Renz Chong, CEO of BreederDAO, started off as a consultant after college. He soon realized, however, that he wanted a more execution-based environment. He shifted to the world of startups, starting with Angkas, an Uber-like ride hailing service that focuses on motorcycles and two-wheeled vehicles. After Angkas, Chong spent some time moving from one startup to another.
Chong got into the crypto world in 2017 as a trader. He then lost 99% of his portfolio in the 2018 crash. Understandably, he decided to stop trading, and lost faith in the space.
In late 2020, Chong learned about DeFi and NFTs, and started believing in the potential of crypto again. As a gamer, he naturally gravitated towards Axie Infinity and the play-to-earn (P2E) sphere.
"I've always been a gamer, the kind that's obsessed with finding every time and fulfilling every quest. When I heard of Axie Infinity and the idea of owning your own in-game assets, I knew it was something I wanted to jump into."
Chong immersed himself within Axie Infinity to understand the mechanics of P2E gaming, trying to figure out what worked and what needed improvement. He came up with the idea of becoming a supplier of in-game assets.
"In every economy, supply and demand serve the foundation. The demand side in P2E is often represented by guilds, so I decided I could play a role in the supply side."
Chong is in Seoul for Korea Blockchain Week 2022. He has flown in with his team in the Philippines, and has graciously set aside time to chat with me about BreederDAO.
Chong describes BreederDAO as a factory that produces digital assets instead of physical goods. Currently, they mainly focus on producing assets for blockchain-based games, because demand for digital assets is centered around gaming.
"We're focused mainly on games right now, but the long-term goal is to manufacture and supply any type of asset for the metaverse. In the future, we could be supplying characters, wearables, or digital furniture for metaverse homes."
Chong's idea is to create assets with a base layer that can be tweaked for multiple platforms. Integration into a specific game requires consent and cooperation with developers from that specific platform.
"The same asset can have different functions in different games. It can serve a functional purpose in one game and an aesthetic one in another."
Currently, it's mostly game guilds that make orders for specific assets. In the future, Chong envisions individual users and even the game platforms making custom orders.
The "DAO" in BreederDAO
The "DAO" in BreederDAO is based on the idea of giving the community the tools to design and develop their own assets. The team is still working on making this a reality, however. Chong and his team are experimenting with DAO governance. He wants to set up a solid foundation that can run on its own before giving control to the community.
"You can't jump immediately to pure decentralization, because people don't really know how to manage things. Also, you need to give people a reason to participate. For now, they came in and bought our governance token, not because they want to run things directly, but because they believe in our vision. Building the right incentives structure for pure decentralization takes a long time."
Chong thinks it’s the founding team's responsibility to educate the community and motivate them to participate in governance. As the community matures, the founding team can gradually delegate more responsibility.
Chong doesn't pretend to know what the perfect governance structure looks like. He doesn't have enough data to draw from.
"Some people say we could end up with a hybrid design, where control is partially centralized and partially decentralized. We need more experimentation to know what works."
But is there really a need for a third-party asset manufacturer? Isn't it the job of the game platform to create assets? Chong says that's the case in Web2, where value isn't passed on to the players. In Web3, however, he thinks separate asset manufacturers are a necessary phase in giving more creative and financial power to the players.
"The game developers can only do so much. They set the foundation. However, it's the gamer who will have more ideas for in-game assets, for what to design and build, because it's the gamer who will actually be dealing with them during play."
In Chong's mind, if a game platform wants to grow in the future, it needs to give players this creative power. That's what will incentivize them to contribute and grow the platform in ways the founding team and developers can't.
So, why the name Breeder?
Chong says the name pays tribute to Axie Infinity, where "breeding" refers to asset generation within games. He adds that in the future there will be "crafting" and "cloning."
I mention that the BREED token couldn't withstand recent market pressures and fell below its launch price. I ask Chong if he'd do things different if he could redo the launch.
Chong says that the launch was affected by market conditions that were unrelated to the quality of the token or strength of the community.
"Shortly after our launch, the market tanked. Even Bitcoin, Ethereum and all the blue chip tokens went down. So did GameFi tokens. Besides, the whole point of our token launch wasn't to make a bunch of cash. It was about giving control to our community, and we wanted to do that sooner rather than later."
Tokens are known for their volatility, so Chong thinks it's difficult to judge a project by its token price. He thinks that a project's true value comes from its vision, the community's belief in that vision, and the founding team's ability to execute it.
"We don't want speculators to buy our token. We want people who believe in our vision to buy it."
P2E is only a part of blockchain gaming
I ask Chong for his view on weaknesses in the current P2E market. He replies that he doesn't think P2E is an accurate term for describing the whole blockchain gaming industry.
"P2E doesn't describe the whole of blockchain gaming. It's more like a specific cohort or profile of users."
Chong says that not all blockchain gamers are motivated solely by profit. Some are motivated by the game's enjoyability. Some want to play and collect. Others want to play and own. But Chong acknowledges that P2E was a necessary step in demonstrating the potential of blockchain gaming.
"Community participation is vital for the gaming industry to evolve. It gives people the power to create their own identities and reinvent themselves within the metaverse, and then to take that identity and apply it across different games and worlds."
Chong warns against judging or labeling blockchain gaming as this or that. It's too early. The initial iteration of the internet didn't work out, and it took a few fumbles before people found out what's viable for mass adoption. Blockchain gaming will work the same way, he says. Don't judge a technology or movement when it's in its nascent stage.
"We're definitely only looking at the tip of the iceberg, and there's a lot more to come."
We briefly touch on the subject of NFTFi, or NFT finance. Chong says that we currently buy cars through loans. We experience things now and pay for them later. We take out loans with houses and land for collateral. He thinks we may see a time when we do the same things with NFTs.
"It's still very early, but eventually it's going to happen."
Chong acknowledges we still need to undergo a lot more trials and experimentation to see which facets of traditional finance can be applied to Web3. Regarding mass adoption of NFTs, he thinks gaming is a necessary gateway.
"Later, people will be creative with how they use NFTs, but it has to start with games. Right now, that's the most common usage case, and it's a language that many people understand."
I mention the Ethereum Merge, and how many L2 scaling solutions are making NFT minting cheaper. I ask how this affects BreederDAO's strategy.
Chong replies that cheaper minting works to BreederDAO's advantage.
"Just because we produce assets in mass doesn't mean we benefit from some sort of gas discount. We still have to pay the gas for each transaction. The Merge and lower minting fees will lower our costs. Also, cheap minting will lead to more users."
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