Has it really been a year? It seems like a decade. Together with my three other founders, we were different people when we started this project during a global pandemic. And now, we are still here. Grateful. But with weird reservations. This is crypto after all.
Our project, Anito Legends, has been fully released since August 31, 2022. Prior to that it took us about a year to get from concept to beta to NFT presale. My three other co-founders – James, Jed, and Erick, have all known one another for at least a decade. Erick and I go way back to about 20 years. And the commonality with us four is that we all met because of video games. I used to beta-test Erick’s video games on the Palm OS. I met James and Jed because of Guild Wars II. The three of them had also put up a gaming studio during that time. Small world.
We came into the space with a collective knowledge of about 40 years in game development and twenty years in digital marketing. Were these enough, or did crypto have its own set of nuances that would strike it all down? So here we are, still breathing, after more than two years of product development and one year in the open market, I give you our combined learnings for building a game with blockchain elements from the Philippines.
Don’t launch until you have a playable game. By ‘playable game’ we do not mean a 15-minute demo. We guarantee you – players will not come back. From experience, it is better to release a solid game to 10 people than a sloppy one to 1,000 players. We’re aiming for ten 5-star reviews rather than 1,000 crickets. Want to launch on the App Store? Well, your sloppy game is going to get review-bombed to the bottom.
Hype is useless. It dies just as fast as it started. Our best marketing was always word of mouth, and now we get 10-15 new players every 24-48 hours. This is also the most sustainable way to grow. If you’re relying on hype, you’re probably going to get 1,000 sign-ups and then get rate-limited to oblivion because everyone is trying to log in to your beta. Guess what? Nobody enjoyed it because they kept getting disconnected or could not log in. We hear this a lot from other game titles who launch stress test betas. This brings us to the next lesson…
It’s all about the experience. Players will not remember your graphics, mechanics, or other fancy stuff. But what they will remember is the experience you gave them while playing. It’s that feeling of awe, wonder, and satisfaction that makes them recommend you to their friends.
If you want mass adoption for your game, you can start by making your title available on more platforms. Anito Legends ran on Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android on day one. That is how we got to grow to about 2 million sessions a week. Also, it ran on cheap USD $100 Android phones. How can you talk about mass adoption if your game requires an RTX 3060 to play? The typical Anito Legends player logs in while waiting for the bus. Or in the toilet. Or side by side while playing Axie Infinity. We’re easy to pick up and play as a casual autobattler and that is by design.
Make your game brand safe. If your goal is to tie up with brands in the future, especially here in the Philippines, you can’t have mature themes. The Anito Legends NFTs are cute on purpose because, after years of prototyping other games, we learned that it’s better to appeal to a very general audience – like your grandma playing casual games. Games that are too edgy might be shunned by brands that have strict guidelines for partnerships.
Listen to your community and implement fast. Now, the community part of Web3, we think everyone understands this. But it needs to be translated into action. What we mean by this is that the best features of Anito Legends were developed because of the few OG players who really care about our game. So community is always about listening to feedback – even if it’s just from one person who plays.
Have something for everyone instead of selfishly shoehorning players to your type of gameplay. Some players collect. Some players compete. Some follow and research the lore. We’ve discovered that it’s best to prepare activities that can engage all these different personalities. For example, we never expected that a subset of our player base would start collecting Anitos with a specific body part just because they thought it looked cool!
Be wary. Everyone’s an expert when you have something exploitable. It’s a good habit to seek out advice when confronted with something new and unknown, but it’s also a good practice to learn how to weed out the bad advice from the good – we encountered many people masquerading as experts who ultimately did not deliver. These are the “Fake it till you make it” crowd. Always check for results. Check frequently.
Managing a player economy has to be about long-term decisions if you want to keep players. If you’re after a pump and dump, nobody is going to take you seriously. Don’t even make a game. Retaining players means having very solid core game loops that tie into Web3 elements like burning and the rewards you get from it. For Anito Legends, we treat our NFTs like “digital sachets” because they do not cost an arm and a leg and they are really meant to be burned to get better items. This keeps the game economy healthy and affordable and it also shields you from too many speculators.
If you’re a founder, don’t give too many talks. You need to make yourself like an NFT – a resource that is limited. Being out there too much cheapens you as a founder because the perception is that you’re not building anything. Speak whenever you have something new. In this new meta of crypto projects, you have to show something new every time you take to the stage.