We’re excited to be leading Unbound Nation’s latest $3 million seed funding round, where we are joined by Blackpool, Daedalus, BLN Capital, and a few angel investors. Unbound Nation is a fast-growing play-to-earn (p2e) guild that is rethinking the nature of the relationship between game developers, gamers, guilds and venture capital funds.
We were impressed by the Unbound Nation team’s ability to adapt their experience scaling consumer brands and managing teams at major organizations to p2e guild management. They have developed a sophisticated platform to source, manage and educate scholars for the games they support. Unbound Nation has grown significantly in the last couple of months, placing itself at the top 10% in terms of the player performance compared to other major guilds.
Apart from overall execution, as a fund with NFT exposure, we found their approach to building a B2B NFT rental platform targeting NFT funds, seeking to make their idle NFTs productive very exciting. Such product would allow Greenfield One to deploy its NFTs towards p2e games and earn yield for doing so.
Play-to-Earn market and the role of guilds
Most of the blockchain-based games require a buy-in (monetary investment) in form of an NFT in order to play the game (e.g. Axie Infinity) or to be able to earn while playing. This creates a mismatch between the well-off gamers (often the ones in the developed countries) and the gamers in developing countries. Guilds emerged to solve the problem of getting rid of the entry barriers for gamers who have time or passion to play but not necessarily the financial means to buy into playing a game or buy into the top-tier in-game gear to maximize earnings on par with their skill.
We believe the term Play-to-Earn (p2e) to be somewhat of a misnomer as earning is by itself not a sustainable reason to play a game. Most of the games focused solely on earning resemble gamified yield farming protocols more than actual games. We do not expect these games to be long-term sustainable as multiple downward “death spirals” in some p2e games have demonstrated.
We feel the phrase “Play-and-Earn” is more appropriate for more long-term crypto-enabled games, where the game and its core loop are the primary drivers of player activity and retention. Earning, like liquidity mining in DeFi protocols, should serve to bootstrap the user base and be more equivalent to the game/user protocol’s acquisition cost.
Another trend which is starting to emerge is games getting rid of NFT-gating — not requiring players to purchase an NFT in order to play anymore. The financial aspect to NFTs and their in-game utility will remain — likely in a form of boosting the rewards/yields for more high-skilled players. This might decrease the role of the guilds as the gate-keepers to the games for the players who previously couldn’t afford entry-level NFTs. In this circumstance, guilds will most likely concentrate on community management, acquiring and helping high-skilled players by sourcing top-tier NFTs for them or growing into esports organizations.
We believe there to be four main stakeholders in the blockchain-enabled gaming space — game developers, gamers, guilds and venture capital funds with NFT exposure. We believe there to be synergies between these stakeholders, where guilds stand in the middle as a match-making actor, balancing and catering to the needs of each stakeholder.