‘Screw tokenomics, play-to-earn, all that stuff – it was a waste of time’


There’s been a very sudden drop in the chatter around play-to-earn and web3 games, hasn’t there?

Now that AI is the Hot New Thing, the many folks that raised money to build blockchain games in the last year or so might just welcome the chance to just get on with making their wares, rather than feeling the need to endlessly evangelise or defend all things web3.

With a welcome dose of pragmatism in the air around blockchain projects, we meet Rockstar and 2K veteran Susan Cummings, who is now leading the charge at digital pets firm Petaverse Network. And she pulls no punches on the wrongs of the web3 discourse over the last year.

“Play-to-earn was crypto guys trying to make games,” she tells us. “It felt very much like a finance project. That brought a different audience in, which is kind of cool, but it was a bad message.”

“Gamers don’t play games because they’re going to make money doing it,” she continues. “The monetisation should be the layer on top of that. There’s nothing wrong with being able to make money playing a game, but that shouldn’t be your calling card. So it really got everyone off on a bad footing.”

“Screw tokenomics, play-to-earn, all that stuff – it was a waste of time and the wrong messaging. For me, web3 is ownership, interoperability and composability.”

Petaverse’s AR app is out next month and is the start of the company’s plans to help make your virtual pet appear and interact across multiple digital spaces.

Even as the blockchain space cools a little, Cummings and her Petaverse Network team are busily working on ways to provide virtual pets wherever your digital life might take you. That might be through the AR app, which launches next month, a forthcoming VR game on Oculus Quest or through things like Twitch integrations, where your virtual cat can prowl and scratch around in the background while you stream.

But as with so much in web3, there are still big barriers to overcome: onboarding, player base and compatibility being just a few.

So it helps that Petaverse also has a network of web3 investors to call on, including Fabric Ventures, Animoca Brands, The Sandbox’s Sebastien Borget, Dapper Labs, Liberty City Ventures and 1UP Ventures. Cummings is also a games business veteran, having been around in the early years of Rockstar Games, later helping to launch the 2K Games brand.

There are further barriers to overcome. Apple and Google policy around what can and can’t happen in games using blockchain tech is still woolly, and always subject to change.

The eventual goal with Petaverse is that your companion is transferable across digital spaces, with ownership certified with an NFT.

“I talk to web3 teams all the time and everyone is angsty,” she says of current platform policy. “As usual it’s a bit nebulous. We’re fine – in the app we don’t encourage you to purchase anything – it’s a viewer for what you have already purchased. And there’s a basic cat in there that you can play with if you don’t already own one.”

After over a year of sustained, pretty annoying hype, web3 is undergoing a reset of sorts right now. That’s why Cummings sees the parallels between web3 right now and the early years of mobile.

“It didn’t start with Call of Duty, it started with Bejeweled, Candy Crush and Farmville,” she adds. “Web3 is in the same spot. It’s a mistake to try to go after hardcore gamers right now. It’s going to take years to get these games right.”

“We should focus more on casual players and show what can happen with interoperability. We have to first think about the plumbing. How do we move things between apps and games, and how do we define open standards? How we collaborate? To me that’s what’s important.”

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