Oneof the unique thingsGet to hear about Australia’s fastest growing tech startup as RobbieFerguson of Immutable joins JeffKelley, Eathan Janney, Josh Kriger on the podcast. Robbie started Immutable in2017 when he was 21 years old. Because of that, he was featured in Forbes 30 Under30. Immutable is an NFT platform that aims to bring asset ownership andcommerce alive in digital worlds. Robbie sees it as his mission to ensure that thedigital worlds we will soon live in will be as economically meaningful as theone we currently inhabit. Tune in as he gives us a glimpse of how Immutable isrevolutionizing the Web3 gaming experience as well as the game developmentspace. Robbie also explains why he sees gaming as a prototype for how we wouldbring about universal digital asset ownership for everything else. Plus payattention to Toni Thai as she talks about Bad Grrls Creative Club. All theseand more in this episode of Edge of NFT Podcast.
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Robbie Ferguson Of Immutable — Australia’s Fastest Growing TechStartup, Plus: Toni Thai Sterrett Of Bad Grrls Creative Club, And More…
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This episode features Robbie Ferguson, President, and Cofounder of Immutable, a rapid-growth techstartup hailing from Australia. He started Immutable in 2018 at the ripe age of21 and has been featured as a part of Forbes 30 Under 30. Notably, Robbie wasalso awarded the Thiel Fellowship in 2020. Immutable is a $2.5 billion NFTplatform that has raised more than $300 billion from Temasek, Tencent, GalaxyDigital, and Coinbase.
As a global blockchain technology company, its mission is to bring assetownership and commerce alive in digital worlds through the power of Immutable,AKA unchangeable NFTs. Robbie previously built an automated capital gains taxplatform at KPMG, which was licensed to Australia's largest cryptocurrencyexchange. After graduating high school as the equal-highest-ranked student inAustralia with a perfect ATAR, which is the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank,he has become obsessed with Ethereum. In 2015, he dropped out of a ComputerScience/Law degree at the University of Sydney to fund Immutable.
The Immutable Group is advancing the world of NFTs through ImmutableX,an industry-leading Layer 2 NFT minting and trading platform, plus Immutable Studio, an NFT gamedevelopment studio with leading titles Gods Unchained and Guild ofGuardians. Finally, Robbie believes that futuregenerations will spend most of their working hours in virtual reality and wantsto ensure that the digital worlds they live in are as economically meaningfulas the ones we currently inhabit. Robbie Ferguson, welcome to the show. It's apleasure to have you here.
Thanks so much. I'm glad to be here.
In 2022, you launched a whopping $500 million fund to boost gaming onImmutableX. Can you share some project highlights and favorite moments sinceembarking on this journey to build true in-game economies?
That was a big moment for us and hopefully for the industry in terms ofsupporting high-quality games with true economies, which is what we have alwaysbeen focused on. Honestly, 2021 has been pretty insane for the company. We havegone from 80 people to over 300 full-time. We have gone from about 5 gamesbuilding in our platform to over 100 meaningful funded deals and then thousandsin our testing environment.
Over half of those have been in the last quarter. The trajectory of thisis steep. I probably can't go over all the individual games that I'm excitedabout but there are a ton from publishers that are super exciting, whether it'sEmber Sword, Illuvium, which is one of the biggest Web3 games in the world, PlanetQuest, or IMVU, which is one of the largest legacy gray marketplaceeconomies in the world. One of the cool things I love about IMVU is that all ofthe monetizations have been through secondary clips.
They have been trying to recreate in Web2 what the future of a lot ofmonetization in Web3 is going to be for gaming, which is instead of selling assets,depreciating those assets later, and having this exploitative cycle, it createsa valuable economy over time, takes clips on it, and have the same incentivesas your players. They are migrating all future assets over to IMX, which isexciting. It will be one of the most played games from day one as soon as thattransition is complete over the next few months.
We have the CEO of Riot Games Asia dropping out and making a MOBA startup on Immutable, which is superexciting. We now have four MOBAs on the platform. That's leading to competingwith some of the biggest Web2 titles. We have some pretty open economics andmetaverse plays as well, which I'm excited about, probably the more long-termuser-generated content-building perspective. I can dive into any of those butoverall, there has been a huge amount of games building on the platform, whichI'm excited to support.
It started with a card game, and then it's 50-plus in Q3. That's huge.
It's 50-plus, which is more than the rest of the lifetime of the companycombined. Our goal is to build a product that is completely permissionless.Anyone can come and build a game. Aglet, which has hundreds of thousands or even millions of players, is builton our server. We didn't even know they were building on us until we found outabout their usage. We went in to buy and started supporting them. That's thepower of making it ridiculously easy to build on but then all of these gamesthat we have won are games that we are going out and deliberately believingwill have a successful future.
Ultimately, gaming is power law-driven, which means that the mostsuccessful game will have more players or revenue typically than the rest combined.That's generally how gaming economics fall out. Web3 is going to be that biteven more. The first few games, which should have a million daily active playerbases, will define the economics, the game design, and the playbooks thateveryone else is going to follow. It's an important precedent-setting moment.We want to make sure those games do it right, and we want to help them succeed.
You have been hands-on with that.
Let me take a quick minute because I realized we have to introduce ourcohosts here. We had a nice full introduction of Robbie. That was Ben Noble of Howl Labs. They are a Web3 labthat has done all kinds of wonderful stuff in helping to build projects andspread the word about them. We do have another cohost, Zach Sekar, who is ourHead of Production at NFT LA. We are happy to have them here participating. Jeff and Josh couldn'tmake it. Ben, we found out after inviting him to join us that you have a past relationshipwith Robbie. Can you explain a little bit about how you came across himpreviously?
I herald him every time I'm in a space, and somebody is like, "Howdid you fall in love with NFTs?" I'm like, "I talked to Robbie."I was at a conference. I was listening to him talk. I came up to him and waslike, "I want to do your PR." He was going through Gods Unchained anddemonstrating the first iteration of what he saw as a valuable economic systemwithin this Web3 universe. It's the first one that, to me, made sense. Wetalked a lot about how other games could get involved in some of the thingsthat I had doubts about in my mind. He filled in those gaps.
To anybody who's reading, this is probably one of the best minds toprobe, especially if you are in the play-and-earn space. How are we framing itnow? We have changed the dialogue in that since we last discussed it as well. Ido see you at the forefront of this. I have been excited to bring projects overto your platform and then even platforms that are struggling with existingblockchains. I've seen them migrating over to you as you do a great job walkingthem through the process.
Likewise, I have known Ben for a while. He has been awesome to workwith. There are many labels. The fact that we have so much discussion aboutlabels is a counter signal. Ultimately, it shouldn't have to be calledanything. It should be the tech that's running under the hood. Whatevercategory the industry refers to is fine. Gamers don't need to know this. Theyjust need to understand the value.
You have been great about debunking some of the jargon that we use ingetting right to the brass tacks of what it does and why it is interesting.
Calling it blockchain gaming puts it in a box, whereas gamers want tohave a great time. After about twelve years in the startup software innovationworld, what I've found is that almost always, it's the game developers who knowwhat's happening first. More likely, they are making it happen. It sounds likea frivolous world of video games. It might not be the most serious area butit's almost always where a lot of the innovation happens first. It's fun tohave someone like Robbie on here to talk to.
There's gaming in the military domain, interestingly enough.
It's the same thing in the simulation.
They pushed that for a while. The marketing engine of the military wantsgamers now because gamers are flying drones and stuff. It speaks to howmultifaceted you have to be to step into gaming and figure out all thedifferent components that make something successful. Can you speak to that,Robbie? Talk about the games that you are onboarding. What are they doing toinvoke that mass adoption? How are they getting and drilling into those pointsthat make people go, "This is something I want to be involved with."
There are probably a few ways. The first is the user experience beingextremely accessible. Our view as a company and of a lot of the games you areputting on us is that they are extremely expensive large collectibles. Allthese emergent financial ecosystems will happen, and they are very meaningfulbut it's putting the cart before the horse to have them be first. What mustcome first is actual utility and players trading items that they want to use inthe game because it looks awesome, gives them power, and allows them to createguilds, interact or have fun.
That means we have to make it ridiculously easy to onboard to earn yourfirst assets without even knowing it's crypto. The economy that you arebuilding this with has to be completely secure because the only couple ofexamples of viral growth we have had have suffered some collapse at some pointin time because they are reliant on demand that was propped up on future demandrather than being inherently sustainable. The other thing a lot of these gamesare doing is leveraging the community to create content or growth. This isexciting.
One of the key value propositions of Web3 isempowering user-generated content to create future forms of games. We will seelimited use cases of this over the next couple of years but over time, thiswill grow. If you look at the fastest-growing platforms or games of the lastcouple of decades, they are platforms. They are games like Roblox or Minecraft.I bet Microsoft is going down the path of Roblox because it's proving that moreflexible economics and toolsets for people to build games are a long-termsuperior business model because you can capture so much value in a developerecosystem.
One of the key value propositions of Web3 is empowering user generatedcontent to create future forms of games.
There are some games that are going to go down that path over time.Games like Illuvium, where they are sharing not only IP but also asseteconomics between multiple instances of games, are interesting examples ofsolving these problems. That would be the final piece. Gaming is traditionallylimited by the added cap. If you make the best game in the world, how large isthe demand of that genre from the audience for that genre?
Web3 is solving this because we can have multiple games and genres allsharing underlying assets and intellectual property, which means you can nowhave megaverses, megagames, or IVGs, which is what the Illuvium team calls themore interactive and interoperable blockchain games where the same asseteconomies can be used to power multiple ones. These are a few of the tactics weare seeing games do to take things mainstream.
With the big mega universes, it's funny because we are starting to seethem built out. It feels like they are independent but I'm excited to see thosecross-ecosystem dynamics play out. Do you think that also has a lot of power fromretention? The way I've thought about video games in the past is yourplatforming and deplatforming. Your audience has to leave and come back in. Youare creating friction points.
As soon as you get rid of those friction points and say, "You cannavigate from one location to the other." You can take more measuredmarketing that converts to sales and economics but how does that play intothings like microtransactions? How big are the price tags on theseenvironments? What is a realistic entry point for people getting involved? Do Istart free and then start to build? How are we going about that?
You've said two very good points there, which I will touch on. The firstis how we solve the problem of transferring users from one gaming property to another.This is one of the biggest problems the Web2 industry faces. Supercell can make a multibillion-dollar hit, whichcompletely makes them mainstream mobile developers. They can struggle to make anew one because little of that audience will transfer over. The power ofaggregators like the App Store or Steam is that they own the user experience ofthe discovery of new content. They make it frictionless for users to transferbetween games but they don't make it tremendously easy for developers tomigrate those audiences.
One of the key problems this solves is that, traditionally, games have alifetime. This is the reality of games. Few games have longevity beyond 5 to 10years. The majority of these would be MMORPGs, which are live, updated, andservice-based games and economies. The problem is that this means inherently,the money you spend, even if it's real and tradable, will have some terminalvalue. We will have some endpoint to when people will want to find demand orutility for those assets.
Web3 can solve this adoption problem at the same time. If you have skinsor characters in Clash Royale or Clash of Clans, you can get them inSupercell's new game, the latest version of The Sims or Call of Duty: Warzone2.0, where there was a controversy because they nuked the plan all of theassets from Warzone 1.0. That solves the problem of both how you createlongevity for economics but also how you transfer audiences.
Your second question is about the barrier to entry for these users.Ultimately, I have perspectives on this but this is where creators will createnew game designs. Web3 is not a particular game design. It is a principle ofproperty ownership and shared economic ownership for assets inside of games. Therewill be a huge spectrum of games built on this, from pretty limited subsets oftradable cosmetics in what is otherwise a fairly standard game to entire gameswhere 100% of the revenue is, for example, owned by players like Illuvium orall of the content is generated by the players, which are some of themetaverses being built.
There are even crazier versions where people could be purchasing studiosor running the governance for the creation of future games. Modernization isgoing to come down to what business model are you implementing. Personally, weare bullish on minimizing the barrier to entry as much as possible and creatingeconomics that is sustainable where you can be giving out value but ensuringthat value is completely sustained by the increase in retention, the loweringof acquisition costs, and the improvement in lifetime value spend of playersbecause they are getting value in these games rather than not.
That's a bit of a long-winded answer but there are many approaches. Ingeneral, the approaches have been too heavy on upfront monetization andbarriers to entry. To prove this thesis, we need to have games with $10 millionDAO within the next eighteen months, which we will get to. That game will,quite frankly, be on. We have 3 or 5 on Immutable, which has that potential.
Something you said earlier struck me on how building on Immutable is, in effect, a permission list. People can build on there, and you wouldn't evenknow it, much less that they had to ask you, which strikes me as such a divergence from what it would be like to build on Microsoft. We have also beenreading that some well-known games have been migrating from other chains onto ImmutableX. What do you think is making people make that switch, which can't beeasy to do?
I will touch on the first piece first. Ethereum or any block chainplatform is by definition permissionless to build smart contracts on butpermissionlessness is only as useful as it is easy to build. Blockchains arethe most difficult programming platform to build on that has pretty much everbeen invented. The language is relatively simple but the concept to generatesecure smart contracts that achieve what you want with reasonable gasefficiency is an impossible task at scale.
If you are running a platform that requires people to learn Solidity or even new proprietary languages, as weare seeing with these new blockchains, you are running a 5% to 10% failure risk,where 5% to 10% of the games built on a platform are going to have some form ofsmart contract or security. It's an inevitability. All of those user funds aregoing to be reputation losses for not just those games but that platform as well.
Our approach is that it's important to be commissioners, and we are but it's also incredibly important to make it as simple to build on as Stripe. The reason Stripe was able to grow is that they couldn't talk to all of their customers. What they could do is make it so that they could get to their firstpayment or API call in five minutes. We have very similar goals. We have had marketplaces built in 2 days with 2 people working on a mutuals infrastructure.
That's because it's all completely API-based. You never have to touch a smar tcontract. Everything you are requesting is done by endpoints. We are exposing all these trade orders to any marketplace as well. We are sharing liquidity with anyone wanting to use the platform, which means everyone is constantly getting better prices rather than different forms of siloing occurring. Zach, what wasthe second question?
It was about people switching from other chains.
It comes down to a few main dot points. Security people are very muchpreferencing Ethereum and ZK rollups, especially in the world of FTX. There is no clearer deprecation of authority or fund-raised being a source of security.You have to go back to basics. Assume everything this going to fail. In that failure case, what is your security? What is your level of permissionlessness?Where are your user funds?
When games ask this to us, I say, "We could very well goaway." We won't. That's not the plan but that's what people should be asking. If Immutable goes away, what happens to our users' assets and securityfunds? They can always withdraw to Ethereum these assets that live in Ethereum Layer 1 and via ZK rollups, which is the inherent security of Ethereum.
The second thing is developer experience. I touched on that. That'smassive and ubiquitously done incredibly poorly across every L1 or L2. The third, which has been increasing and I'm excited about, is the distribution andpower of our global order book. One of the unique things about us that differentiate us from a blockchain itself is not just how you don't pay gasfees on any trades but you connect to every single marketplace when you sell an asset.
One of the unique things about Immutable that differentiates it fromjust a blockchain is that you don't just pay gas fees on any trades, but youconnect to every single marketplace when you sell an asset.
You could sell an asset inside Illuvium. That listing will show up on GameStop, Rarible, AQUA, and Nifty Gateway, which we announced on every single marketplace integrated with ourprotocol. The reason this is so significant is that it means you are going toget way more demand than you will on other platforms, where you can only liston one marketplace at a time. These marketplaces have more volume to fulfilland trade again. They have way more opportunities to differentiate based onuser experience and the value they are bringing to end users.
Finally, there are costs and economics. We have barely seen what thescale of blockchain games will be. The biggest game by the number of assets isGods Unchained, which has in the low tens of millions of assets. When you lookat what will be the true scale of games with 100 million active players, andwhen you look at some of the biggest games or even beyond games like Fortnite,then trading a few assets per day is billions of trades daily.
Over a year, you are looking at tens of billions of assets beinggenerated and trading around. If you have a cost of even a cent with those,which is what the cheapest Layer 1s or Layer 2s can offer, it is too expensive.You are looking at hundreds of millions of dollars of costs of goods tradedeither for users or developing platforms on an annual basis.
Our thesis is very simple, which is to make it completely free to createeconomies so games can afford to make an economy real. Instead, they can align incentivesby taking clips over time. We are also the only protocol that has guaranteedenforceable royalties. There have been these massive debates with X2Y2, Magic Eden, and the game theory of this onblockchains where royalties aren't enforceable.
We think it's incredibly important that they are. Otherwise, you cannothave aligned incentive monetization. You cannot have a business model wherethey don't have to extract value by selling assets upfront. They can take clipsover time. That's a bit of a long-winded response but there are many reasons.Games choose us for many different reasons. Enterprise clients' security andreputation are always paramount. They will not go past that but for other ones,our services are incredibly important. For other ones, it's our distribution.
There are a lot of reasons. This is interesting to hear you elucidatethem. We gave your background at the beginning here. You have a lot of experience.You think very deeply about this stuff. We can see why people are interested inwhat you are putting together. You mentioned GameStop and the NFT marketplacethat you launched out of beta into the hands of players. Tell us how theGameStop community has responded, especially in light of everything that'sgoing on with FTX, crypto, and digital ownership. What can you share there?
Funnily enough, I did do an FTX partnership, which is quite lightweight.They were very sensitive to these kinds of topics. The community is awesome.That's a strong part of the value behind this partnership. They are not onlyengaging in what we are building but also playing all of the game’s building onImmutable. Part of the reason we are so excited about this is to create thisarmy of players. Anytime a game wants to come and build on Immutable, all ofthese people will instantly go and start playing their games, joining theircommunities, and trading their assets.
That's such a powerful thing to have this community that is not focusedon tokens or money, which is what traditional communities are in crypto. It'sfocused on the actual utility that is being bought. We have some exciting stuffcoming up here with, A) New launches in the marketplace and, B) Some stuff in personlike buy your cards in the store. They can be redeemed. We are excited toexplore that. The partnership has been super successful so far. There are overeight figures in marketplace volume done on the GameStop marketplace. It hasonly been live for a month.
That's a big number for one month.
We have been very happy.
There's the Gods Unchained minting process. I play that game weekly. Ifinally got to Mythic once. For a little bit, I was a Mythic rank and then felloff a little bit but I win my packs. It was such a grind. I had to go andprecariously fix my deck in such a way that I was like, "This is the deckthat's going to get me there." I had to grind out over the weekend but Iplayed the weekend ranks. You earn points. You are able to get free packs.
The reason you are able to do that is the low fees. Otherwise, therewould have been a cost every time I was trying to redeem. When I go in thestore and buy things off the points, I make, those are actual cards that I cango take on the market. I like that you have thought through this. What doesthis look like at mass scale? People paying $10 gas fees for a $0.10 card isnot it. That has been solved a lot with this Layer 2 blockchain solution.
You are building the future here. Let us know the idea of tokenizing theworld. What does true ownership look like for millions of gamers in this VRfuture that you envisioned?
It looks like the concept of ownership not being something that has tobe sold to them but it's an expectation. In the same way that if you bought ahouse, your expectation would be that you would be able to sell it, mortgage itor rent it out. You have complete financial autonomy over what you can do withthat asset. That needs to become the default expectation for how people dodigital properties.
It's non-tangible. You can't touch it. We suddenly take away everyeconomic right associated with it. It is genuinely crazy. The only reason thatit happened is that the first digital assets were licensing our rental-basedassets. They quickly realized that they could own a completely captive economywhere they didn't have to worry about sharing value on the secondary market.
All of these people have tried to maintain the standard as much aspossible, everyone from gaming to software license vendors and even the way wecreate tradable instruments or financial assets on the internet, which areultimately not back as we have seen from recent times. For games, it's a prettysimple proposition. If you spend $20 on a John Wick skin in a Fortnite game,you should be able to sell that John Wick skin, loan it out, rent it to afriend, or use it as collateral to go and buy or sell a house. If it becomesparticularly valuable, then you want to be able to use your asset for that, putit in an index fund, go long on it or go short on it because you think thatKeanu Reeves is about to do a terrible movie.
This world is incredibly important. That's a trivial example but we havederivative markets and financial markets on things as simple as pork knucklebecause if the primary demand is there, these secondary markets will emerge.They are very powerful. They unlock a lot of financial assets for a lot ofpeople. The next step is gaming will become this precedent and this prototypefor how we empower digital asset ownership for everything. When you buy a timedeposit, you should be able to sell it. When you buy a loan, a CD or some formof digital asset that is financial, you should have property rights over thatin the same way. You should be able to collateralize, lend, and use it forwhatever purpose.
This is incredibly important. The platform that facilitates this needsto be decentralized and incredibly low-fee because the competitors that are currentlytrying to own this from the incumbents are trying to put 50% fees on this andtrying to control, at the end of the day, what these property rights will looklike. It's incredibly important that we don't let that happen.
What's important for everyone to remember is that by default, things donot end up open, permissionless, and low-fee. It's only through a great deal ofeffort that it becomes reality. When the internet was first being generated,Microsoft tried as hard as it could to make sure that it owned it. There weretens of thousands of siloed instances of Microsoft's services network as anintranet across the world. They said that the open internet would never bevaluable or something they could economically control.
Thank God competitors came in and ended up building out the protocolthat we use, which is incredibly robust, and the set of economics that we use,which is much better for empowering billions of people into financial access.The internet has been the strongest force for globalization and income equalityacross the globe. We now need to do this for everything and every form of assetownership. It will take many decades to get there for everything but the bonesand the platform of what we establish will be done with gaming.
The internet has been the strongest force for globalization and incomeequality across the globe. We now need to do this for everything and for everyform of asset ownership.
That's magical. It makes a lot of sense. It's difficult for us as humansto even wrap our heads around a lot of things like the concept of globalwarming and how that happens or the concept of large numbers. Even super-smartpeople who have advanced degrees in statistics cannot comprehend statistics onan intuitive level. They have to do the math, work it out, and then promisethemselves that this is true.
It's very interesting to look at digital assets this way. You talk aboutit matter-of-factly because you put deep thought into it but it needs to becomea general parlance for our society just as things like intellectual propertyhave. It's still to this day difficult to wrap your head around the fact that Ihad an idea. It's worth something. I could sell it to a corporation or somebodyelse, collateralize it, and all these different things but it is true.
What's blowing my mind is what Robbie said. There should be even aderivatives market for intellectual property and digital property. I never evenconsidered that was important but now it started to seem obvious that it onlywasn't there because we weren't in an open and decentralized world.
I worry about deplatforming. The world environment has to read what's onthe blockchain and then field the visuals of what that item is within the worldenvironment. You need consensus and an environment where there's a groupability to build there. Otherwise, the centralized game developer could belike, "We are not going to incorporate this into the gameplayanymore." Whoever is hosting it could say, "We are not going to hostthat thing or item anymore."
We have seen that in major players. Blizzard has probably the worst rap for doing things against the community butthey are not the only ones. That's something I get a lot of feedback from whenI talk about play-to-earn games or games within the Web3 environment. They arelike, "What happens when people don't want those items anymore?"Robbie, how do you address that to those people directly and theirunderstanding of, “It's not like every other game that you've played where theycan shut it down?” Is there a heuristic we can get for people to visualize it alittle bit better?
Ultimately, it is. These games are centralized. They run on servers.There's very little chance of those servers being completely decentralized intheir logic. In the future, we will try and build toward it but it is notscalable. It's not the right approach. The right approach is aligningincentives. That's where Web3 can fundamentally work. That's important. At theend of the day, the reason that digital ownership works in Web3 at scale forprimary assets like Ethereum and Bitcoin is because of robustness but alsobecause of incentive alignment.
As long as you can sufficiently align the incentives of gaming creatorswith the people owning these assets, you solve these problems. A good exampleis Magic: The Gathering. At any point intime, they can say, "Let's take these old assets and make them way lessvaluable either by making a new form of competitive or ranked play," whichno longer has those cards sellable, which they do all the time. I'm talkingabout physical cards here. They make new versions of those cards that are waymore powerful.
That's how they monetize. They issue new primary cards every year. Theywould not need to do that if they could take clips on secondary trades and peopletrading these cards around because the estimated secondary market cap of MTGcards is $20 billion. If they could have had aligned incentives, AKA if theycould be taking clips on the economy, then their whole goal is to make MTG asbig as possible, continually give back value to players, and make all existingcards part of a valuable portfolio.
The answer is that. We are recreating a lot of governance from scratch.A lot of these incentive problems have been solved through inventions incorporate governance and shareholder structures over the last century. We arenow having to rebuild the wheel in some cases unnecessarily but we are, forwhatever reason, in Web3. As we do that, we will figure out this is the rightway to create a long-term economic model which is completely incentive-aligned.
Maybe the simpler approach is this. The game may have a lifetime but atleast during that lifetime, when you spend $200 on those cards over a couple ofyears, it has value. You can sell it if you want to. Someone else can build anew game from it, which we see all the time when games are deprecated. Maybethey can have a line in the policy of their game where they will open-sourcethe code if they ever decide to shut it down.
The answer is that it's still infinitely superior to having zero valuewhatsoever. There are a couple of approaches. There is no clear answer here butthe cleanest answer is that it's important to give ownership irrespective ofwhether the games themselves are ephemeral because ultimately, things will be.The second is that we must align incentives, which is the most important thingwe can do.
That's great. Honestly, you said it so well. This is why I wanted to askyou that hard chewy question because the answer isn't to decentralizeeverything, and that's going to solve everything. It's aligning a sense ofincentives and being open.
Some people are trying to do that. It makes sense in gambling stuff,maybe, where randomness must be on-chain for it to be secured. Even Layer 2saren't going to be able to transact it at speed you require for a synchronousinput of a multiplayer game. It's leagues beyond what we can stay updated for.
You've got an exponentially accelerating torrent of things coming up inthe future. What you are working on is growing. I want to revert to the old-schoolexpert curation tactic of seeing what I should be focusing on. Given yourawesome roadmap coming up, can you shine a light on a couple of things that youthink are most exciting that we should be paying attention to?
In the short run, I'm excited about Illuvium, which is launching two gamesin the next couple of months. This is Zero in over well to their auto battlerin their MMORPG collector game. They are the 9,000-pound gorilla in the Web3gaming space so far. They have done things right in the way that every singleopportunity they have offered ever to investors, they have made sure to offerto the public. At the same time, they have extremely high standards for thequality of ethics.
That's valuable. It has built a lot of trust in their community. This isgoing to be extremely exciting. The game is different. That's important. Thereare not that many games that are live that are fun to play. I have been playingtheir auto battler beta. I was a big TFT fan back in the day. It compares verywell. I'm impressed with what they have built.
I'm excited to see the conversion of the Web2 gray market economy andmonetization into a fully Web3 version. I'm excited about that. We have EmberSword coming out in 2023, which had over $250 million committed in land sales.We have the MOBA by Ambrus Studio, which has Johnson, the CEO of Rio GamesAsia, which I'm super excited about. We have Guild of Guardians. One of ourportfolio titles hit over 700,000 signups on the beta waitlist. It's one of thebiggest waitlists in Web3 gaming.
Illuvium had 1.5 million. We are excited about this one. We are focusingpurely on how we maximize engagement, players, and trading within that but we arefocusing much more on that than on planning revenues. We want to build thisexample of a game with millions of users because we think that will set theplaybook for everyone else. Those are maybe the big five I would think about.
On the marketplace side, I'm pretty much excited about every one. All ofthese are very substantial partnerships we are putting together with seriousplayers. Nifty Gateway is going to be an excellent port for people to enter theecosystem. GameStop is going to be a massive player. They have already provento be. AQUA is building exceptional and dedicated user experiences. I highlyrecommend checking it out at AQUA.xyz. They have built an amazing one for GodsUnchained already.
What about outside of your ecosystem when you look for inspiration orthings that fascinate you? We always like to give our readers the perspectiveof a deep thinker like you. What are you watching outside of what you are doingthat's getting you excited?
I watch Web2 trends a lot because that's where the majority of what hasbeen built over the last few years and is now coming to fruition. The trend forUGC to be a bigger part of games is fascinating. The continual growth of Robloxhas been fascinating. The transition into hyper-casual, casual games or evengames where it's auto-played has been a trend over the last few years. We areincorporating some of that in Guild of Guardians. It makes it much moreaccessible. It lends itself quite well to Web3 because you can focus on economics.
I spend a lot of time thinking about how AI will impact Web3 and theworld as well. That's because the fundamental rule of company building is tocommoditize your complements. It's a very strong principle. If there arecomplementary goods to your product, make them as cheap as possible.Ultimately, the complement to games is the game content itself. It's what youplay. It's the characters, art, 3D models, and assets, which form the biggestcost that developers incur.
All of this is going to be completely AI-generated over the next decade.We've seen the biggest transition to AI usage over the last few years for art.The copy with GPT-3 art has been much more of a commercial use case. We have itwith DALL-E or with StableDiffusion. What this unlocks is a very powerful setof creator economics for gaming. I forget which director said this. Maybe itwas Steven Spielberg, "Film will only truly become great when aneleven-year-old girl sitting at home can make $50 in a $100 million budgetfilm." Human creativity is completely unbridled.
I take a little bit of a different approach to the naysayers who say,"This is reducing human creativity." When you enable human thought tobe able to produce anything without limitation on technical talent or expense,you broaden how much can be built drastically. I'm excited by how future gamescan be almost entirely user-generated and not just user-generated butuser-owned. People can be voting on what content they find most exciting.People can be investing in or buying assets in projects that are user-generatedthat they find more valuable, maps, game modes or games themselves.
If you look at a very long-term view, games will pretty much be allAI-generated. They will have a huge level of real-time, either UGC orAI-generated content. All of this is going to be owned, valued, and sorted byWeb3 because, in infinite supply, the most valuable thing is curation. Curationis where humans provide unique input and value. They can be rewarded for thatunique value because of their contribution being ownable and then bought bysomeone.
That's fascinating and fun. It makes me think of some askew analogiesbut it's fun to bring it up. I have been to Burning Man a couple of times. I think of it as a lawless domain but I learnedsomething interesting when I was there. It's the importance of rules for havingfun and developing creative things. The example I always give is somebody hadset up this thing they called the Hug Deli. It was a deli counter. It had amenu. It said, "Different kinds of hugs that you could order."Somebody would be behind the deli counter. You went, "I would like a bearhug." They had sides like, "I would like a bear hug and a kiss on thecheek." People would participate in this game.
The interesting thing that was a twist in this story there is when youshowed up to that Hug Deli, you thought that the person on the other side ofthe counter was somebody that was positioned there and informed on how tobehave. The only information that person had was the sign behind them there andthe counter that was there. You realized that after you place your order, youcould jump behind the counter and be the person delivering the orders. It's anice organic instantiation of what you are talking about. We want to generate aset of rules that creates a landscape where people can have fun, make itunique, put their twist on it, and let enjoyment and creativity ensue.
This is a great conversation learning about things that are relevant atthe moment but we wanted to dive in and get to know you a little bit betterwith our next segment, Edge Quick Hitters. It's a fun and quick way to get toknow you better. There are ten questions. We are looking for short,single-word, or few-word responses but feel free to expand a little bit if youwould like. Are you ready?
I am ready.
What is the first thing you remember ever purchasing in your life?
Probably a pack of gum. It's hard to remember.
It's like candy but healthy. That's great. It's better for your teeththan the Sugar Pops. What's the first thing you ever remember selling in yourlife?
I do remember this. It would have been a Neopet.
That's very relevant. That makes a lot of sense.
You started young.
Neopets don't sell that much stuff when you are young. I started playingNeopets pretty young. It's a Neopet or an asset in Neopets. I'm not sure if youcan sell the actual pets.
How appropriate. What is the most recent thing that you have purchased?
It would be Ethereum.
You are doubling down.
I got a coffee but if it's something substantial, then it's Ethereum.
This is not financial advice but this guy is pretty sharp. What is themost recent thing that you've sold? Tell me it's Bitcoin to trade in for yourEthereum. That would be interesting.
I sold Aussie dollars. That's true. It would have been a Gods Unchainedcard. I trade quite regularly for new experience reasons.
How about this? What is your most prized possession?
Tell me about it.
Do you have an ice bath to go with that?
I heard there was some research about saunas. They have done studies andlinked it to the prevention of Alzheimer's disease. I don't know if you've comeacross that research.
I haven't read that stuff but I'm a big fan of Rhonda Patrick'sresearch.
If you could buy anything in the world, digital, physical, service orexperience, that's currently for sale, what would that be?
I would probably buy not Twitter. I would probably use more Ethereum.
You are tripling down. If you could pass on one of your personalitytraits to the next generation, what would you choose?
Optimism is great. I need more of it. I have a good amount but I needmore.
I could take his ATAR score and pass that down.
If you could eliminate one of your personality traits from the nextgeneration, what would that be?
I'm very uncoordinated. I would get rid of that.
Get rid of the incoordination. That sounds good. What did you do beforejoining us on the show?
I was at the gym, which I do every morning.
You are working on your coordination at least as much as you can.Finally, what are you going to do next after joining us on the show?
I have a meeting.
Get down to business. That sounds good. You should be clear-mindedbecause of your exercise and the little bit of fun with the show. You are readyto roll. That concludes our Edge Quick Hitter segment. We're going to move onto our Hot Topic segment. We have a special sponsored Hot Topic guest. Her nameis Toni Thai Sterrett, a filmmaker,interactive audio pioneer, Web3 creator, and thought leader. Having grown up inand around the entertainment business, she knew she collided with somethingspecial when she learned about the NFT space.
Toni co-produced and co-starred in the Gotham Award-nominated filmAugust the first and has written, produced, and directed short films,commercials, and branded content for clients such as Pantene, Clinique, Nissan,and KMart. On Social Audio, she's a Cofounder of the Audio Collective. She wrote, directed,and co-starred in a fan fiction version of Hamilton titled, Hamilton: A Burrspective.She has hosted conversations for Amazon, Bumble, Coindesk, HBO, Walmart, andShowtime and talents such as Tiffany Haddish, Ava Duvernay, Barry Jenkins, andmore.
We are thrilled to share that Toni is breathing fresh air into the spacewith an NFT project called Bad Grrls CreativeClub on November 29th, 2022. We will try toput a little bit of word out about that. The Bad Grrls Creative Club was thefirst NFT project to have a pre-launch artist in residence at The Greene Space, home to New YorkPublic Radio, which is WNYC or NPR, and other notable programming.
The Greene Space channels the collective genius of New York City tocreate forward-looking live art, theater, and journalism that spark change.Toni is a member of For(bes) The Culture via Forbes Magazine and is repped byUTA. Toni, welcome to the show. We want to cover a few topics with you. It'sgood to have you here.
Thank you. This is cool.
For the first question, give us a little background. Why did you come upwith the name Bad Grrls Creative Club? What sparked that?
I grew up in the entertainment industry in New York. A woman that I knowwho was considered a mentor worked with Netflix under one of their productioncompanies. I said to her back in 2019, "I feel like I know a lot of womenin positions of power who can help me. I don't feel like you are supportingme." She's like, "Toni, you haven't worked at a studio, a recordlabel or anything. You looked at as a party girl." I'm like, "How? Iwent to college. I graduated from film school. I've done this and that. I'vedirected all this stuff." She's like, "You have?"
She said to me that I had posted too many bikini pictures. I was like,"I only have 5 in the past 5 years. One was with you in Jamaica." Shesaid a lot of things but I will try to keep it short. It was pretty insulting.She told me that I wasn't Rihanna, "Rihanna can do that but you are notRihanna." I was crushed because I was insulted that she looked at myInstagram but never even bothered to look at my website and my work. She hasknown me since I was a teenager.
Ben and Zach should be posting more bikini pictures.
I was thinking about that. I was like, "Let's mark it off."
Bad Boys Creative Club is next. Seriously. I'm not joking. I'm like,"Why do we have to fit into these boxes and these narratives of what aprofessional woman and man could be?" I hate boxes because you miss out onall the joy that can be in a person. Rihanna's Instagram handle is @BadGalRiri. I was rebelling when I got on Clubhouse.I named my club Bad Grrls Film Club.
Why do we have to fit into these boxes and these narratives of what aprofessional woman or professional man could be?
I said, "F it. I'm going to be a bad girl. I don't care. I'm goingto wear whatever I want to wear. If people don't like it, too bad because Iwould rather be me than be a different version of myself to fit into a systemthat doesn't care about me anyway." If I'm talented, I'm talented. DiabloCody was a stripper. She wrote this amazing film called Juno and won an Oscar.
Please don't tell me that someone has to fit into a box because youdidn't go to the right school, live in the right town or know the right people.That's where the name came from. It's taking ownership. It's not necessarily awomen's project but it is getting people comfortable with being a woman at thehead of it. I like dudes, so I want dudes to be a part of it.
A great book to read that I enjoyed was Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg. A couple of the things she mentions are things thatyou can apply to both females and, in general, to anyone. There are certainpersonality traits that are beneficial that people need to take on. Some ofthose could be defined as what you are talking about like being a little bitbad and willing to upset people, try something new or do something unfamiliarin the interest of progressing or pushing your agenda forward or something likethat. I resonate with that, especially the side that you mentioned about why weare here in the first place on this planet. It's to be who we are. What else isthe purpose of it? If you can't be who you are before you die, why are youhere? Do the best that you can. I agree with that.
The world tells us to be ourselves but not like that. It's weird.
It's a different view.
That's such a relic of the past. We were told, "You have to dress acertain way, speak a certain way, and fulfill a certain blueprint." Especiallythe upcoming generation knows that's not true. It's crazy that you even raninto that in New York because that was the bastion of, "I don't give ashit. I'm going to go out and do me." You still see some of those relicsrolling around and saying, "You have to do it. Play by my rules to get infront," but you can go around people these days. If the world vibes withyou, they vibe with you. Mad respect for saying, "I'm going to do this. Idon't care."
The rule breakers set the tone, and the iconoclasts create the nextmovement almost every time. Usually, that's the creatives. It's the artist whomoves first. You've said that an inspiration for you is Andy Warhol's Factory.Can you elaborate on that?
Andy Warhol back in the '60s and early '70s, had The Factory. There werethree different locations. He would move around but he curated these people,creatives, and artists around him. He was making art and films. He had theseactors and other artists like Basquiat, Edie Sedgwick, and all theseinteresting people that wound up becoming household names and important to theculture of art, music, and fashion. It’s like, “Why not put them all together?”
I used to work with this former music industry exec. Years ago, he hadthis gallery in Tribeca. We called it the Dojo because it was a 24-hour karateschool. You would go in and come out better. On the first floor, there was anart gallery. In the back, there was a photography studio where they wereworking on a magazine. The basement was a recording studio. You had Mos Def,Erykah Badu, Black Keys, and everyone recording there. On the second floor, youhad offices where everyone would meet. There are bean bags. Everyone is editingand stuff.
We had another space in the basement on the other side where there wereperformances. People would come and do shows. That's something I want torecreate. They used to compare that to Andy Warhol's Factory. I'm close friendswith Fab 5 Freddy. He was good friends with Basquiat, Keith Haring, and AndyWarhol. I learned a lot about them. Fab always tells me a lot about that timeand even the Fun Gallery with Patti Astor. Sometimes I'm around him and want torelive what they did.
I feel like Web3 is an open lane for that because it's also a spacewhere artists get equity. I have been very vocal about the fact that if anyonemints my project and trades it on a marketplace like sudoswap, where they don'trespect or honor creator royalties, then you are going to lose your utility. Igot into this because it gives you equity. A lot of artists and musicians fromyears ago and even now are not getting equity off of their work. They sell itoff or sell the painting. It's selling for $30 million after they die. Alltheir family has is a magazine picture but they don't get to participate inthat.
That's what's most important for me. Dignity is a word I use a lot whenI talk about Web3 and NFTs because a lot of people in this space are able to be themselves and go to conferences. I don't have to bring a pair of heels if Idon't want to. I don't have to. I could wear sneakers every single day, even onstage. I don't have to be performative as Zach was staying. That's why I'minspired by Andy Warhol.
I'm curious. Robbie, you mentioned this rise of user-generated contentthat you see but you didn't touch upon the user-generated content that affectspeople the way that Toni is mentioning. We are trying to change ideas. How doyou see the flow of culture, information, trends, and resistance to thesethings happening in the future?
The way I view art, Bored Apes, and things like the Bagel’s project isthat they are DAOs. DAOs are an incredibly powerful mechanism. They arecompletely flexible constructs of communal ownership where you can attach utility,milestones, and governance to collate a group of people with shared incentivesand common goals and get them to achieve X, Y or Z, whatever X, Y, or Z is.It's going to be incredibly relevant. I'm extremely bullish on DAOs in thefuture.
Art has been a phenomenal use case for Web3 but the thing that excitesme is DAOs because they are much more scalable beyond the market of luxury art.We will see. The thing I'm most excited about is probably solving collectiveaction problems with DAOs, where you can align incentives in quite profoundways where otherwise, individual behavior is incentivized to be selfish at theexpense of the community. You can have people generate communally good actions,which everyone is down to either through mutual subscription or bonding curves.It has huge applications in things like climate change or social issues. I willbutt up but I'm very bullish on DAOs, which is ultimately what projects likethese are.
DAOs are the epicenter of cultural catalysts. What we are talking abouthere is creating culture through defined communities and having those definedcommunities reward each other. That's cool. I would love to learn a little bitmore about your project and how you are planning to reward your community. Whatdoes this entail? What are people getting access to? What do they have to lookforward to with this project?
We have a long roadmap. We are building for the next 5, 10, and 20years. I'm trying to build something. To quote Hamilton, the musical, "Iwant to build something that's going to outlive me. What do you want,Burr?" We are building for the future. My next artist in residency is at ZeroSpace in Brooklyn. It's a metaverse productionhouse. There's VR, AR, and all things that we can do. I started a residencythere in January 2022. I'm having people who are part of the community comedown.
Some people are not in New York. They will be able to connect with usand join us virtually. We will sit there and hash out creative ideas and thingsthat we want to do and build. I'm also funding creatives. I don't like charity.There are some charities that are good but the equity word will come up again.There's more equity in funding someone and saying, "I believe in your project.Here's what you do," but sometimes, when it's charity, it's like, "Iwant to do a photo op, and then that's it." Put people in positions wherethey can meet the people who can help them grow and scale their businesses.
I feel like there's a lot of untapped talent from every hood in America,barrio, and coal mine. I want to find those people, see what their ideas are,and have a community that's supporting them. We are all cheering each other onand serving. In the music industry, they would call it street teams, where thestreet team would go out, promote, and do gorilla marketing. We can do that forour community and the projects within the ecosystem.
I have been considering doing a DAO for Bad Grrls Creative Club orturning it into a DAO. I've had a back-and-forth with that but we will see. I'mopen to it. There's always the possibility to turn a portion into a DAObecause, eventually, this is all going to form under a bigger umbrella. BadGrrls Creative Club is the first step of it. It's upskilling creatives.
It sounds very exciting. I like the overlap that Robbie brought in aboutthe DAO structure and how DAOs mimic finding your community or building acommunity that has shared interests, values, and things like that. That'ssomething to watch out for. I look forward to the future of the project. Let'smake sure people know where to follow you to know more about this. Your websiteand links, share all that stuff before we wrap with the segment.
My personal socials are @ToniThai. Bad Grrls Creative Clubs on Instagram and Twitter is @BadGrrlsCC. The website for Bad Grrls Creative Club is www.BadGrrlsCC.com. My personal website is ToniThai.com.
We also are blessed to have you contributing some NFTs for a giveaway,which we will share more about on our socials. You would give two NFTs to ourcommunity through a giveaway. Those are valued at point 0.11 ETH each. We arevery privileged to have you participating there.
Preferably, I want to give priority to people who are creative.
We will try to make the giveaway lean in that direction and try to makesome criteria that help filter for that. Thank you so much, Toni, for joiningus for our Hot Topics. We look forward to seeing you again soon, maybe at NFTLA. We will catch you later. We will wrap up in general here. We want to checkback in with you, Robbie, and make sure that readers know where to go to findout more about everything that you are up to. You will have to list 10,000links but give us the triage of the top few things.
It's pretty simple. Immutable.com has got everything. You can follow us on Twitter @Immutable or @0xferg for me.
There you go. That's Occam's Razor right there. Thanks so much forjoining us. We will probably be doing a giveaway with your team as well,although you are not the lead on that. It's somebody else on the team. We willget the details together. If there is going to be something, we will share thaton social as well. We are looking forward, hopefully, to doing something cool.
That's a wrap for the episode. We have reached the outer limit at theshow. Thanks for exploring with us. We've got more space for adventures on thisstarship. Everyone, invite your friends and recruit some close strangers thatwill make this journey all so much better. How? Go to Spotify or iTunes, rate us, and say something awesome. Goto EdgeOfNFT.com to dive further downthe rabbit hole. Look us up on all major social platforms by typing, @EdgeOfNFT and start a funconversation with us online. Lastly, be sure to tune in next time for moregreat NFT content. Thanks again for sharing this time with us.
- Immutable Studio
- Gods Unchained
- Guild of Guardians
- Ember Sword
- Riot Games
- Howl Labs
- Nifty Gateway
- Magic Eden
- Magic: The Gathering
- Ambrus Studio
- Stable Diffusion
- Burning Man
- Toni Thai Sterrett
- Audio Collective
- Bad Grrls Creative Club
- The Greene Space
- @BadGalRiri - Instagram
- Lean In
- @ToniThai - Twitter
- Instagram - Bad Grrls Creative Club
- @BadGrrlsCC - Twitter
- @Immutable - Twitter
- @0xferg - RobbieFerguson
- @EdgeOfNFT – Twitter
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