Rebecca Liao on Saga Origins and today’s mainnet launch

Saga announced Saga Origins, its fresh publishing division, alongside GDC in late March, and today, its Saga Mainnet launches.

At GDC, Rebecca Liao, co-founder and CEO of Saga, talked with us about Saga Origins and its aim to publish “provocative, expansive, and boundary-pushing” experiences that bigger studios won’t touch. With it, the company becomes the first web3 chain to establish a dedicated game publishing arm. It’s a full-service plan to bring new web3 games to a global mass market.

Saga is an ecosystem for companies that want to build and publish in the web3 space. The company’s mission is to create an environment for studios to build experiences using blockchain, and it’s received investment from the likes of Placeholder, Maven11, Longhash, Samsung, Com2uS, and Polygon. Developers can use Saga to launch their own “chainlets”. These chainlets can be used in parallel to power decentralized apps or support games on other chainlets within the Saga network. Today, Saga launches its blockchain mainnet, following its successful test phase. Anybody can publish to this ecosystem, but Saga Origins will specifically publish and support its own portfolio of associated titles.

Saga Origins: becoming a publisher

During GDC last month, we sat down with Saga’s co-founder and CEO, Rebecca Liao. She joined at a bustling café in San Francisco to discuss her philosophy and roadmap. Firstly, why go to the effort to launch a new publishing house at all?!

“Honestly, a lot of people are shocked that any layer-1 chain would take on the effort to do this because being a publishing house is A Lot,” laughs Liao. “But we felt that the gamers deserved it. Because so far, blockchains have taken the perspective that it’s on the games to bring users to the chain. And so the games have had to undertake the effort of user acquisition, retention, all of that.”

Rebecca Liao spoke about Saga Origins and the Saga Multiverse last month in San Francisco.

In traditional mobile and console gaming, platforms and stores play a big role in discoverability. “It’s much more efficient for the platforms to do it,” continues Liao. “As a chain, we are the platform. We have the resources, scale, and reach. And therefore, we’re going to take on the responsibility of user acquisition, creating game awareness, fostering the community, and doing this across a portfolio.”

It’s clear Liao feels Saga is uniquely positioned to do this. It already had its Innovator Program and supported games on its chain with play-to-airdrop rewards. It seems they had a nudge in the right direction from developers and investor Samsung, making the shift feel natural. Saga play-to-airdrop campaigns were already supporting new games in going to market. “It’s a simple idea: you play a game, and then the leaderboards are eligible for airdrops. But in that way, we were already starting to sponsor user acquisition,” Liao tells us.

“A few of the game-makers piped up, ‘Would you consider publishing this?’” Liao continues. “I have to give a lot of credit to Samsung as well, which is one of our main investors. Their head of gaming said, ‘You have what it takes because you are the machinery for go-to-market for a lot of these games.’ He also looked at the team and noted that we have a very strong creative point of view. We like content that’s provocative and makes people think and feel deeply. The games we naturally gravitated towards, and the developers we spent time interacting with, were starting to congregate around a select few games. This is the beginning of a portfolio! So it all happened quite organically.”

Even before the publishing house was announced, Saga had some 340 products building on its platform (“80% of that is gaming, 10% is for pure NFT and the rest is DeFi”).

New games, creative freedom

The new games Saga Origins has signed will be revealed closer to Gamescom. We asked Liao if there is a specific type of web3 game they are seeking.

“The three words we use to set the criteria for any title we consider are provocative, expansive and uncompromising,” says Liao. “So we’ll work with the most difficult game developers out there, right?! But we love them dearly. Saturday morning, one called me and said, ‘I don’t think there’s enough blood in this.’ You know what, if you wake up in the morning, talk about blood, and still feel good? That’s your experience? Go for it! We’re all about creative freedom. So there is starting to emerge a very notable type of Saga Origins game, for sure.”

“I will say why we were attracted to the very first game we signed. We had never seen a web3 game like it before and frankly not a traditional game like it before, so that was unique,” says Liao, maintaining a sense of mystery about it at this stage. “Fundamentally, it’s a survival game, but there are elements of horror as well. There is a little bit of a cinematic TV show quality to it. It’s a very gritty depiction of American life. The first time that I saw a demo for it, I just had to have more. He showed me pages and pages of [gory] assets, and that’s why we decided to publish his game. That’s probably the first thing to look forward to: a survival horror game.

“And the second one is much more cinematic. It’s an MMORPG, which can be a very complicated category to work with. There are fantasy elements to it. It’s not so much the lore that people are interested in but the cinematic quality of it. Those are a few we’re working hard on, but we would like to find a few more before the year is done.”

Blockchain games go mainstream?

Over the years, traditional gamers have expressed some resistance to blockchain games. There was a sense at GDC that web3 games might genuinely be making an impact on the wider games scene.

“During the bear [market], traditional gaming was solidly against web3 gaming, and that would be the thing that I would offer as the biggest challenge then,” says Liao. “But now I think it’s changing a bit, especially because the reality is traditional gaming is not doing as well right now. So they’re looking for new revenue opportunities. They’re never going to do anything that drives the gaming community away permanently, which, honestly, leaning into some of these highly speculative web games could. I think the big web2 publishers and studios are still wary about this space, but some of the [web3] games you’re seeing now are quality games. And I think we’re about to share something very new.

“The first time you saw web3 games, a lot of those were templated games; that’s the only way you can get to market that quickly. But a lot of the games that are coming to market now were in development all this time, and so they’ve taken the time to build something awesome. I give a lot of credit to the game developers because it’s difficult enough to build a great game without introducing anything new. But they have managed to create great experiences and actually incorporated the chain, the web3 element, in a meaningful way. I am excited, and I think that it’s going to get even better.”

Community and user acquisition opportunities

“We return to first principles a lot. How a community starts is incredibly important,” says CEO Rebecca Liao, about building user communities for acquisition and retention. “It has to have a strong set of values and a personality to start, and that’s what you build a community around. One of the nice things about crypto is that the smart contract function allows you to build meta games very easily. That is usually the last step; when we publish, we’ll bring game awareness in the market, we’ll get the media and content creators and influencers on board, really play-test the game. Then we sponsor the user acquisition quite heavily, so it’s about getting users on board and making sure that they’re retained. The last piece is fostering that community. Now, hopefully, if we’ve done the first steps right and we know what those values are, we’ll know what the creative point of view of the developer is. Communities tend to congregate and types of UGC start to pop up, people start to interact with the game developer to give them ideas to feed back into the game. Every time we hop into Discords of these games, the dopamine loop is pretty strong! And it’s amazing to see because all the connections are quite genuine.”

Rogue Nation from Moonlit Games is already plugged into the Saga Multiverse.

She adds: “It’s crypto of course so people get excited about the potential of tokens and NFTs – there is a speculative aspect. But I think at the heart of it, if you do your job right, then there is that creative perspective too. There are those values that the community holds dear, and social connections, which are very important.”

User acquisition can be expensive, which is a significant factor in the success or failure of mobile games. Are things easier once you introduce a web3 element? “One thing is that web3 gaming is still small, to be honest,” says Liao. “It doesn’t take long for people to know about your game. But for your game to actually do well, it’s still an expensive proposition. I would say the thing about crypto is because the speculative nature of it is so prevalent, you probably need to work a little harder for that user retention because there’s always something else to move on to.”

Rebecca Liao draws our attention to how comparatively few gamers a web3 game needs in order to be considered a success, compared to the more mature mobile market. “Our aspiration at Saga has always been that we need to be competitive with wider gaming,” she tells us, remembering that “someone asked a top web3 game how many monthly active users [they had]. It was perhaps 50,000. In wider gaming, a game that only has 50,000 MAUs – unless everybody in there is a whale! – is generally considered a failure. Even a million MAUs would often not be considered a great launch! You really need to get to five to seven million users. So we have our work cut out for us.”

There are advantages to working in the blockchain space, though. Airdrops are common ways to incentivise the community, and Saga has noticed a flywheel effect.

Web3 metaverse Another World is already part of the broader Saga ecosystem.

“We said we will airdrop Saga tokens to the leaderboards of these new games,” says Liao of their play-to-airdrop plan. “The games started to get accepted, and [the studio] said, ‘Well, we might have a token ourselves, or we have NFTs. So we will do our own airdrop as well.’ And then the streamers get on board and say, ‘Hey, we will airdrop to users.’ And then sometimes we have partner chains that these games are also building on. And they definitely want tokens or other prizes to giveaway. So it’s not just a single airdrop that the players are getting, it becomes double, triple, however many airdrops. There is a community aspect to this as well; the prizes start to pile on, the excitement starts to build. I see a lot of that dynamic, community-building aspect.”

While Saga will work with web3-specific influencers to promote games, they’ve also signed with artists’ agency William Morris Endeavor to meet traditional streamers, influencers and content creators, so flagship titles will be promoted on the biggest channels. “So we are already starting to cross the divide,” says Liao.

Saga Mainnet is now live

Saga is launching its Mainnet today. This enables developers to build for mass adoption, scaling their infrastructure while maintaining the user experience of a single application through the deployment of chainlets. Saga executed a rigorous testnet named Pegasus in October 2023, which resulted in over 200 new chainlets, encountered more than 14.5 million wallet addresses, and exceeded 59 million transactions.

The official trailer and announcement for the Saga Mainnet, which came online today.

Liao told the press, “Our Mainnet launch is the culmination of over two years of tireless work by our Saga core team to offer the most performant, lowest-cost infrastructure possible to web3 developers. As proud and excited as we are to soon share this release with our Innovators and broader community, it’s only the beginning. When projects come online, games and entertainment content come to life, the Saga economy becomes the engine of our ecosystem, and our Multiverse truly begins.”

The Saga Mainnet Phase One has been described as “Layer-1 to launch Layer-1s” and comes with over 350 projects and over 100 partners already building on it. Fast bridging and interoperability, no gas fees to end users and elastic scaling make for exciting news today. Another World, Rogue Nation and ETHERNITY are games already part of the ecosystem.

As part of the Mainnet launch phases, Saga will prepare to airdrop its SAGA token to various stakeholders of the Saga chain and also regularly distribute loot boxes containing over 100 of their partners’ tokens to Saga stakers.

“Our Saga Mainnet has been a labour of love, and this launch sees our dreams of creating the best possible platform for game developers come to fruition,” said Rebecca Liao in today’s statement. “This achievement of realizing what our Multiverse is capable of is only possible through the collaboration with our extensive network of supportive partners, our Saganaut community, and our amazing game developers.”

CEO and co-founder Rebecca Laio delivers her Saga Origins keynote in March 2024.

To learn more about the Saga protocol, check out its website for the litepaper and developer documentation. You can follow the Mainnet launch on Twitter. For more web3 conference talks and panels, join and in Dubai in May. An edited version of this interview with Rebecca Laio is also available on

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