Consider this, web3 gaming studios!

Amp Burapachaisri outlines the questions to consider as developers build games in web3.

On this edition of Reflections, we're handing the mic to Symmetrical member Amp Burapachaisri. By day, she's an analyst at Fireblocks, the institution-grade digital custody solution. By night, she writes down her insights about NFTs, gaming, and genZ consumer trends.

Amp, over to you 🎙️

Here’s a tagline we usually see: “games will onboard the next billions of users onto web3.” But where are all the games? Where are the users? Relax, they’re coming. As with all good things, great games take time to develop. So we're told.

If you are a web3 game developer or founder, here are some considerations to keep in mind:

  1. Play: Don’t monetize play. In the words of @PlayIsFree: “the psychology of play gets destroyed when you financialize it.” If the ultimate goal of Club Penguin was to see who had the most decked out igloo or the most puffles, it would have sucked. Efficiency, not joy, not fun, would be the sole focus. Hundreds of millions of fans logged in again and again because Club Penguin was truly a compelling experience. The whole platform was centered around creating fun experiences: make games into places where people want to be, and the spending will follow.

  2. Technicalities: Thou shalt not skip over this! There are trade-offs involved in decision-making, especially around decentralization, scaling, and security. Yet when balanced appropriately, these elements offer frictionless and seamless experiences—something users really care about. Here’s what I mean:

    • Chain: which chain to build on?
      Some developers might prefer Ethereum’s network effects and security. They might opt for a Layer 2 such as Arbitrum, which TreasureDAO is built on. On the other hand, Immutable X and its lineup of games (Gods Unchained, Illuvium, Guild of Guardians) partnered with StarkWare, which uses ZK-Rollups to scale with zero gas fees. Avalanche has its sights set on becoming the de facto gaming chain, already home to titles such as Crabada, Pizza Game, and Snail Trail. Solana has also picked up steam as well, featuring titles including Fractal, Aurory, and Genopets.

    • Wallets: custodial or non-custodial? If custodial, who creates the wallets? How do you initiate transactions (via API?) Who pays for gas? A lot of lessons on the question of wallets can be learnt from Reddit’s best-in-class execution of its Digital Collectibles in a community that is a) typically suspicious of anything associated with the term ‘NFT’ and b) is millions strong. What Reddit did well is making the user experience simple, without sacrificing the virtues of self-custody. They did it through rebranding the terms, stressing the importance of a seed phrases, and defaulting to a Reddit-built wallet inside the app that only became self-custodial if the user wanted it to be.

    💡 Tip: Users should not pay for gas. Picture this: for any in-game action that you take, MetaMask pops up: "A network fee is associated with this request.” Gaaa!! No, just no.

    • Security: only a concern when things go wrong. Do take measures to protect your internal team and external users. Are there guardrails around phishing attacks or malicious contracts?

      • On social media, let followers know that members of your team would never ask for your personal information (private keys, seed phrases, passwords).

    💡 Tip: Not something people many think about, but how is your treasury secured? If you go down the custodian or wallet provider/integrated wallets route, always do your own research on the tools to which you are entrusting funds. Pay particularly attention to understanding how users' private keys are stored: here’s a case study of Vulcan Forged and how they lost $140m.

    • Integrations:

      • Payments: Can users buy NFTs or crypto directly with a credit card? Bank account? This has emerged as a critical feature of seamless user experiences like NBA Top Shot. It's increasingly becoming an option across web3, with OpenSea one of the recent major players to integrate fiat payments.

      • APIs: What tools will you be using that will allow you to focus on what you do best— creating games? What type of operations will you be outsourcing? (identity management, user authentication, connectivity to marketplaces, etc)

  3. Tokenomics

    • Supply Side: Robbie Ferguson of Immutable X pointed out that if you were to create an NFT or tokens, of course there would be inflation. Minting more 'pets' or 'companions' with the goal of extracting more cash undermines those who already own those digital assets. The question to ask is whether user behavior compensates for that inflation? Is there increased revenue per user, increased user retention, DAU, or MAU. If the answer is no, the asset-driven speculation will resemble the unsustainable ponzinomics found in many of today’s P2E games.

    • Game design and tokenomics is hard. We know that incentives drive behavior, yet debates whether or not to burn tokens and aligning user incentives abound. To quote Crypto Unicorns’ @abearschmitt, “there is no roadmap past the end of the map.” So we forge on, experimenting in real time to find the path to sustainability.

      GTM Operations & Marketing

    • Liquidity:

      • Marketplace: where will you be building out a marketplace? Where are the liquidity venues for minting and trading NFTs?

    • Onboarding: how can you reduce onboarding to a minimum?

      • For traditional Web2 users, how do you onboard those that have never created MetaMask or WalletConnect? Are there options for those players?

      • 🤔 Case Study: Gala partnered with Epic Games so more than 190 million players can use their Epic account to log into Gala.

    • B2B Positioning: How will you position yourself when the Web2 giants (Epic Games, Blizzard, Valve) enter the scene? Will it be a joint venture, partnership, or direct competition?

    • B2C Positioning: How will players find out about you? What social media platforms will you target?

    💡 Tip: Market yourself as a game. On Twitter, Axie Infinity's tagline is Battle, Collect, Build. Gods Unchained presents themselves as a Trading Card Game by Immutable X. Treeverse is an "MMORPG in development, by EndlessCloudsHQ.” Notice how no one calls it a “web3 game” or a “P2E game.” Just as no one calls League of Legends, Hearthstone, or World of Warcraft a “computer game” or an “Internet game.” In the future, no one will care if you are a blockchain-based game. If it is fun, the players will come.

Phew! That was a lot to consider. Great games take years to build. In the early days, prioritize growth over monetization, always circling back to the question: is my game fun? If not, it is not a game.

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