What’s it like to build a blockchain company from the ground up? Hear it straight from the source. David Amor, CEO at Playmint - a blockchain gaming company founded in 2021 - discusses what it's like to be on the frontline of the blockchain gaming revolution.
David is interviewed by Melissa Zeloof, VP Marketing at ironSource, Anton Backman, Principal at Play Ventures, and Kenrick Drijoningen, General Partner at Play Ventures, where they explore building his company, modern blockchain gaming technology, and comparing blockchain vs traditional gaming.
Tune in here or keep reading for the edited highlights.
Exploring the opportunity
“I love building companies, uh, starting from the ground and I'm somebody who I wanted to set up a company with said: ‘have you considered blockchain games?’ And I think, like a lot of people, I liked blockchain, I liked cryptocurrencies, but didn't really see how they applied to games.
He was making a lot of money selling artwork as NFTs and I was interested in how that technology worked, and who the audience was. I was lucky enough to have somebody that was experiencing that firsthand. And as I spent more time with it, I think that like a lot of people in the blockchain games world started to understand how it can be applied to games and what the opportunity was.”
We started with some angel investment. We got $600,000 of angel investment, which is just enough to get together, enough for a core group of people to quit their day jobs, and start focusing on what the company was going to be - that was the start.”
"We got $600,000 of angel investment, which is just enough to get together, enough for a core group of people to quit their day jobs, and start focusing on what the company was going to be - that was the start."
Interest in crypto gaming
“We don't want to raise too much at this point, but enough so that we can focus on hiring good people and making great games rather than worrying that the money's going to run out. It's a part of the games industry that a lot of people are keen to invest in - from the game venture capitalists that are saying: ‘Hey, I think this crypto games part of the industry is going to be big’ or from the crypto side, people that have made money in DeFi and in the finance world say, ‘I see the way that the place where NFTs are going to next - in games.’ So you’ve got two groups of venture capitalists, both interested in investing in crypto games and blockchain.”
How to succeed in blockchain games without a playbook
“I like learning new things and everyone's learning together with blockchain games. Our production thesis is: get things out there quickly. It doesn't need to be enormous. Just something out there that reaches an audience that people enjoy. I think if you spend too long building a game, you sometimes get sunk cost fallacy, where you feel that the thing you're working on has to work because you spent so much time and energy and money on it.
By putting something out quickly, seeing what people like and dislike about it, is something that we try to do - to have a sort of cadence of releasing things every couple of months, and building on what we've done.
Marketing blockchain games to your audience
“I think that's one of the big questions at the moment. I now understand the role that marketing always plays in games and it's not completely clear what that looks like in blockchain.
One of the reasons we liked working with Loot was because there was a group of people that were already talking about it. There was already an audience there that we could address. There's a Loot town square where we can speak out. There's Twitter feeds that we can be part of. So we growth-hacked our way by working in a community of people that already loved what we were about to do.
Those all seem to be important attributes in raising awareness and getting an audience for your game. I think that as time goes on, we'll be introducing a token and incentivizing behavior that we like from our players is a good way to get those people evangelizing and spreading the word.”
State of the industry
“It’s early. It’s not easy to find out the best practice of building a mobile game and how you monetize it and retain it - and that isn't there yet.
And even the distribution platforms and blockchain game, isn't really there yet. A ton of new things aren't particularly mature yet, but I think that leads to opportunities and it's interesting. I suppose you could look at it from two sides. There's the client side - it's probably difficult to build on iOS and Google natively because those distribution systems haven't made their position particularly clear - it's risky doing native mobile games. PlayStation, X-Box, Nintendo - none of those app stores are clear about what you can and can't do in blockchain games. So there's a challenge.
That probably means you're doing something in the browser. And if you're doing something in the browser, that client technology isn't as mature as it is with making native games. So Unity is our go-to for many years. And they do have a browser component, but it's not as mature as native.
Particularly on mobile web, that's even less mature. So there's some challenges there. And then on the Web3 side, you've got the chains themselves, which a lot of them aren't mature insofar as they don't have a lot of people developing with them or people, players using them.
So it's a set of technologies there, but I think they were probably built for DeFi rather than being built for games. And of course people are working on that. I think all these tools and technology providers see the games industry coming because, there's, there's a lot of investment coming, but we'll create a lot of games and they all are going to need this technology. So I think it's coming, but it's just early.”
"It’s early. It’s not easy to find out the best practice of building a mobile game and how you monetize it and retain it - and that isn't there yet."
“One of the things I've found in games is it's very hard if you build up a lot of value as a player in a game to then encourage somebody to start playing something brand new. It is difficult because of the amount of time and energy they've invested in it.
So having some interoperability between games means that the work that you've been putting in this game now can be used in the game that we were introducing. So I think that will be an important aspect in blockchain games. It's my guess today.”
Blockchain vs traditional gaming
“Obviously there's a lot of opinion in blockchain games at the moment. A lot of people joined the games industry because of a love or a certain kind of game. So I noticed the same thing in mobile games - I knew a lot of people that loved making PlayStation games because they love playing PlayStation games - now we have to persuade those people we should be building mobile games.
There's a lot of lack of education about what we can do with Web3 and blockchain games. So I guess that's something - finding people that really understand the opportunity of blockchain games. Truthfully, it hasn't been a big problem for us. We've been able to find a great set of people that understand the opportunity and really love what they're doing here.
We can think about the audience. Core gamers currently look at this with disdain - the introduction of NFTs into something they love. Casual players, people that might be playing Candy Crush, are probably apathetic about this. So we've chosen to target people that already understand the space and love these kinds of games, which means that there's an audience that can't wait to see what we build, but it is a smaller audience than what we’re used to.”
"I knew a lot of people that loved making PlayStation games because they love playing PlayStation games - now we have to persuade those people we should be building mobile games"
Looking to the future
“I think 2021 was the first year that people said - okay, this is viable now. I know a lot of people in the games industry who say ‘yeah, I can see this being an important new part of the games industry,’ but often they are running a games company already. So even if they thought the best thing for them to do, they can’t easily jump into this area and start a new games company - they can't just leave out the games company that they’re currently running.
I was lucky because I was building up a company just as it became clear that this is a new part of the games industry. I think we'll see other games CEO's move from traditional games or casual games into the blockchain space this year and next.”