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The current game market is in a mode of intense consolidation, with new privacy issues clamping down on user acquisition — but also exploding with new opportunities and new platforms. To talk about launching NFT games in the metaverse, decentralized guilds, growth strategies for play-to-earn and web free games and more, Andrew N. Green, adviser to Yield Guild Games, hosted a panel of industry experts at the GamesBeat “Into the Metaverse” Summit.
In a mature market and growing market, discovery is one of the biggest challenges any developer can encounter. At the same time, monetization means ads that impact user experiences.
“There has to be something better,” said Sebastien Borget, co-founder of The Sandbox. “And that better thing is putting a user at the enter of the experience through letting them own a game asset. We’re shifting the balance of value as we design video games.”
Web 3 has been defined as the internet owned by builders and users, orchestrated with tokens. And there’s no better way to empower users than actually rewarding them through tokens, Borget said. It’s s a way to create engagement, to shift the distribution of value from having centralized marketplaces and centralized stores to giving 100% percent of the value to users.
How Web 3 is changing game marketing
Steam and Valve have banned Web3 games that leverage NFTs and on-chain systems, because those games currently decrease the revenue of their company. They don’t have a way to capture the revenue earned through the blockchain; at the same time, they lose the user as a customer, because they stop playing the other games that generate money for Steam and Valve.
Business-wise, it makes sense for them, but at the same time, it’s a huge risk to leave that possibility on the table for the competition to capture, said Nicolas Gilot, founder & CEO, Ultra.io. Ultra is building a marketplace for Web 3 games, but didn’t want to just build a version of Steam that accepts Web3 games. Instead, they’re building a full ecosystem that can leverage the depth of Web3 games.
“That, to me, is what Web3 games are about,” he said. “You don’t only have the game itself. You also have the game beyond the game.”
You can unlock an unlimited amount of rewards for your loyal gamers — they could earn a valuable NFT by watching a streamed event, for instance. As a publisher, providing this NFT through the streamer, provides an opportunity to gain more users who are coming for a chance to get this rare reward. At the same time, it brings attention to the game itself, because people watching this stream from the streamer’s community would then get access to the game.
And that kind of setup can be offered in tournaments as well, with NFTs that let players participate or level up.
“You can start to see the interconnection between the various pieces of the game industry puzzle,” he said. “Whether you’re a fan of esports, or if you want to watch live streams, or you just want to purchase a game and be a part of the community, Web3 allows these interactions between users in the form of NFTs.”
These communities have become an incredibly powerful way to market the games via word of mouth, said Bozena Rezab, CEO & co-founder of GAMEE. GAMEE has created independent communities around their Arc8 tournaments, which take esports to mobile. Anyone can own a virtual tournament arena and host their own tournaments with their own rules, prize pools, and game content.
“We provide a platform with the infrastructure, and we have them do everything else around it, giving them a lot more power,” Rezab explained. “It’s both exciting and scary. It’s a strong product use case that makes people customize their experience, as well as their marketing channel.”
Guilds in particular are now playing an essential role in the discovery of play-to-earn games, Borget said, for two reasons. The first, is that empowering users and empowering community has shifted discovery from just traditional platforms to community-driven groups. The guilds are not only helping to find games, but also helping to educate more players and bring more players into the space, effectively growing the overall pool of users who can participate.
As play-to-earn game guilds, like Yield Guild Games, grow and become global, the number of users who are looking to discover new games grows. To capture that market, game developers need to incorporate the right mechanics that will empower players and enable true play-to-earn.
These communities are self-driven and self-managed, and can drop one game and switch to another very easily, which shifts the user acquisition model. The control has been taken away from the platforms, those users become a community, and they become attractive to publishers because they can create content, help develop their favorite games, and become a bigger part of the game industry.
But before you dive in, the first thing to do is get your hand in and join the Discord channels, play the existing play-to-earn games, and figure out how the entire experience works, Rezab said.
“It’s a mind shift. It’s a change in thinking. When they really understand the force behind it, they’ll be able to think about their own game,” he said. “You can’t just take NFTs and paste that into an existing game. That’s not the idea.”
“But don’t forget that play-to-earn is driven to put power toward the users first,” Borget added. “If game developers lead by example, showcasing fun games that ultimately benefit users through the ownership of their own assets in a fair and exemplary manner, we’ll all end up benefiting from that by driving more adoption and changing minds.”
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