How Blockchain Is Transforming The Gaming Industry: A Conversation with Sky Mavis Co-Founder and Growth Lead Jeff Zirlin


Web3 gaming is a promising driver in crypto mainstream adoption. But what is the state of the industry at the moment? To find out, for my series ‘Crypto Opinion with Mike Ermolaev’ I talked to a visionary in the world of blockchain gaming, Jeff Zirlin, the Co-Founder and Growth lead at Sky Mavis, a company behind Axie Infinity and Ronin. In our recent interview, he shared his insights on the industry and the role of Ronin, the Ethereum-linked sidechain, in shaping the future of gaming.

Digital assets in games

"Blockchain technology has the potential to revolutionize the gaming industry by empowering players and creating new economic opportunities," Zirlin stated. He explained that the gaming industry is undergoing a significant transformation, with blockchain emerging as a game-changing technology. There is a shift towards more player-centric models, where gamers can better control their in-game assets. He believes that the integration of blockchain will enable new models of player ownership, digital asset trading, and community-driven game development. The success of Axie Infinity, the flagship game of Sky Mavis, is a testament to this shift.

Jeff Zirlin's vision for the future of gaming is one of empowerment and collaboration. He sees players as not just passive consumers, but active stakeholders in the success of the games. "Ronin is the foundation upon which we can build a new generation of games that truly put the player first," he declares. That would mean creating a world where "players and developers work together to shape the experiences they love. The traditional gaming model has always been about extracting value from players, Jeff notes. "With Ronin, we're flipping that script and empowering players to be active participants in the ecosystem, earning and trading valuable in-game items as they see fit."

"At Sky Mavis, we've built a strong community of players who are actively involved in the development and decision-making processes," he explained. "This level of community engagement is crucial for creating games that truly resonate with players." 

When asked about the challenges of implementing blockchain in gaming, Jeff acknowledged the need for increased user adoption and regulatory clarity. "One of the key challenges is educating players and helping them understand the benefits of blockchain-based gaming," he said. "We also need to work closely with regulators to ensure that the industry develops responsibly and sustainably."

As the gaming industry continues to evolve, Jeff believes that the integration of blockchain technology will be a key driver of innovation and growth. "The future of gaming is decentralized, player-centric, and community-driven," he concluded. "We're excited to be at the forefront of this transformation and to see how it unfolds in the years to come."


On Ronin’s history

Zirlin's passion for the industry is palpable as he shares his vision on Ronin a gateway to a new era of gaming, where players have true ownership and control over their digital assets. He believes that by leveraging Ronin's scalability and low transaction costs, game developers can create immersive experiences that seamlessly integrate blockchain technology.

Ronin is an Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM)-compatible blockchain specifically designed for game developers who create games with player-owned economies. The ecosystem token of Ronin is RON, which enables users to pay for transactions, participate in community governance, and stake through validators to earn rewards. Ronin is growing swiftly, seeing 715% growth from January - March 2023. Recently, the chain reached 1.32M Daily Active Addresses, setting a new record, which means we surpassed the highs they saw in the last bull run. 

Sky Mavis has built in both brutal bear markets and high-growth bull markets. As Jeff described it, Sky Mavis is “battle-tested”. “It has not only withstood multiple crypto cycles, but always came out stronger with better infrastructure, products, and partners”, he proudly told me. 

One year ago, Sky Mavis opened up Ronin to non-Axie games and since then they witnessed a phenomenon the team named “The Ronin Effect,” where games that launch on Ronin find their first 1,000 superfans and experience the halo effect of growth. The game called Pixels is a great example of The Ronin Effect. Pixels was sitting at  5-10,000 DAUs on Polygon before its move to Ronin and has now hit over 760k DAU and integrated over 90 other Web3 projects into its gameplay. 


On bringing MMORPG Ragnarok to the blockchain

A major event in the Ronin ecosystem recently was the launch of the Ragnarok Online franchise. Ronin partnered with Gravity to launch “Ragnarok: Monster World”, bringing the famous MMORPG into the rapidly growing world of blockchain gaming.  I personally see it as a great achievement to onboard an already popular game into the blockchain industry, as it marks a significant milestone in merging traditional and Web3 gaming. 

Commenting on the collaboration, Jeff stated, “Ragnarok is more than a game: it’s one of the most iconic gaming universes in the world. It’s a billion-dollar transmedia IP that has amassed over 68 million players across its various titles and captivated a generation of gamers around the world. By bringing Ragnarok to Ronin, we are connecting both Web3 and Web2 playerbases on a scale that has not been possible yet”. 

Turning to future plans, Sky Mavis’ target is to bring 16 partner studios/games to Ronin in 2024. Partnering with additional gaming franchises seems to become a promising strategy to bridge traditional gaming with blockchain technologies.


On Coinbase pay

Another recent development that I discussed with Zirlin, was the integration of Coinbase. A leading cryptocurrency exchange has recently announced the integration of its payment solution, Coinbase Pay, with the Ronin network. This integration aims to simplify the process of purchasing and withdrawing cryptocurrencies for users within the Ronin ecosystem. Coinbase Pay will enable users to purchase cryptocurrencies directly from their Ronin wallets, eliminating the need to transfer funds between separate platforms. 

This feature is expected to improve the overall user experience and reduce the friction associated with cryptocurrency transactions within the Ronin network. The Coinbase Pay integration with Ronin is a significant step forward in the ongoing efforts to make cryptocurrency more accessible and user-friendly.


Web3 games to check out

There are more and more games appearing on the blockchain. The industry already moved beyond the first experiments and offers more solid examples of what Web3 gaming can look like. If you are someone looking to game, Jeff recommends checking out Kaidro ― a multiplayer action RPG set in a post-apocalyptic world. Kaidro is a universe, including not only a game but also a webcomic and an animated TV series. The team behind the project is fairly impressive. Kaidro’s founders have previously worked on Jurassic World, Transformers, and Call of Duty. And the TV series is a child of Tim Hedrick, writer for Avatar: The Last Airbender. 

Other recommendations from Jeff Zirlin are The Machines Arena, 4v4 top-down hero shooter, and two new but promising games on Ronin ―  Pixels or Apeiron. They might be flying under your radar if you’re not engaged with the Ronin ecosystem on a daily basis, but they are definitely worth a look. 

This article is from an unpaid external contributor. It does not represent Benzinga's reporting and has not been edited for content or accuracy.

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