The success of Bitcoin’s secure global ledger has inspired creative minds to explore far beyond the boundaries of Bitcoin’s 2008 whitepaper. By standing on the shoulders of Bitcoin‘s robust and simple payment protocols, programmable blockchains like Neo and Ethereum are able to offer decentralized financial services, derivatives, and even gaming applications.
As one of the first blockchain game studios, 0xGames has its hands in several projects and blockchains already. 0xGames is the development studio behind 0xUniverse – one of the most popular blockchain games. It is also the creator of 0xWarriors and 0xRacers, both of which incorporate the Neo blockchain into their game worlds.
Colin Closser of Neo News Today recently caught up with Alexander Fedorchuk, the chief marketing officer of 0xGames, to talk about the company’s blockchain games, its business, and its future with Neo.
NNT – Colin: Part of your role is managing communities — one of the first things I wanted to ask you about was your playerbase. Everything stems from your playerbase. It looks like 0xUniverse has a pretty good community rolling already. Can you talk about that at all?
Alexander Fedorchuk, 0xGames: Well, 0xUniverse is the flagship project. So, it started back in 2018 and the community kept slowly growing with some ups and downs. Now I think maybe it’s about 700-800 regular players, but there were peaks up to about 1,200 players a few times, mainly when updates were released.
Colin: Daily players that publish a transaction?
Alex: Yeah. Right now it’s around 800 for 0xUniverse.
We always see these ups, we release something and new players come in, or there are promotional activities done. As is usual for marketing, there is a rise in the number and then it drops a bit.
It’s a little bit tricky when it comes to getting non-crypto users on board, so they join for a while, maybe they don’t understand everything and then fall off.
Colin: So you get a peak but then maybe 10% or 20% of those players become regular players and then the others drift off until the next update?
Alex: Well, something like that.
I noticed, back in October/November  when we ran Facebook ad campaigns, we saw these numbers of new players increase dramatically. But, most of those players were non-crypto users so they weren’t so familiar. And sadly, the retention wasn’t as perfect as we would like it to be. So it’s a continuous work in progress trying to improve user experience for non-crypto guys.
Colin: I noticed that in 0xUniverse there was specifically a fiat section designed to onboard people who are no-coiners quickly. So they get set up with a bundle of in-game items, and also some crypto, to publish more transactions. Is that available worldwide?
Alex: We’re trying to make this an easy process. There are these three fiat bundles. They can pick one that suits them best, usually, that’s the cheapest one because it has two common planets and one rare.
The payment processing is not so difficult, you just get the bundle and it redirects you to the card processing window.
Colin: I was thinking that the focus of this game was exploration. I’ve noticed that there are some differences between blockchain game design and traditional game design, both for revenue and for player experience.
A lot of blockchain games, because they’re basically built on top of a financial application, are centered more around an economy model, where there’s frequently some type of way for the player themselves to monetize the game – As opposed to the traditional PC game where you pay $60 for a AAA title, and you own the game. But no matter how good you get while playing the game, you don’t get paid to play it.
And then that also extends to you, where if you get a large active player base, the revenue model is uncapped. For a large blockchain game, there’s almost no limit to how much revenue you could make with a successful blockchain game. As opposed to a traditional game publishing model where you get it in $60 increments unless there’s a season pass or you’re selling loot boxes or something.
That’s more of a steady model, whereas this seems like more of an exponential model. Do you agree with that, and do you have any insight on that observation?
Alex: Huh, that’s an interesting observation. I’ve noticed that the main income, the flow of revenue — monetization in general, it does indeed depend a lot on retention. The main thing about it that I know, and my team sees this potential when our blockchain games are concerned, it’s that we need to work on retention. There’s not much of a cap on potential growth.
You’ve got to build a trustful community, you have to bring in more players, and you have to work on this retention so that the revenue flow doesn’t depend so much on seasonal peaks.
Colin: So it seems like you’re working on building more daily players – a community – and maybe the type of business that they bring in by referring friends is better than the average Facebook redirect or purchase.
Alex: You mentioned referring friends, and it’s good that you mentioned that, because it was a pretty effective and beneficial way to grow the playerbase. About 12% of our new users came from our referral program last year.
Now, it’s closer to 10%, but these people that came from the referral program, they stayed and they helped with the overall reviewer ratings for the game. That has an impact on overall monetization and retention.
When we look at Android or App Store reviews, there were some negative reviews from people unfamiliar with crypto that don’t understand this. That reflects badly on the overall image and retention. That’s another focus, getting people to refer friends, and running referral programs. Our team thinks that this, along with working on user experience, should help with the growth in general.
Colin: Overall, using the 0xUniverse and also the Warriors app, I was surprised at how polished they were. I don’t think anything like this existed two years ago with this level of design and polish.
Alex: Yeah! There is still a lot of room for improvement. Right now, blockchain games are mainly seen as a way to play and profit. It’s the profit aspect that many of our current players see first. Maybe when more potential players join our blockchain games, they will see that profiting, yes it’s great, but it’s not just about profiting.
Colin: Right, this is an exploration game, and for me, spending 0.01 ETH, it was more about being around the atmosphere of space exploration. It’s beautiful, the imagery is beautiful. I’m never going to make any money off of 0xUniverse, but I didn’t have to. You spend time in the world of space exploration, that’s almost what you’re selling to most people, or the casual user.
Alex: Actually, we have quite a bunch of players who do profit! So I think you may profit as well, if you put in some time, some effort [laughs]. There are some working strategies. If you’re into the game just for profits, it’s okay, you discover planets, you analyze the markets, and the current community is surprisingly quite helpful when you need some tips on how to better earn from playing 0xUniverse.
If you’re into this, our community is mostly active on Discord. We have Discord servers for each of our games.
I think our community — what a lot of players say — is one of the least toxic ones. A lot of blockchain communities are seen as toxic, because everyone thinks, “You’re coming into a community, just for money. It’s blockchain. What else is it good for?” We’re trying to change that image. I don’t want our games to be seen as just for profit.
Colin: One of the things that occurred to me when I was playing 0xUniverse – because I was buying cheap planets, and picking the lowest transaction fees — transaction times were okay, 10 or 20 minutes, picking the cheapest options — half the funds went towards transaction fees. That is like a loss for the project in terms of financials.
That is one of the differences between running everything on Ethereum, where you have the community that you need, and running everything on Neo, where you could keep close to 100% of the assets that are sent your way because you’re not playing $0.20 or $0.30 transaction fees. Is this one of the reasons that the team is branching out to other blockchains such as Neo and Tron?
Alex: So, to start off — 0xUniverse was created on Ethereum, because at the time, there was almost no other blockchain — in 2018, it was the only blockchain that the team saw as fit for launching blockchain games.
Transaction fees are a known thing that maybe not everyone is happy about in terms of Ethereum.
We decided to try out different chains when we were building 0xWarriors and when we launched the 0xRacers alpha. We thought that other blockchains would allow for more transactions and cheaper playability. Cheaper transactions, faster times — that’s one benefit, indeed. But I think it’s bringing different communities from different chains into this ecosystem, that’s another. Players from different chains play against each other, like in 0xRacers or 0xWarriors, that was another principal benefit of branching out and trying different chains.
Colin: It’s interesting to see all the different blockchains supported in one game. It reminds me of centralized exchanges, which are someplace where the different blockchains come together financially and are traded against each other. If Neo has the tech, but Ethereum has the community, and then you build a game that supports both, people can join with Ethereum at first and then adopt something with lower transaction fees for their daily playing, even if they’re not heavily invested in one blockchain or the other.
It seems like another “node” where blockchains meet, and this hasn’t existed before, it’s interesting for me to see.
Alex: Yes, that’s pretty interesting, and I have to mention that 0xUniverse is not yet on Neo — but we ran some surveys of what the 0xUniverse community thinks about getting other chains integrated. We asked about Neo, EOS, Tron — Neo was pretty popular and more popular than we anticipated.
Colin: Yeah, this is new, I mean, blockchain is new, but games built on blockchain is even more new. It’s a small industry, I checked dApp Radar, and 0xUniverse is one of the most-used apps on Ethereum, period!
Alex: Yeah, dApp Radar ran some statistics regarding community growth, player retention, and community size, and 0xUniverse was placed in the top five if I remember correctly.
Colin: Yeah, right now on Ethereum it’s placed in-between Uniswap and Kyber [laughs] That’s not too bad! It seems like the transaction count is highest for dice games on proof-of-stake blockchains because people gamble these little amounts, but in terms of actual users, it’s way up there.
So, if a game supports three blockchains, let’s say, Tron, Ethereum, and Neo, then you would need a multi-asset wallet or an address for each blockchain?
Alex: All of our games now support Arkane Wallet. Arkane allows you to use every chain, and we also have our own 0xWallet wallet. It’s still a little bit rough around the edges — a work in progress, but it should allow you to play on every chain without the hassle of having to create an EOS account, for instance. A while back, that was very difficult. Arkane is easy to set up.
Colin: And then, you deploy at least one smart contract on each of the blockchains — I noticed that on Ethereum, the smart contract for launching spaceships was different than the smart contract for buying planets.
Alex: Yep, exactly.
Colin: Do you want to plug your upcoming racing game, 0xRacers? I saw you recently finished a sale for Neo.
Alex: Sure! Basically, we are trying to bring in more Neo racers into the community.
Colin: I saw there was Neo-specific racetracks. What kind of a game is this going to be, a first-person game, or is this a race management game?
Alex: 0xRacers is a racing management game. You will have different strategies, you will have perks you can pick. It’s still not in beta, but it should be in one or two months. You can get loot boxes and cars with different tiers, you can boost your car’s performance. But you don’t drive the cars, you manage races. The development team is looking at some low-tier races and some all-tier races as well.
Right now, all the items are NFTs and once you get them, you have 100% ownership.
Colin: What do you want to tell Neo diehards about 0xGames?
Alex: Well, we are always welcoming new players, no matter what blockchain community they are coming from. But the Neo community is a very big and friendly one, so, I’d say that I would personally invite those who would like to try something new, to keep an eye on 0xUniverse our flagship project, and since that’s running smoothly — we might have a small Neo galaxy for that as well in the future.
So, I’d say that we have a pretty friendly community, and I would be glad if Neo guys came in for a chat. You don’t even have to buy something from the games — just let us know about what you think and any suggestions you might have as a new player.
We care about feedback, we try to work on that.
Colin: I give you guys credit for building something new. Honestly, I’ve been impressed with the user experience. I think between the level of art — the art for the universe, and the art on the 0xRacing promos — we can see the beginnings of a sector, a legit business. It could become something, where as two or three years ago, this did not exist. I see this as being clearly good enough to make it, so keep it up. There is some impressive talent, a lot of time has been put into some of these cars.
Alex: We hope that our players see our work as good, so we will try to keep it up!
About the cars, before I forget, these car models, some of the artists who worked on those as well as the 0xUniverse assets, have good experience in game development. Our guys learned a lot from the traditional game industry, and we kind of take pride in that.
Colin: Yeah, I could tell — I was looking at the art, and I was like, “Oh, a Ford Mustang!” “Oh, another car” — and then I realized, that’s not just another car, that’s a Pagani! [Laughs] You guys modeled a Pagani! The level of detail.
If you don’t tell them, I’ll tell them! Go check it out.
Alexander Fedorchuk is Chief Marketing Officer of 0xGames.