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Crypto Unicorns announced a plan to give more governance control in its Web3 gaming ecosystem to the games most active players.
Created by Laguna Games, Crypto Unicorns has been a popular non-fungible token (NFT) game for collecting pets, farming and multiplayer battles. And today it is deploying version two of a staking contract, where players get rewards for holding on to NFTs, to begin distributing governance power for active players who hold on to its token for the long term.
Starting today, Crypto Unicorns players who’ve earned in-game badges since the game’s launch will be able to stake the NFT badges. Among the NFTs are participation and milestone badges as well as voting and governance badges. These new non-transferrable NFT badges can now be staked to improve each player’s relative voting power in the game’s governance.
Aron Beierschmitt, CEO of Laguna Games, the studio behind Crypto Unicorns, acknowledged the move is a big one. It’s an example of how a company can turn over a crypto game’s governance to its community through a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) and not go off the rails.
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“The thing that’s really fascinating is just these crazy human behavioral experiments,” he said. “Because players have such agency, not only within our game, but with the economy itself, the ability to enter and exit (without permission) at their discretion is really crazy.”
The most recent changes with Staking V2 were brought about by members of the community rather than Laguna Games. They proposed it, debated it, and approved it even though it was against their short-term interests, Beierschmitt said.
“We didn’t touch it at all throughout the governance process, and we didn’t even vote on it from the team and investor tokens,” Beierschmitt said.
Power to the people
In most 4X games, there are powerful player guilds who go to war with each other. In those games, you would think everything would go wrong if the players controlled the game. But that’s where Crypto Unicorns is heading, Beierschmitt said.
“More so than I think any project in the space, over time, we’re giving more and more control over the game to the actual players themselves,” Beierschmitt said. “And that part that feels crazy and feels dangerous. And it’s where a lot of the excitement is.”
The initial proposal for Crypto Unicorn’s Staking V2 in October 2022 aimed to address an inherent flaw that incentivized passive staking over active gameplay and community participation.
In order to democratize the voting power of the game’s community, the Staking V2 contract proposes a new NFT badge system so that milestones and achievements badges could be staked to increase the voting power of active players and community members in governance. The Staking V2 contract was put to vote on November 2022 and received 86.51% approval from the community.
By shifting control to the active players, there will be less control for the players who hold on to tokens but don’t play at all, said Beierschmitt. And there will be more leaderboards to show who the active players are in terms of who has the non-transferable NFT badges. Players can win badges in user-generated content competitions, but they can’t buy them outright.
“The rewards are being oriented towards our most active and engaged community members,” said Beierschmitt.
There will also be opportunities for second-party or third-party developers to come in and make games based on the Crypto Unicorns IP, as Laguna Games doesn’t own it. The players own it. For instance, some players are building a card game. Other Web3 games like Serum City are taking this approach to give more utility to the NFTs that die-hard fans already own.
“Deploying V2 of Crypto Unicorn’s Staking contract is a major step towards the game’s decentralization,” said Beierschmitt. “We see the game and all of its assets as community-owned IP, and so, it is essential that the most active players and participants in the ecosystem are properly represented in governance votes.”
He added, “Staking 2.0 is a new, innovative approach to amplifying the voting power of players in the game’s governance forum. It aims to create a more equitable approach to allowing players to contribute to the direction and development of the Crypto Unicorns game.”
Crypto Unicorns is one of the community-governed games in Web3. To date, its governance forum has seen more than 100 proposal ideas, with a governing body of over 10,000 members. Crypto Unicorns receives high voting participation often with some votes reaching almost 800 votes on key topics such as staking emission reduction, utility and function of in-game items, ecosystem grants, governance council elections, token lock extension for team and investors who hold the game’s RBW token and more.
Key features of the v2 Badge Boost System include:
- Badges can be delegated from one wallet to another
- Badges are delegated individually and on a per “pool” basis
- Badges must be delegated to the staking wallet for the boost to take effect
- Delegation of a badge is permanent
- Delegating badges to staking wallets gives additional staking rewards and voting powers through multipliers.
- The multipliers are based on the Badge’s rarity.
- Badges can be Common, Uncommon, Rare or Mythic.
- Rarer badges give higher staking rewards and voting multipliers.
- Badges can be earned by playing the game, participating in governance, and being an active community member.
- Badges stay within the wallet even after being delegated.
- There is no limit to the number of badges that can be allocated on a single staking wallet but each badge type can only be delegated once.
Crypto Unicorns is Laguna Games’ NFT gaming ecosystem built on the Polygon blockchain. Since its inception in early 2022, players have paid 19,000 ETH (approximately $30 million today) to own digital land and NFT pet collectibles.
It has also announced an expansion of its ecosystem with four new hyper-casual mobile and web games. Players can farm, race and battle to earn rewards such as Unicorn Milk (UNIM) and RBW.
Laguna Games is a game development and R&D studio specializing in Web3 entertainment. It leverages a cross-platform game engine comprised of powerful, product-agnostic tech and tools to rapidly deploy titles that are designed for real-time, large-scale, and highly social gameplay.
How this unfolded
“It is kind of crazy. Since we originally launched in October of 2021, and since May 2022, we’ve been live, operating continuously, like the deepest open economy that the space has seen today,” Beierschmitt said.
Other game economies from Web3 companies “fell apart,” Beierschmitt said.
“Part of our answer has been on just taking lessons that we learned building a mobile 4X strategy game with the most economic depth and breadth, with a lot of really complex systems design,” he said. “It’s not showing up and mashing a few buttons everyday, and being able to extract something.”
He said the giving the community governance rights has been really compelling. About 60% of the circulating supply of governance token is staked on average for nine months or more, he said. And 50% of that stake supplies voting on each of the governance votes.
Some of the proposals have been consequential, like whether the DAO should spend $500,000 on a custom marketplace. That proposal didn’t fly. On another proposal, the community approved economy changes that increased their costs.
“It’s just been very fascinating to kind of watch and see,” he said. “This is one of the reasons we have such long-term retention and engagement.”
The average revenue per wallet is more than $400, and that means players are spending. Many of the original players are also still active.
“We’re seeing new holders come in, we’re seeing people begin to engage in our ecosystem in ways that we would have killed for in mobile free-to-play,” Beierschmitt said.
The NFT price collapse
While the prices of NFTs have collapsed and cryptocurrencies have also weakened, Beierschmitt thinks the pendulum has swung too far toward skepticism about Web3 games. The company is coming up on a year of building out its ecosystem of titles, and it shipped a couple of role-playing game prototypes this week. It’s also working on an auto battler that the community is testing. And the community will decide what to do with those games.
As for the size of the Web3 gaming audience, he said, “I’m not trying to bring the next 100 million people in the crypto space. I’m a big believer that we will naturally see more and more adoption over time, as we have in the last decade. I’m very focused on establishing a beachhead with the kind of crypto native crowd of people who are already red-pilled and see these technologies as the future of how we’re going to organize our society.”
Most of the money has come from the community. Laguna Games raised $5 million in venture capital in October of 2021, and it sold about $30 million worth of NFT assets to the player community. And it was fortunate that most of the token money was held in USDC, a stablecoin tied to the U.S. dollar. The company also has about 3,000 ETH, the coin for the Ethereum blockchain, or about $6.2 million.
In May 2022, the company launched the core farming simulation game, which was a real-time player-versus-player economy simulator with an automated market maker at the center of it. That allowed players to trade commodities with each other in a kind of unicorn version of FarmVille. It was like a 4X strategy title in terms of its complexity.
Over the past year, the company operated a lot of live events and it introduced jousting, or the first battle loop where you can take your unicorns off the farm and joust with them. More games are coming in the form role-playing games, auto battlers, match 3, and a unicorn party game.
With the RPG prototypes launched this week, there is a game that combines match-3 and Puzzles and Dragons-style RPG play. Players will vote on the prototypes and the wealth of players won’t matter in the votes. The ones who have been playing more will have the votes.
“It’s not just the people with the most money who are able to vote,” he said. “It’s actually the people who have been the most engaged. This reminds me of the game modding communities.”
There are risks and downsides. This kind of DAO structure still exposes the company to player outrage.
“Oh, man, the amount of outrage that we get on a weekly basis is [a lot],” Beierschmitt said. “You open yourself up to this. We had a loyal player be very critical of a small staking detail. And he made this funny point, ‘I guess if you only raised money from VCs, you only have to listen to maybe 13 or so people, right? You guys raised from tens of thousands of people.”
That means that dealing with player complaints comes with the territory. and the company can mollify players by putting new features on the roadmap. They might not act on that for a while.
“But we’re trying to build a generational intellectual property,” Beierschmitt said. “It’s like if you were around at the beginning of Pokemon and could influence the growth of that thing over time.”
He added, “I would deal with the outrage by saying, ‘Great, I’m glad you all you love both of these loops like this is content. We’re going to put this next battle loop a year from now. But we’re going to focus on the one that the community voted through.”
Dealing with democracy
Many of these problems aren’t the sort that traditional game developers have to take seriously. They reserve the right to make decisions themselves. And there are additional third-party developers showing up to add to the competitive ideas for where to go with multiple games. If Laguna doesn’t perform, other developers can step in. This makes things “exponentially harder,” Beierschmitt said.
As for dealing with democracy, Beierschmitt said, “Every time we have been fearful, the answer has always been just be more transparent. In a world where there’s blatant fraud, there are a ton of rug pulls. Early on, I was frustrated people were so pointed. They were asking really pointed questions. And I had to realize a lot of these projects have been downright fraudulent or mismanaged. I’s hard enough to build and ship a game. The thing I’ve given up on is I try less and less to explain why things are hard. And I try to embrace the feedback and then try to talk with our community management team and educate people. You stay ahead of the outrage.”
Beierschmitt said the team will actively listen to the talk among the players to be aware of where their sentiments lie.
“I’ve stopped saying we’re building a game,” Beierschmitt said. “We’re building a an economic network around the community. It is so much more than just a game. We’re managing this social network and this government and it’s crazy. It’s crazy. After a decade of mobile free to play, I never saw I’ve never seen a community this engaged and this emotional about things.”
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