Blockchain games are just one of the many fascinating use cases for blockchain. In this episode, we take a look at the intersection of NFTs and blockchain gaming and see where they converge and complement each other. Hosts Jeff Kelley, Eathan Janney, Josh Kriger talk to the CEO of Animoca Brands, Robby Yung as they discuss blockchain games. Robby talks about the evolution of blockchain use cases and the rise of gamification of blockchain. We also hear about upcoming projects from Animoca that will surely excite gamers. Tune in for more NFT space news and information and learn more about the blockchain space.
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Robby Yung Of Animoca Brands On Its Multi-Billion Valuation, Gaming & MADworld, Plus: Coinbase NFT, McDonald’s Big Mac Rubik’s Cube’ NFT, And More…
Welcome to this episode. It’s a great one. Find out how Animoca Brands is supporting MADworld and defending artists in the metaverse.
How the next billion users will find their way to blockchain
Get a crash course from our guest on the history of gaming and how it’s elevating NFTs. All this and more, just ahead on this episode.
This episode features Robby Yung, CEO of Animoca Brands North America, the literal game-changing leader in digital entertainment, blockchain, and gamification with a mind-blowing portfolio of products and games, including REVV and SAND tokens, as well as investment and partnerships with companies like Axie Infinity, OpenSea, Dapper Labs, and Alien Worlds and subsidiaries like The Sandbox, Quidd, and Lympo.
Robby has been in gaming since 2012 and blockchain gaming since 2018. He served as the first CEO of Animoca Brands after taking the group public in 2015. Prior to that, he cofounded magazine publisher, One Media Group, which he listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. He also founded Chinese television and outdoor media concern, Redgate Media Group, which was acquired by Inno-Tech Holdings. He began his career in technology, building wireless telecom networks in China and Indonesia with Metromedia. He is now one of the visionary leaders, blazing new trails for blockchain, gaming, and NFTs.
Robby, it’s a real pleasure to have you here.
You’re making me blush.
I was looking up that Ready Player One came out in 2018, which was the same year you got into blockchain gaming. That was an interesting coincidence to me.
I have a bigger one for you if you want. Here’s a full-circle moment. The first company that I made an Angel investment into, which required begging my dad to lend me some money because I didn’t have any at that time, was in 1997. That was right after Snow Crash had come out. My friend gave me a copy of it to read and said, “This is what we’re doing.”
They had hacked together a demo using a level builder from Doom if you remember Doom and Quake. That was the best way to simply put together a 3D interactive, immersive environment, except that you weren’t shooting stuff. The funny part was that in order to make an eCommerce demo, you still have to use the shooting function to buy things because shooting is all you can do with the level builder in Doom, but the idea was to build a metaverse.
Needless to say, fast forward when the bubble burst in 2000 and 2001, the business tried to survive and didn’t, but funnily enough, now we have The Sandbox. Years later, not only is The Sandbox finally realizing that dream, but in a full-circle moment, the CEO of that startup that I invested in has now become an investor in The Sandbox.
Blockchain Gaming: In 2017, there was a big ICO boom. It started to get on the mainstream radar in the technology industry, at least.
The sad part is that your dad is now living on the street because you get all his money and spend it on bad investments.
The good thing is now I can pay him back. It just took a quarter-century.
Talk about predicting the future, like glimpses of the future.
It’s because we’ve always had these same dreams influenced by science fiction. We see so much of technology heading in that direction because sci-fi and things we saw in movies and read in books gave us these ideas. When it comes to figuring out how you want your product to look, people are like, “It needs a holodeck because those are the icons that we have from popular culture.”
Let’s go back to the beginning. We would love to learn how you connected with Animoca Brands. Also, what was your introduction to crypto and NFTs?
Animoca Brands was started by an old friend of mine, a guy named Yat Siu. Yat and I have known each other since the time of other anecdotes, so since ’97 because that was the dawn of the internet startup community in Hong Kong where I was living at that time. There was a handful of startups. In fact, we used to have weekly meetups. All the startups in Hong Kong in the internet business would meet up in somebody’s boardroom who still had a day job at a big corporate. That gives you an idea of how many startups work there because we all fit in a boardroom.
We would network, swap ideas, and try to figure out how to get venture funding. It was hard because we were not in Silicon Valley and the ’90s were very much about being in Silicon Valley and access to capital and networking. We did our best. One of those people I met at one of those events was Yat. We remained friends for years. He built a successful enterprise messaging business called Outblaze and survived the 2000 crash.
When he sold that business in ’09, he started Animoca Brands, repurposing the team to focus on games because they had done games as a side-pocket, doing some console and PC games, but then it was the dawn of mobile and so they wanted to go in the whole hog. A few years after that, I sold the last business that I was working on, which was a traditional media business. I was looking for something to do and I had heard tremendous things from a mutual friend and shareholder about what Yat was doing in mobile gaming.
When I discovered mobile, it was cool because it seemed almost like destiny because having been in TMT my whole career, it was everything wrapped into one. It combined wireless, mobile telecoms, internet, advertising, and media all in one platform. I’m like, “I was made to do this. It’s everything I’ve ever done all in one.” I haven’t looked back because I thought it was exciting. I joined when we moved to Android in 2012. In 2017, we started looking at crypto at that time because there was a big ICO boom. It started to get on the mainstream radar in the technology industry, at least.
We started to examine it and ended up making a partnership at the end of that year with a company in Vancouver that was working on making a game on the blockchain, which was a cool idea. The company was called Axiom Zen and the game was CryptoKitties. We agreed with them to be the publisher of CryptoKitties in Greater China. I was not an early Bitcoin miner or anything like that myself. That was my introduction to blockchain.
We see so much of technology heading in that direction because sci-fi and things we saw in movies and read in books gave us these ideas. Click To Tweet
At that time, with CryptoKitties being such a groundbreaking NFT project, ERC-721, everything that happened there, was there a glimpse for you of the future of what NFTs could be or was it more of a slow progression?
We went into it with some fundamental ideas from the perspective of being game developers. For us, we only saw maybe 1/3 of the potential at that time, but that was enough to sell us on pivoting the whole ship and focusing on it. Later, we understood better what it could be, but we had a simple idea. We looked at the ICO boom and we thought, “All these people had bought tokens. They’ve spent billions of dollars over the course of 2017, buying tokens on all manner of blockchains.”
We looked at each other and we were like, “What are they going to do with all these tokens? There are so many projects out there that tried to be the next Bitcoin essentially, but they didn’t have any utility for their tokens.” We thought, “Here’s a simple idea. Why don’t we make games and maybe they’ll spend their tokens on our games?” That was the first idea.
We’re mobile game developers and mercenaries. If there’s a place where money can be made because users have eyeballs, we will go there. This, to us, was an interesting market opportunity because there was nobody else there. We were there at the beginning of mobile when the iOS App Store opened and there was nobody there. It was good for 5 or 6 years.
We heard about Apple giving you guys the boot, which is a crazy story Yat told us about. It’s amazing to recover from that and then to get a phone call from them.
There’s a big void because these guys are making the close games. They probably regretted that decision. There was this shift that occurred with NFTs where there’s more of a trading culture in proceed value that could allow gamers to make a living from the games that they play. When did that click for you? That’s a major milestone in the revolution of gaming that surely has had something to do with you all becoming a unicorn and raising $138 million. When was that shift?
The first stage of that was looking at a more simplistic proposition, which is to think about us as game developers and asking ourselves, “If we’re going to ask consumers to embrace this new technology, what does it mean for them?” One of the things about being in mobile for so long is we’ve gotten accustomed to an environment that has the most simple and straightforward user onboarding of any technology medium in history. With a well-made app on iOS, if you count the download app as one click, by click number three, you’ve bought something. There’s no other process in the world that’s that efficient because you already set up your wallet and everything like that, your Apple Pay, etc.
The way we thought about it was, if gamers have property rights and they own their digital content, two things will happen. One, they won’t have to do anything different than what they already do in free-to-play games. They already use virtual currency and buy virtual goods. They’ve been trained in this habit for more than a decade, so we don’t have to ask them to change their consumer behavior. That’s step one.
Blockchain Gaming: It’s interesting because it harks back to a traditional behavior in gaming where the idea is that you could at least repurpose your gaming investment. Even though it might diminish over time, you can repurpose some of it.
Step two, if we think about what it means to own your stuff, let’s pretend that the hype cycle of scarcity and things like that never happened. Let’s assume you own stuff and it’s digital stuff. Now, we can apply the analogy of traditional gaming. When I was growing up with a console at home, we had cartridges in the console and they were expensive. If you wanted a new game cartridge, typically, your parents made you get rid of the old one first because there was a secondhand market for the old cartridge. That’s how GameStop was born.
If you think about what NFTs are, NFTs enable that same recycling behavior. If you’re spending your money on a game and you get tired of this game and want to play game number two, you can sell your stuff from game number one. You may not make any money on it, but the nice thing is you won’t lose all your money because there’s going to be a secondhand market because new players will come into the game and say, “I’ll buy that car for half the price of the retail price. Why not? I don’t mind the secondhand car.”
It’s interesting because it harks back to a traditional behavior in gaming where the idea is that you could at least repurpose your gaming investment. Even though it might diminish over time, you can repurpose some of it. That, to me, as a traditional business guy, is a little bit hard-nosed. I thought that was compelling because of the idea that we could offer gamers, “Here’s an experience where you spend your money and you get zero and that’s guaranteed in return. Here’s an experience where you will get more than zero. We don’t know what it is. We don’t know if it will be bigger than your investment, but it’s more than zero.” We think everybody will pick the latter and it’s a no-brainer.
Fast-forward, we talked about the race. In part of the announcement that went out, you guys stated that the funds are going to be used to develop new products, make strategic investments, secure additional licenses, and further acquisitions. Can you tell us how that’s going so far and what we should get excited about?
So far, so good. What we’ve done is we’ve announced some exciting new products. We announced that we acquired a studio in Sydney called Blowfish, which is a AAA. It’s a space-themed adventure title with mechanical transformer-type robots. It’s cool and a great example of how we can build on top of great AAA content and introduce tokenization and NFTs into what would be a more traditional console game experience.
For our readers at home, AAA isn’t like Triple-A in baseball, where that’s the lower-level league. This is like the Major League. This is like the All-Star game is what we’re talking about when we’re talking about AAA gaming.
AAA gaming is the level of fidelity that you have to buy expensive TVs for. We’re excited about that. We’ve gone out and we’ve also grown our IP franchises. One of the things that we’ve done over the course of 2021 is expanded our motorsports franchise. We started with Formula 1 and then we moved to MotoGP and then Formula E. We also launched our own in-house title called REVV Racing, which is the most recent addition.
We’re familiar with that one. We all own Edge of NFT race cars. It can be used in your game. That was an awesome collaboration.
AAA gaming is the level of fidelity that you have to buy expensive TVs for. Click To Tweet
That game is legit too. It’s hard and good. There’s a real learning curve there.
There has to be because it’s called play-to-earn, not play-to-get stuff for free.
To your earlier point, do I get offers on my REVV Racing car? Once a week, people want that thing.
One of the things we did with REVV Racing was an airdrop of those NFTs as our distribution strategy. It’s great because one of the things that we identified was that about 80% of the initial launch of NFTs and it was about 16,000, went into the hands of people for whom it’s their first NFT. That’s important to us because one of the big themes is that we always talk about how gaming is the tip of the spear of entertainment and it’s bringing mass adoption to the blockchain. It’s nice because we can now start to see actual examples in the market, not just our portfolio, but as well as colleagues in the industry of success stories where we can see the results are being delivered and this is a legitimate industry and trend.
We had been talking about this theme overall about the meta-purpose of a lot of things that are happening right now in NFTs. It’s exactly what you said. For all the fun things that are happening, the meta-purpose is to bring people into the fold, introduce them to blockchain and NFTs, become part of the ecosystem, learn how to open a wallet and how to trade without being scared, and have confidence in what they do. It’s starting to grow exponentially. It’s just the beginning. That’s the amazing part.
We’ve seen tremendous success stories like Axie Infinity, which has been the good news story of the summer that keeps on giving. There are more people now in the Philippines with Axie Wallets than with credit cards. It’s amazing to think that you can essentially use a play-to-earn product like that to start to bank unbanked people.
I know Eathan has a question he wanted to ask you. I met NFT artists. They created a scholarship program for Axie Infinity and he has over 400 scholars. This was a long time ago. Probably, it’s double that now and 50,000 scholars on the waiting list where they have scholars. Some of the original scholars in his program have scholars into them. You guys are changing lives with this game.
As Josh alluded, I wanted to ask you a bit about MADworld. We got the news that Animoca Brands is backing MADworld. The idea is to help bring artists into the multiverse. Let’s mention MAD of MADworld stands for Multiverse Artist Defender. Can you tell us a little bit about MADworld and what this whole idea of defending artists is about?
It’s about providing a platform for artists that is enabling technology to allow them to be able to self-publish, to use an old-school phrase. They’re essentially minting their own NFTs, designating their own royalty schemes, and deciding how they want to distribute their artwork, including some interesting technology that uses NFT chips in order to be able to link physical goods with NFTs.
Blockchain Gaming: We’ve seen tremendous success stories like Axie Infinity, which has been the good news story of the summer that keeps on giving. There are more people now in the Philippines with Axie Wallets than with credit cards.
One of the things that at least I’ve noticed in the NFT art community is there are a lot of collectors out there who are happy. I always see these people posting on Twitter how they bought an NFT of a well-known artist. Six months later, they get the physical artwork in the mail that accompanies their NFT because they bought a digital twin product. As great as NFTs are, sometimes a physical piece of art to put on the wall is also nice. There is definitely a place in the market for purely digital products as well as digital twins. One of the things MADworld does well is to have a way to manage the digital twin process, which is interesting.
That’s interesting when we talk about the multiverse and integrating it in real life with NFTs and putting all that together. I’m curious about the general direction of MADworld. It’s integrating the real world and real-life art, but is there a bent towards gaming and virtual worlds as well? We’ve seen these different NFT platforms have different focuses. OpenSea has its focus. We talked to Impact Theory‘s founder about how he wants to have a comic-book-focused NFT platform. Is there a focus here on this gaming and multiverse with MADworld or is that not the case?
Gaming is part of their roadmap, but it’s a couple of years down the road. In short to medium term, it’s much more about focusing on being a platform that’s for artists, number one, that has a strong emphasis on security and management. One of the benefits of launching now in this market is that you have a couple of three years of solid technology development behind you. One of the things about our industry is it changes so fast. The incremental technological quality of products increases dramatically quarter-on-quarter because we’re all an open-source community. We all benefit from all the hard work everybody is doing because we can build on top of each other’s code.
In the medium term, it’s going to be about that platform for the artists and also then integrating that into metaverse spaces. To the extent that a metaverse is a game or a social experience, I’m sure we can argue what the definition is, but it’s all of the above. One of the things that’s making gaming such a compelling force for blockchain adoption is because gaming is not what we traditionally think of the term because gaming is a synonym for the largest movement in entertainment.
It’s interesting the way that opened up the definition of gaming. Even the PFP profile pic NFT there, some of them have at least an opening up, “Let’s put some traits on there as if it were some role-playing games. Let’s open up that trajectory to create a game out of things.” It reminds me of that go-to party trick, which is, “Let’s break out a game, everyone. Let’s play charades or UNO.” It starts to loosen people up and gets people having fun and socializing on a different level. That simple way in which you open up the definition helps me expand my perception of what’s going on here. We’re opening new avenues for socialization.
We have to try to evolve definitions. Typically, if you put together a room of random people and you said, “Who is a gamer?” Most people have a connotation in their mind that means that you wear a headset, sit in a dark room, and shoot stuff. Whereas when you say, “How many people played Candy Crush on your phone today on the bus?” All of a sudden, half the people put their hands up and you’re like, “You’re gamers?”
You also announced Arc8 on Polygon, which is a mobile blockchain game. In the show, you mentioned Phantom Galaxies that you guys did with Blowfish Studios. How are these different? How do you envision these games bringing the next billion people into the world of blockchain?
They do it in two very different ways because they’re on opposite ends of the content spectrum. As we talked about Phantom Galaxies as a AAA and not in the baseball connotation of a Triple-A game, it’s focused on immersive, experiential multiplayer gaming. You’re transported to a galaxy far away and battling with alien robots. That appeals to the hardcore gamer, meaning people who love immersive multiplayer games. They can sit with their friends for two hours, have a gaming session, and be completely immersed in that experience. That is, by definition, a blockchain experience as well because they’re playable NFTs in a game.
What we're doing with blockchain and gaming is we're doing for digital assets what open source did for code. Click To Tweet
Arc8 is the other end of the spectrum because it’s all about hyper-casual mobile social games, games that have a great social hook. That’s inside the games. You can earn blockchain rewards and NFTs from playing hyper-casual games, but you can amplify your rewards by playing and sharing with your friends. It’s very viral.
That’s something that we bring as learning from the traditional mobile game industry as to, “How do we enhance virality and bring as many users as possible into a product?” I’m pleased to report that we brought over one million new users into Arc8 on Polygon in the first week. That was great news for Polygon because, if I’m not mistaken, they now have more wallets on Polygon than on Ethereum as a result of that.
From a mobile gaming perspective, that’s not a massive number. We used to make games that you would expect if you didn’t bring in five million downloads in the first week, you were sad. On the blockchain, it’s very meaningful because people who play blockchain games at this point in the market tend to be much higher spenders.
It is on a factor of 10X to 100X compared to a traditional mobile game because these play-to-earn economies where essentially users are making peer-to-peer transactions and benefiting each other, they’re much stickier. Retention is much higher. When people own stuff, they’re much happier to spend because they know that it’s not just a one-way transaction. They know that something may come back to them eventually.
It’s spoken like a true gaming expert. You guys have that deep knowledge and are one of the few companies that can speak from such deep experience in gaming. All the metrics that you’re talking about, you don’t hear about that a lot with such conviction in the space. It’s very cool to have this conversation. We appreciate that.
I’m hoping that we can bring that perspective because there isn’t a lot for the people who have been in blockchain gaming since the early days years ago. We’re one of the few that came from the gaming side as opposed to from the crypto side. We learned our crypto along the way. Most of the people came at it from the other side and learned their gaming along the way.
We’re hoping we can bring a slightly different perspective to it. We’re also trying to communicate that to other people in the gaming industry because we understand their perspective and try to evangelize to tell them what a fantastic journey we’ve been on and see how we can then bring their content into the blockchain as well.
Let’s fast forward to a little bit of the next Ready Player One scenario going into 2022. It has been an incredible year. We still have a couple of months left and a lot of in-person NFT gatherings along the way. We’ll be in New York and Miami. Perhaps you will as well. What does 2022 look like? What are some of your big, bold predictions given your historical accuracy?
Blockchain Gaming: People who play blockchain games at this point in the market tend to be much higher spenders.
I see a few trends. One is I don’t know that things are going to slow down at all because we’ve passed a tipping point of mainstream consciousness where there are enough of the traditional early movers now involved in the sector. I’m looking at you, a16z, who have put their stake down and said, “This is going to be a thing.” That’s the imprimatur of quality will attract for other people to say, “What are they doing? Maybe we should get some of that.” We’ve passed that tipping point, so there’s going to be enough capital, which is the most important thing, devoted to people who are building in this new economy. The train has left the station. It’s not going back anymore.
I’m very excited about that. I don’t know if the pace of change can continue as fast as it has been in 2021. We are trying as hard as we can to try to push an open multi-chain ecosystem because we think that’s extremely important to everybody’s success. What we’re doing with blockchain and gaming is we’re doing for digital assets what open source did for code. The fact that we have these composable assets and we have open-source code where we can all build on top of everybody else’s work is why this has moved so fast because we’re not building massive walled gardens around what we’re doing and being secretive about our code.
It’s working for the benefit of everybody. I’m hoping that people recognize that because the people who have been in this community for a few years understand the benefits of sharing and the fact that their own business will do better if they’re open about sharing their code because they can borrow somebody else’s code too. It’s a two-way street. If we can continue like that, it will be amazing because we have never seen companies built to this scale before.
Companies have achieved big valuations in short periods of time in previous tech cycles, but companies have never delivered as much revenue and profit in such a short time before. We have companies that will do close to $100 million in revenues in 2021 in our industry that didn’t even incorporate until towards the end of the first quarter of 2021. Like standing start in nine months to $100 million in revenues, I don’t care what industry you’re from. That’s a business.
It’s amazing times. It’s so great to know about Animoca Brand’s role in all of that and what a central player your company is. We would love to also get to know you and your perspectives personally a little bit better as well. We have a segment that we call Edge Quick Hitters where we try to do that. It’s ten questions. We’re looking for short single-word or fewer responses, but you can feel free to expand if you get the urge.
Yat did this as well. It would be interesting to compare and contrast your responses.
Let’s dive in. Question number one, what is the first thing you remember ever purchasing in your life?
The Who, The Kids Are All Right, double album vinyl.
Question number two, what is the first thing you remember ever selling in your life?
It was a gas-powered remote control car.
Gas-powered, that thing had to go fast.
I had a friend with a very rich dad who wanted one. My dad lived in Hong Kong, where they were a lot cheaper. I had my dad bring it home from his business trip and I sold it for quite a markup.
Question number three, what is the most recent thing you purchased?
For around the house?
We don't have any competitors and that's not bragging. That's just the nature of the industry because we all help each other out. Click To Tweet
Yes. Now that I live in London and I’ve been here for a couple of years, one of the things you do in the UK is you garden, especially during the lockdown. It’s infectious here. You end up becoming a gardener eventually. It’s part of British life.
It’s good to know. Have you developed that green thumb or have you always had it?
I’m killing less stuff. Let’s just put it that way.
Number four, what is the most recent thing you sold?
We’ve had a lot of cars as recent sales. This is our first self-powered mode of transportation.
Honestly, it’s because I’m a middle-aged guy, so I upgraded to a faster bike.
Question number five, what is your most prized possession?
It was a nice watch that my dad got me when I was a teenager for graduation. It’s one of those sentimental things. It reminds me of my dad.
Question number six, if you could buy anything in the world, digital, physical, service, and experience that’s currently for sale, what would that be?
I have a daughter who is in a wheelchair, so a private jet would be nice.
Question number seven, if you could pass on one of your personality traits to the next generation, what would that be?
Question number eight, if you could eliminate one of your personality traits from the next generation, what would that be?
My wife would say, “Your frugality.”
Can we have an example? What’s something that you’re frugal about that nobody else would be? I heard this story about a guy. He is an early investor in Facebook. He had a bunch of money. Let’s put it that way at one point. He said he was still washing his socks in the hotel sink when he goes on vacation to save money.
I can say this being half White and half Chinese. This is the difference between White people and Chinese people. You could pick the richest Chinese business person in the world. I bet you they’re still washing their socks in the hotel sink, and here’s one that anybody Chinese reading will appreciate, just like we wash our Ziploc bags and reuse them.
Blockchain Gaming: Companies have achieved big valuations in short periods of time in previous tech cycles, but companies have never delivered as much revenue and profit in such a short time before.
Question number nine, what did you do before joining us on the show?
I was sitting with my daughter and we were watching a TV show on the BBC. They have cameras and they follow ambulance drivers around on their shift. It’s absolutely fascinating.
I know someone who works for that show.
It’s just called Ambulance, but it’s an incredible show. To see what these people do is incredible. That’s a real job.
Last one, question ten, what are you going to do next after the show?
I’m going to talk to my colleague in New York because it’s earlier there.
That’s the ten questions. Thanks, Robby, for playing with us. We appreciate it. Do you guys want to jump into some hot topics?
Let’s do it. First one on the list, “Coinbase embraces NFTs with new peer-to-peer marketplace. The cryptocurrency exchange is branching out and launching a new marketplace for nonfungible tokens.” Purchasing, showcasing, discovering them, they claim it’s easier than ever. Just as Coinbase helped millions of people access Bitcoin for the first time in an easy and trusted way, we want to do the same for NFTs.
Frankly, it almost doesn’t matter how successful it is because just the sheer force of gravity that Coinbase is in our industry will bring so many more people into NFTs that it’s great for everybody.
One of the things they were talking about and I’ve seen some comments about it saying, “What about OpenSea? Aren’t you guys investors in OpenSea and this and that?” They were early investors in one of the early rounds. What I find in crypto a lot, people will say, “There’s already a company that does that.” It’s like, “There should be a lot of people that do a lot of things and contribute to these particular categories, including marketplaces for NFTs and so on.” There are winners across many categories outside of crypto and people forget that sometimes. There’s room for everybody to create a bigger pie.
Maybe it was Mickey Maher from a previous episode from Dapper who was saying, “We need more people in space. Competition, there’s no such thing. There’s a lot of space for people to do different things.”
I keep saying that to people. They keep saying, “Who are your biggest competitors?” We don’t have any competitors and that’s not bragging. That’s just the nature of the industry because we all help each other out. The fact that NFTs are interoperable is a good thing. The fact that I can build a cool game for Bored Ape and then people can bring their apes into my game, that’s progress because it makes apes more valuable if I make a cool game for them. Everybody wins.
NFTs require curation and a different approach to user interface design because you're browsing a store. Click To Tweet
I keep being reminded of this aphorism, “The riches are in the niches.” It doesn’t have to be true because it rhymes, but it is something interesting to think about. When it comes to NFT marketplaces, this is a theme that has popped up several times that there’s probably space for a lot of different NFT marketplaces and the secret to the success of each one of them is, “What is going to be their niche?” It’s probably as deep and specific as they want to go with whatever marketplace they have, maybe even for the better of the business, at least in the early stages.
Robby, I’m curious if you’re in touch with FTX as well because they put up a marketplace announcement too. That’s another interesting signal that you have a well-capitalized exchange going into the NFT space similar to Coinbase. How do you see those two announcements intersecting?
They want to be the place that provides liquidity. From their perspective, because NFTs are digital items, they feel like they have a deep understanding of how to match orders because they do that for fungible tokens. You can do that for the sales part of an NFT. The only thing that’s different is NFTs require curation and a different approach to user interface design because you’re browsing a store. Browsing a store and getting an experience of visual representation is different from just a ticker symbol and a price. That’s going to be a challenge for them.
That will be a great opportunity for innovation. If everyone is pushing the limits of a beautiful UX, it’s only going to make the experience better for the consumer.
Somebody like FTX and Coinbase, for that matter, are extremely well-capitalized to do that kind of innovation.
Let’s hit the next exciting hot topic. This one is fun. Robby, it integrates the East and the West here. “McDonald’s presents its own NFT collection called ‘Big Mac Rubik’s Cube’. The Big Mac Rubik’s Cube is to meant to celebrate the occasion of the 31st anniversary of the Asian country market for McDonald’s. The food company’s statement explains it’s a dynamic three-dimensional digital creative work, which is inspired by the spirit of the brand and the shape of its new headquarters in Shanghai.” That begs the question in general. What has been your experience throughout your life with the McDonald’s brand?
I’ll give you a couple of fun facts. At least this was true years ago. Of the top ten busiest McDonald’s in the world, three of them were in Hong Kong, including the number one. Hong Kong knows something about that. Interestingly, the Big Mac Index, if you’ve read about that, does work. If you look at the price of a Big Mac in every country around the world and then compare it to currency prices, it’s a proxy for global currency prices and it’s quite fascinating. This is interesting because, honestly, NFTs are a fantastic way to enhance loyalty programs for brands.
There’s a Cliff Note to this article that I think is one of the most interesting things, “The Golden Arches Company will offer 188 NFTs to some of its employees and consumers.” That’s interesting the idea of bonusing your employees with NFTs.
It’s great because it’s also a way to give them something special because in our parents’ generation, they got gold watches. That was the retirement gift for the 25 years of service or something. It was a show of giving something that was of value. I’m pleased to see that NFTs maybe have the same perspective.
Blockchain Gaming: If you look at the price of a Big Mac in every country around the world and then compare it to currency prices, it’s a proxy for global currency prices and it’s quite fascinating.
There are so many parallels between loyalty programs and rewards programs that we can draw from to enhance engagement, reward attention, and build a community. There’s something special in there that we can carry over into what we’re doing now.
This works especially in a place like China, where people live much more digitally than they do in other countries just because they’re very fast adopters of new technology on a mass consumer basis.
That’s interesting the point you made, Josh, about them rewarding their employees with the NFTs. I don’t know if it was a huge story, but I heard it at another podcast. They were highlighting a little bit of negative publicity. It was for McDonald’s. During the pandemic, they were feeding the essential workers for free, but that didn’t extend to their employees.
We also mentioned something interesting. This came up in a conversation in a previous episode. They have these kids’ meals at McDonald’s and you would have those collectibles. You can imagine I don’t have any of the collectibles that I had back when I was a kid that I got out of the Happy Meals, but with NFTs, you could retain those for a lifetime and still be trading them and having fun with them throughout your life and perhaps redeeming them for things later on.
In fact, I’m going to give a shout-out to our friends at Sweet K.R.I.T., we were shareholders in because they’ve done a campaign like that with another hamburger restaurant that is well-known in the US.
Robby, we appreciate you taking this time to spend with us. We do need to wrap but before we do, though, let everybody know where they can follow you and where they should go to learn about all the fun things that Animoca is doing. Where should they keep an eye on?
Definitely, Twitter because I had it from the horse’s mouth. I was on a panel with a guy who was at Twitter for many years. He and I both agreed that Crypto Twitter is the most feverishly loyal and engaged sub-Twitter audience that there is. Twitter is a fantastic place. You can follow @AnimocaBrands or me @ViewFromHK. You can find me on LinkedIn. People, feel free to reach out, get in touch, and share your interesting projects.
That’s great. We do appreciate it. We have reached the outer limit of the Edge of NFT. Thanks for exploring with us. We’ve got space for more adventures on the starship, so invite your friends and recruit some cool strangers that will make this journey all so much better. How? Go to iTunes, rate us, and say something awesome. Go to EdgeOfNFT.com to dive further down the rabbit hole.
Want to help co-create Edge of NFT with us? Got a guest you want to see on an episode? Questions for the hosts or guests? An NFT you would like us to review? Drop us a line at Contact@EdgeOfNFT.com or tweet us at @EdgeOfNFT to get in the mix. Lastly, be sure to tune in next episode for more great NFT content. Thanks again for sharing this time with us.
- Animoca Brands
- SAND tokens
- Axie Infinity
- Dapper Labs
- Alien Worlds
- The Sandbox
- One Media Group
- Inno-Tech Holdings
- Snow Crash
- Axiom Zen
- Impact Theory – Previous episode
- Phantom Galaxies
- Blowfish Studios
- Coinbase embraces NFTs with new peer-to-peer marketplace. The cryptocurrency exchange is branching out and launching a new marketplace for nonfungible tokens
- Mickey Maher – Previous episode
- Bored Ape
- McDonald’s presents its own NFT collection called ‘Big Mac Rubik’s Cube’
- Sweet K.R.I.T.
- @AnimocaBrands – Twitter
- @ViewFromHK – Twitter
- LinkedIn – Robby Yung
- iTunes – Edge of NFT Podcast
- @EdgeOfNFT – Twitter
About Robby Yung
Robby Yung started several businesses in China and Hong Kong, including those in mobile telecoms and software applications, cable television, internet services, outdoor advertising, and publishing. Robby has raised many rounds of private and institutional venture capital for these businesses as well as done four IPO’s, several trade sales, follow on financings, and lots of M&A.