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Blockchain game advocates aim for the mainstream

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Blockchain games are on the defensive lately, and resistance from hardcore gamers and game developers could reverse the progress that nonfungible tokens (NFTs) made in 2021. Only better communication will reverse this, according to a panel of blockchain game advocates.

They spoke at our GamesBeat Summit: Into the Metaverse 2 online event and mustered their best arguments for why NFT games will go mainstream.

During the past year, NFTs have generated a lot of hype and wealth in markets such as art, celebrity collectibles, fashion, and comics. In games, titles such as Axie Infinity from Sky Mavis have generated excitement around play-to-earn, or the ability to make money in games by selling NFTs earned in games. NFTs used the security and transparency of the digital ledger of blockchain to uniquely identify digital items.

Advocates say that NFTs have utility for game collectibles and other items, and then enable users to earn money by investing their time in games, rather than playing only for fun. But critics have pointed out that players motivated by profits rather than fun will abandon a game more willingly. They’ve also pointed to criticisms like the environmental wastefulness of blockchain, the pump-and-dump scams associated with Ponzi-like models, and the lack of utility.

Chris Akhavan, the chief business officer of Forte, moderated the panel. Forte makes infrastructure around blockchain games to offload game publishers and developers. It raised $725 million recently to enable game devs and publishers to make the transition to NFTs. Also on the panel were Jerome Collin, CEO at SuperTeam; Kuleen Nimkar, business development officer at Solana; and online personality BoredElonMusk.

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“Looking back to last year, 2021 was the year blockchain gaming took off in a big way with billions spent in blockchain games, and an enormous amount invested in blockchain game companies,” Akhavan said. “But despite this, we also saw a lot of pushback from mainstream gaming audiences. The reception to Ubisoft’s initial NFT announcement, and the response to Discord hints at enabling crypto wallet support are a couple of examples of this.”

Akhavan asked what was driving these negative perceptions among some mainstream audiences as well as how blockchain game studios and the ecosystem at large can appeal to these audiences and show them the benefit of blockchain technology powering game economies.

Collin has been making games for nearly 20 years, first at Electronic Arts, Zynga, Digital Chocolate, Glu Mobile, and now at SuperTeam, which focuses on NFT sports games. BoredElonMusk is a pseudonym for an anonymous Twitter account that has operated for eight years and is a parody of Tesla founder Elon Musk. BoredElonMusk also spent a decade in the traditional game world and has been immersed in blockchain for five years. BoredElonMusk has been advising and investing in blockchain games and communicating the benefits to gamers. Nimkar runs business development at Solana, one of the popular blockchain protocol platforms for blockchain games.

“What I’ve noticed is that the characterization has been that it’s either all bad or it’s all good when it touches blockchain or NFTs or crypto in general gaming,” BoredElonMusk said. “And the reality is there’s nuance. I don’t necessarily want to personally acknowledge some of the criticisms that I don’t think are valid, but what I do think is valid and worth really understanding is gamers have had to grapple with the fact that they want high-quality games, and studios are spending more and more money to produce those games and needing to find different forms of monetization to produce them.

He added, “So the days of going into a store spending $50 or $60 for a game and that being the end of the transaction, are over. You have in-app purchases, you have free to play. You have subscriptions, lots of ongoing forms of transferring value from players to studios, and there have been missteps in the past when larger, triple-A studios have switched how they monetize games. And I think that there’s just a little bit of a remnant of trauma in gamers minds about any sort of adjustment to what they’re used to.”

The result is blockchain gaming was the next to trigger some alarm, he said.

“I think the biggest and most valid form of criticism that I’ve heard is that if the selling point for blockchain gaming is that players get more ownership of the assets that they spend time on and the games that they play, that needs to truly what comes to fruition. They need to be able to buy, sell, trade, create assets and perform commerce and not have a central authority that is a gaming studio that can boot them out, take away their assets, or not not give them the full access they want.”

Forte has raised a whopping $185 million.
Forte has raised a whopping $725 million.

Collin said that one thing he noticed is that when people describe NFTs, someone asks what NFTs are and they’re explained as a kind of in-app purchase and a new way to spend extra money. But he notes that is what NFTs are trying to fix — the fact that when you make an in-app purchase, you don’t actually own it. You can’t take it away and sell it somewhere else. With NFTs, Collin noted that you get control over the thing that you buy.

“I think the reality for gamers is, whether they like it or not, is that in-app purchases, or microtransactions, as they tend to get called in console games or free-to-play in general, that’s not going away.

“That is the winning business model, across the board,” Collin said. “With with NFTs and crypto in general, it allows users to then, after they’ve spent all this money, and after time and effort put into this product or game, they can have these things and actually profit off them.”

He noted that free-to-play games live off the profits from whales, or those who might spend $500,000 on a single game. These people have no ownership at all, and it’s against the terms of service for them to sell their assets to someone else.

“It just seems obvious to me that gamers should love this, right?” Collin said. “They should be really excited about like, man, if I’m going to commit all this time and all this money to a game, I have a way if I’m done after six months, and I”m just done, I can recoup some value. That should get people excited, not kind of upset about it. And perhaps they don’t even trust this concept. They do truly own the assets.”

Akhavan asked if getting gamers to trust the companies is the issue.

“I agree a ton with what’s already been said,” Nimkar said. “The one additional thing I’d add is that I think it’s important to keep in mind who is potentially actually complaining. Because there’s this sense of there are people who identify themselves as gamers, who are I’d characterize generally speaking, and this is like very general characterizations, who kind of grew up playing on consoles and are used to buying a game for $50. And some of that population is very active, especially on social media forums like Reddit.”

He added, “But there’s now a ton of gamers, actually the majority of gamers, or people who don’t even identify as gamers who are playing casually when they’re commuting to work on the subway, like on their phone. And those people don’t identify as gamers. They’re not super engaged and vocal about these things. And that group is going to just do whatever is best for them. That group has no problem paying for microtransactions on phones. It’s just like what they do to enjoy the game. It gives them a good experience.”

Solana Ventures, Forte, and Griffin Gaming Partners are putting $150 million into blockchain games.
Solana Ventures, Forte, and Griffin Gaming Partners are putting $150 million into blockchain games.

So Nimkar believes the complaints are coming from a vocal minority.

“Some of their concerns are valid, but you don’t want to stop experimentation,” Nimkar said. “Because of that, ultimately, the onus is on game builders and the crypto industry, if you will, to prove to everyone, and the vocal minority, that this is actually good for you.”

Akhavan said we should be careful not to lump all of the three billion people who play games into a monolith, as gamers are diverse and they enjoy different play patterns. So how do you onboard them?

Collin said there is a lot to be done on this front. Web 3 as a concept has been very confusing and even scary to the average Joe, he said. It’s complex and it has a lot of unknowns. There is a lot of friction that players have to get past. You have to trust in a transaction that is complicated. Things like presales of lands in virtual worlds have become common, but that requires users to set up their cryptocurrency wallets, obtain crypto, and sometimes convert currency.

Akhavan said the ecosystem has to get better about educating audiences around like the projects and acknowledge that there are games that aren’t high-quality games associated with the NFTs. Audiences have to know how to pick through these features and find high-quality games.

Collin said that for blockchain games to get mass adoption, they need to be good. And so far, that hasn’t been the case, to put it gently, he said. He noted that a lot of high-quality game devs are moving into the space, and so he is optimistic about the future. He repeated the problems associated with creating wallets and understanding crypto and tokens. That’s because the liquidity for the game assets is going to exist in the crypto sphere, which is complex.

“The experience is fundamentally broken,” he said. “If we want to get into the rest of the world, I think the experience needs to look like this where it’s great.”

He said custodial wallets that can be set up more easily would be a good step.

Axie Infinity
Axie Infinity lets players battle with NFT Axie characters.

“We just have to make that experience really easy and not scary, right? Collin said. “I still get scared every time I transfer crypto assets like, oh, did I put in the address wrong? I hope I didn’t accidentally delete something and then it’s gone, right? So we can’t screw that up. Because it’s your first experience doing this is bad. You’re just done. You lost that person. They all stop there.”

Things like tutorials have to be simpler and smoother and not overwhelming, Collin said.

BoredElonMusk said communicating with a lot of jargon doesn’t help. Words like “liquidity” or “earn” is off-putting because the focus isn’t on the play. He noted that gamers used to be able to sell their used game disks back to stores like GameStop, and that is something that was taken away with digital games. Now that right to resell games that you own is returning, as you will own the item in question.

“That’s really powerful for the player, that gives them a lot more ownership than they have today,” he said. “And I think the biggest obstacle to overcome is just to reinforce that this is not about pay to win, right? It’s not about letting you just come in with a bunch of money and buying up powerful characters. It’s giving you the right to do what you want with these digital assets that are just as important to own as physical assets.”

In other words, people think blockchain games are sketchy already. To combine them with sketchy design tactics like pay-to-win will be an even bigger turnoff. Akhavan agreed that is a point where communication could be better. Collin said driving the point of ownership home is important, and bringing up the notion of earning is happening too soon. It should be a fun first mentality, not an earning mentality.

There shouldn’t be an emphasis on the fact that the early players will benefit more as investors than the players who come along later. You don’t want the players who come later holding the bag, as that makes it all seem like a Ponzi scheme. That is a matter of proper game design and communication, Nimkar said.

“You want to communicate how great and fun your game is going to be,” Nimkar said.”The traditional marketing exercise of segmenting how you communicate to different audiences based on their underlying motivations matters.

Akhavan noted that as games become more popular, centralization takes over and decentralization is supposed to be very important in this ecosystem. Nimkar said that he thinks there will be very different views of crypto and NFTs in different parts of the world, and different blockchains will be popular in different regions.

Nimkar thinks there will be some centralization over time, so rather than having 50 different blockchains, he thinks we will see similar results as we do with Steam, the Epic Games Store, iOS, and Android. Akhavan agreed, saying the Tera blockchain is very popular in the Korean gaming community, but we don’t hear about it in the Western world. BoredElonMusk believes we’ll see consolidation, similar to what we see in the traditional gaming world. And so the forces of decentralization will have challenges in NFTs as well.

“The majority will be OK with it, and they will be happy being able to exchange their assets with people on the same network,” BoredElonMusk said.

Asked how far we are from average mainstream gamers interacting with game NFTs, Collin said, “I’m having a real hard time coming up with a number of months or years. I think we’re getting closer, though, at least to the gaming community getting exposed over the next year or two.”

Star Atlas

“This has always been a thing,” Collin said. “People have kind of sold their accounts in World of Warcraft. You have to trust the other person that they would not screw you over. That desire to interact in these ways with games has always been there.”

Nimkar said we will see a bunch of experimentation this year from well-known studios. There will also be other failed starts this year, and we will see more of it come online next year as the problems get solved.

“From the Forte perspective, we see so many talented triple-A teams forming new blockchain studios, as well as obviously the biggest game companies in the world exploring this,” Akhavan said. “I think we’re definitely bullish that mainstream gamers are going to get a good dose of really high-quality experiences coming to the space pretty soon.”

BoredElonMusk said he expects that by GDC 2023 (March 2023), you’re going to see one or two triple-A studios announcing this type gonna have at least one or two triple-A studios will announce these NFT games, on top of what we’ve already seen with Ubisoft and Square Enix.

“They have taken their criticism in stride, and are probably already course correcting and working on how they’re going to launch the news of this all happening this summer or the fall of 2022,” BoredElonMusk said. “And then next year, we’re going to get to actually try these things out.”



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Here’s how technology and innovation are driving the growth of Arista Vault, India’s first smart luggage brand

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It was a crisp winter evening in October 2017 when Purvi Roy, an ace designer who studied at Nuova Accademia di Belle Arti in Milan, presented her high fashion fall winter collection – Warriors Alley- at India Runway Week. The collection was powerful and the show was a great success. At the after-party, she crossed paths with Colonel Krishan Kumar Singh and finance expert Atul Gupta.

After a brief conversation with Purvi, the Colonel suggested that maybe it was time for her to do something for the regular masses which would serve a larger purpose. They began brainstorming and after much deliberation, hard work, and perseverance Arista Vault was born.

Arista Vault is an innovative tech company creating concept-based products to make human life easy, simple, and safe. The company is headquartered in Delhi with offices in Gurugram, Bengaluru, Kolkata and Goa. One of their first offerings was a smart wallet with inbuilt anti-theft and anti-loss features, that would keep your most valuable belongings safe and protected while travelling.

“Arista is a Sanskrit word that means ‘unhurt’ or safest, and vault is a safe. We particularly chose a Sanskrit word for the name because while we go global it will always depict the roots which are Indian; so Arista Vault is a proud Made in India brand,” reveals Purvi.

As a D2C brand, it is also India’s first smart luggage company having filed six patents with one of them being an internationally published patent. The company is the perfect amalgamation of indigenous technology and in-house design that attempts to make customers feel the luxury as well as the safety of carrying a smart wallet.

Backed by Purvi’s years of knowledge and experience as a designer, the wallet while being the best at technology also has the slimmest silhouette which gives it a very luxurious look, making it a great gifting product. Purvi always wanted to make sure that the aesthetics of the product felt opulent, hence it has a jewel packaging with a matte-finished box.

The logo which is a power button inside a hexagon has a touch of gold to it, symbolic of a sense of pride and luxury. So you have a plush feeling when you own an Arista Vault smart wallet along with complete security of your wallet and its belongings.

Making traveller’s life hassle-free

If you had a penny for every time your heart skipped a beat while you frantically searched your pockets thinking you had lost your wallet, you’d probably beat Elon Musk’s wealth!

While that is a far-fetched reality, safeguarding your wallet is not. Arista’s Smart Wallet, with its many features, offers customers the relief to travel hassle-free even in crowded areas like trains and buses. The wallet has a power button which when pressed activates its features.

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Its main USP is the anti-loss and anti-theft features. It comes with an abundance of technologies such as an anti-theft alarm, built-in power bank, two-way tracker, remote selfie feature, RFID protection. The wallet also has a 20-meter separation alarm with two-way connectivity to your mobile phone. This way the phone can ring the wallet and vice versa. This feature especially comes in handy if your phone is either lost or stolen.

To enable such a high level of technology in a product as simple as a wallet would mean a dedicated amount of research and development.

“We are backed by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology and were incubated at the Electropreneur park and IIITD. We work in two world-class labs – Power lab and Fab Lab, which have state-of-the-art technology where the design, research, and technology integration are done. We also have a dedicated tannery and product design manufacturing unit where the integration of technology is done into the product after three layers of quality control,” Purvi says.

Along with technology and design, the co-founders were clear on maintaining the highest level of safety for the smart wallets. Hence all wallets are ISO certified with their privacy policy in compliance with the IT Act of the Government. As of the last quarter of this year, 6,000 smart wallets were sold amounting to Rs 2.6 crore.

Challenges along the way

It’s the trailblazing technology that makes the smart wallets of Arista Vault stand out. But this technology was not easy to develop. Purvi says that it took over a year of R&D to develop a prototype finally, but by this time all the seed fund had been exhausted.

“We knew we had a great product but for further research, innovation and product marketing more capital was needed. So all the three founders decided to put their savings and I supported the company with the earnings of my fashion venture that had initially incubated Arista Vault,” Purvi adds.

The company ran a pilot of their wallets on Amazon Launchpad and those were all sold out within three days. They used all the feedback received to further improve the product. The turning point in their entrepreneurial journey came in 2019 when the company got funding and support from the Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology under Electronics System Design & Manufacturing (ESDM), with Software Technology Parks of India (STPI) & Electropreneur Park.

Using this support, Arista Vault was able to scale their venture sustainably to build world-class smart wallets that eventually got them recognition from Amazon with the Viewer’s Choice award as an Emerging Brand in 2019. In 2021, the company received the prestigious Star award for Most Innovative Brand Year. They were also able to enter the international market by exporting their products to Germany, Chile, Dubai, and other gulf countries and finally to the USA.

This year the company achieved a major milestone in its journey when it became one of the few smart luggage brands in India to raise funding from Germany-based MainStage Angel Network and UK-based Pontaq VC.

Establishing itself in a new segment

Purvi says that while the funding was a great boost both financially and morally, the true journey of the company has begun now. The capital raised is being used to scale the business and establish itself as a market leader in a fairly new segment of smart luggage.

To do this, the company has grown its distribution model and channel partners to cover various cities across the country where Arista Vault products are being sold in a brick-and-mortar model. They have forged partnerships with relevant stakeholders like the Goa government to enter the travel and tourism sector as well, with their smart products.

In October when Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched 5G services in India, Arista Vault was one of the few tech companies to exhibit their smart products. They are also coming up with a series of 5G-implemented products.

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Going ahead, the company wishes to build a strong presence in the smart luggage market in a B2B model. For that, they recently launched their Switch2Smart range which has a variety of smart business bags, business trolleys, laptop bags and file holders. These bags have features like GPS live and lost location which makes it almost impossible for them to be lost or stolen. They also have other features like smart charging for mobile phones, geofencing and anti-skimming.

“Nowadays from our homes to watches, everything is smart. So why should our bags be left behind? The Switch2Smart range of Arista Vault will give travellers the luxury to be free and not worry about their luggage,” Purvi says. The company has already started generating sales with B2B orders displayed in DIW 2022 Gift Expo.

In FY 2020-2021, the company generated revenue of Rs 3.59 crore and now they are well on their way to achieving Rs 12-15 crore in this financial year showing more than 4X growth in business.

Along with the sales generated on Amazon, Flipkart and their own website, this festive season Arista Vault also got into corporate gifting for occasions like Diwali and has completed bulk orders from companies such as Bharati Cement, Mitsubishi, etc. They also recently started with Amazon.com in the US and UAE.

“Going forward, both B2B and B2C have their specific areas to serve. Our products are innovative and new and require consumer awareness which is possible primarily through B2C. However at a certain level to reach a wider audience, B2B is a preferred mode of business,” Purvi adds.

Arista Vault aims to establish itself as a market leader in the smart luggage category by bringing revolutionary technology to wallets, business bags, travel backpacks and much more. In the coming year, they wish to strengthen their brand presence in India as well as abroad by launching another 15 product categories worldwide.


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Elon Musk Reveals Twitter Will Soon Release a New Feature

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Elon Musk continues to reach out directly to Twitter users to get feedback on his newly acquired platform.

In a tweet earlier today, the billionaire/Chief Twit turned his focus on lurkers who consume the content but don’t contribute. He politely encouraged these so-called ‘doom scrollers’ to get involved.

“I meet so many people who read twitter every day but almost never tweet,” he wrote. “If I may beg your indulgence, please add your voice to the public dialogue!”

Musk has reason to be concerned. According to a study done in 2021, around 25% of Twitter users in the U.S. produce around 97% of all tweets.

His plea to be more active on the platform received nearly 85,000 responses, but he honed in on one in particular from a Twitter user named Rocket_Medic who, perhaps channeling hundreds of thousands of others in the Twitterverse, wrote:

“I reply a lot…no one reads my tweets.”

Musk then asked Rocket_Medic if he was aware of Twitter Analytics, which can be surfaced by clicking on the graph icon at the bottom right of all users’ tweets. The feature lets you know how many times people have seen, Retweeted, liked, and replied to each tweet.

Musk told Medic that he shouldn’t be bothered by the low reply rate since that’s not the metric that really matters. “Those who read tweets outnumber those who reply/retweet/like tweets by over 1000%,” Musk wrote.

At this point, Musk revealed an upcoming feature that had not yet been discussed publicly.

Twitter will soon start displaying tweet reach metrics up-front on all tweets, just like they do for video views.

The reaction to Musk’s announcement seemed mostly positive, with over 15,000 likes. But one user was not convinced.

@JamieHutchens4 replied:

“My Tweets get zero reactions. I think that’s the case with most people. No reactions give a feeling of being unimportant. Avoiding that feeling is likely why lots do not tweet. Most probably don’t even realize that is why they aren’t Tweeting.”

To which Musk replied: “How many views do your tweets get?”

At press time, @JamieHutchens4 still had yet to respond to Musk’s question.

Ironically, his tweet has been liked over 10,000 times, with nearly 800 replies.

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CEO of Amazon Says Platform Won’t Stop Selling Anti-semitic Film From Kyrie Irving Tweet

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Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

On Wednesday, Amazon CEO Andy Jassy said the company would not be removing the antisemitic film Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America from its streaming service. Jewish groups such as the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) have prodded Amazon to take down the film because it contains antisemitic tropes and allegations that, throughout history, Jews have conspired to oppress Black people.



Michael M. Santiago | Getty Images

The video first received widespread attention near the end of October after Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving shared a link to it on Twitter.

Speaking at the New York Times DealBook Summit, Jassy — who is Jewish — said Amazon should allow access to controversial viewpoints. He continued: “As a retailer of content to hundreds of millions of customers with a lot of different viewpoints, we have to allow access to those viewpoints, even if they are objectionable — objectionable and they differ from our particular viewpoints.”

Jassy added that Amazon must be consistent with its policies and take care not to censor content. If the media “actively incites or promotes violence,” Jassy said, “or teaches people to do things like pedophilia,” the decision to take it down is “more straightforward.”

Amazon has “very expansive customer reviews,” according to Jassy, and where any kind of media receiving considerable public attention are concerned, “customers do a good job of warning other people.” According to the Times, Amazon has indicated that it is considering adding a disclaimer to Wake Up, but Jassy also expressed confidence in customer reviews playing a role in how the video is perceived.

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