How InfiniGods is building its interoperable gaming ecosystem for mobile
As part of his regular Blockchain Gaming World podcast, Jon Jordan talks to InfiniGods’ co-founder Owen O’Donoghue about his entry into blockchain games, and how the company is building out an interoperable ecosystem of games using the same NFTs, and with a particular focus on mobile gaming.
This transcription has been edited for length and clarity.
BlockchainGamer.biz: Can you tell us about your history in gaming?
Owen O’Donoghue: I spent 15 years in technology that turned into gaming roles. I joined Microsoft pretty much straight out of college, and worked on the launch of Halo 3, seeing how these big brands could be delivered to a big audience. Then I was fortunate to join Facebook in their European HQ in Dublin when it opened in 2010, when we were trying to figure out what was Facebook’s commercial value, which is when free-to-play gaming took off.
We get players in a funnel for a cost and see if they retain and if they retain, we monetize them. So it was interesting to see on Facebook, there were these basic gameloop-type games like FarmVille, which was a simple game but incredibly addictive and incredibly monetizing.
This tripped the finance side of my brain seeing that games aren’t all showbiz upfront, a lot of it’s a live operations product. That really colored my thinking on the industry and where I spent the last decade with Facebook was building out our business, moving from those desktop games to our role in mobile, particularly with Apple and Google Play, and becoming a provider of organic and paid traffic for those games.
During that time I moved to Silicon Valley and during that decade Meta was constantly seeing new business models for gaming come on the scene. Daily fantasy sports were huge in 2014, then we had in-app advertising for hypercasual games, which dominates the top downloads right now. But it was thought of as a nothing business until 2016 and people figured out they could do ad arbitrage, creating huge companies like Voodoo, Applovin, etc. Then towards the end of the decade, we had Cloud and Instant Games.
Then in 2017/2018 I saw blockchain coming and really felt this was something revolutionary. Of course, then it was people trading Bitcoin or Ripple, Litecoin, Bitcoin Cash, but by 2020 we started to see Axie Infinity, NBA Top Shot etc. CryptoKitties was actually a client at Meta as well.
When we studied those games, in particular CryptoKitties, it showed if somebody owned the assets and there was some sort of value they could trade outside the game, the retention numbers were off-the-charts. They were way bigger than anything we’d seen free-to-play gaming and even console gaming. There was something there but over the past two years, the industry has decided these are financial products. Everyone created a whitepaper – here’s an NFT, here’s a token. Somehow there’s liquidity!
But myself and my co-founder Damon, we said we think this is actually a real big level up for free-to-play gaming, because now people can not only rent [buy] stuff from the game developer, they can actually own it. And as a game developer, now you can start to build scarcity into your games in a meaningful way.
And then the second thing is we firmly believe blockchain gaming actually adds real value for a gamer, not a speculator. It says parts of your economy will not be closed. You can say ‘Only players can trade those assets between themselves’. So you can introduce sell side economics into your economy. And we think that’s huge because that gets more people involved in the games.
Also from a developer perspective that means you can monetize more players and you can retain them for longer. And so that’s a very long-winded answer where it came from and why I got into InfiniGods, but maybe it helps explain why I passionately believe in this space and where it’s going.
Can you explain the theme of InfiniGods and its mythology?
When we were thinking about IP, we asked what’s free IP? And this was one of the categories that came up. A lot of people know Zeus and Poseidon and it can scale globally because every part of the planet has some sort of mythological lore.
So I think the consumer will understand their value very quickly. And we started with the elder gods because that sets the stage where these are the most powerful characters across the universe. You probably all know the names and what’s funny in mythology, a lot of them have children or they have other heroes or monsters associated with them, so it’s pretty much almost an endless catalogue of IP.
The other thing is there’s a big economy of scale so games can be completely different genres, but from an art perspective, from even a storytelling perspective, it actually enables us to move much faster. And that colors a lot of our decisions because it’s about failing fast. It’s about shipping product and figuring out what works and what doesn’t work and scaling what works. We have three games now across the same IP and the same shared mythology. And game four, five and six are in the pipeline
Obviously we also think having shared NFT assets is really cool. It’s one of our pillars. Gamers can have a character which gives access to do things in other games. And if somebody else wants to build a game around those characters, good luck, away they can go.
You have an interesting play-to-earn model but using NFTs not tokens. Can you explain it?
If you complete a level on InfiniMerge with three stars, you get some of these followers. They’re actually power-ups in the game, so you can use them to help you score higher. So people who play just for fun, they really want followers, but they can never earn enough of them. We don’t sell them directly.
But players can sell them to other players using our platform. They can bundle up followers into an Ark NFT and sell them. That’s the value. We firmly believe if you introduce sell-side economics into free-to-play games, you still keep a lot of demand-side in there. You don’t need every single item to be sell-side. Certainly not yet. The market’s not there. Gamers aren’t there yet.
Payers in your game will continue to pay. They don’t really care about like speculation. They want those items because it helps them be better at the game or achieve whatever they want to do in the game. But then for players, what we’ve seen is players who are non-payers. So they play our games a lot, but they have actually never bought our Elder Gods NFTs or our game passes to give you access to different tournaments, or they’ve never bought Arks.
But for them, the situation is they can play the game and trade some of the things they’ve earned over time. They pay a mint price to us to create the Ark but we’ve been very careful around our economics where typically over the last five months, people are consistently able to mint for $10 and sell an Ark for an average of $22. For us this opens up that more people are getting over that psychological hump of paying and they’re participating in the economy.
What’s the plan for the next six months?
We’re going out to the Epic Games Store with Immortal Siege in September, which is going to be really fun. That game will be going on mobile in the November timeframe, but we want to go Epic first.
And our game King of Destiny is going to be going live in September too. We’ll have a playable beta for players before then. We already have testflight builds and a Google Play version that we have about 2,000 testers on.
For InfiniMerge, we’re gonna keep that going browser-based for the rest of the year. We’re rolling out additional pantheons. We’ve got some more quests coming out as well. But with that product, we’re intending to take it mobile in Q1. So pretty much every quarter, we’re going with a big launch, and particularly a big mobile launch.
And to be very clear for each of the mobile launches, we have a very distinct growth strategy. We’ll be acquiring at least 100,000 players per game to understand and test our lifetime value versus cost of acquisition. We’ll be testing our viral channels. If things are working well for a game, we’ll keep it going. If it’s not hitting our metrics, put it into harvest mode, so keep it live but not doing a lot more content.
It sounds like you’re positive about distributing via app stores?
To be fair to Apple and to Google Play, they’re just trying to protect the consumer. That’s why if you earn a token through gameplay, they’ve pretty much said no. Apple also doesn’t like experiences gated by NFTs. But there are models that are working. NFL Rivals is scaling in mobile and we’ve seen the adjustments in Axie Origins, which is very interesting.
I think you need to play with these platforms. I think you need to be there. Going web only, there’s maybe 700 to 800,000 unique active wallets playing every day. The browser game-based market, it’s tiny for web3. You need to be where people are and where gamers are. And you need to have a model that actually makes it easy for them to participate too.
Check out what InfiniGods is doing via its website.