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Game On!: Seven Questions With Animoca Brands’ Yat Siu

NFTs have become somewhat of a buzzworld in the gaming industry. Gaming titan Ubisoft has announced NFT drops in Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Breakpoint, and on New Year’s Day, Japanese gaming studio Square Enix’s President Yosuke Matsuda announced that NFTs and blockchain gaming were some trends they were eyeing for the future.

Last November, gaming studio Electronic Arts also told investors that NFTs will become an “important part” of the future of the gaming industry. 

And this is the area that Animoca Brands is looking at. The Hong Kong-based game software company specialises in blockchain gaming, and the firm’s chairman and co-founder, Yat Siu, said he expected demand for digital assets to grow as virtual worlds become more popular. 

As part of TechStorm’s new Game On! series, in which we speak to the movers and shakers of the gaming industry – we spoke with Animoca Brand’s co-founder, Yat Siu, on how the attractiveness of blockchain, the metaverse and what games he plays. 

TechStorm: Animoca Brands is big on blockchain gaming and NFTs – what is it about these concepts that make it more attractive than others?

Yat Siu: The main benefit of blockchain gaming is digital property rights. Blockchain game assets can be truly owned and controlled by players, who can benefit from their assets accordingly – such as trading assets legally in secondary markets. This helps to correct the problem that game publishers currently own everything and gamers own nothing (they merely rent games and content). Very similarly to what happened in the physical world, property rights and control of virtual assets will lead to economic freedom, resulting in a more equitable digital landscape.

There’s also the concept of interoperability. On blockchain, game assets are no longer limited to an existence in a single “walled garden” game; instead, gamers can use their blockchain game asset NFTs in any other supported games or metaverses.

Blockchain games also provide unique DeFi opportunities such as staking of assets (passively generating revenue over time by temporarily locking assets) and liquidity mining. 

Additionally, play-to-earn becomes possible in blockchain games. We already have users who earn thousands of dollars a month in our games REVV Racing and F1® Delta Time, and we see a future in which the hard work and investment that all players put into their games can have the potential to be rewarded.

TechStorm: Animoca Brands is teaming up with K-pop groups to launch NFTs – how does it plan to do so and how does this dovetail into the metaverse?

Yat Siu: K-pop and Korean culture in general is popular around the world, and we see an opportunity to work with Cube Entertainment to bring their roster of artists and their fans to the open metaverse and the benefits enabled by blockchain.

At this stage we cannot disclose more information about the joint venture. Please stay tuned for upcoming updates.

TechStorm: How does Animoca Brands plan to make a name for itself in the metaverse – given it’s planning to compete in the system?

Yat Siu: The metaverse that Animoca Brands and our subsidiaries and partners envision will be open, will serve the interests of the majority, and will be governed by a majority interest (the users). This is completely different from closed metaverses with centralized control. In fact, I don’t think that a closed system can properly be called a metaverse – it’s just another game world or a social media platform, not very different from the many that have come before.

We believe that the future of our online experience is open – not closed or proprietary.

TechStorm: There are plans to make Animoca Brands’ “The Sandbox” platform a prime entertainment destination – what can consumers expect? 

Yat Siu: The Sandbox is already well on track to becoming a prime entertainment destination. It is generally considered one of the top metaverse offerings, and boasts an impressive list of pop culture partners ranging from The Walking Dead to Snoop Dogg. These mainstream IPs help to draw in mainstream fans – there are already half a million wallets connected to the game.

The Sandbox will continue to get bigger and better. It is now available in alpha, so you can experience the voxel metaverse right now.

TechStorm: When you first started Animoca Brands back in 2014, did you envision that the brand would grow so rapidly into a unicorn company in less than a decade?

Yat Siu: When you set up a company, the vision is to eventually make it a significant success, so yes, I did envision and hope that the brand would grow powerfully. Much of our growth has occurred in the last year or two, so it’s been very rapid.

This is our first unicorn, and it’s important to remember that before we reached our current valuation (over US$2.2 billion based on our last fundraise), we worked on the company for years, in some cases seeing our value drop. It’s been a long road and a lot of work.

We’ve been working on gaming in some capacity for 20 years, and almost exclusively on gaming for over a decade. In 2014 we set up Animoca Brands as a mobile game developer, and In 2018 we pivoted to focus on blockchain, NFTs, and the metaverse. It was a move that some considered risky back then, but it proved to be the right one.

TechStorm: What’s the next big plan we can expect to see from Animoca Brands over the next 12 months?

Yat Siu: Expect more mergers and acquisitions, more investments, and more innovative products like Phantom Galaxies, The Sandbox, and REVV Racing. We will continue to grow and contribute to the building of the open metaverse, one that will be based on user governance instead of being controlled by corporations and minority interests. A metaverse where everyone will have the freedom and the right to own and control their assets and data. 

TechStorm: What’s your favourite (video or mobile) game? 

Yat Siu: That’s a tough question. There are so many great games to choose from that it’s difficult to narrow it down. 

In terms of mobile games, I think that our own Crazy Defense Heroes is a great game. 

In terms of some of the greatest and most impactful games of all time, there’s a lot to choose from in any era, but for nostalgia reasons I would go back to the 1980s, which was a time of great innovation with so many groundbreaking games for home computers. Among my personal favourites, the top one is probably Elite on the C64, boasting procedurally generated worlds and a primitive form of AI to create a vast universe for the player to explore. Worthy mentions include The Bard’s Tale series (I-III), Bloodwych, Speedball 2, Dungeon Master, The Last Ninja, Populous…. the list could go on!

*Featured image from Animoca

By Samantha Chan \ 09:30am, 6 January 2022

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