The Aqua marketplace team is committed to creating next-generation Web3 games with a focus on the gaming community, rather than high-volume traders or ‘degens.’ This initiative comes as part of the gaming industry’s transformation following the sharp rise and precipitous fall of the play-to-earn game, Axie Infinity, in 2021-2022.
Unlike other NFT marketplaces that encompass a wide array of Web3 services, Aqua.xyz is specifically designed for gamers. Their ethos is not to replicate the model of OpenSea; instead, Aqua targets individuals who are actual gaming enthusiasts. In partnership with Polygon Labs, Aqua offers games like Mojo Melee with easy Web3 on-ramps.
In an interview with Decrypt, Aqua CEO Sean Ryan and Head of Marketing Alay Joglekar shared insights about their unique approach to Web3 gaming economies, embedded marketplace designs for clients like Undead Blocks and Gods Unchained, and their perspectives on the future of the industry.
According to Ryan, Aqua’s NFT marketplace, which supports Ethereum and scaling networks Immutable X and Polygon, emphasizes the quality of assets over their financial components. This principle aligns with the interests of gamers, who prioritize the attributes of gaming assets over their price tags.
“We believe gaming is a substantial category and will dominate the Web3 categories,” said Ryan, an industry veteran with experience at Facebook and Sega. He further pointed out that gamers typically gravitate towards platforms that cater specifically to their interests and not just financial considerations.
Building Embedded Economies Aqua also provides a platform for Web3 game developers to create embedded marketplaces. Their team collaborates closely with game studios to identify the most effective strategies and implement a fully functional in-game NFT shop.
Ryan expressed that game projects often struggle with building marketplaces themselves due to a lack of expertise in the area. In his words, “What we found over the past six to nine months, talking to 50 to 75 developers, is that they would prefer someone to manage the marketplace for them, in an embedded manner that is more seamless than the way you see in Web2.”
Avoiding External Marketplaces for Better Player Retention Joglekar explained that any external marketplace, which requires gamers to minimize their game or switch tabs to make a purchase, can lead to player dropoff. He stressed, “The fact that you actually push people outside of the game client is probably the biggest rule-break in terms of game studios. The number one thing you want is retention.”
To create in-game marketplaces that seamlessly integrate into the games, Aqua’s team actively participates in its clients’ games. Joglekar, who previously worked at the well-known League of Legends publisher Riot Games, explained, “The thing that gamers care about the most is progression. We play games to have fun, not to make money. What we have to show them is if you buy this asset, you can then progress, and you’ll get better.”
We’re making games! Introducing AQUA Studios 🕹️
A new division of our ecosystem, Studios develops casual games to onboard the masses into web3 with fun game modes & cross-game utility based NFTs.
— AQUA.xyz (@aquadotxyz) March 17, 2023
Web3 Gaming: Trading and Beyond While trading forms a crucial aspect of Web3 gaming, its importance varies depending on the game. Developers’ sentiments have shifted considerably following Axie Infinity’s economic collapse and the subsequent massive $622 million hack on Axie’s Ronin sidechain in 2022.
Axie Infinity had popularized the concept of play-to-earn gaming and earning token rewards through gameplay. However, the game’s economy was unable to sustain long-term interest. Ryan believes that overtly financialized game designs, like that of Axie Infinity, will not see a resurgence in the near future.
According to Ryan, the initial phase of Web3 gaming involved people who didn’t even play the game but bought and sold assets, essentially functioning as ‘degens.’ Ryan noted, “That wasn’t that interesting, and those games collapsed, like Axie Infinity. ”Ryan emphasized that the future of Web3 gaming lies in improving the games themselves. He stated, “Our belief is that first the games will get better, because the first games were not very good.”
In this evolving scenario, Aqua.xyz is positioning itself as a platform that prioritizes the interests of gamers over high-volume traders. By developing a gaming-centric approach to Web3 economies, the team aims to shape the future of NFT gaming. They are not only creating an embedded marketplace design for their clients but also focusing on retention and user experience by preventing gamers from having to exit the game client to make purchases.
The team’s strategy involves playing the games themselves to understand gamers’ needs better. This empathetic approach has been instrumental in showing gamers how purchasing certain assets can enhance their gaming progression and overall experience.
In light of the Axie Infinity experience, Aqua.xyz is committed to developing robust game designs that can sustain long-term interest, thus avoiding the pitfalls of overly financialized models. The team’s focus on improving the quality of the games demonstrates their commitment to the gaming community and their belief in the potential of Web3 gaming.