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Can crypto and blockchain gaming change the creator vs corporation narrative?

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Gamers are feeling some kind of way about blockchain technology. They came out in furious force when major game studios like Square Enix, Zynga, and Ubisoft announced plans to incorporate NFTs into new titles. The argument is that these cryptocurrencies and blockchain assets are Ponzi schemes for the digital world, and still actually haven’t proven they’ve got legs.

But there’s simply a lot of misconception and misunderstanding about what the value of an NFT is, which is why sales pitches aren’t sitting well with gamers, said Mike Wagner, CEO of Star Atlas, during a GamesBeat and Facebook Gaming Summit.

“A lot of people are perceiving this right now as essentially a cash grab, a way to create some quick revenue with no follow-up, which just isn’t reality,” he said. “What it’s going to take is a lot more education and understanding from the community.”

Wagner was joined by Miko Matsumura, general partner at gumi Cryptos Capital, to talk about blockchain and what’s really in it for gamers, the ways blockchain and NFTs are rocking the gaming world, and what we can expect for the future of blockchain games like Star Atlas, and the metaverse.

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Evil crypto vs. crypto for good

Matsumura pointed out that much of the crypto world is still the wild west, filled with weird crypto projects that don’t represent the kind of innovations that developers and investors are trying to launch.

“Let’s separate the builders and the people delivering triple-A quality gaming and things from people who really are just setting up a shop and doing some money laundering or whatever it is they’re doing, whatever unsavory activities,” he said. “In order for us to be answering to this community, it’s important for us to acknowledge that yeah, there’s a lot of bad crypto out there. It doesn’t mean that there isn’t any good crypto. That’s what I want to underline.”

Right now, we’re starting to see the emergence of these crypto-native IP franchises that are evergreen, community-driven, and gamer-centric, Matsumura said. It’s becoming part of celebrity and influencer culture, and brands are getting on board, and the crypto world is slowly demystifying.

“We’re starting to see this merger between popular culture and blockchain, crypto, and most importantly gamer culture,” he added.

In fact, we’re living in a world now where Eminem has changed his Twitter profile picture to his Bored Ape Yacht Club NTF purchase. He spent 123.45 in etherium, or $461,868.42 in real dollars. Bored Ape Yacht Club, an NFT project, similar to Cryptopunks, the OG NFT project that was launched in late 2017, recently announced they were teaming up with Animoca to get into the play-to-earn video game space, launching in Q2 of 2022.

“We saw mainstream artists, musicians, composers, all coming into the space to create some new concept and sell some new product,” Wagner said. “It’s a representation of self across social media, which in its own right is a nascent version of what the metaverse will ultimately become.”

How blockchain cements player centricity

With Star Atlas, a triple-A-quality video game with both traditional core game and blockchain mechanics, Wagner and co is trying to change the narrative around blockchain and NFTs for gamers, arguing that blockchain is ultimately about gamer-centricity, and putting gamers in the driver’s seat. They heavily focus on utility-driven NFTs, or assets you can purchase that are not only collectible, but offer in-game benefits and also true monetization potential, Wagner said. Players can earn one of two native digital currencies — ATLAS, the medium of exchange across the entire economy, or POLIS tokens — which give players a stake in the Star Atlas DAO.

“What’s critical for us is forming a robust and sustainable circular economy,” Wagner said. “It can’t be purely extractive-based. It can’t be just these emissions of tokens through play-to-earn that ultimately have no utility, nowhere to go. How do we create experiences that other people want to participate in that we as a team don’t have to develop? That’s what we’re focused on, building this tool set, building this platform, and enabling people all over the world to create within this new universe.”

There’s an idea of history and durability built into blockchain, and that’s a value proposition for gamers, Matsumura said. The thing that’s so interesting about the creation of durable IP franchises owned and controlled by the players is that the blockchain is a consensus history recording device, he said. Players can essentially become legendary parts of the history of a game, and it can be commemorated in an indelible way.

“To me, the idea of player centricity is enhanced by blockchain,” he said. “The NFT as a historical artifact. It’s part of the legend of both the player, the entire environment, and the game itself. Those are the types of things that blockchain can uniquely add that I think gamers should think about.”

The core value prop for gamers

For Wagner, the core value proposition remains true asset ownership, or the sharing economy, which includes the gamer in the value creation.

“To me, NFTs have a tremendous amount of value,” he said. “Players can then take that asset, sell it later, sell it peer-to-peer, trade it with someone else, barter with it, that’s all value. Being able to monetize the time you spend in a game, that’s something that’s never been possible before. I’ve spent thousands of hours in MMOs I played over time, and what I got out of it was the entertainment value. That was really enjoyable at the time I was spending it, but if you can add that additional benefit of being able to also capture some value, capture some income, that’s fantastic.”

The revenue models of traditional studios are extraction-based — it’s a unidirectional flow of capital. But blockchain creates open economies that players can participate in, in many different capacities, he said.

“To me one of the greatest advantages is being able to tap into this new financial ecosystem that is crypto, and bringing people in through gaming, is one of the most expeditious approaches to getting people exposed to crypto in general,” he said. “Obviously we’re heavily focused on gaming as the primary application in the Star Atlas metaverse, and I do believe this will bring people in. They’ll start to get informed. They’ll educate themselves on the benefit of this new financial ecosystem. I don’t think there’s any turning back once they get exposed to it. It’s the red pill. Once you’re in, you’re in.”

The game is basically democratizing the economic metagame of participation and turning players into owners, Matsumura said.

“That feels gamer-centric,” he said. “That feels like a real desirable aspiration. Maybe it’s not for everyone, but I feel like there’s nothing wrong with wanting that for players.”

The revenge of the nerds

“To me, one of the biggest sales points of the emergence of blockchain, NFT, and in fact this financialization of gaming is the idea that the gamers can have a revenge of the nerds,” Matsumura said. “And what I mean to say by this is, what becomes so important is that the fiscal and monetary power that’s given to the gamer is really part of how we win.”

The story of creator versus corporation is prevalent in NFTs and in blockchain gaming, Wagner added, but creators are now able to bypass all these middlemen that they’ve typically had to operate through to be able to sell things, like their art for example. Now that they’re able to sell their product directly, they’re capturing the revenue that used to get siphoned off.

“We’re more focused on being the creator,” he said. “Yes, we’re a corporate organization as well, but ultimately it’s being a creator and then turning that over to the people who are participating.”



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Why You Should Start a Business Only While You Have a Job

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Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Many people that I meet tell me that they dream of starting their own . I always ask them, “Then why don’t you?” They typically respond by saying that they have so many financial and personal responsibilities, that they can’t just quit their job to start a company, etc. Then I tell them my story …



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Related: How to Use Your Current Job to Start Your Next Business

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How brands can develop a Web3 entry strategy

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At an increasing pace, brands are looking for an on-ramp to Web3 to connect with their customers. Whether it be a presence in a virtual world (fast-food chain Wendy’s opened a restaurant in Meta’s Horizon World) or with digital goods (Coca-Cola launched virtual fashion items in Decentraland), companies are experimenting with attracting customers using these new environments.

Often, they’re doing so with a sense of FOMO — fear of missing out — as they race to capture the hearts and minds of Generation Z and Millennial consumers on these emerging platforms. 

The gap between Web3 interest and current experiences presents an opportunity

Our recent survey of over 700 online consumers reveals that they’re indeed interested in using Web3 to interact with companies: 51% said they would be interested in using these technologies to engage with brands. In the same breath, however, consumers say that brands aren’t doing a good job offering Web3 experiences that fully engage them, with 48% agreeing that companies are largely unsuccessful with their current initiatives. 

This finding reveals an opportunity for brands: They can experiment with compelling ways to meet the consumer appetite for Web3 and welcome new customers to their businesses through these new channels. 

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Developing a Web3 entry strategy today

Although many opportunities exist for brands using Web3, many companies have difficulty defining what kind of experience they want to develop at this stage of the technology. The complexity and cost involved in developing extensive experiences within these environments – including the risk that consumer preferences might suddenly change — have limited many companies’ efforts to experiment.

Non-fungible tokens (NFTs), in particular, can serve brands as an on-ramp to Web3 because they have immediate practical applicability for business. They also contain future utility for other Web3 applications in distributed autonomous organizations (DAOs) and the metaverse. 

The shift from collectible to utility NFTs

In 2021, much of the excitement around NFTs revolved around collecting rare, one-of-a-kind NFTs to post as a profile picture or hold in a digital wallet.

On the brand side of the equation, this manifested itself in companies launching collectible NFT projects that drove buzz around the initiative but largely resulted in little benefit to the collector. Since then, the conversation around NFTs from a brand perspective has shifted from them being used primarily as collectibles to utility NFTs that confer benefits to the holder. 

Our research among consumers reflects this shift.

To date, many companies have experimented with collectible NFTs to drive buzz as part of their Web3 initiatives. However, when it comes to including NFTs as part of the brand experience, customers indicate they would like to see a shift in this strategy. They indicate that utility NFTs (containing additional benefits) drive 5.1% higher purchase intent over the traditional collectible NFTs launched by many companies.

Top-performing utility types for NFTs

Customers also have specific types of utility benefits they’re seeking from NFT-enabled brand programs, and the value that companies can deliver to them as a result.

Consumers say the top benefit they’re looking for in utility NFTs is a way to be rewarded for their brand loyalty, with 37.4% indicating that it increases their brand engagement. Other top benefits users look for in utility NFTs: a way to support organizations that drive social impact (27.8%), a branded community with exclusive offers (26.6%), and a way to obtain event tickets (23.9%).

NFT-enabled brand communities drive exclusive experiences

As the buzz around collectible NFTs fades, the next logical step for companies looking to attract Gen Z and Millennial customers is to build a brand community enabled by utility NFTs.

NFT brand communities can not only attract new customers with digital assets, but can provide added benefits to deliver added engagement and value. By wrapping these benefits in an active brand community powered by NFTs, companies can deliver continual engagement for customers — and earn brand loyalty as a result. 

In these groups, brands can extend the conversation with their customers and deliver special perks, benefits and content to loyal members, such as access to special events, discounted offers and behind-the-scenes interviews. One benefit of these private membership communities is that brands can engage NFT holders in a curated, brand-safe environment.

Specifically for brand communities, our research of 700-plus consumers indicated that certain benefits would make them more likely to become NFT holders, with members-only discounts at the top (43.1%), followed by access to special product features (late check-out at a hotel, for example) (31.5%), and access to exclusive merchandise (30.7%). These types of added, exclusive amenities create additional value for Gen Z and Millennial customers. 

Taking advantage of Web3 today

Web3 technologies offer compelling opportunities for brands to immerse their customers in virtual experiences and to engage in decentralized ways. But because these technologies will take time to mature, many brands view them as available only in the future. In the meantime, they’re experimenting with one-off initiatives to attract Gen Z and Millennial customers on these platforms so as not to miss out on emerging opportunities. 

NFTs offer a practical on-ramp to Web3 for brands who want to experiment with opportunities that NFTs unlock now, as well as future-proof their strategies as virtual worlds mature and develop.

The best news is that companies can start with branded NFT communities today, with web technologies that users are widely adopting. Whether it’s using NFTs as a part of loyalty programs, as social impact initiatives, or for community building, these digital tokens offer a compelling way to attract Gen Z and Millennial customers and keep them loyal to your brand.

Dave Dickson is the founder of PicoNFT.

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What ‘Everything as Code’ is and why it matters

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Simply put, “Everything as Code” (EaC) is a way of managing IT infrastructure and building systems and tools that support modern software applications. It takes the manual processes and activities that people do and turns them into software code so that machines can do those things instead. Anything that teams need to figure out, agree on and control gets documented and “codified” as a configuration file that humans can read, and then machines can execute. 

Imagine if your kitchen could somehow understand your favorite recipe and then automatically choose the right tools for prepping it, the right process for cooking it, and even the right wine and dessert pairings, and then serve that exact meal to you over and over and over, every time you asked for it.  Sounds impossible? …It is. But if your kitchen were a public cloud provider, and your meal was a software application, it’s pretty much exactly what we’re talking about here.  

Everything as Code lets developers tell their cloud providers (or their local systems) exactly what they need in order to “serve up” the perfect application, and then the systems and tools and processes all execute that plan to make it so.

Using development best practices to accelerate time to market

EaC has been as much a cultural shift as a technological one because it completely revolutionized the way developers think about building, deploying and updating software. For example, before “as code,” if, say, a small business needed to run an application, they’d need to take a lot of steps. An IT administrator would order a physical server with the right amount of physical onboard disk, CPU and memory. It would arrive a few weeks later, and the admin would have to install the operating system, configure the kernel for maximum efficiency and then hook the server up to a physical network. All these steps were time-consuming, prone to human error and not easily scalable — and just a few of the things that had to be done before software developers could actually start running their apps.

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With an “as code” approach, a developer can describe the same infrastructure in a policy configuration file, which tells their chosen cloud provider exactly the right type of server environment to “spin up.” The cloud provider can have it set up in seconds, and development can start immediately. Later, if the developer needs to make a change or move from a test environment to a production environment, they can just modify the file in code, resubmit it and the cloud provider will have it updated in seconds. This increases speed and scale exponentially since machines can execute code far faster than humans can perform tasks, and if done right, it can also eliminate human error and repetitive work.

Popular “as code” examples

Two of the most popular examples of “as code” that are part of the Everything as Code movement are infrastructure as code and policy as code

Infrastructure as code

Modern software runs in a hyper-virtualized environment, which adds complexity but also allows an unparalleled level of control. Application code is run in virtual containers, themselves running on virtual machines, all connected with virtual networking — all of which can be controlled with software code. Today, instead of ordering a server, developers can simply define what their app needs and then submit that request as software code. The cloud platforms execute that code and automatically build the environment that was requested. What is really important about this is that it allows companies to “scale on demand” — they pay for the actual usage at any given time, and they can scale up or down as needed. 

Policy as code

This is when policies are a bunch of rules codified and enforced across different systems. Think of “policy as code” as a set of guardrails that determine what is allowed to happen and what can never happen. Policy is decoupled — or separated — from the app or infrastructure. That way, if a policy needs to be changed, a developer doesn’t have to update — or worry about changing or breaking — the rest of the app or infrastructure. That means you can change the coding for the policy without changing the coding for the app. Open Policy Agent (OPA) is a great example of policy as code — OPA is a general-purpose policy engine that provides a single standard for policy that can be enforced anywhere.

Top three benefits of an everything-as-code approach

When you let humans be creative and think through hard problems, and you let them collaborate, share and imagine, we all know magic can happen. Everything as Code lets humans decide what’s right, and then tasks machines with making that so. That means you get the best out of everything, including: 

  • Repeatability: All processes, policies and descriptions are written down in code, so they are easily replicated. Let’s say a developer working for a global bank wants to set a policy that says, “Only users located in the central U.S. can access business accounts between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. CT.” If another developer located in Europe wants to implement the same policy, but with an updated time zone, they can easily replicate the policy to do so. This saves the second developer time, frees them from reinventing the wheel, and also means less room for error.
  • Scalability: Defining configuration as code means that systems can scale up and down on demand with little risk of error. And since environments are literally defined in code and can be spun up anywhere, testing gets easier too. Development, testing and production environments can be as close to identical as possible, and lessons learned in one can be applied to the others with policy changes alone. With an “as code” approach, developers can test their changes before they are put into production, reducing the risk of errors and security risks. Automation also frees up developers’ time and allows them to focus on more differentiated work. 
  • Security: When security policy and configuration are moved out of dedicated black boxes, PDFs and team meetings and are instead codified in policy files, teams can treat those policy files just like any other software file. That means they check it in and peer-review it. They iterate on it and implement that security everywhere. It can be rolled forward or back as needed. And, when teams need to prove to auditors that their policy is in compliance, they can easily point to the code. 

When done right, “everything as code” lets teams define what’s right and then lets the systems take it from there. It democratizes the ability to build applications and solve problems, meaning more people can contribute to a better final product.

And, of course, Everything as Code isn’t just about the control of systems. It also takes advantage of the culture of work that software developers have built to minimize errors and maximize satisfaction and productivity. By automating away repetition and fostering collaboration, Everything as Code lets humans focus on new challenges and meaningful work and lets the machines handle the rest.

Tim Hinrichs is CTO and cofounder of Styra.

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