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Innovation will drive the success of NFT gaming, not profit or hype

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This article was contributed by Olga Vorobyeva, VOX Consulting.

Nonfungible tokens (NFTs) have been around for the better part of four years, quietly growing in popularity among hardcore cryptocurrency investors. But in 2021, their total market cap jumped from $55 million to more than $7 billion, according to NFTGO.io. Ninety percent of that growth was within the last four months.

OpenSea, the largest NFT marketplace, has become a significant player in gaming. In 2021, it reported around $10 billion in total all-time sales, the vast majority of that being made last year. This was due to a $3.4 billion transaction volume during August due to frenzied interest in artistic NFTs. So-called GameFi is becoming an increasing part of OpenSea’s business model.

No matter how big that number sounds, it isn’t much compared to standalone blockchain-based games. Axie Infinity, an NFT-focused video game developed on the Ethereum network, surpassed $1 billion in total trade volume in August 2021, perhaps the most prominent 30-day period in the history of NFTs.

With so much interest in NFTs, it’s only natural that developers have begun to develop the infrastructure necessary to handle what will undoubtedly become a massive secondary market for these assets. In addition, holders want real tangible benefits to holding NFTs, and in a crowded gaming market, new entrants need to differentiate to survive.

2022 is likely the year NFT games become more mainstream, especially now that many crypto investors own these assets. And real innovation, not just in NFTs but in gameplay and mechanics themselves, will be the driving force.

While NFT gaming gives gamers a way to earn while playing their favorite games, the industry lacks a social component. The advantage of owning an NFT asset is that it’s yours, and you should be able to use that asset where you want. Here are three innovations that are driving the success of NFT gaming today.

VR and AR

It’s no secret that Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) are the future of gaming. We got a taste of this tech with Pokémon Go, but that was merely a herald of things to come. VR and AR offer a much richer experience than a 2D screen ever could; however, we have some ways to go before the technology is fully operational. Smartphone-based AR applications will probably become prominent in specific industries before VR goes mainstream.

AR offers the ability to tie in a physical location with NFTs. Like in Pokémon Go, users can visit a real-world place to interact with an object (in this case, an NFT). Both AR and VR offer the ability to make these NFTs real. Imagine a game where you see your NFT, inspect it, purchase it, and use it. An NFT can be a gun in a tactical shooter VR game or a suit of armor in a medieval VR game.

Ultimately, the user experience will determine the success of NFT gaming. When NFTs are tied in with a virtual world, it will offer a richer experience than the current craze for digital art NFTs. 3D gameplay, in combination with functional NFTs (bulletproof vests, guns, pets, etc.), will revolutionize gaming. But it will take quite a lot of innovation before we get there fully.

Creative distribution models and NFT gaming

The way that rewards are distributed is key to enticing gamers into any ecosystem. Gameplay is important, followed closely by ownership and dividends for the time spent on a given platform. Games like Axie Infinity are successful mainly because they are forms of investment as much as entertainment. The play-to-earn (P2E) distribution model is more attractive to gamers as they are fairly compensated for their time.

And some blockchain-based platforms are even taking this a step further. Gamerse’s new “share-to-earn” offers further incentives to gamers. While P2E is a lot better than the old model, it still does not provide adequate rewards to gamers. The share-to-earn model is an innovation on the play-to-earn model, which has worked well for many Web3 games.

A cross-chain social platform for NFT gamers, Gamerse’s platform gives NFT game developers an easy way to connect with their users and the broader NFT gaming community. With the new share-to-earn model, group participation is rewarded, and the APY yield for the group’s holdings is determined by group activity.

Gamerse is also developing an aggregated NFT marketplace and platform for holders to buy and sell NFTs. Swipe Swap, a Tinder-like recommendation engine for NFT collectibles, learns gamers’ preferences over time and offers a smooth process to acquire new NFTs within the app.

More games could adopt the share-to-earn model in the future, and new reward models will undoubtedly be a feature in the NFT gaming ecosystem. Gamers now expect to be appropriately rewarded.

The evolution of the Multi-Online Battle Arena (MOBA)

The multi-online battle arena (MOBA) game genre is red hot. League of Legends, Pokemon, and Mobile Legends are downloaded more than a million times a month, and their accompanying marketplaces generate millions in revenue for their developers each year. However, despite this being perhaps the most popular genre of all time, the games are still based on a centralized architecture, and we haven’t seen this industry disrupted in quite a while. Two of the most popular games, DoTA2 (2013) and League of Legends (2009), are old and need some innovation of their own.

MOBA evolution is at hand, and some blockchain-based MOBAs are lining up to disrupt the industry. One example is League of Ancients, which puts the power back into the gamer’s hands. The League of Ancients (LoA) mission statement declares that it seeks to become the best MOBA of all time while acknowledging the contributions of other highly successful games.

Unlike MOBA games from the big developers, LoA is entirely free to play. And even more importantly, players have the chance to earn while enjoying the gameplay. This is the opposite of other MOBAs built to extract as much money as possible from their customers.

Players earn currency and NFT assets through battles. These assets are usable in the game, including skins that change the hero’s abilities within the game. Players can trade these assets to other players through an in-game marketplace.

The LoA gameplay is based on two of the most popular MOBA games — DoTA2 and League of Legends. This is typical of this industry, as it takes successful components from one map or game and adds new elements, themes, features, avatars, and revenue generation models. LoA will certainly not be the only blockchain-based platform looking to disrupt the MOBA industry, large as it is.

Other factors contributing to NFT gaming success

Other elements could potentially play a role in the success of NFT gaming. It’s hard to ignore the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which has relevance even in a gaming article. But gaming has already proven its worth, as people who lost their jobs turned an income with platforms like Axie Infinity. The fact that gaming has become a legitimate source of revenue through NFTs is quite noteworthy.

The quality of the blockchains that NFT games are built on should also not be ignored or relegated to the side. Most successful blockchain games were built on Ethereum, and this was the only place offering this functionality at an acceptable level. With high-power chains like Solana and Binance, more functionality could be provided that directly supports better quality games with the ability to cater to many thousands/millions of online gamers, at all times, in rich environments. That, or significant Ethereum upgrades.

We don’t know how much bandwidth will be needed for futuristic metaverse games involving complex NFTs. But it’s safe to say it will be significant. After all, Games can only get better at a rate proportional to the network on which they are built. However, there is plenty of room for excellent game design, and it’s more about mainstream adoption than technological innovation.

An industry of innovation, not profits

People want something new. The utility of the blockchain adds a necessary layer of interaction and ownership that could never exist before. Introducing these elements in new and novel ways has huge, reverberating effects on the entire industry.

As soon as someone does something interesting, that concept is introduced in five established projects and 10 upcoming ones. The growth is incredible, and innovation leads the charge, not profit or hype.

Olga is the Founder of Vox Consulting, a marketing firm for blockchain, DeFi, and NFT startups, and a former Head of Marketing at SwissBorg – the first crypto wealth management platform (TOP -100 Coinmarketcap). 

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Cyber Monday shopping expected to set record but annual growth has slowed | Adobe

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Cyber Monday shopping sales hit at least $6.3 billion through part of the day in the U.S. today, according to the latest online shopping data from Adobe Analytics.

It’s not unusual for Cyber Monday and Black Friday online shopping results to break records, but it this economic climate it’s encouraging to see it happen. Still, growth has slowed from 2021 and 2020 holiday seasons.

Consumers spent $6.3 billion up through 3:00 pm Pacific time for Cyber Monday. Adobe expects that when the final tally is in, consumers will spend between $11.2 billion and $11.6 billion for the day, making Cyber Monday the biggest online shopping day of the year (and of all time).

Today, the top 15 hot sellers (not in ranked order) have included Legos, Hatchimals, Disney Encanto, Pokémon cards, Bluey, Dyson products, strollers, Apple Watches, drones, and digital cameras. Gaming consoles also remain popular, along with games including Mario Party, FIFA 23, Madden 23 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II.

Over the past weekend, the top sellers were included Hot Wheels, Cocomelon, Bluey, Disney Encanto, L.O.L. Surprise dolls, Roblox, and Fortnite in the toys category. Nintendo Switch, Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 remain the top selling gaming consoles, with popular games including FIFA 23, God of War Ragnarök, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II, Madden 23, and NBA 2k23. Other hot sellers included Apple iPads, Apple MacBooks, digital cameras, Roku devices, drones, gift cards and Instapots.

Black Friday online shopping sales were $9.12 billion, up 2.3% from a year ago, and Thanksgiving itself came in at $5.29 billion, up 2.9% from a year ago. Those were above Adobe’s projections. Last year, consumers spent $10.7 billion on Cyber Monday.

Strong consumer spend has been driven by net-new demand, and not just higher prices. The Adobe Digital Price Index, which tracks online prices across 18 product categories (complements the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index, which also includes prices for offline only products and services like gasoline and rent) shows that prices online have been nearly flat in recent months (down 0.7% YoY in October 2022).

Adobe Analytics says Cyber Monday will set a record.

Adobe’s numbers are not adjusted for inflation, but if online inflation were factored in, there would still be growth in underlying consumer demand, the company said.

On a category basis, toys were a major growth driver in the days leading up to Cyber Monday, with online sales up 452% over the average day in October 2022. Appliances (up 305%) and baby/toddler products (up 289%) also saw strong demand, in addition to electronics (up 276%) and apparel (up 258%).

Shoppers will find record discounts today for computers (peaking at 27% off listed price). Deals will also be found in nearly all categories tracked, including apparel (19%), toys (33%), electronics (25%), sporting goods (16%), televisions (15%), and furniture (11%). Those looking to buy an appliance should consider waiting until Thursday (December 1), when discounts are set to peak at 18% on average.

Weekend spending remained strong

Consumers spent over a Black Friday’s worth of ecommerce over the weekend at $9.55 billion, up 4.4% YoY ($4.59 billion on November 26, up 2.6% YoY / $4.96 billion on November, up 6.1% YoY). Season-to-date (November 1 to November 27), consumers have spent a total of $96.42 billion online, up 2.1% YoY.

And while the big days (Thanksgiving Day, Black Friday) have reached new heights, consumers spent at record levels all season. Since November 1, shoppers spent over $2 billion every single day, with 19 days above $3 billion in online spend. Broad, early discounts were the main drivers for the shift in consumer spending.

“Shoppers have seen massive discounts this past week, which is the exact opposite situation from last season when supply chain constraints kept prices elevated,” said Vivek Pandya, lead analyst at Adobe Digital Insights, in a statement. “While discounting will have an impact on margins for retailers, it is also driving a level of demand that can help brands build long-term loyalty and net some short-term gains.”

Additional Adobe Analytics Insights

Over the weekend, online sales of toys were up 383% (compared to average daily sales for the category in October 2022), with baby toys seeing strong demand (up 252%). Other categories that surged over the weekend include jewelry (up 230%), sporting goods (up 239%), and apparel (up 217%).

With online spending hitting new records and inflation impacting consumers, flexible payments have become a big story this season. In the last week (November 21 to November 27), “buy now, pay later” orders have risen 68% and revenue has increased 72%, when compared to the week prior.

Over the weekend, smartphones drove over half of online sales for the first time (52%, up from 48% last year). Adobe expects mobile shopping to dip on Cyber Monday however, based on historical trends. Many people are back at work and using laptops, which will be the preferred device for shopping online.

Forecast for Cyber Week

Adobe expects Cyber Week (the five days from Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday) to generate $34.8 billion in online spend, up 2.8% YoY, and represent 16.3% share of the full November through December holiday season.

Cyber Monday is expected to remain the season’s and year’s biggest online shopping day, bringing in between $11.2 billion and $11.6 billion. Black Friday generated a record $9.12 billion in online spend, up 2.3% YoY, while Thanksgiving brought $5.29 billion in online spend, up 2.9% YoY.

Adobe analyzes direct consumer transactions online. The analysis covers over one trillion visits to U.S. retail sites, 100 million SKUs, and 18 product categories.

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Snowflake 101: 5 ways to build a secure data cloud 

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Today, Snowflake is the favorite for all things data. The company started as a simple data warehouse platform a decade ago but has since evolved into an all-encompassing data cloud supporting a wide range of workloads, including that of a data lake

More than 6,000 enterprises currently trust Snowflake to handle their data workloads and produce insights and applications for business growth. They jointly have more than 250 petabytes of data on the data cloud, with more than 515 million data workloads running each day.

Now, when the scale is this big, cybersecurity concerns are bound to come across. Snowflake recognizes this and offers scalable security and access control features that ensure the highest levels of security for not only accounts and users but also the data they store. However, organizations can miss out on certain basics, leaving data clouds partially secure. 

Here are some quick tips to fill these gaps and build a secure enterprise data cloud.

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1. Make your connection secure

First of all, all organizations using Snowflake, regardless of size, should focus on using secured networks and SSL/TLS protocols to prevent network-level threats. According to Matt Vogt, VP for global solution architecture at Immuta, a good way to start would be connecting to Snowflake over a private IP address using cloud service providers’ private connectivity such as AWS PrivateLink or Azure Private Link. This will create private VPC endpoints that allow direct, secure connectivity between your AWS/Azure VPCs and the Snowflake VPC without traversing the public Internet. In addition to this, network access controls, such as IP filtering, can also be used for third-party integrations, further strengthening security.

2. Protect source data

While Snowflake offers multiple layers of protection – like time travel and fail-safe – for data that has already been ingested, these tools cannot help if the source data itself is missing, corrupted or compromised (like malicious encrypted for ransom) in any way. This kind of issue, as Clumio’s VP of product Chadd Kenney suggests, can only be addressed by adopting measures to protect the data when it is resident in an object storage repository such as Amazon S3 – before ingest. Further, to protect against logical deletes, it is advisable to maintain continuous, immutable, and preferably air-gapped backups that are instantly recoverable into Snowpipe.

3. Consider SCIM with multi-factor authentication

Enterprises should use SCIM (system for cross-domain identity management) to help facilitate automated provisioning and management of user identities and groups (i.e. roles used for authorizing access to objects like tables, views, and functions) in Snowflake. This makes user data more secure and simplifies the user experience by reducing the role of local system accounts. Plus, by using SCIM where possible, enterprises will also get the option to configure SCIM providers to synchronize users and roles with active directory users and groups.

On top of this, enterprises also should use multi-factor authentication to set up an additional layer of security. Depending on the interface used, such as client applications using drivers, Snowflake UI, or Snowpipe, the platform can support multiple authentication methods, including username/password, OAuth, keypair, external browser, federated authentication using SAML and Okta native authentication. If there’s support for multiple methods, the company recommends giving top preference to OAuth (either snowflake OAuth or external OAuth) followed by external browser authentication and Okta native authentication and key pair authentication.

4. Column-level access control

Organizations should use Snowflake’s dynamic data masking and external tokenization capabilities to restrict certain users’ access to sensitive information in certain columns. For instance, dynamic data masking, which can dynamically obfuscate column data based on who’s querying it, can be used to restrict the visibility of columns based on the user’s country, like a U.S. employee can only view the U.S. order data, while French employees can only view order data from France.

Both features are pretty effective, but they use masking policies to work. To make the most of it, organizations should first determine whether they want to centralize masking policy management or decentralize it to individual database-owning teams, depending on their needs. Plus, they would also have to use invoker_role() in policy conditions to enable unauthorized users to view aggregate data on protected columns while keeping individual data hidden.

5. Implement a unified audit model

Finally, organizations should not forget to implement a unified audit model to ensure transparency of the policies being implemented. This will help them actively monitor policy changes, like who created what policy that granted user X or group Y access to certain data, and is as critical as monitoring query and data access patterns. 

To view account usage patterns, use system-defined, read-only shared database named SNOWFLAKE. It has a schema named ACCOUNT_USAGE containing views that provide access to one year of audit logs.

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WhatsApp rolls out new ‘Message Yourself’ feature globally • TechCrunch

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To get a roundup of TechCrunch’s biggest and most important stories delivered to your inbox every day at 3 p.m. PDT, subscribe here.

We’re joining the Cyber Monday fun with 25% off annual subscriptions to TechCrunch+ content and analysis starting today until Wednesday, November 30. Plus, today only, get 50% off tickets to discover the vast unknown and attend TechCrunch Sessions: Space in Los Angeles!

Okay, we haven’t done a newsletter since Wednesday, and while the U.S. team was chillin’ like villains, the rest of the team was hard at work, so here’s some of the highlights from the last half-week of TechCrunchy goodness! — Christine and Haje

The TechCrunch Top 3

  • Talking to yourself just went digital: Instead of having that internal monologue stay in your head, now you can play out all of your thoughts to yourself in WhatsApp, Jagmeet writes. The messaging platform began rolling out an easier way to talk to yourself today after completing beta testing.
  • Great Wall of porn: That’s how Rita and Catherine describe the bot surge in China that is making it difficult to get any legitimate Twitter search results when trying to find out something about Chinese cities. Why, you ask? Rita writes that “the surge in such bot content coincides with an unprecedented wave of (COVID) protests that have swept across major Chinese cities and universities over the weekend.”
  • Your calendar, only more productive: Get ready for your calendar to be more than just a place to record things you have to do that day. Romain writes about Amie, a startup that grabbed $7 million to link your unscheduled to-do list with your calendar. The app also enables users to be social with coworkers.

Startups and VC

Dubai-based mass transit and shared mobility services provider SWVL has carried out its second round of layoffs, affecting 50% of its remaining headcount, Tage reports. The news is coming six months after SWVL laid off 32% (over 400 employees) of its workforce in a “portfolio optimization program” effort geared toward achieving positive cash flow next year.

There’s a couple of new funds in town, too! Harri reports that Early Light Ventures plots a second, $15 million fund for software ‘underdogs,’ while Mike writes that BackingMinds raises a new €50 million fund to fund normally overlooked entrepreneurs. He also writes about Pact, an all-women led VC for mission-driven startups, backed by Anne Hathaway.

And we have five more for you:

Lessons for raising $10M without giving up a board seat

Blackboard showing soccer strategy

Image Credits: Ihor Reshetniak (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Over the last two years, intelligent calendar platform Reclaim.ai raised $10 million “using a more incremental approach,” writes co-founder Henry Shapiro.

“We’ve done all this without giving up a single board seat, and Reclaim employees continue to own over two-thirds of the company’s equity,” rejecting conventional wisdom that founders should “raise as much as you can as fast as you can.”

In a TC+ post, Shapiro reviews the process they used to identify follow-on investors, shares the email template used to pitch the SAFE, and explains why “a larger cap table means more founder control.”

Three more from the TC+ team:

TechCrunch+ is our membership program that helps founders and startup teams get ahead of the pack. You can sign up here. Use code “DC” for a 15% discount on an annual subscription!

Big Tech Inc.

Amazon’s recent cost-cutting measures seem to be affecting more than just its delivery business. Manish writes that the company is shutting down its wholesale distribution business, called Amazon Distribution, in India. Amazon had started this unit to help neighborhood stores secure inventory. The company didn’t say why it was closing this particular business down, but Manish notes that this is the third such Amazon unit to be shuttered in India.

Meanwhile, Natasha L reports that Meta has gotten itself into trouble again with the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (aka, the agency that regulates data protection). Facebook’s parent company is being hit with $275 million in penalties for what the agency said was breaches in data protection that resulted in some 530 million users’ personal information being leaked.

Now enjoy six more:



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