Catalyze Gaming Ecosystem Growth on Arbitrum

Can you explain how you see the potential for growth and traction being significant under the GCP?

From my perspective and experience, I have always found that access to money isn’t a litmus test of success or failure. Most especially in gaming. The GCP is merely a funding vehicle which has no involvement in the viability, let alone the success or failure of a game project. I brought up this comparison before, in that a traditional publisher tends to do a lot more than just provide funding. It’s why indies self-publishing on Steam or EGS tend to have to do all the things - including marketing - that publishers would otherwise do. And yet still, it’s a hit or miss.

My view of the success of the GCP is transient to that of the games funded by it because at the end of the day, even those that don’t have an ROI requirement, won’t succeed by just their mere presence on ARB.

Indeed. But herein lies the rub. ARB doesn’t [yet] have a [cohesive] gaming ecosystem. At least not in the traditional sense. And most of the games and their associated communities, are parked on Treasure; and soon others will do the same on XAI. And so, games being funded through the GCP aren’t going to somehow automagically create a gaming presence other than be featured among a list of slew of games on something on like Arbitrum Arcade.

There are quite a few fun games (e.g. Pirate Nation comes to mind) already within the ARB gaming ecosystem; but most of them aren’t being played. And as I said before, it’s not because they aren’t fun games, nor is it visibility a problem due to the small amount of games on the ecosystem. I believe that the primary issue is one of exposure, not discovery. Marketing and/or promoting a game to a bubble of degens isn’t a plan that yields the expected results. Especially given that that [degen] bubble primarily cares more about making money than about the games themselves. And so, if you have a game that’s not terribly fun and which doesn’t have decent tokenomics, no degen is going to touch it. Similarly, a fun game without decent tokenomics will suffer the same fate - every time. And even the degens who do end up checking out such games, are likely to bail in search of the next thing. This is the reality of Web3 gaming - and which cannot be ignored. And it’s specifically why the games with the larger budgets - not even AA or AAA - reach out beyond the degen bubble due to extensive marketing and promo activities. For example, games like Shrapnel, the aforementioned Off The Grid, and a few others.

My point being, the GCP can provide as much funding to a team as is required, but there are several factors that go into how that game performs, and whether or not it is a “win” for the ARB community proper.

What Treasure seems to have achieved on ARB, and which I believe XAI is also on track to do, is create an AIO (All-In-One) on-boarding solution. This is similar to the Steam and EGS model whereby you get all the tools that you need to deploy/publish on the platform; but when it comes to marketing and promo, you’re [mostly] on your own. All that aside from the discovery problem because such an easy on-board system tends to also create a glut of games.

As I mentioned in the education thread, these are some of the things that the Catalyst Team needs to make a priority in funding grants or venture deals. A team needs to not only show how much of the funds are going toward dev, but also their marketing plans. And since some of these things have KPIs and similar activities which cannot be tracked - at least not without periodic reporting to the GCP team - there has to be a way to show that when you said 10% of funding when to marketing, that 10% of funding did in fact go to marketing. There are entire teams (Upptic, Windwalk etc) that do dedicated Web3 marketing activities as well as community building.

Anyone who believes that just throwing $400MM at this challenge is going to somehow yield expected results, really doesn’t understand how any of this works. I know that I already sound like a broken record in this regard, but it’s something that I am hoping sinks in as things move forward.

Indeed. And that’s the part of the challenge of expanding the [degen] bubble from the outside. But that’s what everyone else is currently doing anyway; and honestly, ARB doesn’t have an edge that I can see thus far. We’re not talking about a Steam vs EGS vs Green Man Gaming vs Everyone Else. We’re talking about ARB competing with other “game-centric” chains which already have a major lead, even in the face of Treasure and the growth of XAI. And the end result is going to be that without [gamer] eyeballs being on the GCP funded games, it’s an insurmountable challenge.

Today, I saw David Taylor’s analysis of the revenue paid out to Fortnite creators. It’s all kinds of crazy. A total of $320MM (!) paid out - in the past 12 (!) months. Most of those gamers are neither making nor playing Web3 games. And you’re not going to attract them without a compelling game and a reason to even take a look, let alone play it.

In my view, besides a $400MM play, ARB needs something else that gives it the edge that other game centric chains don’t have; and which, much like the noise of the GCP funding, makes gamers and builders take notice.

I couldn’t agree more. But the challenge is going to be in not only identifying and reaching out to those builders like me who see the vision, but also to convince them that coming to ARB is a win-win. I will say this again, just throwing money at the challenge in a bid to see what sticks, will not yield the expected results.

Related to this, I was recently pondering something that @karelvuong pointed out in his missive in his Minimum Viable Catalyst suggestion due to the time it’s going to take for GCP to get up an running. While I had already pointed out that the GCP wasn’t going to be a thing for several months, and that even games currently in production aren’t likely to deploy inside of 12 months, finding ways to reach those devs in the interim, is probably a good idea. But here’s the thing:

The ARB grant appears to only go up to $150K; and that’s if you apply directly and within a specific funding cycle.

That hasn’t - thus far - yielded the expected results because only one game, Into The Dungeons, went that route for 180K ARB. And it failed to pass.

One. Single. Game.

When you consider that the budgets of large teams tends to eclipse that of the average indie, offers of $150K to “large teams” isn’t the sort of thing that those teams even consider; regardless of the fact that grants aren’t designed to fund games to any meaningful degree. So, what would such a team do with $150K that’s worth going through the trouble of deploying on ARB? e.g. If I were to migrate my in-progress Web3 game to ARB from the chain we’re currently on, it would cost me in excess of $200K to do it. And so, of what use is even a $200K grant to me if that’s just going to go towards my migration/deployment costs? What else is there in the ARB ecosystem that warrants the migration?
That is a personal example of why I keep saying that this is a lot more than just money. And these are some of the questions and metrics that any builder who knows what he’s doing, and who isn’t just looking for money without any guarantee of performance, is going to be asking themselves.

That said, any builder that decides to go through the MVC via the voting process, is not only more likely to fail - even based on the merits of the game - but once that happens, they’re not coming back.

And so, to me, despite the best intentions there, I believe that to try and “jump start” GCP via such an MVC, aside from adding another layer of work and a risky barrier of entry, will also - in one fell swoop - yield results which GCP naysayers will be quick to highlight at some point because the process would be seen as being rushed (something that I have advocated against).

And speaking of GDC, the announcement of King of Destiny, a preexisting game, and XAI’s announcements (e.g. Crypto Unicorns), were the only notable ARB gaming news. And speaking of migration costs, the CU teams also pointed out how major it is for them to migrate from Polygon to XAI.

It’s clear from the recent proposal vote that the voting population realizes the need to on-board gaming to ARB - in a big, albeit expensive, way. However, it’s up to the foundation itself to start making moves now, ahead of the GCP, or we’re all just going to be having this very same discussion +6 months from now. I remain confident that the GCP is a blue ocean opportunity, and so, I will try to help in whatever way that I can.

FYI (related to my earlier point about GCP needing to do more than just issue funds)

Saga Announces Saga Origins Game Publishing Arm During GDC 2024

Saga Origins is committed to offering a full-service and collaborative approach to bring games to a global mass market. Whereas developers would traditionally secure grants only to build and launch their games, Saga Origins offers added beneficial support, including partnerships with influencers to generate awareness, sponsored user acquisition campaigns, community building, and promotional support. Through its on-going Play-to-Airdrop campaigns, Saga, game studios and guilds, all team up to organize tournaments where players are rewarded with highly sought after $SAGA tokens for their participation. Most recently in January, Saga completed its revolutionary The Three Kingdoms airdrop campaign with participating partners Avalanche, Polygon and Solana.”

“We’re the only chain to do a publishing house”

I appreciate your insights and the emphasis on the multifaceted nature of success in gaming. However, my recent discussions with developers at different stages of implementation on Arbitrum paint a contrasting picture. These conversations revealed teams genuinely struggling to make ends meet, lacking not only the substantial resources necessary for extensive exploration and development but also, in some cases, the gaming expertise or third-party guidance that can pivot their projects toward success.

This is precisely where the value of the GCP, alongside the Council and the Catalyst Venture Team, becomes evident. They offer not just the financial support but also the much-needed guidance and expertise to navigate the complex landscape of game development on Arbitrum. It’s this combination of resources, expertise, and altruistic guidance that I believe can significantly impact, supporting developers to focus on their passion: creating engaging and fun experiences on Arbitrum.

Indeed, the current state of ARB’s gaming ecosystem may not yet be cohesive in the traditional sense, with many games and their communities gravitating towards platforms like Treasure and potentially XAI in the future. This reality underlines the importance of the GCP’s main objective: to attract top-tier builders capable of creating compelling, high-quality games. These games are essential not just for their entertainment value but for their ability to draw in and retain new users within the Arbitrum ecosystem, thereby nurturing a vibrant and diverse gaming community. If they leverage Treasure or XAI (honestly it’s not a fair comparison right now), it’s beyond the core scope of GCP.

Absolutely, I share your sentiment. Simply pouring $400M into the gaming ecosystem isn’t a guaranteed recipe for success, and as someone deeply involved in mobile publishing with major IPs and substantial budgets, I understand the intricacies involved.

My experience includes collaborating with Upptic on projects we’ve either published or played a significant financial role in (i.e; we acquired the studio). The real potential of a $400M investment lies in strategic management and execution. The difference between speculating about what might be achieved and actively working towards making those achievements a reality is crucial. Our focus should be on leveraging this funding effectively to create impactful results.

Indeed, the figures from Fortnite’s creator payouts are astonishing, showcasing the incredible potential of successful game ecosystems. However, expecting Arbitrum or this program to mirror Epic Games’ success or launch the next “Fortnite” may not align with our immediate goals or realities.

Given your extensive experience as an indie developer, I’m sure you appreciate that our focus is on fostering a diverse and vibrant gaming ecosystem on Arbitrum. The aim is to attract developers and gamers with the promise of innovative and engaging gaming experiences, rather than replicating the blockbuster success of established giants overnight. “We want to develop the next Fortinite or AAA game” is simply the wrong goal.

What is it?

I understand your concerns about the effectiveness of financial investment alone. However, I wonder, what outcomes do you envision for the Catalyst Program to consider it a success?

We are establishing a Council and a Catalyst Venture Team for this very reason. If these entities do not fulfill their responsibilities, then indeed, the investment might not achieve its intended impact.

Nevertheless, I believe it’s critical to start with a presumption of efficacy and the selection of a competent team. I maintain an optimistic perspective, viewing challenges as opportunities for growth. It’s an ambitious endeavor, and maintaining a positive outlook is essential for navigating the journey ahead.

With all due respect, it might be worth taking a closer look at who’s actually building on Arbitrum, past and present.

The idea that it’s okay for games to take over 12 months just to see the light of day doesn’t sit right. If that’s what we’re seeing after the first year, then it’s clear – the Catalyst Venture Team and the Council aren’t cutting it and should probably be shown the door. Quick development and getting games out there is key; we can’t afford to drag our feet.

I must disagree with your figures regarding the migration costs. From my experience and current discussions, the notion that it requires $200k to migrate a game to Arbitrum is not accurate.

Many teams I’ve been in talks with are operating or planning to operate on Arbitrum with budgets starting at around $5k/month (let’s x2, that’s $10k a month…). These are developers deeply passionate about gaming, eager to explore or continue their journey on Arbitrum.

However, starting from incorrect assumptions can lead us down a problematic path, shaping a flawed rationale for the future.

What concerns me more are the expectations set for these teams by Arbitrum and the criteria for defining a game’s success as perceived by the DAO.

If we’re using metrics like monthly transactions as the primary measure of a game’s success, then, in my opinion, we’re not laying the right foundation. This approach is what I’ve gleaned from conversations that developers have had with Offchain Labs, and it worries me.

The Council must ensure the Venture Team not only understands, but also has a deep knowledge of the gaming industry. Being proficient in business development is not sufficient. My experience in game publishing has shown me that to draw in the best talent, you need an equally exceptional team engaging with them.

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Ah yes, that’s been the case for some time now due to the crypto down-turn. Even though things appear to be picking up, lessons learned from back in 2020 when investors threw copious amounts of money at teams that didn’t know the first thing about making games, have served as a wake-up call whereby it’s a lot harder now to raise funds for making games because investors are looking a lot more closer than they otherwise would.

That said, while I now understand your sentiments regarding growth and traction under GCP, that doesn’t change the inherent risks that will still be there because GCP isn’t going to mitigate those risks outside of normal process. At least to any meaningful degree because teams looking for money and/or guidance isn’t a measure of failure nor success.

I see. I don’t recall seeing any of that mentioned in the education thread or the proposal itself. It’s possible that you know more behind-the-scenes stuff than I do. Nevertheless, the inference above is just as I have indicated repeatedly; in that - as designed and proposed - the GCP is seeking to operated like a publisher/distributor. And that’s no mean feat.

Absolutely agreed. I have repeatedly said that Treasure and XAI cannot be relied upon to carry the burden of curation and growth on Arbitrum because, centralization aside, the GCP needs to be able to curate a diverse and eclectic suite of games such that their growth makes Arbitrum the focal point.

Agreed. I actually mentioned Upptic, Windwalk etc. as part of some of my missives in a bid to illustrate that the success of a game is a lot more than just doling out money.

I should note that Helika just announced a $50MM accelerator fund to enhance metrics such as:

  • User acquisition
  • Engagement
  • Retention
  • Growth

Ah yes, my point was not to say that GCP should aspire to that. I was attempting to point out that those impressive metrics are indicators of trad gamer engagement, and the impact that such games can have on an ecosystem - that being Fortnite. In turn, curating engaging games for Arbtirum lies in the ability to attract and retain games which would be a growth and retention funnel within its ecosystem proper.

I have been formulating some ideas, but nothing yet that I am comfortable sharing publicly. We can discuss further on Telegram if you so choose. Do feel free to ping me there: thedereksmart

That said, yesterday, Steven posted something that resonated with me as an indie dev.

Some are repeating the same mistakes again this cycle. If a chain’s sales pitch is “build here because we’ll pay you” that’s not sustainable, lacks character and should be a :exclamation: :exclamation: :exclamation: for devs. These chains may be up for an inning or two but they’ll lose the game. You can’t buy soul.

Seeing as you’ve responded to several of my posts, I can conclude that you’ve seen me echoing some of these very same sentiments. He’s absolutely correct; and this is something that I hope the GCP doesn’t engage in whereby games get funded as a way to get them over, rather than based on merit and prospects of success.

From my perspective as an entrepreneur, investor, and indie dev, I would be more inclined to refer to the standards and metrics from trad gaming - then assume the worst case scenario due to the Web3 stigma. And so, if every GCP funded game makes it to release, that’s a win of sorts because most games don’t even get that far. It’s why, in the education thread, I had outlined some suggestions for various game stages which then determines the funding cap for same. It’s specifically why other chains can tout their list of games, despite the fact that most of them are underperforming and haven’t yield the [financial] metrics which would be worthy of being deemed a success. Recall that I had pointed out that financial success is the only metrics worth focusing on.

So, to me:

  • If a GCP funded game actually makes it to release, that’s a win
  • If they end up making money, to the extent that they are paying for their monthly operational costs, that’s a bonus
  • If they make enough to give back to the GCP so that money can be recycled to on-board other aspiring games, then we can all pack and get ready for the [hype] train to Valhalla.

Incidentally, Sam (Horizon/Sequence) posted his GDC recap which included his usual brand of truth telling. This gem stands out:

Perhaps you misunderstood the point that I was making. Let me quote the entire thing again for context:

While I had already pointed out that the GCP wasn’t going to be a thing for several months, and that even games currently in production aren’t likely to deploy inside of 12 months, finding ways to reach those devs in the interim, is probably a good idea.”

The point that I was making there has nothing to do with games currently building on Arbitrum. I was making a broad statement about games in dev, and which don’t even have Arbitrum on their radar. And so, given how long it would take for GCP to get up and running - a point that I already made, and for which Karel had his MVC idea - it’s worth finding a way to reach out to those devs in the interim, instead of waiting for the GCP to be up an running before those efforts (by way of application filings) get underway. If not, those games would likely build elsewhere, thus reducing the pool of [worthy] games to curate from in the short term. Games take a long time to make; and not all teams are making 6-12 month “throwaway” games which are usually devoid of any intrinsic value.

But that’s not up to the GCP. And games - good games - take some time to make. Attempting to setup the GCP to only consider games which don’t span 12 months is a recipe for disaster. It also says more about the quality of games, than it does about their ability to succeed.

Again, I should point out this is specifically why I provided these suggested guidelines based on decades of experience in the biz. I would expect that the Catalyst Venture Team would adopt best practices along these lines in their selection/curation of games.

There is a measure of risk mitigation based on this industry standard guidance criteria. e.g. a game in year 2 of a 5 year term, at a cost of $5MM, can’t be compared to one that’s 5 months into a 12 month term, at a cost of $250K. But there’s absolutely no way to gauge the success or failure of those two games; except to say that the former likely represents a much larger and well-designed scope, than the latter.

While that may be accurate based the game devs and games that you’re looking at, I can safely say that is absolutely not the norm. What you’re implying there not only doesn’t take into account important factors such as game type, game scope, team size, team expenses etc but it also ignores the fact that all chains aren’t equal, tools and languages different, smart contracts - even those which may need to be migrated - all take time, the latter costs money, and testing isn’t something you can do overnight.

That said, it is highly unlikely that games looking deploy on Arbitrum are OK with a $10K per month spend to assist in deployment costs, let alone migration costs - both of which are different things.

If someone asked me - today - to migrate either of my games to Arbitrum, and I tell them it would cost me up to $250K, and they asked me why I can’t do it for $10K per month, that would be a very short conversation. And yes, I’ve had those very same conversations before; and so, I am speaking from experience.

This whole “we can/should do it cheaper and quicker” narrative is precisely why - today - gaming in Web3 is in dire straights. Deploying a game on a chain isn’t just a matter of “put it on da blockchain”, and cheap doesn’t always mean better.

I invite you to ask the Crypto Unicorns team what it’s costing them to migrate from Polygon to XAI. I can all but guarantee that it’s not “2 x $5K a month”.

Absolutely agree; and I’ve said those very same things before because it’s important to factor in. For my part, it’s why I’m more concerned about the professional makeup of the Council and the Catalyst team, than I am about the games being curated. It all starts with the team - and even the best teams aren’t infallible.

Great job on initiating the Gaming Catalyst Program! :clap: It’s a pivotal step towards solidifying Arbitrum’s position as a leader in competitive network gaming. Here’s a suggestion: let’s ensure that alongside attracting talented developers, we focus on fostering a vibrant gaming community on Arbitrum. Engaging users through interactive events, tournaments, and community-driven initiatives can amplify the program’s impact and attract even more users. Keep up the fantastic work! :rocket:

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wonder if there is any update on Tally vote? cc @Djinn
Thank you guys!

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Yeah, Dan posted this on Telegram a few days ago. I suggest joining that TG channel for quick updates.

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Thank you so much for your enthusiastic support From EPICLEVEL team! We’re thrilled to hear your excitement about the Gaming Catalyst Program. Your suggestion to prioritize community engagement is spot on. Building a vibrant gaming community on Arbitrum is essential for the program’s success, and we’re fully committed to fostering that environment. Stay tuned for exciting updates and initiatives as we continue to elevate gaming on Arbitrum together! :rocket: