WAX co-founder and CEO, William Quigley, spoke to Cointelegraph at a Web Summit panel in Portugal this week and made some remarks on the state of blockchain gaming. In this conversation, Quigley made some bold predictions and observations, but is he right?
I would recommend reading Cointelegraph’s article to get the full picture of Quigley’s comments, but the core details are these:
- Blockchain is tricky to integrate
- AAA games studios “haven’t embraced” blockchain yet (due to unknowns the technology introduces to their games and business
- The first major success in blockchain gaming will come from an indie studio
“I actually think the first big games that have multimillion persistent users daily — those will come from new startup studios. I doubt they will come from the traditional video game market.”
— William Quigley, WAX CEO
There are several observations to be made here. First and foremost, I think Quigley is correct with at least two of these points. Blockchain isn’t easy to integrate into a game and even with increased infrastructure and support (SDKs are emerging left and right, from Fractal to Sequence, and many more), it’s far from plain sailing. That is simply the baggage of new technology.
The second point I believe will be proven true is that the first major success in blockchain gaming will come from an indie, startup studio. The breadth of the “indie” developer category is significantly larger than it has ever been and so it’s easy to be loose with the term. Nevertheless, indie developers often pioneer new genres, and in the singular case of blockchain, they can pioneer new technology too. It’s far easier for agile, smaller teams to adopt riskier strategies than the cumbersome goliaths that dump tens of millions of American presidents into a game’s development, expecting a return of many more.
Indie developers have been empowered in the last 10 to 20 years with the likes of Unity and Unreal Engine becoming readily available, more user-friendly, surrounded by educational resources, and accommodating of first-time users. Furthermore, the age-old issue of getting a game in front of potential players had been overcome by platforms such as Steam. Sadly, with blockchain, that won’t be the case due to Steam’s ban on NFTs and crypto — a decision I believe betrays the indie developers that became a lifeblood of the platform. Getting eyes may prove to be a point of friction for the best blockchain games that don’t lean on Play-to-Earn, but plenty of companies are working to resolve this already.
So, where do I disagree with Quigley? It’s not a clean disagreement where I can simply say he is wrong — he isn’t — but he’s not right either. AAA games studios haven’t fully “embraced” blockchain technology, that’s for sure. That said, many — and I do mean many — have made public and private moves to work within Web3. Square Enix, Epic Games, Sega, and a handful of other gaming industry kingpins have made their intentions (and actions) known. However, there is an even wider selection that is working with blockchain privately, behind closed doors, waiting for the fog of war to dissipate. I have been surprised over and over by some of the industry players I have met with that have been actively working with blockchain for some time.
This harks back to the point of indie developers’ agility too. The AAA titans creating some of the most complex and beautiful games in the industry cannot and will not rush out a blockchain game. Even if they had fully embraced blockchain from the get-go, the starter pistol fired no earlier than 2019 for most; in 2018 it felt as if I knew every game in development there were so few. The development cycles of AAA games are longer than ever, with most taking multiple years, so even the studios most open to new technology wouldn’t have had a long enough timeline. This is all the more problematic when you consider that in 2019, most solutions to the problems of integrating blockchain into a game would have had to have been solved manually, with no true out-the-box solutions on the shelf.
So, while I partially disagree with Quigley’s point about AAA studios and their stance on blockchain, his overarching prediction I wholeheartedly agree with. That is, the first multimillion-user game that uses blockchain will be developed by an indie studio. What’s more, the studio to sit atop that podium will likely be propelled into AAA territory for decades to come as a result.