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The-Sandbox-CEO-Metaverse-Vision-thefutureparty

The Sandbox CEO details metaverse vision

The-Sandbox-CEO-Metaverse-Vision-thefutureparty
Illustration by Kate Walker

The Sandbox CEO details metaverse vision

 

The Future. CEO Mathieu Nouzareth says The Sandbox is built to handle the crypto bear market because the platform was built for a long-term future. The goal, according to Nouzareth, is to compliment real-life instead of replacing it. So it’s possible that The Sandbox can bridge the two realities by rolling out perks that give users bragging rights in both.

Madison Ave. in the metaverse
Nouzareth laid out his vision for The Sandbox in an interview with Insider at NFT.NYC.

  • Gaming is the gateway. Nouzareth says that the reason why The Sandbox stands out from competitors like Decentraland and Sensorium Galaxy is that it uses gaming to draw users into a social world. (Granted, that puts it in competition with RobloxFortnite, and Minecraft).
  • It’s built for long-haul investment. The Sandbox is surviving the crypto winter because it’s not made for get-rich-quick NFT schemes but instead attracts users who believe in the long-term value of holding virtual real estate.
  • It’s all about the brand extensions. The Sandbox has struck deals with everyone and everything from Snoop Dogg to adidas because Nouzareth wants the platform to be the “Manhattan of the metaverse, a concentration of exciting brands and artists — but our vision isn’t to replace reality.”

The Sandbox, a subsidiary of VC firm Animoca Brands, has overseen roughly $350 million in virtual-land transactions. We’re sure those investors are hoping the virtual real-estate market is just as frothy as the real one.

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Sony-Live-Service-Video-Games-thefutureparty

Sony to debut constantly-updating games

Sony-Live-Service-Video-Games-thefutureparty
Courtesy of Bungie

TKTKT

Future. Sony is ramping up investment into live-service games that continually update to provide new missions and experiences for players online. That not only expands the longevity (and cultural conversation) around games but could open up new revenue streams as virtual goods and paywalled missions get released over the years.

Never gets old
Sony doesn’t ever want to let players run out of the game, so the company is focusing on rolling out a slate of “continually-updated online games” (aka live-service games)

  • Inspired by the likes of Fortnite and Destiny (which is now a Sony title after acquiring the developer Bungie), these games are multiplayer, which can be expanded and built upon even after it launches to the public.
  • Speaking at an investor presentation last week, Sony Interactive Entertainment CEO Jim Ryan said that 49% of its PlayStation Studios budget will go towards those games by the end of the year… and increase to 55% by 2025.

While no specific games have been announced yet, TechCrunch notes that titles such as God of WarThe Last of Us, and Uncharted were all part of the presentation, which may be teasing a huge multiplayer expansion of games usually thought of as single-player stories.

Head for the clouds
Getting back to Destiny: Sony brass said that snagging the talent and infrastructure for live-service games was a huge reason why the company acquired Bungie. Although Bungie originally made the Halo franchise, it sold off that title years ago, and Destiny has been its bestseller since.

The ability to roll out live-service games coincides with the video-game industry’s shift to cloud gaming — of which Sony (via PlayStation) and Microsoft (via Xbox) are competing for dominance. Each has its own separate streaming service and is on a buying spree for independent developers to shore up exclusive content. By going to the cloud, the ability to roll out updates on a dime to players becomes not just a reality but potentially the selling point for user adoption.

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Gucci-Town-Roblox-thefutureparty

Gucci builds a world inside Roblox

Gucci-Town-Roblox-thefutureparty
Gucci Town // Courtesy of Gucci

Gucci builds a world inside Roblox

 

Future. Gucci must be raking in the virtual goods because the famous fashion brand planted a more permanent flag inside Roblox with the creation of “Gucci Town.” By establishing such a strong presence in a virtual world with a young user base, Gucci may hope that new digital fans graduate to physical purchasing to match their style in-game.

Welcome to Gucci Town
After introducing the Gucci Garden experience in Roblox last year, the fashion brand is building a more permanent home inside the game universe.

  • It established the world of “Gucci Town.”
  • It has a central garden that connects “various areas, including a space for mini-games, a cafe, and a virtual store.”
  • And most importantly, virtual clothes will be on sale to outfit your avatar.

The Verge reports that Gucci will be taking advantage of a new Roblox feature called “layered clothing,” which lets users “create 3D clothes and accessories that nearly any avatar can wear with any combination of other layered clothes.” That could be a huge selling point to get users interested in the virtual fits.

Seeing Gs
Gucci Town wouldn’t be a thing if it wasn’t for the huge success of Gucci Garden. The brand says that during the two weeks it was available last year, over 20 million players checked it out.

But Roblox isn’t the only metaverse world Gucci is playing in. Earlier this year, the brand announced that it bought a plot of land inside The Sandbox, where it planned to construct a virtual store based on its Gucci Vault online concept store.

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Private-Equity-Acquire-Ubisoft-thefutureparty

Ubisoft may score a buyout

Private-Equity-Acquire-Ubisoft-thefutureparty
Ubisoft // Illustration by Kate Walker

Ubisoft may score a buyout

 

Future. Assassin’s Creed developer Ubisoft may be in the crosshairs of an acquisition. Details on the talks are still shrouded in secrecy. Still, a deal would take Ubisoft out of the running for an acquisition by either Xbox or Sony and may give Ubisoft continued independence to sell to the highest bidder and also supercharge their film and TV output.

Loot box
Is Ubisoft a takeover target?

  • Bloomberg reports that private equity firms such as Blackstone and KKR & Co. are potentially looking to acquire the French video-game developer.
  • It’s still early stages, and everyone is either staying mum or declining to comment, but the move would make strategic sense since Ubisoft’s stock is down 41% this year, giving it a valuation of $5.2 billion.

Even if an offer is made, there’s no indication that Yves Guillemot — Ubisoft’s chairman, co-founder, and largest shareholder with a 15% stake — would want to make a deal. Back in 2018, he thwarted a takeover attempt of major French media company Vivendi SE. Would he feel different today?

Equal-opportunity seller
The emergence of Blackstone as a potential buyer points to the thinking behind wanting to acquire Ubisoft. Blackstone-backed Candle Media (run by Disney vets Kevin Mayer and Tom Staggs) is putting together an entertainment company built from companies known either for celebrity caché (Reese Witherspoon) or huge IP (Cocomelon). Ubisoft, which is behind the hugely popular Assassin’s Creed and Tom Clancy franchise, would be both an expansion and a good fit.

Additionally, what makes Blackstone, Candle Media, or any investment firm an obvious fit for Ubisoft — other than how explosive the video-game market is right now — is that they would be able to sell to both Microsoft’s Xbox and Sony’s PlayStation equally, just as both companies are snapping up developers in order to shore up their streaming services. That’s the same thinking behind Candle Media’s entertainment strategy.

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video-game-developers-offers-exclusive-access-thefutureparty

Video-game developers prepare for rich courtship

video-game-developers-offers-exclusive-access-thefutureparty
Video Game Developers

Video-game developers prepare for rich courtship

 

Future. Indie game developers are attracting huge paydays to give video-game streamers exclusive access to titles as they all battle each other to build the “Netflix of games.” Like in film and TV, a boom for content could send game development into overdrive and create more titles than any person could ever imagine playing in a lifetime.

Multiplayer monogamy
Just as independent producers have been gobbled up by entertainment giants to compete in the film and TV streaming wars, video game developers are preparing for the big offers from Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass, Sony’s PlayStation Plus, Apple’s Arcade, Amazon’s Luna, and, yes, Netflix.

  • Those deep-pocketed companies are spending generously upfront to get exclusive access to titles or acquire top game-makers.
  • Independent developers love it because:
    • They get to focus on creativity instead of sales.
    • They know that their titles will be available to millions of people.
    • It allows for smaller, more experimental games to get made since not every title needs to appeal to everyone.

Tom Davis of the Swedish indie publisher Thunderful notes that the new system will also spur on physical game sales because “people are just generally talking about the game,” meaning that if gamers find a title they love, they may go out searching for other games from the same developer that aren’t on the streaming service.

In that case, streaming games may be the ultimate gateway tool.

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Epic raises $2 billion to officially build metaverse-thefutureparty

Epic raises $2 billion to officially build metaverse

Epic raises $2 billion to officially build metaverse-thefutureparty
Unreal Engine 5 // Illustration by Kate Walker

Epic raises $2 billion to officially build metaverse

 

Future. Epic Games raised $2 billion to build out a metaverse that is both fun and safe for kids, staking out a niché space in the soon-to-be interconnected experiential internet. While Roblox and Minecraft will undoubtedly compete with Epic’s Fortnite to capture kids’ attention in the metaverse, Epic’s VFX platform, the newly updated Unreal Engine 5, could make its space the most lifelike of them all.

Pixel playground
Fortnite-maker Epic Games is planning to expand the boundaries of the battle royale.

  • The company has raised $2 billion from Sony and Lego parent-company Kirkbi.
  • The funding gives Epic a valuation of $31.5 billion.
  • The money will be used to build a kid-friendly metaverse… and also fund some growth, of course.

CEO Tim Sweeney said the goal is to construct a digital realm for the company to create spaces where players can have fun with friends, where brands can build creative and immersive experiences, and where creators can build a community and thrive.”

The announcement comes mere days after Epic and Lego jointly announced that they would be building a metaverse for kids. Now we know there’s a big dollar sign behind it.

Keep your hands to yourself
Epic’s ambition to make a kid-friendly metaverse (or any metaverse, for that matter) is an obvious evolution. When the pandemic hit and in-person events went kaput, Fortnite became one of the most popular destinations for virtual experiences — driven by Travis Scott’s paradigm-shifting concert, Astronomical. Since then, Fortnite has expanded its “Party Worlds” that are entirely focused on social entertainment.

By most companies’ definition of a metaverseFortnite is already one. Although, what Epic means by “kid-friendly” is vague. The company probably just wants to avoid many of the issues that are already plaguing other virtual platforms so parents feel better about letting their kids loose in an all-virtual world that is meant to replicate the behaviors of our own.

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crypto-web3-game-axie-infinity-thefutureparty

Behind Axie Infinity, crypto’s biggest game

crypto-web3-game-axie-infinity-thefutureparty
Axie Infinity // Illustration by Kate Walker

Behind Axie Infinity, crypto’s biggest game

 

Future. Last month, Sky Mavis (the developer behind play-to-earn video game Axie Infinity) suffered one of the biggest crypto hacks, with over $600 million stolen. Even before the heist, however, Axie was already struggling to avert a financial crisis. Now, even after raising $150 million to reimburse stolen funds, the game has a rocky road ahead… and it may be a cautionary tale for web3 builders everywhere.

Ups and downs

Axie Infinity has had a roller coaster of a journey. 

  • Axie Infinity is one of the most popular web3 games around, pioneering play-to-earn video games in the web3 space and attracting millions of players worldwide.
  • Launched in 2018, Axie has reached annual revenues of over $1.3 billion, pulling in a record $17.5 million in a single month in August 2021.
  • But in recent months, Axie’s in-game token, SLP, has plunged 93% in value from all-time highs. 
  • And on March 23, the blockchain-based game had over $600 million worth of cryptocurrency stolen from its network, Ronin. 

Utility, utility, utility

Axie’s financial woes start with its game design — most players are there to earn cash as opposed to finding entertainment value in the game itself. In simple terms: the game really isn’t all that fun. This means that most users are continually cashing out their earnings rather than reinvesting into the game, putting deflationary pressure on SLP, Axie’s in-game token. 

This was sustainable while Axie’s user acquisition rates were skyrocketing…  but once growth plateaued, that meant that more and more people were cashing out, causing mass inflation and the 93% plunge in token value mentioned above. 

Now, with the hack to contend with, Axie’s road ahead looks pretty rocky. It may be a lesson to others building in the web3 space of what to avoid, underlining the importance of building utility into projects from the very start. 

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Gaming NFTs get some pushback

Gaming NFTs

Gaming NFTs get some pushback

 

Future. NFTs are everywhere, but the gaming industry is not totally gung-ho on their inclusion. While tying gaming to cryptocurrency does present a host of challenges, making sure that the games are undeniably fun (and that they constantly evolve and expand) may be key to keeping a thriving economy within the game alive.

Trouble on the blockchain
Frost Giant Studios’ CEO and co-founder, Tim Morten (StarCraft II), breaks down a few concerns that developers have about the blockchain tech’s takeover of gaming.

  • Play-to-earn games could give players false hope that the game’s economy will grow. Morton says, “Game populations peak and then go down,” meaning the currency could go down with it.
  • Owning a tradeable NFT that users initially purchased seems to go against the gamer ethos of unlocking collectibles through achievements. So, the inclusion of NFTs could actually turn off gamers.
  • When it comes to esports, using cryptocurrency to make tournament payouts leaves no room for error because reversing an incorrect payout would require “rolling back the entire blockchain ledger.”
  • Additionally, any hack or bug to a game’s economy could irreparably damage the game… and the players’ income tied to the game.

Gamer revolt
While there are certainly several game developers who would refute all of these claims, Morton is not wrong in thinking that a large contingency of gamers are skeptical about the crypto invasion. Ubisoft, Take-Two, and even gamer-focused communication platform Discord all either walked back or hedged their NFT plans in the wake of gamer backlash.

That’s not to say that minds cannot be changed, but it may show that some gamers aren’t sold on a culture rife with get-rich-quick speculation.

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Play for Ukraine gamifies cyberattacking Russia

play-for-ukraine-cyberattacks-russia-futureparty
Courtesy of Play for Ukraine

Play for Ukraine gamifies cyberattacking Russia

 

Future. An online game titled Play for Ukraine allows people all over the world to wage cyberwarfare against Russia by taking down government-controlled websites. Created by Ukrainian developers, the game may demonstrate the effectiveness of crowdsourcing an “IT army” that transcends borders …and act as a reminder for governments around the world to shore up their cyber-defenses.

Multiplayer DDOS
A new game from a Ukrainian software company can turn anyone into a hacktivist.

  • Play for Ukraine “crowdsources and gamifies” Dedicated Denial of Service (DDOS) attacks on websites of the Russian government or state-backed media.
    • DDOS attacks essentially overwhelm a website’s server until the site can no longer function normally.
  • To users, it’s a puzzle game designed in a way that, each time a player makes a move, they contribute to creating a DDOS on a web server.
  • As of last week, the developers of the game said that 2,048 players helped attack 200 Russian websites.
  • An ongoing list of sites the game has taken down can be found on the game’s Twitter account.

And to show that this game is being focused on its use for the digital battlefield, the game’s developers said, “our main goal is websites that serve the Russian army.”

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deepwell-video-games-mental-health-futureparty

DeepWell develops video-game prescriptions

deepwell-video-games-mental-health-futureparty
DeepWell // Illustration by Kate Walker

DeepWell develops video-game prescriptions

 

Future. Newly-launched DeepWell Digital Therapeutics plans to make video games that can be used as a treatment for various mental health issues, with a specific focus on teens and children. If the games prove to solve any number of players’ mental health challenges, video games could soon be regularly prescribed the same way pills are.

Mind games

A new video-game developer called DeepWell Digital Therapeutics wants to leverage video games as a possible treatment for mental health.  

  • The company has developed a toolkit to incorporate therapeutic tech into games — a process that adheres to FDA guidelines to pass all necessary regulations to be used as a health product.
  • It also wants to partner with currently in-development games to see how the toolkit can be applied to them. DeepWell would handle all necessary approvals to retrofit them.
  • It hopes to have at least one in-house developed game ready for next year and six to eight partner games. It will also have a platform to help gamers find titles that are right for their specific mental health challenges.

DeepWell has the right talent to make that plan a reality — it’s founded by Ryan Douglas ( founder and former CEO of medical-device startup Nextern) and Mike Wilson (co-founder of indie game developer Devolver Digital and co-founder of video game developer Ion Storm).

Therapeutics level up

In an interview with Fast Company, Douglas explained that games are great as a mental health therapeutic because “they open people up to think and act in a different way through self-actualization, biofeedback, agency, and role play, and can accelerate learning of new skills through increased neuroplasticity.” And if they’re fun, “patients and players will seek out their positive benefits again and again.”

And there’s research to back that claim up. A 2015 study from Germany’s University of Freiburg in Germany found that story-based games could be beneficial for people with autism, while other studies have found that games can help alleviate symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. 

Major developer Ubisoft even went so far as to partner with McGill University to create a game called Dig Rush to help people suffering from amblyopia (lazy eye). It’s available by prescription only.

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