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Immutable Games’ CSO Justin Hulog on bridging the gap between Web3 and mobile

We spoke to Hulog about his work, Web3, and the blockchain’s potential on mobile devices
Immutable Games’ CSO Justin Hulog on bridging the gap between Web3 and mobile

Web3 has become a topic of increasing interest in the gaming industry. In fact, we have an entire sister site devoted specifically to blockchain gaming, which represents part of what the technology has to offer.

Web3 isn’t just for PC users, though - game makers throughout the world are making increasing moves to bring the technology to mobile phones, and Immutable Games is just one of those companies. We spoke to the company’s chief studio officer Justin Hulog about his work in web3, and the technology’s potential on mobile. Please tell us about your role at Immutable.

Justin Hulog: I’m Justin Hulog, the chief studio officer at Immutable Games. I work to build top-quality web3 titles that bring true digital ownership to the gaming community. These have so far included Immutable’s flagship offering, Gods Unchained, a trading card game, and our upcoming mobile RPG Guild of Guardians.

As CSO, I constantly work alongside our development teams to implement the best balance of gameplay mechanics, tokenomics, and asset management in all titles that Immutable Games builds internally or together with partners like Studio 369 and Bazooka Tango.

Before Immutable, I worked at Riot Games, where I was the general manager for South East Asia. My goal at the company was essentially to help them launch and self-publish their new games. When I joined, Riot only had League of Legends. While there, I helped launch League of Legends: Wild Rift, their mobile offering, and other key titles like Valorant and Legends of Runeterra.

Could you ‘sell’ web3 gaming to us (for a reader who may not be familiar with the kind of experience that web3 can offer over web2)? What benefit does web3 gaming have over other forms of gaming?

Gamers are increasingly understanding the fact that their time has value. Web3 brings a new level of valuation to the time spent in a game. In web2 gaming, if you earn or pay real money to get credits, you can buy that in-game item you covet. The reward is the enjoyment that item brings you in a game, but these in-game items are licences and not tradeable. When your account is banned or the game server shuts down, your content is lost. This is the compromised user experience that gamers are used to accepting.

In web3, you truly own that item, can move it off-platform, and even resell it when you aren’t using it anymore. They get all the experience of owning content in a web2 game but their time and money are valued better because they can choose to trade that content should they wish to. Web3 gaming isn’t about making people rich; it’s about allowing them to retain the value of both their time and their money.

“Web3 gaming isn’t about making people rich; it’s about allowing them to retain the value of both their time and their money.”
Justin Hulog

What can web2 gaming companies do to effectively transition to web3?

Web2 developers already know a lot about building games that people like. What they need help with in order to successfully make the transition into web3 is access to experts who can provide best-in-class strategy and support with execution. Specifically, this means a product suite that includes an array of ready to go, pre-built solutions. These are solutions optimised for immediate usability, helping new web3 developers get to market faster, and all without sacrificing security or the gaming experience. Developers will also need web3 guidance and live support for their communities, all tailored around their unique project.

Streaming giants such as Netflix and TikTok continue to move into the games space. Do you view this move as a threat, and what can be done? What effect will this have on web2 and web3 gaming?

We don’t see competition as a threat. Realistically, there are many demographics, and not all of them want the same thing. It is key for developers to try and figure out what the next big thing is, but what we all need to focus on is quality games and experiences. Moving forward, there will still be plenty of web2 experiences that don’t directly compete with web3, so there’s plenty of space for innovation and a wide variety of products.

Do you feel that web3 and blockchain gaming growth has slowed down? Is there the same passion and enthusiasm for blockchain and web3 as one year ago?

We have passed the initial excitement phase for games like Axie Infinity for sure, which is understandable given the lack of true, high-quality titles, the market downturn and an overall scepticism toward web3. However, web3 gaming continues to drive tremendous investment.

When you look at mobile games, you see similar challenges - early mobile games were considered inferior ports of console/PC titles, and it took time for developers to build quality mobile experiences and find a mobile game model that worked. They did, and now mobile makes up the majority of the gaming market. We expect a similar trajectory for web3 gaming. As more teams understand the models that work for web3 and more quality, breakthrough titles are developed.

What long-term implications does web3 gaming have on the mobile gaming industry?

Mobile gaming has long been built around the “free to play” model, supported by microtransactions and loot boxes. We see web3 as being a more equitable evolution of that model. Clearly, the early models of “play to earn” also haven’t been wildly successful, which is why the next evolution is “play AND own.” This takes the flexibility and monetisation aspects of the existing model but makes it less the core focus while also allowing the community of players to both retain and generate value.

“Players will enjoy seamless gameplay without ever knowing the complex blockchain technology behind the curtain.”
Justin Hulog

Where do you see mobile gaming in five years?

We think web3 will be a major part of the mobile gaming space in the coming years. As a new wave of players and developers comes into the fold, we’ll continue to grow and improve the quality of games - with more titles emerging that are actually enjoyable to play. These games will have subtle web3 elements incorporated into the design, players will enjoy seamless gameplay without ever knowing the complex blockchain technology behind the curtain.