Level 74: Funko Pop Vinyls

Now called Blankos^tm

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📜 This Week’s Notable Product: Blankos Block Party

Earlier this week, we had the chance to attend a talk from Mythical Games, a studio founded in 2018 that’s raised nearly $40M in funding. CEO John Linden, founder of four successful startups and former head of studio at Activision, has assembled an all-star team (from marketplaces to BD) to drive a hit product. But even more so, this was the perfect entry point into the world of crypto + games.

Linden outlined Mythical’s upcoming release Blankos Block Party — a games the brings the worlds of crypto, Fortnite, and Funko Pop crashing together. Sounds confusing right? How do Crypto and Funko Pop even mesh with social games like Fortnite? Let’s dive deeper.

What is Blankos Block Party

The game itself is a “ cross-platform social MMO” that functions like Minecraft or Roblox. Except it’s different than existing games because levels (called “Block Parties”) can be fully functional games or social sandboxes. The closest comparable that comes to mind is Halo’s Forge mode, where players can use a massive suite of tools to build custom game environments. But Blankos takes it a step further to add specific attributes to their environments and actually create ‘games’ vs. simply ‘environments’. To date, they have shooter, racing and party game genres all cross-platform.

What’s So Special About It?

What separates Blankos Block Party from other games is their emphasis on collectability through non-fungible tokens (NFTs). This is a game where you can not only play, build and share (UGC in a nutshell), but also collect, sell, and compete. They’re making economics and financial systems more fun through play, incentivizing people to stay on the platform through competition and status.

NFTs are this really interesting crypto concept that at their core play around with uniqueness, rarity and indivisibility — think that Instagram handle you wish you had or the rare 1st edition comic book sitting somewhere in your basement. That’s NFTs in a nutshell: collectibles that endow status and accrue value. An NFT has:

  1. Ownership: There’s clear ownership distinction for the asset. For example, only you can own a business class plane ticket from SF to Boston at a specific date.

  2. Transferability: Ownership for an NFT can be transferred from person to person. Check out OpenSea for the largest marketplace for these sorts of items.

  3. Authenticity: Every NFT is uniquely authentic — if you get one, there won’t be any another like it.

Why Do NFTs Matter In The Context of Games?

NFTs can be used to … modernize the lucrative collectibles market, eliminate fraud in the entertainment industry, open up new possibilities in gaming, and allow someone to own a real-world asset that’s thousands of miles away.

NFTs are particularly relevant to games because of how difficult it is to buy and sell virtual assets in second-hand marketplaces. How many times has someone gotten ripped off on eBay trying to purchase a Level 60 World of Warcraft Character? And it goes beyond marketplace like Roblox and CS:GO community shops because NFTs also allow the publisher to reap the benefits of the transaction as well.

More broadly, smart contracts — transaction protocols — automate services like contracting, payouts, and asset ownership transfer, and are all built directly into the NFT from the outset. Taking it even a step further, NFT, which is built on top of the Ethereum blockchain, might even begin to pave the way into the Metaverse as assets are theoretically interchangeable across games built with the same tech. This currently can’t happen in other games like Fortnite and CoD because, well, they’re different games made my different companies on different platforms with different tech.

Done with care and respect, this already feels like the intuitive direction for free-to-play, which derives its revenue from virtual assets and experiences they sell.

Bringing it back to Blankos Block Party, their funko-like vinyl NFT-characters are the equivalent to limited edition Nike sneaker drops: you can only get a certain amount, and the earlier you get them the more valuable they are (like prints in art). Blankos Block Party isn’t the first to market with this idea. Games like Skyweaver, an NFT-based card game, have demonstrated success in the space, but should Blankos become popular, other free-to-play games might implement a similar system.

Further reading: 
  • Game Developer talks about building blockchain games. Link

  • Blankos Founder Pack (limited edition, get them while they’re still available). Link

  • NFTs intro and deep dive. Link

  • Making Sense of Blockchain Gaming. Link

💡 Industry Content

The CEO of Talking: Invest Like the Best’s Patrick O’Shaughnessy sat down with Discord’s Founder & CEO Jason Citron to talk about his journey in building one of the world’s fastest growing social platforms. The conversation does a fantastic job highlighting Jason’s love for gaming, community, voice, and approach to building products. Link

Lessons From Failure: Alexander Mistakidis, CEO of mobile gaming start-up Gamelynx, announced that the company was shutting down for good. Starting a company is extremely difficult — particularly in an industry like games, where consumers have millions of different options to choose from. In this “company post-mortem”, Alexander breaks down some of the pivotal decisions that led to Gamelynx’s demise, and what he’s learned along the way. Link

The Future is Code Free: One of the most discussed topics in the tech industry today is the idea of “low/no code tools”. These tools essentially allow the 99+% of the world who can't code to build/create things from scratch almost as if they were coding. This deep dives explores why Roblox & Minecraft are perfect representations of a code-free future, and why game platforms will help lead the way.  Link

100 Thieves Goes Hollywood: Following last week’s news with Ninja, Hollywood talent agency CAA announced that they’re signing 100 Thieves as their newest gaming focused client. Conceptually, the move makes a ton of sense — the day to day value of 100 Thieves is the content its creators put out. Talent agents are broadening their approach with creators to reach a more diverse audience. Link

🎮 Fun & Games

Three Letters — AOC: On Tuesday, Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (also known as AOC) booted up her PC to hop on Twitch. The entire idea had seemingly appeared on social media in only a few hours: AOC, along with her squadmate Ilhan Omar, would hop onto Among Us with popular Twitch streamers to publicize voting in the upcoming election. The results were staggering, with the stream breaking numerous Twitch records and landing at the #3 spot (behind Ninja + Drake & Shroud) for the most concurrent viewers on a single individual’s stream. We’ve assembled some of the best pieces of what is quickly becoming another “mainstream gaming” moment to share with you:

  • Gene Park talks about why AOC’s success isn't surprising.  Link

  • NBC’s Kalhan Rosenblatt on the intersection of games and elections. Link

  • WIRED’s round-up on the stream. Link

5 Years of Undertale: Undertale is arguably the most famous indie game of all-time. From orchestral concerts to a multi-platform release, the game has made millions of fans, videos and a plethora of remakes since its launch in 2015. Five years later, the game’s sole creator, Toby Fox, sits down with NPR to reflect on the cult phenomenon that he created. Link

😎 Other Cool Reads

Shinji Mikami, The Father of Survival Horror Games: Much like their movie counterparts, horror video games occupy a very special corner of gaming history. One of gaming’s biggest strengths as a medium is that it allows for interactivity, immersing players in these scary environments much more than your standard movie can. In the world of survival horror, no one is more influential than Shinji Mikami, the director behind the original Resident Evil series. In this documentary, learn more about how Mikami invented a new genre of games, and how he became one of gaming’s most influential creators. Link

China’s Indie Game Scene: In wake of Genshin Impact’s remarkable success, this was a particularly harrowing feature about the reality of a Chinese indie developer and the obstacles they face. Journalist Khee Hoon Chan charts the historical narrative of the biggest game market in the world to explain that it isn’t just tight regulations constricting Chinese game developers, it’s also licensing fees, VPNs, marketing to international audiences, pay-to-win mechanics, and much more. Link 

The Problem with Virtual Influencers:  We’ve previously covered Seraphine, a completely virtual influencer created by Riot Games to drum up hype for their newest character in League of Legends. While the idea of a digital influencer is certainly innovative, there’s a disconnect between virtual characters and the actual human experience. In this editorial piece, Natalie Flores explores why Riot’s portrayal of Seraphine’s struggle with mental health is just that, a mischaracterization, and where the line needs to be drawn when it comes to brand strategy. Link

📊 By The Numbers

$2,000,000,000 is the amount of lifetime mobile spend on Roblox. Those numbers give a compelling case for their upcoming IPO. Link

600,000 people are in Genshin Impact’s Discord server, making it a larger community than Discord’s Minecraft and Fornite servers. Link

21 years since the launch of Serbii.net, the internet’s premier location for everything Pokemon. It’s awesome to see the longevity of this fan site which has undeniably contributed to the continued success of the Pokemon. Link | Interview

😍 Our Current Favorites 

Fawzi (@fawzitani)

It’s hiring season and I wanted to call out a few gaming jobs I’ve come across for those who might be interested. Please do get in touch if I can open up my network to anyone.

  • Play Ventures VC — Analyst Intern (Singapore, Remote) Link

  • Twitter — Gaming Conversation Lead (SF, Remote) Link

  • Roblox  — Business Development Coordinator (San Mateo) Link

  • Mythical Games — Associate Producer (Seattle) Link

  • Riot Games — Revenue Strategist (LA) Link

  • 100 Thieves — Account Manager (LA) Link

On a small aside, Wild Rift released a Korean advertisement video ft. Faker and friends. Comments are always sooo good in these videos.

Max (@MaxLowenthal)

Tech Twitter is ablaze this week about the shut-down of Quibi, a video streaming start-up that managed to raise billions of dollars, only to close less than six months later. In the past, video games, like TV or movies, were a hits-driven business - you couldn’t really afford to stay open if people aren't consuming your stuff. But the advent of the web has made it equally (if not more) important that your content is shareable. It’s why games/platforms like Among Us and Twitch are so popular, and arguably why Quibi was not. One particularly great breakdown on Quibi’s failure (and the need for social/shareable media) is from my friend Matt Susskind, who writes about the intersection of Entertainment & Tech. If you want to know more about complex media topics, the fall of Quibi, or just get smarter about Hollywood, it's worth giving a look. Link

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