With Blankos Block Party, Mythical Games had a simple objective. build a blockchain game that's game first, blockchain second.
Players purchase characters called Blankos, which are NFTs. As the name suggests, the game world is a giant party that allows players to interact with each other, go on quests and missions, engage in world-building, and explore. Players can congregate and create mini-games that are called "block parties."
"Grey markets" and the long history of players trading in-game items
"We wanted to design games that were games first. People play games to have fun, to have a great experience. The digital ownership and earning part is secondary."
Mythical Games Co-Founder Rudy Koch says that the concept of trading digital game items has been around in the traditional gaming industry for about 30 years. Players have bought and sold items in unofficial "grey markets," which exist outside the game ecosystem. Developers can't participate in these wild-west markets, where fraud is common and users are often ripped off.
On top of all the chaos, users caught using these grey markets are banned from gameplay by the official platform.
Yet despite the risk of these grey markets, players still engage in them.
"They always want to trade items if the gaming environment is fun for them," Koch says.
Koch doesn't see blockchain as a revolution that will level the traditional gaming industry. He simply sees blockchain as the next phase in a natural evolution, one that will allow grey markets to become legitimately absorbed into the ecosystem.
"It's not a revolutionary technology that will completely change games; it's simply the next level when it comes to digital items sales."
True gamers play to play, not play to earn
Like Koch says, blockchain technology won't change the essential gaming experience. At the end of the day, if the game isn't fun, the gamer won't play -- regardless of how "revolutionary" the tech behind it is.
The main thing blockchain technology brings to the game, so to speak, is true ownership of digital items. It lets users do something they've wanted to do for a long time: be a part of the value chain and the gaming economy. It also allows the developer to track ownership and manage fraud.
Koch is a veteran of the traditional gaming industry. He's worked on legendary titles such as "Call of Duty," "World of Warcraft," and "Club Penguin." So it's probably safe to say he has a good idea of what the Web2 gaming community wants.
Koch says that Mythical Games' founders and core team all come from a traditional gaming background.
"Our view of the P2E concept is 'play and own,' or 'play and earn.'"
In other words, gamers should play to play. Earning and ownership are secondary.
So which aspects of the game are recorded on-chain? Koch explains that as of now, it's sought-after, collectible items that are recorded on the blockchain. Overtime, however, anything that players value can be recorded on-chain: achievements, memorable game moments, audio/music tracks.
"There are all kinds of things an NFT can be. Time will tell of its possibilities. Grey markets have given us a glimpse of what players value."
Blankos and vinyl toy inspiration
Blankos are inspired by the physical vinyl toy industry. Koch says this concept fits well with the collector mentality. In the physical world, people travel great distances and expend lots of effort to collect vinyl toys.
When you purchase a Blanko, it comes in a "box." If you don't open it, it remains "mint." Some players choose to keep certain Blankos boxed and buy another one for gameplay. Mint Blankos could rise in value at a later date.
Every in-game item is limited by either quantity or time, which enforces scarcity.
"Once an item is sold out, it’s gone. If there's a sold-out Blanko that you want, you have to go buy it from another player."
To onboard the larger gamer community, Koch says Mythical Games emphasizes ease of experience. You can log in with an email and password. You can purchase items with credit cards.
"We handle all the complexity behind the scenes to make the experience as seamless as possible."
Also, Koch thinks the price barrier for most NFTs is unreasonable.
"We're gamer first, so our pricing model is gamer friendly. You can't charge $10,000 for an item at the beginning and hope you're going to get mass adoption."
I ask if Mythical Games has any authority in dictating which items are valuable, but Koch says the community decides which items are cool, therefore valuable.
In addition to a unique look, each Blankos has a serial number, something akin to comic book collections. The very first Blankos issued in a collection is "No. 1." Some users are willing to pay more for a specific serial number, whether it be the very first in a collection or the very last.
Burberry and Deamau5 in the metaverse
Blankos Block Party has also collaborated with world-famous DJ Deadmau5 (pronounced "Dead mouse") and fashion brand Burberry. The value behind these names adds value to the in-game collectibles attached to them.
"Burberry items are exclusive, and we were able to capture the vibe of these items in the metaverse."
Among such items is a jetpack that allows players to fly within the game. While in the air, they can project the Burberry logo onto the ground for other players to see: a double whammy of advertising for the company and clout for the player.
"We realized that not only players want to take part in the value chain and ecosystem, but brands do as well. All of these different worlds of entertainment are converging on gaming platforms."
In addition to bridging the gap between the physical and digital, Burberry and Deadmau5 items play on the idea of scarcity. Because they're not easy to find within the game, the discovery of such items creates a unique experience.
I ask Koch why gaming platforms would want decentralization. Don't platforms benefit from owning and profiting from all in-game items?
Koch says that the conventional one-way street of monetization needs to change, not only for the sake of the players but for the sake of the platforms and developers. He says providing digital ownership of items will lead to greater engagement, thereby greater monetization for the platform. Simply put, more engagement from more players equals more profit.
Koch also thinks that grey markets were a wasted opportunity for additional growth and monetization.
"Grey markets didn't give developers any profits. Consequently, developers were never incentivized to curate those marektplaces or investigate and correct fraud. Instead of ignoring them, let's create a regulated marketplace and let players do what they've always wanted to do."
I ask Koch to comment on Mythical Games recently becoming a member of the Bora governance council. Bora Network is a South Korean blockchain platform. He says that Mythical Games is planning an expansion into Seoul and the Korean market.
"Bora is a leader in the blockchain space, bringing entertainment and games to Web3. They're plugged into the Kakao ecosystem, which catered towards mass-market users. This is ideal, since we aim to build products for the mass market."
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