The Metaverse is one of the hottest trends of the past year, promising a new collaborative online experience where users can explore and engage in persistent virtual worlds. While Web3 technology is finally starting to take off, it hasn’t yet made it to mainstream popularity. But it will, and soon. The Metaverse is expected to skyrocket in popularity with a projected market value of over US$1,607 billion by 2030 and, much like the dot-com rush in the late 90s, kickstarting a new paradigm for human interaction across the world.
One of the most exciting areas in the Metaverse industry is gaming, which is expected to reach a market size of US$40 billion by 2030, with a 43% CAGR. Gaming is where Metaverse began, and it will only grow in popularity as the world finally sees the launch of AAA Web3 game content in 2022. With this in mind, let’s take a look at a few of the top game companies that are likely to become leaders in the Metaverse gaming space, along with analyses of their strengths and unique features.
The King of Blockchain Gaming
Founded in 2014 and initially focused on mobile game development and distribution, Animoca Brands was listed on the Australian Stock Exchange but subsequently suffered delisting. However, they were able to come back with the help of NFTs and become the hottest giant in the current NFT gaming space.
Animoca Brands is now behind the vast majority of Metaverse blockchain games including the Sandbox and Crazy Kings, and their related upstream and downstream technology companies. It was also an early investor in Axie Infinity developer Sky Mavis, Decentraland, Dapper Labs (NBA Top Shot), and other NFT rising stars. Animoca Brands recently closed a $75.3 million funding round, valuing the company at $5.9 billion.
A review of Animoca Brands’ market capitalization over the past two years shows that the company has grown tremendously: Animoca grew from a market capitalization of just around $100 million in March 2020 to a market capitalization of $5.9 billion after several rounds of investment and financing.
Animoca also has blockchain service revenue from their portfolio and partnerships. Other revenue includes gains/losses on investments and digital asset holdings. According to a recent report, the company had a cash balance of $98 million and digital asset holdings worth $211 million, including USDC, USDT, BUSD, ETH and BTC.
Animoca Brands has also entered into new joint ventures with Cube Entertainment, including AniCube, Cube Entertainment, MetaHollywood, Planet Hollywood, OneFootball Labs and OneFootball. It also partnered with Yuga Labs on Otherside, a virtual world game for Bored Apes Yacht Club.
While Animoca Brands spent its first three years in the crypto scene expanding its network of resources and building internally like any new company in transition, more recently the company has been reaching out in the crypto industry through broad investments to build a massive ecosystem around NFTs and the Metaverse.
The Pioneer of P2E Blockchain Games
Founded in early 2018, Sky Mavis is a technology-focused gaming studio based in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam. In October 2022, they raised $152 million at a valuation of nearly $3 billion to help further develop their flagship play-to-earn product Axie Infinity, making it the top game on the Ethereum network for daily, weekly and monthly active player rankings. They are building the virtual world of the future and the infrastructure to make it possible. Sky Mavis has not only launched a successful game, but some of Axie Infinity’s exploratory features have also brought disruptive innovation that will lead to a huge change in the GameFi industry.
Axie Infinity is considered to be the number one NFT project of all time thanks to its remarkable statistics in many aspects. It grew rapidly from 38 thousand active players at launch to over 2.8 million recently, while the volume of NFT transactions has reached $3.6 billion. More importantly, it proposed and implemented the key concept of Play to Earn (P2E), a model that has since been cited and imitated many times, leading the way for the entire GameFi industry. It is easy to see Sky Mavis team’s excellent technical support, rich operation experience and their great passion for NFTs, blockchain games and digital property rights.
In terms of gameplay and IP, Axie Infinity may be seen as being similar to Pokemon. However, the game’s popularity is primarily due to its Web3 concept with an open marketplace for in-game resources that is controlled by the players.
Due to Axie Infinity’s success, Sky Mavis had a relatively smooth financing journey. In April this year, Sky Mavis announced the completion of a $150 million funding round led by Binance, with participation from Animoca Brands, a16z, Dialectic, Paradigm and Accel. Sky Mavis hopes to incubate more quality NFT blockchain games with the core purpose of making Axie NFTs into universal tickets to log into an evolving ecosystem of game platforms, with an emphasis on co-creation as the core directive.
Upcoming games using the Sky Mavis IP include a platform game called Across Lunacia and a battle royale game with Axie-controlled mechs called Mech Infinity. Even community players who have not joined Anxie Infinity can build experiences using Axie IP and profit from them, as long as they follow certain guidelines.
Axie Infinity’s huge scalability is a result of Sky Mavis’ underlying infrastructure, including the distributed platform Mavis Hub, an ethereum-specific sidechain called Ronin, and Katana, Ronin’s decentralized trading platform. Meanwhile Axie Infinity: Origin, an upgraded combat system, will feature upgraded art, animations and mechanics, and will allow people to try Axie for free before buying their own team. Sky Mavis continues to flesh out the Axie universe, constantly upgrading and building the tools and infrastructure that make the brand thrive.
An NFT-Related Distribution Platform Focused on Web3 Games
Founded in 2018 as Fuel Games and rebranded the following year as Immutable, this company was built around Web3 games. However, with Immutable X now empowering both games and NFT projects, Immutable can be said to have pivoted as an “NFT-related distribution platform”.
A total of six game projects have officially been announced, of which only one strategy card game, Gods Unchained, has been opened to all players. Gods Unchained is also the project that Immutable entered the industry with. Immutable later turned to NFT infrastructure to support the development of Gods Unchained. Most of their other games are in internal testing, but as most have released assets, five of their six games are in the top 15 of the platform’s transaction value.
Immutable’s vision as a company switched from their gaming origins to infrastructure in order to support the development of Web3 games, with a path to build an L2 blockchain that facilitates the trading of game NFT assets. This is how its main product, Immutable X (IMX), works.
The predecessor team of IMX is from Gods Unchained, a well-known blockchain game project. The legendary production team from Fuel Games created a five-day 400ETH revenue record during the downturn in 2019, and more than 4 million NFT game cards were created during the game’s public beta stage. In the same year, an NFT game card – Mythic, worth $62,000, was created.
In addition, Immutable also operates a game studio and has the ability to independently produce or publish blockchain games. Immutable Games Studio, which has launched several blockchain games, including the NFT card game Gods Unchained, and the upcoming action role-playing game Guild of Guardians, previously completed a $200 million financing round at a valuation of $2.5 billion.
Their much-anticipated AAA game Illuvium reached a full-circulation market cap of nearly $4.5 billion in August with more than 70,000 total followers, although the game has not yet launched. Recently, Illuvium’s land sale powered by Immutable X was sold out and became one of the most successful NFT sales in history with $72 Million in land sold. The classic Japanese NFT blockchain game My Crypto Heroes, with a DAU of up to 40,000, is also planned Collaborate with Immutable X.
On the game studio’s team, Chris Clay is Vice President and Game Director of Gods Unchained. Clay is a gaming veteran who joined Immutable in July 2019. Although the core team is young, it has invited many senior figures in the industry, and there is also solid capital behind it.
Recently, Immutable X announced the launch of a $500 million venture capital fund to promote Web3 game adoption. Their mission is to drive the next generation of Web3 game development through Immutable X and Immutable Game Studio. The company expects to release a series of games on its platform in the next few months.
AI-driven Dark Horse Blockchain Game Company with Tons of Potential
While the three blockchain game companies above specialize in unique investment vision, accurate creation of popular products, and ecosystem infrastructure construction, rct AI is a fast-growing blockchain game company that combines technology development, product creation, and project promotion.
rct AI was established in 2018 in Silicon Valley and received investments from Y Combinator, Makers Fund and Galaxy Interactive, among others. In its early days, the company started with AI computing power and explored the use of artificial intelligence to provide complete solutions for the game industry. A solid technical foundation and unique applications have enabled it to accumulate a lot of experience in the Hollywood entertainment industries as well as traditional game industries. It has served more than 20 top game companies successively, reaching more than 200 million users.
Different from other companies, rct AI’s game and metaverse network revolves around AI MetaBeings. They use a technology ‘gene’ that allows them to not only create avatars, but also gives them life, makes them socialize, and returns their rights, freedom, and equality.
rct AI has completed the development of an all-around architecture of the underlying technology, ‘appearance’ NFT, interactive blockchain gaming and deep ecology construction. Recently, rct AI has also struck a strategic partnership with the ecological leader of virtual beings, NEXT GENERATION Culture in China, and jointly launched “Soularis” to create a virtual society where users and AI virtual beings coexist, and digital identities or assets are interoperable.
Delysium and Mirror World, two other blockchain games launched by rct AI, are highly popular with venture capitalists. Those two blockchain games have earned investments from Galaxy Interactive, Republic Crypto and Alameda Research, among others.
Delysium is an AAA blockchain game that truly realizes its “fun to play, play and earn” motto, and stands a chance to open the door for Web2 gamers to enter the Web3 gaming space. When it was questioned if AAA blockchain games could be truly realized, Delysium directly benchmarked Star Atlas, and developed richer gameplay and more advanced developments under the same game textures, becoming the world’s first playable AAA blockchain game. It has since gone on to unite dozens of well-known guilds such as Unix and YGG SEA, etc.
Mirror World is another endeavor by rct AI to apply their algorithm model to Web3 communities and projects for greater creativity and higher collective value. Mirror World is one of the first applications of its kind where assets on the platform can be shared across games. In September 2021, Mirror World launched the world’s first interactive NFT called Mirror NFT, with 11,000 total NFTs which can be circulated across multiple games in the Mirror World ecosystem. In November 2021, Mirror World launched Soul Chip, the first NFT interaction chip.
rct AI introduces cloud services and algorithm platforms for the development and creation of global blockchain games. Based on their mastery of technology and deep understanding of virtual worlds and AI MetaBeings, rct AI launched a new decentralized MetaBeing platform called Deterrence for creators and digital residents willing to use AI in Metaverse to better express their creativity and improve their living conditions.
Recently, the Deterrence team published a new DRL (Deep Reinforcement Learning) model ACAR (Action Clustering using Action Representation) based on training AI in Axie Infinity, in which this algorithm achieves significant improvements in battle win rates and overall efficiency within a large amount of simulated matchmaking data. In the research, the AI surpassed the level of real players for the first time in a blockchain game, which is AI’s best performing record in a blockchain game so far.
Last May, rct AI’s Kurosemi team released the virtual human NFT “Nüwa” in collaboration with digital artist Song Ting. Nüwa Nüwa was the highest-priced digital work sold at the 2021 YONGLE auction, where it eventually reached a sale price of RMB 380,000.
Not only continuing exploration of game production, gameplay, and economic systems, rct AI has also begun to deploy new opportunities on the distribution side, opening up the full chain integration of technology, product R&D and distribution.
While the current business volume of rct AI is lower than the other three gaming companies, the advantages of rct AI lie in their unique understanding of the Metaverse and solid technical support.
There is an enormous market for blockchain games, and it’s only going to get bigger as more people are attracted to the vast benefits the technology has to offer. However, it’s safe to say that the biggest hurdle to mainstream acceptance of blockchain gaming is probably the difficulty in onboarding new users — it’s still quite the hassle for cryptoverse newcomers to figure out how to create a wallet, safely purchase cryptocurrency assets and connect their wallet to their games of choice.
To this end, it may be that mobile games like Immutable’s upcoming Guild of Guardians have a slight advantage, as the smartphone format may come across as a bit friendlier to new users. On the other hand, AI technological superiority in games like Delysium from rct AI may be exactly what is needed to draw the masses into the Metaverse. Only time will tell, but one thing’s for certain: the future of gaming is changing in a big way and blockchain game companies such as the four explored in this article are on the leading edge of the most exciting movement the industry has ever seen.