First Mover Asia: A Taipei Executive Believes GameFi Can Fix Gaming’s Creative Drought; Bitcoin, Ether Are Flat in Light Trading

See Wan Toong, the CTO of Red Door Digital, a Taipei-based studio building out Web 3 games, believes games can be creative and lucrative; major cryptos were mixed with prices of some rising slightly and others falling.

AccessTimeIconMar 14, 2022 at 10:43 p.m. UTC
Updated Mar 15, 2022 at 2:40 a.m. UTC

Damanick was a crypto market analyst at CoinDesk where he wrote the daily Market Wrap and provided technical analysis. He is a Chartered Market Technician designation holder and member of the CMT Association. Damanick is also a portfolio strategist and does not invest in digital assets.

James Rubin is CoinDesk's U.S. news editor based on the West Coast.

Good morning. Here’s what’s happening:

Prices: Bitcoin and ether didn't move much from a day ago.

Insights: A Taipei-based executive sees GameFi as a way to build better games.

Technician's take: BTC's sideways price range could result in higher volatility over the next two weeks.

Catch the latest episodes of CoinDesk TV for insightful interviews with crypto industry leaders and analysis. And sign up for First Mover, our daily newsletter putting the latest moves in crypto markets in context.

Prices

Bitcoin (BTC): $39,971 +0.9%

Ether (ETH): $2,557 -0.3%

Top Gainers

Asset Ticker Returns Sector
Chainlink LINK +1.0% Computing
Bitcoin BTC +1.0% Currency
Solana SOL +0.7% Smart Contract Platform

Top Losers

Asset Ticker Returns Sector
Stellar XLM −2.6% Smart Contract Platform
Polygon MATIC −2.5% Smart Contract Platform
Filecoin FIL −1.6% Computing

Markets

S&P 500: 4,173 -0.7%

DJIA: 32,925 0%

Nasdaq: 12,581 -2.0%

Gold: $1,950 -1.8%

Most major cryptos fall

Bitcoin, ether and most other cryptocurrencies spent much of Monday in the red as more bad news flowed from Ukraine.

At one point bitcoin was trading at about $39,000, slightly up over the previous 24 hours. Ether was selling at just over $2,550, off slightly over the same period. Other major cryptos in the CoinDesk top 20 by market capitalization also fell, although Terra's luna and and Axie Infinity (AXS) were among the exceptions. Trading was light as investors seemed inclined to wait out events later in the week, including a decision by the U.S. central bank's Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) on the first of what many observers believe will be several interest rate hikes this year to quash raging inflation.

"Cryptos across the board are in for a choppy period as investors await developments with Russia-Ukraine talks and if the Fed gives a clear path for interest rates that could possibly lead to a deeper bond market selloff," OANDA Americas Senior Market Analyst Edward Moya wrote in an email.

Analysts remain divided about whether crypto and equity markets are correlated assets, but the two have seemed to operate along similar wavelengths in recent weeks. The tech-heavy Nasdaq fell about 2% on Monday and the S&P 500 was off slightly.

Meanwhile, the Economic and Monetary Affairs committee of the European Parliament decided to exclude a proposed rule that could have banned proof-of-work systems such as bitcoin throughout the European Union, but the vote seemed to have little impact on crypto prices.

In Ukraine, Russia escalated its bombardment of the capital Kyiv as the Kremlin remained unmoved by calls from most of the international community to halt its unprovoked attack. Russian forces stopped a convoy of supplies for the besieged Black Sea port of Mariupol, which is facing food and other shortages. Ukrainian and Russian representatives are scheduled to meet again on Tuesday to discuss a ceasefire. Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky will address the U.S. Congress remotely in an effort to convince lawmakers to provide more military support.

Moya noted optimistically that cryptos had gotten a boost from Tesla CEO and crypto influencer Elon Musk, who tweeted that although owning quality stocks or a home was good during high inflationary times, he would not be selling bitcoin, ether or doge.

"Musk's tweet is a reminder that a lot of long-term hodlers are out there and that bitcoin will likely see strong support ahead of the bumpy path that lies ahead as the U.S. Federal Reserve starts raising interest rates," Moya wrote.

Insights

We hear a lot about GameFi as a path to prosperity for the developing world. This is a nice narrative for VCs wanting some ESG [environmental social, governance] points for helping the poor, but the data doesn’t hold up. Many of the players sponsored by gaming guilds in the Philippines make less collecting Axies than they would working at Jollibee's because their earnings are under the country’s minimum wage.

But let’s not get too cynical about this. We’re still early in the GameFi era. It has to be useful for something, right?

Gaming’s creativity problem has been well documented. The industry is a publicly traded, multibillion-dollar titan and sequels are a stalwart source of revenue. Shareholders need stable returns, and another sequel is the easiest way to accomplish this. With so much consolidation in the market, companies are hard-pressed to take a creative risk where the financial benefit is uncertain. This environment differs from the early days of console wars.

“The console wars were the most interesting time, because everyone’s trying to outperform each other and find creative ways to make interesting games that capture attention,” said See Wan Toong, the chief technology officer of Red Door Digital, a Taipei-based studio building out Web 3 games. “But now it seems to be consolidated and has become a more corporate, money-making thing rather than more creative. I think everyone’s trying to survive or trying to be very conservative in their approach.”

Starting in Singapore

Toong’s gaming career started in Singapore, which he calls a gaming desert because of the lack of industry and development, but ended up in Taiwan after a brief stint in Europe because of Taipei’s balance of the low cost of living, artistic talent pool and geographic proximity to other hubs. Along the way, he spent time at EA and a few major regional studios.

As the console wars faded, the Massively Multiplayer Online game boom grew, and Toong sees parallels involving the MMOs, the mid-2000s and the rise of Web3 gaming (remember "South Park’s" Emmy-winning "Make Love not Warcraft"?).

MMOs – the development of one spurred his return toTaiwan from abroad – had an in-game economy and monthly subscriptions.

These were predictable sources of income that executives liked, but not tied to a predictable formula of, as he called it: “I have x amount of consoles, I have x amount of players and I have x amount of fans for my IP, so hence I’m going to make x amount of money.”

But eventually, that formula won out and MMOs got lost in a wave of consolidations.

This return of in-game economies is happening with GameFi – slowly but surely. There’s not yet a creative, GameFi masterpiece similar to World of Warcraft, but the model of an in-game economy is a good cure for sequelitis because there’s money to earn in a different way than churning out endless sequels of a gigantic franchise.

The Flappy Bird era

First, however, GameFi must get past the Flappy Bird era.

For those that don’t remember, Flappy Bird was one of the first mobile games to go viral. It was riddled with bad gameplay and blatant plagiarism with some calling it an “ad-congested mess of a game that is insanely addicting.” Eventually, its creator killed it off to preserve his own sanity after it became a sleeper cult hit.

“I want to say that Flappy Bird is a very, very good thing. It was successful, and helped bring in a period of transition to a different platform [of mobile games],” Toong said.

Toong doesn’t want to call Axie Infinity the Flappy Bird of this era, only saying that after a while, people might think about Axie Infinity as an important part of the history of the Web 3.

Remember, Flappy Bird didn’t survive. It died a quick death (later to have a sort of reincarnation via knockoffs).

Many gamers online have equated the current quality of GameFi to that of Nintendo’s original NES from the mid-1980s – pixelated and linear, just like what Flappy Bird was in 2013. Many have also criticized the quality of Axie Infinity’s gameplay.

The MMOs World of Warcraft and Everquest were creative masterpieces that made their studios fortunes. Toong and Red Door Digital hope to do the same, but whether they will remains unclear.

Technician's take

CoinDesk - Unknown

Bitcoin daily price chart shows support/resistance. (Damanick Dantes/CoinDesk, TradingView)

Bitcoin (BTC) remains in a tight trading range, although buyers maintained support at $37,500 over the weekend. Still, the cryptocurrency faces strong resistance beyond $40,000, which could limit additional upside over the short term.

BTC was roughly flat over the past 24 hours, and is up 2% over the past week.

The downward sloping 100-day moving average has kept the four-month downtrend intact. Recent sideways trading, however, could result in volatile price swings over the next two weeks.

Buyers will need to hold support above $35,000-$37,000 in order to preserve the long-term uptrend.

Important events

8:30 a.m. HKT/SGT(12:30 a.m. UTC): Australia house price index (Q4/MoM/YoY)

10 a.m. HKT/SGT(2 a.m. UTC): China National Bureau of Statistics press conference

10 a.m. HKT/SGT(2 a.m. UTC): China industrial production (Feb. YoY)

CoinDesk TV

In case you missed it, here is the most recent episode of "First Mover/" on CoinDesk TV:

European Union parliamentarians voted on a proposed rule to limit proof-of-work crypto mining. O'Shares ETFs Chairman Kevin O'Leary lobbied in favor of the Responsible Financial Innovation Act by U.S. Senator Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) that could alter the capital gains taxation rules for crypto. The "Shark Tank" co-host joined "First Mover" to discuss. Plus, the hosts listened to bitcoin markets analysis from Jeff Mei of Huobi Global and insights on metaverse regulation from Bradley Tusk of Tusk Strategies.

Headlines

Japan Sets Penalties on Crypto Exchanges for Violating Russia Sanctions: Report: Fines could reach as much as 1 million yen ($8,500), with executives facing up to three years in prison.

Dogecoin Spikes Briefly After Musk Says He Won't Sell His Crypto Holdings: Prices of the meme coin often see a surge after celebrity mentions.

Inflation Worries Top Concerns Before Fed Meeting, Spur Musk Comment: Surging prices for food, energy and housing have sent inflation in the U.S. to a four-decade high.

Solana-Based NFT Marketplace Magic Eden Raises $27M Series A: The round was led by Paradigm and included contributions from Sequoia and Solana Ventures.

Limiting Proof-of-Work Crypto Back on the Table as EU Parliament Prepares Virtual Currencies Vote: A provision looking to force proof-of-work cryptocurrencies like bitcoin to switch to the more environmentally friendly proof-of-stake consensus mechanism is in a draft of MiCA up for a parliamentary vote on Monday.

Longer reads

Bitcoin: Gold 2.0? Try Reserve Asset 3.0: The conflict between Russia and Ukraine is beginning to send ripples through the global economy that could lead to a new monetary system.

Today's crypto explainer: How to Make, Buy and Sell NFTs

Said and heard

"However the conflict ends, crypto will play a central role in world affairs. Moreover, the individual autonomy it brings could mean a more peaceful world, provided governments and global standard-setting bodies don’t kill this promise through overreaching regulation or forced public alternatives." (American Enterprise Institute Adjunct Fellow Paul Jossey for CoinDesk) ... "The United States and its allies might be reluctant to have China play any role in this crisis, given that they view Beijing as a strategic rival. That’s foolish and shortsighted; the conflict’s immediate dangers far outweigh any competitive considerations. Ukraine itself sees the potential of Chinese-led conflict resolution." (Wang Huiyao for The New York Times) ... "Those allegiances are philosophical as much as anything: Sticking with ETHClassic after the DAO recovery fork was at the time a rallying cry for the “code is law” crowd that saw the heavy hand of founders including Vitalik Buterin in pushing for the fork as a betrayal of blockchain neutrality." (CoinDesk columnist David Z. Morris)

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Damanick was a crypto market analyst at CoinDesk where he wrote the daily Market Wrap and provided technical analysis. He is a Chartered Market Technician designation holder and member of the CMT Association. Damanick is also a portfolio strategist and does not invest in digital assets.

CoinDesk - Unknown

James Rubin is CoinDesk's U.S. news editor based on the West Coast.

CoinDesk - Unknown

Damanick was a crypto market analyst at CoinDesk where he wrote the daily Market Wrap and provided technical analysis. He is a Chartered Market Technician designation holder and member of the CMT Association. Damanick is also a portfolio strategist and does not invest in digital assets.

CoinDesk - Unknown

James Rubin is CoinDesk's U.S. news editor based on the West Coast.

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