The Defiant: YGG’s Vision for Impacting Millions of Lives Through Play-to-Earn
Gabby Dizon speaks with Camila Russo to explain how YGG is removing barriers to NFT games for players all around the world.
The Defiant Podcast engages in hour-long conversations with the builders and users of DeFi, short for Decentralized Finance. The show has previously featured industry-leading guests including Dan Morehead (Founder of Pantera Capital), Ryan Selkis (CEO and Founder of Messari), and Raoul Pal (CEO and Co-founder of Real Vision).
The Defiant Podcast is hosted by its founder and CEO, Camila Russo. Camila is the author of “The Infinite Machine,” the first book on the history of Ethereum and its founder, Vitalik Buterin. A former journalist, Camila spent seven years writing for Bloomberg, covering financial markets in Europe, Buenos Aires, and New York. She also covered international news for Chile’s largest national newspaper, El Mercurio.
The Defiant curates and analyzes all the major developments in DeFi, and provides it in the form of informational podcasts, tutorials, newsletters, and op-eds. This episode of the Defiant Podcast features Gabby Dizon, CEO and co-founder of Yield Guild Games (YGG).
Camila and Gabby talk about early blockchain games, the change that Axie Infinity brought to these NFT-based games, and anecdotes about people improving their financial condition through the play-to-earn movement. Gabby also gives his view on NFTs being a new medium to express culture.
The following is an excerpt from the discussion. Listen to the full podcast here.
Camila (22:25): What do you think is missing for YGG to reach a wider audience? Anecdotally I have seen people struggle with onboarding people to the game [Axie Infinity], there are multiple tutorials and videos on how to start playing, so I would imagine that is a pain point. What are the next steps for YGG to reach a more mainstream audience?
Gabby (22:59): That’s where the power of the community comes in. You are right in that onboarding is a little hard especially if you have your own Axies, you have to figure out how to create a Ronin wallet, a Metamask wallet and how to cash out. There you can see the power of the community that is helping each other, there are a lot of content creators, creating tutorials. But what we do at YGG is that we are really easing the onboarding flow because we create the accounts and we let the players log in and play. They don’t have to know blockchain when they start playing. And when it is time to cash out and they receive SLP in their wallet, then they are very motivated to learn how to use crypto.
Camila (23:44): It’s interesting that YGG is serving as this interface for users who might not be as knowledgeable in crypto. SLP might be like a stepping stone for getting these gamers into crypto more broadly, and after that they can start using DeFi or get familiar with crypto.
Gabby (24:21): My favorite thing about what we do is that for a lot of our demographic, it is the first time in their lives that they have extra money which they use to pay off their debts, put food on the table, pay for medical bills for their families and after few cycles they actually start getting savings and then they think about “What do I do with my SLP, do I buy the AXS governance token of Axie, do I buy land in Axie Infinity, do I buy more Axies and start my own scholarship program or do I turn it into Ether and go into DeFi?” Now the world opens up when they go from a place where they don’t have any money to having excess income for the first time because of their time, effort and skill.
Camila (25:16): Do you have any specific stories of your community that you can mention?
Gabby (25:29): My favorite story is about the Lolo and Lola family from the Play-To-Earn Documentary that we released last May. The interesting thing is that they had a small store in their house from where they were selling products to other people, but they were augmenting their income by playing Axie, and it was enough to pay for their medical bills. We checked up on them to see how they were doing and learned that their daughter who had migrated to Canada for a better life and income needed some financial aid and they were able to send money to their daughter in Canada and help her financially because of playing Axie Infinity.
Camila (26:13): It's like the opposite of what you would expect, like people in an emerging country helping out somebody in a developed country. That is really cool. So this is kind of taking off even though it is still not mainstream but still impacting regular people in emerging countries. You recently raised a big round of $4.6 million with a16z, a reputed Silicon Valley VC backing this new model of gaming with this Guild enabling their players, so what are you planning to do with these funds?
Gabby (27:40): We are really trying to blanket the world with these digital assets, it might be Axies, NFT cars, virtual land, but we see ourselves as the gateway to the Metaverse where people can earn an income no matter where they are in the world. Regardless of their country, race, gender, as long as you have access to the internet and a wallet you should have equal access to the income earning opportunities in crypto via these games, so that is really the big vision. It shouldn’t matter that you are in the Philippines, Argentina, the US, Kenya or China as long as you have access to these games and the wallet you should be able to earn the same amount of money, and that really democratizes the income earning capacity of people around the world.
Camila (28:34): That’s a huge vision, so do you foresee YGG becoming a new kind of global employer?
Gabby (28:50): I would say that is an evolved version of the gig economy, wherein you have Uber and Lyft with drivers around the world, of course we don’t employ them, but we provide access to a lot of creative jobs that are in crypto via these games. So you could be a player in Axie Infinity, a content creator, an avatar creator in Sandbox, a digital fashion designer. We are the ones to provide access to these games, and oftentimes you need some kind of investment in the form of NFTs before you start playing. We remove that barrier, so that all you really need to bring is your skill to these games to start earning.
Camila (29:35): Can you talk more about the kinds of games that exist out there?
Gabby (29:44): The most exciting part for me as a gamer is that there are so many ways you can express yourself by playing these different games, of course a lot of people have heard about Axie Infinity, there’s F1 Delta Time, a licensed Formula 1 racing game, Sandbox which is a virtual world similar to Roblox but people own land and assets and create content. There are other games we have invested in that will be coming out either later this year or sometime next year like Guild of Guardians, a role-playing game similar to Diablo, Star Atlas which is a really cool full space opera, sci-fi game, Illuvium and Nifty island. There are just so many games to look forward to and so many creative ways to earn an income.
Camila (30:41): In terms of graphics and complexity, do these games compare to traditional games, or would you say there is work to do on that front?
Gabby (30:58): They are complex in a different way. If I wanted to be entertained by a good story and top-notch graphics, I would turn on the PlayStation and play a game. I play blockchain games for a different reason, in that I want to be immersed in the economic world that these games and assets bring me and the community as well, which is one of the most important parts. With the early state of blockchain games, you might not see as polished games as you would see in a typical Xbox or PlayStation game, but they are actually innovating on a different front which is the economic model which is the important part because if I have a really nice and polished graphical game where NFTs are not used in a creative way it doesn’t really matter to me.
Camila (31:50): Can you expand on that a bit more, like how are they innovating these economic models because they need to find ways to make these in-game assets and tokens work by making sure there is not too much inflation. And how does the player experience that?
Gabby (32:18): With play-to-earn, you are taking your game economy and you are putting parts of it on the blockchain so that your players can own those assets and easily trade them among themselves. This might be NFTs or fungible tokens like SLP and it takes a lot of work on the game design and tokenomics front, you have to understand not just game economies, but also tokenomics, to figure out what makes for a good play-to-earn game and that is the truly groundbreaking thing about Axie Infinity. It is one of the top-earning games right now with 1 million daily active users. There is between 30-40 million dollars of trading volume every day and they did it without being available on the Google Play Store, iOS App Store or Steam.
You can check out the full podcast on Anchor.