On March 9th and 10th, NEO held its inaugural NEO GameCon in Akihabara, Tokyo. The conference was NEO’s first gaming-focused event and attracted more than 1500 attendees over the two days. Speakers included NEO leadership such as Da Hongfei, Erik Zhang, and Johnson Zhao; celebrities such as pop group 9nine, and TV show hosts from Tsukuriba; and ecosystem projects such as O3, MagicCube, and NEOLAND.
Day one began with an opening speech from NEO founder, Da Hongfei, who outlined the trends he had observed in the gaming industry. Da noted the move of software distribution from the physical to the digital, and the shift from PCs and consoles to mobile devices. “When the best game can be played with your mobile phone, everyone will play the game,” Da said.
Da stated that he believed blockchain would be the “backbone” of gaming in the future, citing three primary reasons. The first is that blockchain allows personal ownership of in-game assets, which are tradable and enable a free market. The second is that blockchain creates new avenues for games to acquire new players, through the issuance of tokens, airdrops, and profit sharing. Thirdly, Da believes that blockchain will disrupt the current value chain of the gaming industry, allowing independent game developers to have more influence than previously possible.
Finally, Da compared the blockchain gaming industry to the early days of mobile gaming, stating that the technology is currently immature, speeds are low, and graphics not perfect. However, Da believes the blockchain gaming industry has the potential to become one of the largest industries in the world.
The next speaker was John Wang, NGD director of ecosystem growth. Wang followed on from Da by stating that “blockchain is not a new type of game; it is a kind of game solution.”
He noted the interest in blockchain-based games by citing the high transaction volumes on games such as CryptoKitties, CryptoCountries, and Fomo3D, which reached as high as $3.8 million in one day. Wang also shared research that indicated simulation games with token integration had retention rates eight times higher than traditional simulation games over 30 days.
Wang stated that NEO aims to “provide a one-stop solution for the game developer,” by supporting multiple game engines and development languages, while also providing multiple distribution channels for its ecosystem projects. Looking forward, he also revealed that NEO was aiming to release a “Game Development Guide” in March and that NGD expects the release of more than 10 games before June.
Wang finished his presentation by stating that “Blockchain games may not be the future of the blockchain, but the games that use blockchain technology will be the future of games.”
Next up was a presentation of “CryptoFast,” a new racing game that is built using NEO technology. Founder Junyu Zhou joined panel hosts Cotton Taro, a media producer and MC, and Minami Momochi, who describes herself as “the world’s first animetic idol” to talk about the game, which was demoed in a VS race by Japanese pop sensation, 9nine.
CryptoFast is a simulation car racing game where players can purchase, customise, and race cars in tournaments. In addition, developers will be able to contribute content to the game by designing cars, race tracks and other game modes. New additions to the game will need to be voted in by token holders, and revenue is distributed amongst content creators. Players will also be able to sell advertising space on in-game assets such as cars or race tracks, and there will be unique license plates available through auction.
The CryptoFast development team will create initial game assets, and gradually transition to the community development model.
After a short break, TV Tokyo show Tsukuriba took to the NEO GameCon stage with hosts Hyakka Ryoran and Haruku Ishida to talk about “New generation games and game music.” Discussing the topic was Hiroto Sasaki, who has worked on music for games such as Tekken and Time Crisis 4, Emi Hirayama, famous for her work as a voice actress on “The iDOLM@STER,” and Shoutarou Kaizuka, a music producer for Japan’s oldest record label, Nippon Columbia.
Traditional panels followed Tsukuriba; The first was a discussion on “The future of Games and Blockchain” featuring NGD general manager, Johnson Zhao. Also on the panel was Guangyu Su, vice president of DMM Games and Takashi Seiko, President of Real World Games Co., Ltd, moderated by Kurokawa Fumio.
The second panel focused on “How to use blockchain to distribute NFTs,” moderated by NGD ecosystem growth director, Miki Hayama. Hayama was joined by Keigo Minamiguchi, a Kyoto University student and NEO community developer, Kazuhiro Koiso, from VALU Inc, and Ito Yusuke of the Hakuhodo Blockchain Initiative.
Tsukuriba then returned for a “next generation games special” to a stage packed with guests. Cotton Taro, Minami Momochi, and 9nine reappeared and were joined by Kishida Mel, an anime and game illustrator, Dogma Kazami, a popular gaming streamer, and Ao Hibiki, an anime “virtual YouTuber.”
The guests took part in judging for the “Game Ideathon,” which asked contestants to come up with creative concepts for next-generation games that included functionality enabled by NEO blockchain technology. The competition received 98 entries, with the ten finalists presenting their ideas during Tsukuriba on the NEO GameCon stage. Johnson Zhao also participated as a judge as the ten finalists were reduced down to four, receiving the opportunity to refine their ideas and return on day two to pitch for a JP¥500,000 prize.
Day two began with a speech from Johnson Zhao on “Blockchain and User Value” as it pertains to gaming. Johnson shared his musings on how to value the internet. He concluded that the amount of data created through time spent on the internet is a reflection of the internet’s value. Blockchain, therefore, has value because it allows data to be owned and traded as an asset.
Johnson told the audience about a friend from China who has played a virtual pet game for 15 years. Recently, the company who maintains the game has decided to close the service. As Johnson’s friend will no longer be able to access the game, losing his virtual pet after so many years is compared to “losing a family member.”
Johnson said that NEO would like to help developers migrate from traditional games to blockchain based games, where players will have full ownership and access to their data through technology such as NFTs, NeoFS, and NeoID. He noted that the technology doesn’t matter to players, only the gaming experience.
Following Johnson was the Yoyogi Animation Academy voice audition battle. The competition involved participants performing their best character voice auditions to be judged by NEO founder Erik Zhang and Matsumoto Kenichi, CEO of Blue Print, a game development company. Voice actors Kouno Marika and Matsumoto Rika hosted the event, the latter famous as the voice of Ash Ketchum (known as “Satoshi” in Japanese) from Pokemon. The winner received the NEO GameCon special award trophy.
After a short break, John Wang returned to the stage to reiterate many of the points from his presentation on day one. Sean Chen, the founder of BlaCat, followed by sharing a trailer of various games coming to the BlaCat platform including NEO.Girl, Blocklords, Sky of Mine, and CardMaker. Chen also revealed details of the BlaCat partnership plan, which includes benefits such as NFT certificates and permanent VIP status, which would usually cost US$12.99 per year.
Next was a panel on the topic “The future of Games and Blockchain.” Panelists included Wynne Ray from DMM.com OVERRIDE, Edison, founder of the NEO-NEXT development community, Hongyu Hu from Beosin blockchain security company, Shun Ishikawa, developer at blockchain game company DoubleJump.Toyko, and moderator Kurokawa Fumio.
NeoWorld creator Vilen Peng followed this presentation by showcasing an extended NEOLAND trailer. NEOLAND is a SecondLife-esque virtual world that allows players to build factories, businesses, and neighborhoods, and generate income from the profits.
After another short break, Tsukuriba returned for a day two appearance along with Dogma Kazami, Momochi Minami, Cotton Taro, Kishida Mel, Kaizuka Shotaro, and Hibiki Ao. The cast discussed various game technologies such as augmented reality and virtual reality, as well as receiving an overview of DoubleJump.Tokyo’s game MyCryptoHeroes from Shun Ishikawa.
The entire cast then remained on stage for the conclusion of the Game Ideathon, with the four finalists from day one returning to pitch refined ideas based on previous feedback. Johnson Zhao reappeared as a judge and was joined by Iida Yuki, executive chairman of LiveStreamers Inc. The final prize of JP¥500,000 was awarded to “Creative Old Gentlemen,” a concept for an API that would allow users to simply install online blockchain games. The panel was broadcasted live on TV Tokyo.
The final presentation of NEO GameCon was the launch of JobTribes, a game based on a best seller book titled “Japanese Salary & Job Dictionary.” Still in development, the JobTribes game story is under the care of Shin Kibayashi, a famous Japanese manga story writer. Haruhiko Mikimoto, an anime character designer who has worked on projects such as Astro Boy, is also involved with game development. The panel was comprised as follows: Shin Kibayashi, story writer; Yamada Konpe, the author of “Japanese Salary & Job Dictionary”; Yoshida Naohito, Eole inc CEO; Ohtsu Tamichi, game producer; Mori Kazutaka, blockchain lawyer at One Asia Lawyers; Tsurusaki Hiroshi, CEO of blockchain development company TecoTec Inc; and Ito Masayuki, WBO super featherweight world champion.
The event concluded with many speakers returning to the stage to present the Game Ideathon award to the “Creative Old Gentlemen” team. Da Hongfei made some closing comments, noting “blockchain technology is not mature yet, there are a lot of things to do and today we’re building the foundation for a future world.”