, we’re entering into this era of play-to-earn where people can actually earn their living in a game or in the Metaverse. How do you think about that? Do you give any consideration to making sure the experience is still fun, even if it’s a source of income?
From our standpoint, we have two core mandates across the company. If we're building a Triple-A quality game, it has to be fun. People play video games to get a sense of escapism from reality and entertainment value. That's an enormous amount of work, and you need some really talented people to define that vision.
The other mandate is to ensure that we create a sustainable economy in the long-term, that isn't purely extractive-based and derived entirely from inflation or emissions of things like ATLAS and POLIS over time. This is when the ability for an innovator to create something inside Star Atlas that really takes hold. It’s important because the people creating these models need to have a way to monetize them while they're also contributing value back into the broader Star Atlas Metaverse. In turn, the more people that are innovating the space, the more potential attraction or interest points there will be for everyone else around the world. This is thinking 5, 7, 10 years out.
With respect to the play-to-earn component, the income aspect should really be an enhancement. I think that it's very powerful to be able to provide these players with a true sense of ownership. That's what we deliver through NFTs, earnings potential, the distribution of ATLAS and POLIS over time, and the potential to be an entrepreneur in this space.
We've defined between 35 and 40 different careers or professions that people can take across Star Atlas. You can be the CEO of a decentralized autonomous corporation. Obviously, space exploration includes things like fighters, so you can be out navigating the stars and attacking other players, or defending a fleet. You can be a data runner where you're discovering new parts of space, and then you're capitalizing on that information that you have. And there are also people that are going to be miners, farmers.
We have the core career paths that we've developed out, but it's very possible for somebody to set up shop as a merchant within the Metaverse, or set up a venue where they can host musical events, maybe they're having a concert, or music festival, or DJs playing. They're the ones that are securing the talent, bringing them in, selling tickets to the event, and that's their business model. I think it’s really cool because the whole system allows them to not be focused exclusively on earning ATLAS from the team at Star Atlas but earning income from other players who want to experience that. The opportunities are limitless.
There is one other major component. We have calls almost every week from venture capital looking to purchase portfolios of NFTs from us. They don't necessarily have the capacity or interest to go explore space or engage in gameplay. What they're doing is taking those assets and employing people from all around the world to act as operators. This is going to lead to one of the largest labor markets the world has ever seen inside the digital economy, as well as a great redistribution and equalization of capital and wealth from around the world.
I've heard some criticisms about getting slave labor to work these assets for people inside the Metaverse. But the reality is, when you eliminate that friction of geographic borders, you also open the opportunities and you make it far more competitive. If you're getting underpaid by an asset owner on a mining operation somewhere, there will be a job board from someone else that's willing to pay a little bit more. This is going to get incredibly competitive. As a result, we're going to see competitive wages for everybody who wants to be an operator and dedicate their time to operating inside space.
Are you worried that the real potential of this redistribution of ownership will be stifled by the speculators, these deep-pocketed investors that'll buy up all the limited assets, like the land, and then just sit on it and only rent it out to the highest bidder?
I'd say it's a concern, but that's one of the elements that needs to be carefully rebalanced through the economic model of the game. Sure, we have a finite supply in the short term, but if the user growth would indicate that we need to expand the universe, then we can expand it.
Also, through the governance protocol, it'd be very possible for those governors and stakeholders to make the determination that it's time to increase the size and release a new deployment of assets. Over time, that'll include mode opportunities for more people around the world. It also goes back to that inclusiveness of the various origination prices. Portfolio managers probably won't be buying all of the smallest assets. Somebody can enter into the game with $20, start to earn from that, and if they make the decision that they want to reinvest back into themselves and maybe upgrade or purchase a bigger ship, or land somewhere, and then create a mining operation, those opportunities should continue to exist.
There's more exclusivity to the larger assets, but the least expensive assets are almost in infinite supply. The $20 ships are never going to sell out. It doesn't matter how much capital flows into the Metaverse. People will at least have an entry point. That's our objective. A lot of that's going to take some time to ensure that we have the balance there. Fortunately, we have a decentralized governance structure, so we'll be able to take feedback from people all over the world with an economic interest in the Metaverse, and incorporate that into our decision-making.
How big is your team now, and how do you expect it to evolve over the next five years?
It's one of the great accomplishments that we've had this year. We had the 4 co-founding members back in December. We currently have a team of 140 people. We scaled to that over the course of 10 months. We recently onboarded a new chief of HR, tasked with things like global compliance and talent acquisition. We also just hired somebody as a core recruiter on our team. Our mission is to scale this team by 300-400% by the same time next year. I'd fully anticipate seeing our internal team being around 400, but it may grow to 600-700. We also have the added benefit of a global population that's maybe indirectly performing functions, development, innovation, and building on top of what we’ve created thus far
What's your biggest challenge as a company right now?
We've been performing exceedingly well. We've exceeded all of our own as well as external expectations. We're developing at a rapid pace. I'd say there’s a lot of demand in the community. Obviously, everybody wants to see this product now. Trying to manage some of those expectations is perhaps our biggest challenge.
Also, the recruiting efforts, identifying the talented people that can help us deliver this product. There's not a lot of people out there in the world that can do it. There's a pretty high demand right now for game developers as well, people that are in engineering and game design and development. We're competing with the likes of Microsoft, to secure that talent. Also, we're building on Solana, and they use Rust which is a C++ language. There's not a lot of those types of developers out there either. Securing the engineers that are capable of building in Rust on our blockchain engineering team has been a challenge as well.
Nevertheless, I think things are still progressing nicely. If you're interested, shoot over a resume. We'd love to take a look and we'll be in touch.
What's the biggest lesson you can give other potential blockchain games founders about founding a games company in this industry?
Make sure you have your strategy in place before you bring the concept to market. We spent six months in pre-production planning. Which is difficult, by the way, because you want to make sure that you can get the idea out there as soon as possible. It helps to be able to spend as much time as possible strategizing and formulating your economy, balancing out tokenomics, and thinking about gameplay mechanics before you try to execute and bring the vision to the market.
Did you do all of that internally, or have you talked to external partners about, for example, tokenomics?
We have worked with a number of third parties. We worked with Republic Crypto and Republic Realm for economic analysis and advisory. They've been great partners for us. They really helped us in the formation and distribution of our game economics. We have a really immersive website. I would encourage everyone to go take a look at www.staratlas.com. We have both our original white paper as well as our new game economy and tokenomics white paper. There's a ton of information in those documents.
We also worked with groups like Shape Immersive, the artists, a number of talent agencies, and for our cinematic trailer, we worked with Hydra Studios. We're currently working with some third parties on the Unreal Engine game development. We're sourcing where we can. That allows us to scale as quickly as possible and deliver a best-in-class product.
Could you share a bold prediction about blockchain games?
I'd revert back to my comment on the potential for the digital labor market. I really think that the Metaverse is the future of the web. It'll disrupt social media. There's a reason why Facebook is undertaking a rebranding and becoming Metaverse-centric. I think it'll disrupt e-commerce. I don't think that in the future people will want to shop on Amazon when they have the potential to enter into an immersive world and interact with their object, whether it be in AR or VR, and purchase that item directly through the Metaverse. Also, things like governance and economics, and going back to the potential for the Metaverse to become the largest labor market the world has ever seen, which is equally distributed and highly competitive, which is great for employees.
Going down the rabbit hole a little bit, there's an enormous amount of negative sentiment and job dissatisfaction in the world today, people feeling under-compensated in the face of high inflation, people that are spending a majority of their income just to survive, without the potential to save and improve their quality of life. I think this is going to dramatically improve physical reality and global economics as a result. We get to use the Metaverse as a proving ground for new models. There's also a major trend in job disruption and displacement, as a result of the automation of jobs. Those people are going to need to work somewhere. We invite you all to the Star Atlas Metaverse.
If I’m understanding correctly, In the next month you'll bring out something that we can try?
That's right. We have a target launch date, so we're looking at mid-November right now as the release of that SCORE module which is the first application where people will be able to send out their ships on behalf of their faction and start earning ATLAS.