Barely a year ago, the term play-to-earn was basically unheard of. By the end of 2021, this new category in gaming had turned heads worldwide, with over $4 billion in investment poured into the space and more than 1.4 million unique active wallets interacting with game dapps daily, representing nearly half of the entire industry’s total usage, according to DappRadar.
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The success of play-to-earn can be almost exclusively attributed to widespread adoption throughout Southeast Asia, where countries such as the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand are known for their large mobile-first youth populations and insatiable appetite for video games. With these digitally-savvy young gamers eagerly looking to transcend the economic limitations of the country where they were born, it’s no surprise that play-to-earn was adopted so rapidly, with the metaverse quickly becoming a career destination of choice.
What happened in Southeast Asia could be a harbinger for what to expect in other emerging markets around the world, says Alain Dinh, head of partnerships at Sipher, adding that the job opportunities inside these games and virtual worlds will expand and diversify too.
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Built on the Ethereum blockchain, Sipher is a casual-fighting and exploration game set in a stunning sci-fi virtual world, Sipheria, where players can meet up and socialize via their NFT characters, compete in games, and collect tradable cryptocurrency-based rewards for their achievements. They can also fulfill professional roles within the game. For example, players can become an architect, modeling buildings within the Sipher Metaverse, or they can design and build furniture or weapons and equipment, to be used, traded or sold.
Here, Dinh talks about Sipher’s plans to drive further adoption across Southeast Asia and other regions, to create online communities that thrive beyond traditional geographic borders.
What opportunities can NFT games and/or the metaverse offer to people in Southeast Asia, that they may not have otherwise had access to?
NFT games can be the bridge between the East and the West. In the east, statistically we see the younger generations having more free time to play NFT games and earn rewards, which can be seen as a job. While in the West, there are more jobs available, so people have better financial conditions and can fairly easily acquire NFTs needed to play, but they have less time to spend playing with them. If people in the West can lend those NFTs to people in the East, and share the rewards, this is an experience that benefits all.
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As a team based in Southeast Asia, what challenges have you faced in terms of attracting talent, securing funding and so on?
As for funding, the initial challenges were to get away from the prejudice that a lot of scams and ponzi schemes in the crypto space are coming out of this region. But unlike a lot of projects, we don’t hide who we are, and we keep good communication and relationships with our investors, so we have been able to build trust and credibility.
As for talent, Vietnam is one of the top countries in the world in terms of both crypto adoption and online gaming. With a very young population, the current generation is very eager to explore the space and even choose a career path in blockchain gaming. The formula of experienced and talented hires having all the tech know-how combined with leaders having the creativity and international background is what gives Vietnam a competitive advantage. But with the recent boom, the people we need are highly desired on the job market and therefore benchmark salaries have jumped up by a substantial amount compared to 2020.
We have a team of over 60 artists in-house in Vietnam, creating our very own 3D in-game assets for our game modes and our metaverse as well. Most other projects have a much smaller team, so they have to outsource and buy 3D assets from databases, meaning they don’t have the same control over the quality and most likely will encounter delays. We are lucky to not only have a very talented but also a loyal team that shares our long-term vision for Sipher.
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What does your growth and expansion strategy look like? What adoption challenges do you anticipate?
While we aim to create a game in many different languages to welcome players all over the world, we still believe that our majority of players will be from Southeast Asia. Here, we understand that the mobile gaming market is big, and the number of smartphone users is huge, therefore a strong focus will be on our optimized mobile version for iOS/Android after the release of the PC version.
We do also have a launch strategy to help us grow in other high-potential markets like South America, Africa and India. Despite the more problematic communication in these regions, the main difference would be solving the on-ramp and off-ramp. While we know how players can turn their local currency to crypto and then back to fiat in Southeast Asia, we don’t know how that process works elsewhere. So partnering up with local institutions that know their market is key.
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