Web3 has the potential to transform mobile app transactions and those brave enough to take the first steps have the potential to not only dominate an up and coming area of mobile, but - as the floodgates open - make serious money if and when Web3 really does take off.
In the Web3 mobile market, players have the opportunity to earn money while they play and have ownership of in-game assets. The hope is that these incentives - real ownership of assets with real value - will give players more reasons to play and spend.
We spoke with Immutable’s Gods Unchained VP and game director Chris Clay about the current state of the Web3 market, how mobile developers can tap into its potential and what needs to happen to see this space grow.
Pocketgamer.biz: Can you tell us a little about how you got started in the games industry and what led you to Web3?
Chris Clay: I’ve been fascinated by video games since my college days. At that time, I was playing a lot of Quake following a rowing accident - a mod called Thunderwalker CTF. At some point, I started building my own levels and working with the modding team for Quake.
Eventually, this hobby resulted in my first job offer in the gaming industry, which made me realise this was a legitimate career path. Consequently, I dropped out of my microbiology course and focused purely on game development, which led me to roles such as the Senior Game System Designer and Lead Champion Designer at Turbine and Senior Game Designer at Vicarious Visions, among others. A mixed focus on moment to moment gameplay and visuals and making sure numbers can go up in meta systems for years to come.
Although I knew little about Web3 gaming at the time, this new challenge got me curious, so I made a leap of faith.Chris Clay
Fast forward to roughly four years ago, I was working as the Game Director at Magic: The Gathering Arena when Robbie Ferguson reached out and mentioned a new game called Gods Unchained. Although I knew little about Web3 gaming at the time, this new challenge got me curious, so I made a leap of faith. Needless to say, I saw the massive untapped potential of Web3, so my gaming pedigree, combined with their Web3 expertise, made it a great collaboration.
What exactly is Immutable's goal? What role in Web3 does it play?
Immutable’s role and main mission is to reimagine gaming as a whole by supporting innovative and engaging experiences that empower players with true ownership, value, and creative expression through Web3, blockchain, and NFT technologies.
On its part, Immutable Games - the game development and publishing arm of Immutable - is actively collaborating with third-party developers, offering them robust Web3 strategies and execution expertise backed by a world-class team with a proven track record in building highly popular games enjoyed by millions of players. These services include web3 integration engineering, economy and monetization, NFT design and execution, tokenomics consulting, community building, and web3 live operations.
As a result of this focus and Immutable’s constantly growing suite of gaming partnerships, we are building a thriving ecosystem - which already includes some of the most funded titles in the web3 space. Over 150 Web3 titles are being built on Immutable's platform, including 25+ ready playable web3 games, including Illuvium, Gods Unchained, Cross the Ages, Undead Blocks, Kiraverse, Aglet, Immortal Game, and many more.
Over the past year, there has been a clear shift toward a “fun-first” and digital ownership approach.Chris Clay
Over the past year, what would you say are the biggest changes in the Web3 space?
I think the most significant change is Web3 game developers’ approach to game design. It’s not a secret that earlier blockchain games used speculation and promises of monetary gains as one of the biggest incentives for players. However, the fickle nature of the crypto market proved that such models are unsustainable.
Over the past year, there has been a clear shift toward a “fun-first” and digital ownership approach. First, Web3 game developers started to focus on what matters the most - immersive and engaging gameplay. A successful game should be fun to play, and regardless of whether it has Web3 features or not, gamers should want to return to it over and over again - the classic quest for one more turn.
Secondly, full digital ownership of digital assets, including NFTs, has opened the door to an entirely new, much more symbiotic relationship between players, developers/publishers, and games. For instance, in traditional Web2 titles, monetization is mostly a one-way street. When players buy something in an in-game store, those assets are licensed to them in their game accounts and become illiquid.
The focus is shifting back to addressing the needs of gamers, a focus on fun and entertainment alongside ownership and value.Chris Clay
Web3, on the other hand, enables significantly more open-ended and inclusive practices where players are always in complete control of their assets and private data. Over the past year, Web3 game developers have started unlocking this framework's full potential and mutual benefits and actively implementing it in their projects.
Lastly, there is a growing movement to shift away from the buzzwords that are associated with blockchain, crypto, NFTs - really the whole web3 industry. Instead, the focus is shifting back to addressing the needs of gamers, a focus on fun and entertainment alongside ownership and value. I believe we will ultimately land at a place where players don’t need to understand all of the complexities of the technology, similar to playing on AWS servers without thinking of the tech.
How do you think Web3 can support mobile game developers?
Today, the mobile market primarily relies on F2P models with microtransactions-based monetization. Web3 allows developers to reimagine their models to make them more player-first using various new tools and functionality like full digital ownership or in-built royalties, for example. This can create a healthier, more sustainable, inclusive ecosystem that everyone sees benefits from.
Does a Web3 game need to be built from scratch, or can Web3 and decentralised elements be incorporated into an already existing title?
Broadly speaking, any game - especially those that contain itemization in some form, which is a large portion of today’s AAA market - can benefit from implementing Web3 features. At Immutable, for example, we are actively working with traditional Web2 studios and games, offering solutions to integrate blockchain elements into their titles.
That’s not to say that developers won’t need to reimagine some of their models, but in the long run, even existing web2 titles can incorporate decentralised elements, especially with the help of Immutable’s expertise, to ease such transitions to web3.
However, I will caveat that it isn’t an “all or nothing” approach. You can absolutely aim to integrate just a little bit of Web3 into a largely Web2 game. The key is knowing how Web3 integration will solve player challenges in the game.
Where do you think Web3 is heading? What key changes are happening or need to happen to see wider adoption?
Accessibility is perhaps one of the most pressing challenges facing web3 gaming today. The overall user experience and onboarding should be as simple in Web3 as in Web2 while solving for faster transaction speeds and better security. Solutions like Immutable Passport and Immutable zkEVM are designed to address these very issues.
Immutable Passport is a non-custodial wallet and authentication solution that streamlines user onboarding with the help of passwordless sign-on and automated wallet creation. It can greatly help developers protect and grow their community through battle-tested security, game integrations, and access to a passionate audience of gamers.
To see wider adoption, people shouldn’t feel like they are playing a web3 game but rather just a game.Chris Clay
In turn, Immutable zkEVM is a next-gen Ethereum scaling platform finetuned explicitly to support and enhance web3 gaming. By implementing zero-knowledge proof-based cryptography - widely considered the “Holy Grail of Ethereum scaling” - Immutable zkEVM is fully compatible with the Ethereum Virtual Machine. As such, it offers developers a robust suite of solutions to ensure players enjoy a low-cost, fast, and highly secure ecosystem backed by Ethereum’s native decentralisation.
Overall, to see wider adoption, people shouldn’t feel like they are playing a “web3 game” but rather just a “game.” In other words, decentralised elements shouldn’t get in the way of immersive gameplay. Instead, they should enhance the experience and open up new possibilities in already great games - and this is what Immutable is striving to provide.
What advice would you offer to those looking at creating their first Web3 mobile game?
Focus on fun and exciting gameplay first and foremost, and then look to integrate Web3 elements into systems where Web3 can meet player needs better than Web2.