Digital Ownership : the New Trend of Metaverse
Connectivity today is a universally accepted trend but taking ownership of that digital space has emerged as the next big step.
New concepts surrounding the Metaverse, from connectivity to gaming and immersive experiences, are fuelling a wave of new companies looking to capitalise on these digital trends and the opportunities they bring.
Photo courtesy of Animoca Brands
Dapper Labs, which created the blockchain world's first popular game CryptoKitties back in 2017 and last year launched NBA Top Shot, not only caught worldwide attention to the crypto collectibles space, but also brought fame to it’s early investor Yat Siu.
Yat Siu, co-founder and chairman of Animoca Brands, has earned numerous accolades including Global Leader of Tomorrow at the World Economic Forum and Young Entrepreneur of the Year at the DHL/SCMP Awards.
As an inspiring technology founder, his team is focusing on leveraging blockchain, AI and mobile technology to make engaging apps from games to fitness. Yat Siu explains how he transformed his business with the help of technology.
Summary of Interview
Please tell us a bit about how you got into cryptocurrency and blockchain. Were there any inclinations, experiences or realizations in particular that led you into this field?
Our involvement in blockchain as a company began when we acquired a development studio called Fuel Powered, which was involved in the creation of CryptoKitties, the original NFT blockbuster game. By 2018 we realized that this technology offered tremendous potential for various aspects of the digital experience.
Everyone is talking about blockchain and digital ownership. Do you have a fearless forecast on this new “ownership economy”?
It may be hard to see now, but there is a shift underway that is much more meaningful than high price tags on crypto art. True ownership is creeping into our digital lives, and it is spearheaded by NFTs.
NFTs will provide digital property rights to billions of people. Ownership will be as important in the virtual realities of tomorrow as it is today in the real world. Historically, this shift is very similar to the transformational change that occurred when we moved from feudal societies to modern and more industrialized societies where property rights became available to most people.
Property will include both digital and physical goods and information of all kinds, including the private data that you generate but have no control over today.
Ownership confers economic freedom. Thanks to property rights, everyone will enjoy economic freedom for their digital assets, and will be able to use them accordingly - by trading them for profit, engaging in DeFi or GameFi, using the assets in play-to-earn games to generate an income, etc.
When the benefits of economic freedom become sufficiently obvious, ownership over one's data will be declared a human right, causing a shift in global policy approaches and leading to more equitable systems across all forms of reality.
What factors do you think have influenced the rise of NFTs and other digital assets?
There’s a clear fascination with blockchain technology and its potential, even if a lot of people don’t fully understand it yet. This is very much like the Web in the late 1990s: people didn’t really understand how Internet protocols or web browsers worked, but they jumped on board anyway not just for email and web sites, but also for a broad range of other activities such as gaming and e-commerce.
The internet revolutionized access to information and knowledge; blockchain builds on this progress by enabling the Internet of ownership and, therefore, value.
Of course, factors like novelty and greed also play a role in the rise of crypto. But primarily I think there’s a fascination with new technology and the potentials that remain to be uncovered.
You once mentioned that the nowadays virtual world of Gaming is a hegemony that game developers own all the rights. The emergence of NFTs helps to break this status. How does it work now and what would you expect in the future?
When you buy a video game and play it, you don’t own anything – you are simply renting your time playing the game. The game publisher retains ownership of the game and all its contents, and that prevents you from benefiting concretely from the time, money and effort that you invest into the game.
That is all changing. The rise of blockchain in gaming means that true digital ownership is finally coming to gamers, giving them the option to be compensated for the time/effort/money they have put into a game.
We noted that Animoca Brands provides some “play-to-earn” model to the game players whom can really earn a living through playing your game. That sounds fascinating and in that how NFTs and Blockchain helps to achieve this goal?
One example is our game REVV Racing. It’s an action racing simulation where the cars are NFTs, which are owned by players. When you have one of these car NFTs, you can use it to take part in races, competing against other players. If you race well, you can take home a prize in REVV tokens. These REVV tokens are listed on various crypto exchanges, so you can then exchange your REVV tokens for another currency such as ETH or USDT, and then cash out in a fiat currency such as HKD, or you can hold on to the REVV and use it wherever it’s accepted.
One of our portfolio investment companies is Sky Mavis, whose game Axie Infinity now has over 2 million daily active users who are earning anywhere from 250-500$ a month. This is a significant income in many parts of the world, and shows the power of play-to-earn. But remember: we are only at the very beginning of this new phenomenon. It’s just going to get bigger and better from here.
Blockchain games: Sound investment or purely for entertainment? What are your thoughts?
We have been investing aggressively into blockchain games because we believe they are a solid investment. But I would recommend that end-users treat blockchain games as entertainment - there’s little point to playing a game if you’re not having fun. Experiment, get to know how things work, have a good time, and then you’ll be better informed on the whole topic and better prepared to invest, if you decide that is what you want to do.
Could you name one opportunity or trend that you think will become big in the future of our digital experiences? Like we talk much about metaverse or immersive experience, are these the keywords we need to pay attention to?
We’ve had so much change in just a few decades: the PC revolution, the Internet revolution, the gaming revolution, the Cloud revolution, the mobile revolution. Right now all the big tech companies are scrambling for a foothold in whatever comes after the mobile phone, but no one really knows what that is yet.
Short term the future might be a clunky VR headset that you strap on to your face, but longer term I believe that interfaces will become much more streamlined - for example, first lightweight glasses, then contact lenses, then light projection directly into your eye, and eventually neural implants.
50 years ago the idea that you could walk around with a supercomputer in your pocket that could access all of the world’s data belonged to the wildest science fiction, but that’s become fact today.
Technology is like that. What sounds wildly absurd today will be commonplace tomorrow.
Animoca Brands recently achieved unicorn status. What’s the most important learning you can share on your journey to success?
Success doesn’t tend to come easy. Before we hit unicorn status, we built for years. We’ve been working on games for several years and on blockchain projects since late 2017, and it’s only since 2020 that we have been able to make strong progress. I would say that perseverance is just as important as a strong vision.
What else is on the horizon for your company?
We will continue to try to grow aggressively and contribute to the building of the open metaverse, one that will be based on user governance instead of being controlled by corporations that are based on a minority interest. A metaverse where you - not a company - will own and control your assets and your data.
The real metaverse will be open and will serve the interests of the majority. The companies currently attempting to build closed and controlled metaverses and ecosystems will ultimately fail in their attempts to extend their hegemonies. The future of our online lives will not be based on closed, controlled, and proprietary systems.