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Aug 16, 2022·edited Aug 16, 2022

Thank you for this long post. There's a lot I did not understand, probably because I'm relatively new to this space. I'm clearly not fluent in crypto-VC-speak. I did understand a few things that I think are relevant to my own experience, though. Maybe you can help me understand better what you meant through that lens.

I'm a user of fx(hash), a platform you referred to. I'll try to explain what this means for other readers whom might not use or know about it. I publish ("mint") generators of NFTs (which we call "generative tokens" on this platform), so that collectors can buy (also "mint") a hash (a sequence of letters and numbers) that can be used to generate a unique sub-version of a token (so, here again, a digital asset, not a financial item).

I use this infrastructure to build something that is not a game, but looks a lot like one. When a collector gets a hash from one of my generators, they can connect to my website and see that it "unlocks" the use of that hash for everyone. For example, if they "minted" one of my tokens called "Forbidden Cities", everyone using the website can now visit this newly generated 3D space (or, more precisely, version of a space) and use it. The collector who minted it does get their name attached to it. But anyone can use it in any way they see fit, putting frames of their blockchain-indexed JPEGs around or building sheds or structures (like in a sandbox game).

I think you can already see that there is, in a way, a lot of what you call "digital co-op" in that system. However, things are less simple that one might think. Is fx(hash) my third-party, or am I theirs? I said earlier that fx(hash) was my database: that's technically true but conceptually untrue. What would be truer would be to say that they are providing a service that gives me access to the actual databases, in this case IPFS storage (for the generators) and on-chain storage (for the hashes). We can hence both do without the other, since what really matters in a trustless system is the common goods, what we currently refer to as the IPFS/chain couple. So, in a way, I don't think your "third party ecosystem" argument to be as obvious as you imply them to be. The "trustless community cannot exist" is very debatable too. I integrated my platform with fx(hash), objkt.com and versum. The users of these websites are one single community. I can assure you it absolutely is a trustless one.

The second line of argument that is relevant to my experience is the research for a social status being a core driver of purchase. I suppose you anchor this belief in the study of the Korean video games industry and the success of Valve in marketing what they refer to as "skins", or 3D asset variations, for their videogames. I am however not sure this mechanic works in the NFT space. People do not flex their purchases. You will see the occasional unpacking of a plotted Garden, Monolith on twitter, but I'm not sure this can play at the same level as cs:go AK skins. Also, we've been there, we've seen it, people are tired of this mechanic. Making it "earned" (so, more grind?) will make it even worse. If I have money to spend, I don't have that much time to spend on a video game. I want them to be fun and cool, not pursuing another nonsensical AI-generated quest.

People do still play with Garry's mod, though. They build their own experiments and narratives in it without much regard for the original creator's IP. That's a third level I would be a bit critical of: what makes you think that "IP" will be enforceable? If assets are truly "on-chain" (or, more likely, stored on a peer-to-peer network and referenced to by a hash that is itself indexed on a blockchain), then what prevents anyone from building their app around it? Anyone could use the generators I created and published on fx(hash) and rebuild a 3D website and make it their own, with their own rules and systems. How am I going to sue them? And, in the event that I manage to proceed and even win, what guarantees do I have that the agent being sued will be solvable? What happens during the 5-10 years of that process when they'll have made money with their copy and I'll have lost money with my legal action?

So to sum it up:

- I don't understand the "third party ecosystem" argument, since you're only a third party if you are bound to your provider, and in web3 the point is precisely that everyone relies on the same, public, central stream of information (but this is very obvious so I clearly have misunderstood your point).

- I disagree with the "there can be no trustless community" because I'm building something in one and it's going great (well, not as bad as one might think, though some actors did feel a very deep burn recently).

- I don't get the "social status research" as a core mechanic: it was the case to some extent, but I don't see why this should still be the case. The inability of BAYC to deliver anything interesting seems to be pointing to a tentative failure of this model?

- IP enforceability seems to be a major challenge. And all sandboxing that ever succeeded did so without enforcing IP. Counter-Strike was a mod, Gmod had its glory, Skyrim became a legend through its moddability, etc. If success is community, then enforcing IP seems to be the surest way to kill it?

A final remark is that do not mention pornography, which interestingly targets much of the same demographic as video game makers do. This might be outside of your range of investment portfolio, but I'm curious about what you think about how this sector can do in web3.

Apologies if it all seems very naive, as I stated in the beginning I'm relatively new to all this. Thanks again for the great read!

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Great thoughts, thanks for sharing.

1) not sure what you mean by "third party ecosystem". as i used it, it was more a point about the desire of every blockchain game to turn into a "platform" - my point was that if this is going to happen, they need to boostrap it with great content first, ugc second, then a third party app ecosystem last ... but for other devs to do that, you have to build a certain amount of relevance and trust first.

2) there is over 100b usd in microtx revs in gaming every year. at least 40% of this is related to cosmetics / status goods. bayc has limited relevance to the q of whether "status as a service" businesses are real - they definitely are as most clearly manifested by mobile gaming

3) completely agree IP enforceability is a broader issue across UGC and NFT worlds. these issues will really start to matter once we start dealing with corporate IP. there is a long history of litigation in mmo worlds on these topics that may be instructive

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Thanks a lot for your answers! These are very helpful. I get what you mean. Do you have some literature on points 2 and 3? I had no idea that mobile gaming was so powerfully hooked on "status as service".

For 1, my whole point was precisely that web3/blockhain/peer-to-peer hosting for the web made the whole "game as a platform" impossible/un-needed to achieve. If I'm a user generating content or service, I would rather be compatible with the whole web3 ecosystem than just one game. I want the assets I generate to be marketable on all platforms, and if possible on several chains. I want these assets to be found not only in this particular video game, but also in all the other ones. If I have bought a companion paladin duck whose special ability is to scare demons with their quacks, I want to be able to use it in Diablo V as well as DotA III.

The example I gave with fx(hash) & the anaver.se was to illustrate that it's already the case. Most dapps that are dedicated to "doing things with NFTs" are already cross-chain and cross-platform. This also means in turn that users and developers that will generate content for these apps will also make sure they're compatible with the rest of the apps (ie, with standard ways to use and parse the reference blockchain).

So I think your great content first, ugc second, third-party ecosystem third sequence does not really make sense. You don't need to create great content first, as you can reuse already-existing great content and make player interact with it in new and/or specific ways. UGC is also already there, and doesn't have to be game-specific, but at worst blockchain-specific, at best "web3-specific" (peer-to-peer hosted and publicly accessible). Third-party ecosystem will also be already there (it is already there), and already has the relevance and the trust.

I guess my whole point is that the web3 ecosystem can be very dynamic precisely because you're not building for one game or for one platform, but for the whole system. I originally built the anaverse on the fx(hash) API, but I decided to go ahead and spend some time building it precisely because I knew it would survive its potential demise: everything fx(hash) produces is blockchain-specific, not fx(hash)-specific (sorry for having only one example, I don't know enough of the rest of the landscape to come up with better ones). You could also argue that it isn't even really blockchain specific, but that's probably another debate.

So if I go back to your text, I support more what you start with than what you end with :

1. (start) "I do not believe decentralization should be considered a goal in its own right; rather, it should be valued as a “means” to the real ends: self-expression, community formation, and financial opportunity."

2. (end) "creation of economic opportunity is more important than maximizing crypto tenets of decentralization"

If decentralization is a means to an end (economic/financial opportunity), then it cannot/should not be rival with that end? The crypto NFT platforms that work do so because they use decentralization as a means rather than a goal. It's the decentralization that creates economic opportunity. No devs want to give 30% of their revenue to the Apple or Google marketplaces, or spend cash for ads on Facebook or Twitter. No devs/users want to spend time and effort building community assets for an AAA game that might suddenly decide to stop updating its game/paying for multiplayer servers because they're preparing to release a newer iteration of the franchise. They do it if they have to, but would rather go another way if they have the opportunity to. Decentralization prevents these capture effects from happening while making the publishing infrastructure better than it was.

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Thanks for the comprehensive analysis.

Very informative, very proactive and very encouraging for Web2 game developers/publishers who are seeking to make full use of Web3 logic and infrastructure in order to improve/evolve game ecosystem.

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