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Why play-to-earn games are the key to the marketing and monetization challenge

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The current game market is in a mode of intense consolidation, with new privacy issues clamping down on user acquisition — but also exploding with new opportunities and new platforms. To talk about launching NFT games in the metaverse, decentralized guilds, growth strategies for play-to-earn and web free games and more, Andrew N. Green, head of developer relations, Yield Guild Games, hosted a panel of industry experts at the GamesBeat “Into the Metaverse” Summit.

In a mature market and growing market, discovery is one of the biggest challenges any developer can encounter. At the same time, monetization means ads that impact user experiences.

“There has to be something better,” said Sebastien Borget, co-founder of The Sandbox. “And that better thing is putting a user at the enter of the experience through letting them own a game asset. We’re shifting the balance of value as we design video games.”

Web 3 has been defined as the internet owned by builders and users, orchestrated with tokens. And there’s no better way to empower users than actually rewarding them through tokens, Borget said. It’s s a way to create engagement, to shift the distribution of value from having centralized marketplaces and centralized stores to giving 100% percent of the value to users.

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How Web 3 is changing game marketing

Steam and Valve have banned Web3 games that leverage NFTs and on-chain systems, because those games currently decrease the revenue of their company. They don’t have a way to capture the revenue earned through the blockchain; at the same time, they lose the user as a customer, because they stop playing the other games that generate money for Steam and Valve.

Business-wise, it makes sense for them, but at the same time, it’s a huge risk to leave that possibility on the table for the competition to capture, said Nicolas Gilot, founder & CEO, Ultra.io. Ultra is building a marketplace for Web 3 games, but didn’t want to just build a version of Steam that accepts Web3 games. Instead, they’re building a full ecosystem that can leverage the depth of Web3 games.

“That, to me, is what Web3 games are about,” he said. “You don’t only have the game itself. You also have the game beyond the game.”

You can unlock an unlimited amount of rewards for your loyal gamers — they could earn a valuable NFT by watching a streamed event, for instance. As a publisher, providing this NFT through the streamer, provides an opportunity to gain more users who are coming for a chance to get this rare reward. At the same time, it brings attention to the game itself, because people watching this stream from the streamer’s community would then get access to the game.

And that kind of setup can be offered in tournaments as well, with NFTs that let players participate or level up.

“You can start to see the interconnection between the various pieces of the game industry puzzle,” he said. “Whether you’re a fan of esports, or if you want to watch live streams, or you just want to purchase a game and be a part of the community, Web3 allows these interactions between users in the form of NFTs.”

These communities have become an incredibly powerful way to market the games via word of mouth, said Bozena Rezab, CEO & co-founder of GAMEE. GAMEE has created independent communities around their Arc8 tournaments, which take esports to mobile. Anyone can own a virtual tournament arena and host their own tournaments with their own rules, prize pools, and game content.

“We provide a platform with the infrastructure, and we have them do everything else around it, giving them a lot more power,” Rezab explained. “It’s both exciting and scary. It’s a strong product use case that makes people customize their experience, as well as their marketing channel.”

Guilds in particular are now playing an essential role in the discovery of play-to-earn games, Borget said, for two reasons. The first, is that empowering users and empowering community has shifted discovery from just traditional platforms to community-driven groups. The guilds are not only helping to find games, but also helping to educate more players and bring more players into the space, effectively growing the overall pool of users who can participate.

As play-to-earn game guilds, like Yield Guild Guide, grow and become global, the number of users who are looking to discover new games grows. To capture that market, game developers need to incorporate the right mechanics that will empower players and enable true play-to-earn.

These communities are self-driven and self-managed, and can drop one game and switch to another very easily, which shifts the user acquisition model. The control has been taken away from the platforms,  those users become a community, and they become attractive to publishers because they can create content, help develop their favorite games, and become a bigger part of the game industry.

But before you dive in, the first thing to do is get your hand in and join the Discord channels, play the existing play-to-earn games, and figure out how the entire experience works, Rezab said.

“It’s a mind shift. It’s a change in thinking. When they really understand the force behind it, they’ll be able to think about their own game,” he said. “You can’t just take NFTs and paste that into an existing game. That’s not the idea.”

“But don’t forget that play-to-earn is driven to put power toward the users first,” Borget added. “If game developers lead by example, showcasing fun games that ultimately benefit users through the ownership of their own assets in a fair and exemplary manner, we’ll all end up benefiting from that by driving more adoption and changing minds.”

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Down rounds are still rare by historical standards • TechCrunch

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If you thought that the recent venture capital market was tough, let me tell you about 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020.

With the first week of December under our belts, we’re not too far away from the end of the year. And that means that 2022’s venture capital story has largely been written. It’s not a single narrative; instead, this year started on a high, with momentum from the monstrous 2021 funding period persisting into the new year. From that point, we’ve seen a slowdown accelerate into what some consider a downturn.


The Exchange explores startups, markets and money.

Read it every morning on TechCrunch+ or get The Exchange newsletter every Saturday.


Startups raised lots of capital this year. Less, yes, than last year, but more than in nearly any year in recent memory. It’s still a good time to build a tech upstart.

Does that perspective feel too sunny when we hear so much doom and gloom on Twitter regarding startup prospects in a more conservative investing climate?

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This Doggy DNA Test Ships Free for the Holidays

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Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Every pet owner wants the best for their animal sidekick. They want to spend as much time as possible with them, even at the office. But being the best dog owner you can be isn’t all about just being present. It helps to understand your dog on a genotypic as well as phenotypic level. That’s one reason why doggy DNA tests have become so popular.



DNA My Dog

If you’re wondering what to get for your pooch this holiday season, look no further than the DNA My Dog Breed Identification Test. If you order by December 8, you’ll get free shipping, but that date is coming up fast so don’t delay.

This simple, painless kit requires just a swab of your dog’s cheek to get a detailed report delivered in two weeks or less. That report includes a custom photo certificate of the breed breakdown found in your dog’s genetic breed composition, a percentage breakdown of the levels found in your dog’s DNA, and a report on the dominant breeds, personality traits, and health concerns that your dog may be genetically predisposed to. All of that information will help you be a better friend to your dog, making smarter decisions about food, training, and healthcare.

The DNA My Dog Kit was awarded at the 2020 GHO Biotechnology Awards and user Bonnie H. writes, “I loved this experience!!! The kit came immediately with great instructions. The results came exactly when promised. When I couldn’t open the attachment with the results, I emailed my concern and got instant help! To find out his DNA has been the coolest experience!”

Lock in free shipping on a unique gift for your dog by December 8. Grab the DNA My Dog Breed Identification Test on sale for 24% off $79 at just $59.99 now.

Prices subject to change.

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Howie Mandel gets a digital twin from DeepBrain AI

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Howie Mandel is stepping into the metaverse. DeepBrain AI has created a pretty realistic AI version of comedian and actor Mandel.

Deepbrain AI, based in South Korea and Palo Alto, California, calls its creation “AI Howie,” and it’s an interactive virtual human and digital twin for immersive and personalized fan experiences. AI Howie mentions VentureBeat and talks to me in the attached videos.

Unlike the “deepfakes” of Tom Cruise and other actors, the real Howie Mandel cooperated with DeepBrain AI to create the virtual human AI replica of the famous comedian, actor, host, and technology enthusiast. We used “virtual Paris” AI character at our recent MetaBeat event in San Francisco.

“I am equally thrilled, excited, and terrified to finally have the ability of showing up and doing things without going anywhere or doing anything,” said Mandel, in a statement. “Thank you, DeepBrain.”

DeepBrain AI applies deep learning technology to create hyper-realistic virtual humans through its AI Studios and the AI Human platforms. These virtual humans are digital twins of the real person, with the same appearance, voice, gestures, and subtle mannerisms. The AI Studios platform enables script-to-video software that synthesizes dynamic video content in seconds, producing the quickest and most
realistic AI-generated videos. The script-to-video editor makes it easy for customers to select a model and then make it say something based on a script. Within a minute or so the video is made.

This is a powerful communication and marketing tool for celebrities, professional athletes, news anchors, and even politicians. Before working with Howie Mandel, the DeepBrain AI team created digital twins of Premier League soccer superstar Son Heung-Min, multiple news anchors across Asia, and South Korean president Yoon Suk-yeol.

Joe Murphy, business development manager for DeepBrain AI, said in an interview with VentureBeat that the virtual Howie is a conversational model that you pepper with questions. DeepBrain AI designs and develops these virtual humans for the purpose of creating digital twins (like Howie Mandel), digital people, and avatars.

It takes about four weeks of machine learning work to create a Howie Mandel digital twin.

“We create models of real people,” Murphy said. “We also have completely synthetic virtual humans. That is what we’ll call digital people. And then avatars are just the basic Roblox type of avatars. But where our technology comes in with the digital twins is we go through a deep learning process to clone the person’s voice, their mannerisms, their face, the way their eyes move, the way their lips move.”

He added, “So we create what we call the digital twin of the real person with all the uniqueness of that person. Our mission is to use this technology that we’ve developed throughout Asia and bring it to America.”

In addition to the script-to-video capabilities, the company provides fully conversational experiences with its AI Human software. The AI Human solution enables fans to interact and engage with AI Howie by simply asking questions. For example, when asked, “What was your favorite act on AGT this season?” the AI Howie model responds in real-time to support interactive, fun, and engaging fan experiences.

AI Humans are available within mobile apps, web browsers, or voice-activated kiosks.

“Our vision is to humanize digital experiences and empower creative teams to generate immersive content at scale,” said Eric Jang, DeepBrain AI CEO. “Working with Howie Mandel was a fun experience, and we are excited to see how the AI Howie collaboration will connect with his fans worldwide.”

DeepBrain AI, (formerly Moneybrain), a conversational AI startup based in Seoul, South Korea, has raised $44 million in a series B round led by Korea Development Bank at a post-money valuation of $180 million. The company started in 2016 and it has raised $54 million to date. The company has 130 employees.

The AI is being used for AI news anchors in South Korea and China at four different television networks. The networks flag that the anchor is an AI avatar so that no one gets confused.

The real Howie Mandel spent about a day shooting video with DeepBrain AI.

While multiple companies are working on virtual humans, DeepBrain AI’s avatars are hyperrealistic. One of Asia’s largest insurance companies is also using it, as is a “brand ambassador” for a soccer team.

“When we worked with Howie Mandel, we went down to his studio in Los Angeles, we provided a script, and fed our training data into our neural network,” Murphy said.

It took about a day to do a video shoot with Mandel and about three to four weeks of machine learning time on the computers to generate the first AI model.

Back in January, DeepBrain AI opened its office in Palo Alto, California, and it is talking to partners in Silicon Valley and the rest of the U.S. Over time, Murphy said that the hope is to create AI avatars in realistic 3D for the metaverse. In South Korea, kiosks are appearing in places like banks with both 2D avatars and 3D avatars.

Over time, Murphy said the avatars have gotten better at mannerisms, lip sync, and subtle gestures. The speed of real-time responses in conversations has also gotten faster. The company is talking about doing more with game companies and major brands.

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