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Şekip Can Gökalp wants to bring blockchain gaming to the masses

"Anyone who can make great games is probably way too into making them to bother scamming you!"
Şekip Can Gökalp wants to bring blockchain gaming to the masses
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Today, self-publishing platform Coda launched Infinite Arcade, a new ecosystem supported by an iOS and Android SDK developers can use to add Web3 and blockchain elements into pre-existing titles, as part of its mission to bring casual gamers to the metaverse.

PocketGamer.biz spoke with Şekip Can Gökalp, CEO of Coda, on translating F2P into P2E, the exposed walls of Apple's App Store and the Google Play Store, and the importance of bringing a mass audience to disruptive new ground.

PocketGamer.biz: How important is the mass market audience to the success of blockchain gaming and Web3 in general?

Şekip Can Gökalp: Interactive gaming is the broadest form of entertainment that has ever existed, so any new technology has to be very mass market friendly to become a natural part of this ecosystem. We’ve witnessed the proliferation of game makers over the last decade thanks to the likes of Unity, Roblox, and mobile platforms. And this variety in creators broadened the choice in content, which onboarded new demographics of gamers.

Any good technology starts as toy-like, on the fringes, and eventually becomes ubiquitous and invisible. If Web3 is to achieve this status, it has to succeed at mass adoption.

What is the potential of blockchain gaming you are most excited about?

The thing that I’m most excited about is the inclusivity that it brings. I grew up in Turkey and started my first business in Turkey. The country is now one of the hottest locations when it comes to gaming talent with legendary studios like Peak Games, Gram Games, Dream, and Bigger. Twenty years ago, this was a distant dream; the 'Internet of Information' enabled this and unlocked talent in unprecedented ways. But it took decades and generations of founders.

When you now look at what the 'Internet of Money' is doing to gaming, the biggest breakthrough successes are coming from everywhere in the world. By far, the largest Web3 gaming success case, Axie Infinity, is from Vietnam, with a significant player base in the Philippines. I love that these new technologies are making it possible for everyone to participate, from day one.

The other thing I like is that Web3 is forcing all of us in the gaming industry to rethink our relationship with our players. Especially in mobile: we’ve outsourced this relationship exclusively to app stores and ad networks, which do a great job of getting people into games at scale. But community-first thinking in Web3 is both enabling and forcing an overhaul in how content creators approach their communities.

“Web3 is forcing all of us in the gaming industry to rethink our relationship with our players”
Şekip Can Gökalp

Can you discuss how the third parties that will be updating their F2P games with Web3 dynamics? How readily does the F2P experience translate to P2E?

I can speak to how we enable this and how some of our early partners are thinking about it. The way we are approaching it is that we are making it dead simple to introduce dynamics like NFTs, earning opportunities, and community ownership, as well as community driven discovery in any game.

Technically, it’s an SDK integration no different than an analytics SDK. From a game design perspective, Infinite Arcade NFTs, and specifically the genesis collection called Gamers does not require the game to associate specific in-game functionality (such as "run faster" or "hit harder") if you hold an NFT. Gamers are simply avatars that let you in on the metaverse of Infinite Arcade games, that’s it.

This aligns with the mentality of casual players, as well as the habits and resources of casual studios interested in the space, and are happy that they get to test something without compromising on the studio’s product roadmap.

What space do you see Infinite Arcade occupying, should Apple and Google decide to open their walled gardens to Web3 and blockchain games? Is this a realistic scenario in the first place?

Apple and Google have let in new ways of interacting with players and monetising engagement repeatedly since they started operating app stores. NFTs are sometimes seen as controversial, but there are already many games and apps in the stores that incorporate NFTs and earnings. So I don’t think we’re looking at a binary event that opens or closes the mobile platforms for the rest of the Web3 ecosystem.

Store policies are clear on selling digital goods using non-native payment channels and we’ve designed the Infinite Arcade experience to be compliant with existing policies. Our expectation is that as long as secure software is delivered in a user-friendly way, principles of Web3 will continue to have their place on these platforms.

“Infinite Arcade’s aim is not to become an alternative app store”
Şekip Can Gökalp

Infinite Arcade’s aim is not to become an alternative app store. It is simply a bunch of games connected via a very light meta layer that offers deeper engagement and ownership to the player community. The core team’s vision is that Infinite Arcade is horizontal and will not seek to become vertical to a specific OS, device, or geographic location.

Scaling up to 200 titles by the end of the year, from a launch of 10, is very ambitious. What scale-up needs to happen for Coda to reach this target, and how many of Coda’s 15,000 studios will be engaging in Infinite Arcade?

We’ve been engaging our developer community at Coda since early summer 2021 about their interest in Web3 and blockchain games. We’ve had a tremendous amount of positive feedback and have hundreds of studios in the community with concrete interest in the space.

Having said that, what we really like about the new paradigm is that it allows us to have conversations that were unlikely in the old world. We’re in active conversations with studios and publishers who would traditionally be competitors to Coda about participating in Infinite Arcade. Infinite Arcade is not owned by Coda and our goal for IA is for it to become an ecosystem and player-owned network that goes beyond boundaries of public or private companies. Two hundred was the lowest number we could agree on internally, but I believe we’ll blow past that without any issues.

Introducing blockchain gaming specifically to a mass market audience, as opposed to the community already invested, means wrestling with the prevailing and divisive rhetoric around blockchain and NFTs in general. What approach is Coda taking, and what is your greatest argument against the dissenting voices?

Infinite Arcade is designed with casual games and mass audience first in mind. We’re clear that we won’t single-handedly shape the opinions of the wider community, but we will engage in any way possible to help our players form opinions.

I also think that we are looking at fundamentally different types of players or player mindsets. The average mass casual player is Gen Z and the average relationship they have with a mobile game is very non-committal. They play it for a few days or weeks and that’s it. Similar to the way people engage with TikTok.

The strong feeling of ownership and commitment in a single title is not the norm with these games. We are aware of the wider discussion, which I personally find healthy and it’s on all of us to figure things out in a responsible way and help people educate themselves.

Infinite Arcade will use $ARC and $TIC tokens on the Ethereum blockchain. Are these proof-of-work protocols, and if so, what made you choose the environmentally costly proof-of-work over proof-of-stake?

“Look for team credibility: anyone who can make great games is probably way too into making them to bother scamming you!”
Şekip Can Gökalp

One hundred per cent of in-game activity and use of NFTs for Infinite Arcade will happen on proof-of-stake technology or similarly energy efficient environments like zero-knowledge based layers. The fungible tokens $ARC and $TIC will be available on Ethereum too to provide the liquidity and accessibility that comes with it, but all in-game transactions as well as the NFTs will be made available using Polygon’s proof of stake technology, which according to their own numbers is multiple orders of magnitude more energy efficient than any proof of work chain out there.

Our vision is that Infinite Arcade interacts with all major chains seamlessly, but we know this is ambitious and will take a while. We’re in active conversations with other chains and side chains to broaden the availability of Infinite Arcade over the next couple of quarters. We will always include the environment as a key part of the decision making criteria on this front.

What advice do you have for players looking to explore blockchain gaming?

I would say put fun first. If it’s your first entry into blockchain gaming, consider looking for a really fun game that’s play-and-earn rather than play-to-earn. Look for team credibility: anyone who can make great games is probably way too into making them to bother scamming you!

I’m partly joking, but it is important to do your own research and don’t ape into things that you don’t genuinely like. Whether it’s NFTs or individual games, as tempting as it is to try and go in low and sell high, crypto has generally been very volatile. Be ready to lose a meaningful amount of the money you’re putting into anything in this space, because it’s a highly liquid and open marketplace. Also, never share your private keys, passwords, or anything like that with anybody.