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Balthazar Research Report: Tezos and the Evolution of NFT Gaming

Written by Sigurd Thomassen, Game Strategist, Balthazar Alpha Team

Introduction

The following article is my narrative on Tezos that is meant to shape and brainstorm our attention in regards to the play-2-earn space, and the big actors at play.

In this article I’m going to discuss; Tezos as a blockchain, Ubisoft Quarts, Tezos partnerships, and how NFT gaming is moving onto Tezos.

I’d add the following disclaimer. The following is the subject of my own thoughts, with some speculations and connecting the dots on the matter.

Ubisoft Quartz and Ghost Recon Breakpoint

In April 2021 Ubisoft, one of the largest gaming companies announced that they are now a Tezos corporate baker. This means they are a part of validating the Tezos network through the process of “baking” which is in essence what miners do on PoW blockchains.

In December 2021 Ubisoft announced that they will be launching NFTs on the Tezos blockchain. They call these NFTs Digits, and they can be acquired through the Ubisoft Quartz platform powered by the Tezos blockchain. They are currently listed on the NFT marketplace objkt.com.

Ubisoft’s first game to include NFTs was Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Breakpoint. A game that has been out since 2019. Ubisoft made some NFTs (skins) for this game and gave them to whoever had played the game for x amount of hours. The highest reward (helmet) was for 600 hours of game time. Basically, you got NFTs for grinding hours in this game, which is already kind of outdated and doesn’t have the biggest community. Feels to me like Ubisoft’s beta test of NFT implementation.

There was some community backlash from gamers, who seem to hate NFTs in some weird way. I don’t understand why, as this is probably the most revolutionizing technology for gamers in general. They can take their in-game assets from one game to the next, and all the other benefits of NFTs.

The Ubisoft technical director agrees with this misconception, you can find his thoughts in his interview with Finder here.

I strongly believe public opinion will change rapidly over the next few years with the release of proper AAA games with great NFT utilization.

After all this backlash and little activity on these NFT trades, Ubisoft is still committed to having its NFT platform on Tezos.

Dogami; enter the Petaverse

At about the same time as this happened, I stumbled upon the project Dogami.

They brand themselves as “The Petaverse”. It’s basically an app where you can have a pet (NFT) that you nurture to adulthood. Once adult you can breed them to make more Pets (NFTs), which can be sold on the marketplace for others to buy. Because everybody wants a pet! It’s a bit like Tamagotchi, with the breeding mechanics of Pegaxy and Axie Infinity.

The thing about this is that it’s AR (Augmented Reality). In AR you should be able to see your pet in your living room through your phone. The bull case for this whole project is in my opinion, that most people love dogs, and the quality and hype around the projects are better than many of the other P2E “games” out there.

I myself am highly allergic to most things with fur, but my wife and daughter LOVE dogs, and they can’t have a real one because of me. That’s why I find this very intriguing, and I see the possibility of them/us having a “dog” that lives through our phones.

The internet is separated into two main groups, it’s either cat people or dog people. Or you could be one of those who love both. The thing is, most people can relate to dogs. This gives far more connection than to a Pokemon, a Tamagotchi, or whatever other fantasy monsters we can put on our devices. Dogs remain the king. Just look at all the dog coins we got!

So Dogami is a project I’m really bullish on and guess what, they’re on Tezos, and Ubisoft was one of the investors in its $6 million funding round.

Ubisoft branching out?

I recently discovered two more projects Ubisoft has backed. Missingfrontier and Rebel Bots, in which Ubisoft is a “key” backer. I haven’t had the time to dig into these two games, but as far as I can see now, they’re both on Ethereum based blockchains, which is contrary to what Ubisoft has signaled as to where they will build their NFT platform. It might be Ubisoft spreading out and trying to scale hard into the NFT space, or there could be changes down the line regarding the chain technology. As of now, I can only speculate. But whatever the chain is, I think it is worth watching Ubisoft closely as to what they’ll do.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my years in Gaming and IT, it is that good games take time to develop. The truth is there is a lot of shit out there. We can see the froth in people rushing into NFT gaming, but most games haven’t had the time to mature or finish developing. With the muscles Ubisoft has, and the access to developer talent, I believe Balthazar would strongly benefit from focusing on the projects Ubisoft supports.

A bull case for the Tezos blockchain itself

Tezos is a PoS (Proof of Stake) blockchain with self-amending protocols. It is in essence what Ethereum wants to be, but has not yet achieved. It has negligible gas fees, it brands itself as #CleanNFTs. PwC, one of the biggest services networks, wrote, in 2021, a report regarding the carbon footprint of the blockchain, which ended up as the same as 17 European citizens per year. About two million times less than Ethereum and other competitors not on PoS technology.

I can’t say how much the carbon footprint of blockchains matters compared to, for instance, data centers running Facebook and Google. However, a lot of people value the “Green” aspect of it – which is a powerful marketing tool in itself.

The self-amending part of Tezos is quite amazing.

Tezos as a community looks at other blockchains, implements their best parts, and then;

  • makes proposals to the Tezos community
  • the participants (bakers and stakers) vote for these proposals
  • and when the democratic process is done
  • reacts to the outcome

Through this process, they have upgraded their main-net eight times, in the past two years, which is more than any other blockchain.

They take the best features of the best blockchains and make them their own. No hard forks, no splitting communities. Just evolution.

Some statistics

If you want stats, check out the Tezos webpage.

The amount of contract calls has increased massively in 2021 month-to-month, while gas fees have been reduced. An explanation for this could be that they reduced their transaction energy consumption by 70%.

Tezos contract calls and gas prices month-by-month.

January 2022 new all-time high of contract calls. Picture slightly outdated, as it has now passed six million.

Tezos by social volume

Here we can see Tezos as the 3rd blockchain based on social volume. When will we see Tezos as the third in size for market cap?

Source: LunarCrush

Tezos adoption

I could go on and on about Tezos, but maybe the most interesting thing that happened is that while OpenSea and Ethereum pumped “exclusive luxury NFTs” for high prices and even higher gas fees, several NFT marketplaces grew on Tezos. The biggest example of this could be objkt.com

While generative PFP projects ended up on Open Sea, most artists went to Tezos. There is no marketing or VCs pumping those places. It’s a natural growth and the obvious choice for most artists, who can’t afford the mint price on Ethereum. And because of this, Tezos is amazing and has built an organically growing community of artists, which is nowhere else to be seen.

Recently OneOf, a music NFT platform built on Tezos, partnered with Warner Music Group, which is one of the three largest music studios in the world.

To add on, OneOf just struck a three-year deal with the Grammy Awards. NFTs are becoming mainstream and in a world where everyone wants to be “green”, Tezos is the obvious choice. Institutions are also getting in on it. I’ve even read some stories about cities building their infrastructure on Tezos.

Tezsports?

We all know eSports is the fastest growing sport in the world, passing both the NBA and MLB (see picture below). This is just in America. We’re not the only ones who know this, but Tezos does too.

In January 2022, Tezos partnered with the e-sports organisation Vitality in a multi-year partnership. Vitality is one of Europe’s biggest e-sport organisations and has top competing teams in the mainstream games (such as League of Legends and Counter Strike).

In addition, Tezos partnered with Red Bull Formula 1, where Max Verstappen became the world champion.

The insane-if-true case

I’ve been lurking around on Twitter for a while since I entered the crypto space. And I noticed Coinbase has hired a new Tech Lead a few months back.

Andrew Choi is also the founder of supernormal, and has been name-dropping Tezos every now and then. He seems to have quite good insight into blockchain technology.

Look at this Twitter thread about DAOs.

Coinbase has long been announcing its NFT platform, which will support Ethereum. But they’ve also mentioned enabling other blockchains. Kind of like https://rarible.com/, having both Ethereum and Tezos NFTs.

If Coinbase, the biggest kahuna there is, will pick Tezos as its go-to chain, as technologically there are many reasons for it, then Tezos investors will be laughing their way to the bank! It will also be a huge trigger for even more mainstream adoption on-chain.

I’m going to stop here, it’s becoming ranty, but for now, most games are on the Ethereum ecosystem, and it’s natural to keep our main focus there. With actors like Ubisoft and, in time, EA and the other giants, we should watch them closely, and go where they go. Because as mentioned, the P2E scene right now is not very good. Games lack content in general, and for some, their token economy is not very promising for the longevity and sustainability of the games. We’ve seen examples of this.

I’m going to end this with a little gem:

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