Vancouver dips its toes into the Web3 gaming scene
Some industry players are excited about Vancouver’s potential in Web3 gaming; others say the market is over-hyped.
Ask someone in Vancouver’s well-connected tech set and they’ll tell you that they either believe, or know someone who believes, that the city should be crowned as the world’s Web3 capital. Anchored by blockchain superpower Dapper Labs, Vancouver’s Web3 community is vibrant and highly engaged.
But aside from the NFT sector (CocoNFT, Doodles, and many others), and technical infrastructure (Covalent), what other trending Web3 areas does Vancouver have?
With NFT sales hitting their lowest point and crypto entering a bear market in 2022, leveraging the blockchain for other uses became imperative. Many Web3 publications listed Web3 gaming as an area to watch in 2023, including Blockworks and Milk Road – the latter of which dedicated one of its last newsletters of 2022 to the sector, as well as including it on its 2023 trend list.
Says Mike Wittmeyer — co-founder of Bitfo (the company that owns Milk Road) — to Vancouver Tech Journal: “[At Milk Road], we cover what’s hot on Twitter each day. That's where the stories are essentially being sourced from, so when there is something big happening in the gaming space, we will tend to cover that.”
Web3 gaming is popular on Twitter, but that doesn’t mean many people know what it is, even though it’s exactly what it sounds like: a video game that has components of Web3, usually digital collectibles and tokens. The purpose of leveraging this technology is to ensure that players maintain ownership of all their digital assets while allowing for interoperability between platforms.
Web3 gaming is similar to what is known as play-to-earn (or P2E) gaming. Phil Hall, manager of PlaytoEarn.online says that the term “P2E” is beginning to fall out of favour as it implies that the only reason someone might play a game is to earn money. As the industry has matured and games have become higher in quality, the focus has shifted away from making cash to simply having fun, but with components of Web3 which still allow for players to profit.
Electronic Arts has had a foothold in Vancouver since 1991, but somehow Montreal has long been seen as the centre of Canada’s gaming industry. Home to Ubisoft, creator of Assassin’s Creed, Canada’s Web3 gaming sector seems to continue to be drawn to the Laurentians, with many a Google search result or list of Canadian Web3 gaming companies concentrated in the Montreal-Toronto corridor.
That doesn’t mean that Vancouver is absent from a potentially key component of the Web3 ecosystem. Rather, as Winston Ng – founder of Hatch – points out, thanks to EA’s tenure in the city, Vancouver has no shortage of game developer talent, as cities that house big anchor companies tend to see related companies crop up as employees leave the place they cut their teeth. Because of this, he thinks that Vancouver is well-positioned to support this burgeoning sector.
Chibi Clash, a Web3 game being developed by Vancouver’s Kuma Games, recently raised a private $4.03 million round with investments from Jump Capital, Polygon, Shima Capital, and others. After selling out its initial NFT drop for the game, the team has reflected and refocused its efforts to ensure they align with its values. “If things seem too good to be true, they probably are,” says the company’s CEO, Ted Mui. “We started seeing the writing on the wall with the play-to-earn economy [because] you need that continuous growth of the player-base to sustain [it]. So, that led us down a path over the past year to rethink how we want to build a sustainable project that creates meaningful value for the people that take part in our ecosystem. And of course, first and foremost, deliver something that people want to be a part of.”
MixMob, another Vancouver Web3 gaming company, recently launched its third alpha and finished its seed round in January 2022 with $7 million. Simon Vieira, one of MixMob’s co-founders, says that the company will be releasing its beta in April and looking towards a private raise or a series A in the near future. For him, Web3 gaming is built on the same ethos as the rest of the Web3 ecosystem: community first. Access to the first iteration of MixMob was limited to those who had purchased the NFT drop, a customer base that proved to be extremely valuable to Vieira and his co-founders. “They came and gave us great feedback, they liked what we were building, they saw the vision, and they were like, ‘What about this?’ ‘What about that?’ [There was] tons and tons of feedback, which was beautiful. So, we got that feedback incorporated and we've been working like that with our community ever since.”
But despite Web3 gaming being on many trend lists, is it actually trending, or is this just another example of living in a Twitter echo-chamber? Arguments can be made on both sides. Wittmeyer says, “I think there's a ton of hype and investment being made into creating these games, including from some big studios, but in terms of people playing these games now and being into them, I think it's a little overblown.”
Mui disagrees. He says that while Vancouver may not be a hub now, “there are a lot of builders and entrepreneurs here in this space and there are regular meetups for Web3 gaming communities.” Vieira concurs, saying that the community is starting to pick up. He also points to broader industry challenges of trying to convert traditional gamers to Web3 games.
Hall, however, reminds us that the Web3 gaming space is still very young and that there is a lot of experimentation still taking place. “What we have now in Web3 gaming is one of those under-ocean volcanic vents, where things are merging together in new ways and creating new life. While not everything being created will survive, what does will continue to make permanent changes to the concept of gaming and gaming development.”
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