Whether it was Abraham Lincoln or Winston Churchill (or neither) who defined success as going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm, doesn’t really matter. Despite current crypto sentiment, enthusiasm there is in abundance, and now the first signs of success too. I’m talking to Mythical Games’ CEO John Linden about one of the fastest-growing web3 games NFL Rivals.
Shortly following the announcement that Mythical is working on a new mobile version of its PC-based game Blankos Block Party, while also launching car collecting mobile title Nitro Nation World Tour, and with the latest NFL season recently kicking off, we thought there was no better time to catch up with Linden.
BlockchainGamer.biz: Let’s start off by talking about NFL Rivals. The data we have is that it’s had over 2 million downloads and more than $1 million in NFT trading volume. Are there any official updates to those numbers and more generally how happy are you with the growth of NFL Rivals so far?
Linden: We’re very proud of the game. Players seem to really like it and it’s a lot of fun to play.
I think we’ve blended the web3 concepts pretty naturally into the game. We’re sitting at a 4.7 star rating on iOS, so it’s working.
The two stats I’m really proud of is one, that players are playing the game and they’re rating it high, and two, that we’re getting increasing support from Apple and Google. They’re letting us experiment more and more.
We’ve been talking to them for a long time now, they’ve been very hesitant because they just didn’t understand, but now we’re showing what web3 does, and how to integrate it properly.
Our in-game marketplace is the new substantial feature, which blends in nicely with the gaming experience, but it’s still pretty limited. We don’t have our whole marketplace or selling in the game yet, but we’re working on those details with Apple.
For example, we usually run an A/B test, partly to help game developers see what impact something has. When we launched the in-game marketplace we had a small control group to receive data from. One of the big concerns we had was, if we’re letting people buy from other players, are we making less money?
What we saw was no significant cannibalisation of revenue from the primary market, which of course Apple liked. They want to see growth in games rather than revenue moving around.
We also saw about a 50% increase in secondary transaction volume from just the marketplace feature alone, and we’re seeing an overall 20% more transactions happening already.
We use machine learning to predict what might be useful for someone to buy, and we suggest three players that would improve their line-up, that can be bought from other players trying to sell their cards. We do this with various pricing degrees, so if you’re a brand new player who’s never bought anything you’re not going to see $1,000 dollar suggestions, the mythical cards, you’re going to see cheaper cards.
What’s amazing is that 50% of people that have bought in the in-game marketplace go on to buy a pack of cards later, and that’s huge for game developers. It kind of becomes a gateway.
One of the big concerns we had was, if we’re letting people buy from other players, are we making less money?John Linden
It’s been cool to see that the first transaction players have in the game is buying from another player and then they come back wanting to improve their team and buy some more.
So in a way, you’re educating the app stores. Do you find that some of their resistance is simply down to a lack of knowledge about blockchain games and NFT integration?
I think it’s down to two things. One, they don’t know. It’s not been their focus and there’s not a lot of people doing it yet. On the other side, there’s been a lot of shady stuff in web3, bad actors and I think that’s kept them very hesitant.
We’re working very closely with them, which allows us to be more trusted. Once we’re able to show that trust and show that these things are working, we provide them with a lot of data and that helps them to open it up to other people.
Now Blankos is next, announcing recently that it’s launching on mobile. Can you tell us more?
I love to talk about Blankos. It’s our baby, it was our first game and it’s just such a fun and vibrant world.
Initially we wanted to go mobile, but Apple and Google weren’t really ready for it so we went for PC. That was great, we went on Epic Games Store and other places, but we did struggle.
The main reason is the cost of PC acquisition. It’s really expensive. What then happened is that the community levelled off. We got to about 1.3 million player accounts and the game was actually doing quite well but we couldn’t get any new players onboard. So that’s unfortunate, but we haven’t given up on the game. We just announced briefly, but we’ll show a lot more soon, of Blankos Mobile.
Because of NFL Rivals and Nitro Nation, now Apple and Google are like, hey, let’s do it. In fact, we might have one more platform too that wants Blankos, but we’re not ready to announce that yet.
In terms of the game, the gameplay will be different but like a blockchain-backed game the characters and accessories will come across. It’ll still be the quirky Blankos behaviour and all the fun stuff. We want to make sure we empower our existing community as they’re moving to the new game, but hopefully we can also add tens of millions of new players on mobile. Mobile is way cheaper, looking at NFL and Nitro Nation I think it’s about 5-10% the cost of a PC install.
One thing I want to emphasise is that we’re not giving up on PC, it’s kind of a shift to the new game with the old assets coming in, and then we’ll re-release that game on PC. Although it won’t happen on day one.
With NFL Rivals and Nitro Nation already on mobile, and now the announcement of Blankos Mobile, do you think the issue of mass market distribution blockchain games have struggled with is solved, or are there still hurdles?
Well, publicly we now have Epic, Google and Apple that are letting this happen, and I know a few of the consoles are open to it too. Steam has some regulatory issues with their credit system, I understand they’re just conservative, and that’s fine. That’s their choice.
But I’d say there are about seven main platforms across PC, mobile and console, and I think we’ll probably see five out of seven open up quickly, and maybe all of them down the road.
Because of NFL Rivals and Nitro Nation, Apple and Google are like, hey, let’s do it.John Linden
But some of them are still very concerned about the concept of web3. Like non-custodial accounts which blockchain and crypto people love, it’s a little risky. You don’t want to lose your private key and suddenly lose Mario or Zelda, that’s really bad for gaming. So we have gone a bit more conservative with custodial accounts. I’d like to eventually have it non-custodial, but we’re trying to play nice.
Also, it’s tough. The idea that every time you have to do something you have to go back and approve on MetaMask and pay a fee. That needs more technical advancements, maybe just a pop-up SDK or something. I do think eventually you’ll be able to sign your own transactions, but we’re not quite there yet.
In terms of player sentiment, do you think that’s changing too or is that a more long-term process?
I think it’s a bit semantic. I don’t think players have actually been that upset about the concept of digital ownership, I think they’re upset about some of the practices we’re doing in web3, particularly around money grabs. Gamers don’t really care about that.
So they never had a problem with ownership, they had a problem with what became known as NFTs and blockchain. I think we gotta move them back by showing them what it can do in the game. That it’s not about an investment, but about the game.
And I think we’re showing that with NFL Rivals. We’ve got over 2 million players and I think we’ll probably add another million players a month, seeing the trend we’re on right now. We’ll probably see 4-5-6 million players of that game before long, and nobody’s really complaining because they don’t view it as an NFT game, they view it as digital ownership.
What’s the deal with Mythos Chain moving to Polkadot?
We’ve been looking at what works for us, and we’ve experimented a few times. One thing we talked to Polkadot about are their principles. What I like a lot about them is that they don’t really market themselves that much, and they’ve done a lot of great stuff. There are two groups: on one hand there’s Polygon and the likes, which are all about marketing, and there are groups like Polkadot, which are about how to move this technology forward. They think through a lot of that, of governance, of safety, of creating identity, and I’m all for that. But there are a couple of challenges we’re working through with them.
In terms of on-chain transaction volume, Mythos is five times bigger than Ethereum [Ed – in terms of onchain transactions, not trading volume]. As we’re moving to a new chain we have to make sure we can handle it. We’re not done yet, we want to be a hundred times that.
As we’re adding more games, we’ve got about 4-5 more games we’re working on that we haven’t announced yet, we want to make sure we can support a hundred, even a thousand times, that transaction volume over the next few years.
I do like Polkadot – it’s a community of builders rather than a community of money-makers.
Finally, what’s the plan for your third game, Nitro Nation World Tour, and its official launch? It’s currently in soft launch, right?
I’ll call it beta. There are some missing features, some work to be done, there are definitely some bugs, but we’re working through that, and I’d say we’re not too far off.
You’ll see a really big update coming soon and we’ll be launching shortly after. We’ve got our season plan, with season one and season two already ready to go. New cars are going to launch along with those and we’ve got a collaboration to announce as well.
Stay up-to-date with Mythical Games via its website.