Delabs’ Joonmo Kwon on making fun web3 games despite volatile market

As the year draws to an end, we’re asking some of the key members of the blockchain gaming sector what they thought about what happened in 2023, and what they expect in 2024. You can check out all our interviews in this series here.

Joonmo Kwon is the CEO and co-founder of South Korean Delabs Games, the developer of Rumble Racing Star, Metabolts and Space Frontier.

What was the most significant industry news of 2023?

The most significant industry news of 2023 concerning BlackRock’s ETF approval by the SEC involves several key developments. Firstly, in July, Nasdaq refiled an application with the US securities regulator to list an exchange-traded fund by BlackRock that would reflect the price of Bitcoin, incorporating additional details into the filing. This move was made after the SEC raised concerns over the initial filings by Nasdaq, deeming them unclear and incomplete​​​​.

This development was part of a broader context in the digital asset space, which was seeking to regain popularity after a difficult 2022 that saw several crypto ventures collapse, including the notable implosion of Sam Bankman-Fried’s FTX​​. The SEC’s involvement extended beyond BlackRock’s ETF, as they had sued Coinbase for failing to register as an exchange and had previously rejected numerous spot bitcoin ETF applications, including one from Fidelity in January 2022. These rejections were based on the grounds that the filings did not meet standards designed to prevent fraudulent and manipulative practices and protect investors and the public interest​​​​.

The situation regarding BlackRock’s ETF application and its potential approval was significant in the industry for several reasons. It signaled a growing interest and legitimacy of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies in the mainstream financial market, represented by the involvement of BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager. However, the SEC’s cautious stance highlighted the regulatory challenges and concerns surrounding cryptocurrency-based financial products.

How did the focus of your business change this year?

In light of the rapid changes in the web3 market in 2023, our company has had to dynamically adjust aspects of our go-to-market strategy, especially in how we engage with web3 users. Despite this, the overall web3 (crypto) market faced a 10% decline in the third quarter of 2023, although it remained 35% higher year-to-date, indicating a volatile yet growing market​​. This period of instability was further compounded by a cooling in the sector, with regulatory uncertainties contributing to a substantial reduction in deal values​​.

The evolving narrative in the crypto space, marked by the continuation of the “crypto winter” and the constant emergence and fading of trends, underlines the necessity for our company to not overly depend on the current market hype​​.

October 2023, for example, saw a remarkable 19% increase in crypto market capitalization, driven largely by optimism for the expected approval of a Bitcoin exchange-traded fund in the US, reflecting the market’s susceptibility to speculative movements and regulatory developments​​.

In response to these market dynamics, we’ve pivoted towards a strategy that leverages the intersection of gaming and crypto. Our initiative, such as the Premium Race, exemplifies this direction by integrating web3 technologies to provide a fluid reward mechanism in our gaming modes. However, despite these strategic shifts and the market’s fluctuations, our company’s core mission has steadfastly remained the same: to create fun and engaging games. Our enduring commitment is to craft high-quality gaming experiences that deliver enjoyment to our users, a focus that aligns with the broader trend of blending entertainment with emerging Web3 technologies.

What do you predict will be the most important trends in 2024?

In 2024, the web3 gaming industry is poised for significant growth, buoyed by encouraging developments in the crypto and web3 gaming markets. Recent months have seen a surge in investment and interest in this sector, signalling a bright future ahead.

Key trends to watch in 2024 include:

  • The arrival of eagerly awaited web3 games: A number of highly anticipated web3 games, currently in development, are expected to hit the market in the latter part of the year and early into the next. These games, some of which have already been showcased through playtests, are generating considerable excitement and promise to elevate the quality and appeal of web3 gaming.
  • A resurgence in web3 gaming: The upcoming lineup of games featuring web3 integrations, nearing their official releases, points to a resurgence in the web3 gaming sector. This revival is not just fuelled by the games themselves but is also a reflection of the broader recovery in the crypto market. This synergy between the gaming innovations and the revitalizing crypto landscape is set to propel web3 gaming to new heights.
  • Expanding reach and audience: With these developments, 2024 is shaping up to be a transformative year for web3 gaming, not only in terms of technological advancements but also in expanding its reach to a wider audience. The integration of web3 technology in gaming, combined with a recovering crypto market, is expected to attract more players and stakeholders, further establishing web3 gaming as a mainstream entertainment and investment avenue.

Overall, 2024 is a pivotal year for web3 gaming, marked by breakthroughs in game development, increased market investments, and a broader acceptance and enthusiasm among gamers and investors alike.

What was your favorite blockchain game of the year?

Rumble Racing Star stands out as my favorite web3 game of the year, primarily due to its exceptional gameplay and community-focused approach. The game is spearheaded by Beongryang Choi, a seasoned racing game designer with over two decades of experience in the gaming industry. Choi’s expertise is well-established, having served as the main director for Nexon’s Crazy Racing KartRider and as the director of ZIPI Racing at Disney, both of which are acclaimed racing games.

What sets Rumble Racing Star apart is its philosophy of being more than just a game; it’s a vibrant ecosystem for player engagement and interaction. The game is designed as a dynamic platform that fosters community involvement, competitive racing, and social networking. This approach elevates Rumble Racing Star beyond the realm of a typical casual racing game, creating a space where players are not only participants but also contributors whose efforts are recognized and rewarded. This unique blend of community integration and innovative gameplay is what makes Rumble Racing Star a standout in the web3 gaming landscape and my top choice for the year.

What’s your New Year’s resolution and what resolution would you enforce on the industry?

For the new year, our resolution at Delabs Games is to revolutionize the web3 gaming experience. We’re keenly aware of the limitations inherent in traditional “play-to-earn” models and are committed to creating a more sustainable and engaging alternative. This new direction is informed by a deep understanding of the nuanced relationship between gaming psychology and player satisfaction.

Our approach is grounded in two fundamental principles. First, it empowers players to monetize their interactions and ownership within the game. Second, it encourages a deeply engaged community, valuing player feedback and user-generated content to drive the game’s continuous evolution. This strategy not only boosts player involvement but also aligns our objectives with those of our players. 

Rumble Racing Star is the embodiment of this community-centric philosophy. Far more than just a game, it’s envisioned as a dynamic platform for community engagement, friendly competition, content creation, and social interaction. We see Rumble Racing Star as a hub, transcending the bounds of a typical casual racing game, where players’ contributions are both acknowledged and rewarded, thereby enhancing the overall gaming experience. As we progress, Delabs Games is dedicated to fostering this interactive, vibrant, and fulfilling gaming ecosystem.

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