WildWorks, known for popular mobile games like Animal Jam, is making the move into NFTs and the metaverse.
In late November, the Utah-based game developer announced its entry into the crypto world with Cinder, a blockchain-based metaverse world. Sometime in January, WildWorks will launch 11,111 NFT avatars called Cinder Fae and spawn a “create to earn” economy that enables players to “turn game content they design into NFTs stored on the efficient Solana blockchain,” according to the company’s announcement.
Founded in 2003, WildWorks is traditionally a video game company. Animal Jam, its most popular game, surpassed 130 million users, but WildWorks CEO Clark Stacey says Cinder will be different. It’s not just a mobile game, he says. “I hesitate to call Cinder a game really because it’s not your traditional RPG or MMO-type experience, it’s really more of a virtual world that you inhabit, where players can go in or users can go in and create cool stuff in the world and make money from it if they want to.”
“It’s more of a social experience where games can take place, but it’s not like you have a narrative that you’re pursuing or non-player characters you’re interacting with.”
Stacey says he was initially skeptical of the blockchain-based gaming space. In a November post on Medium, he wrote that if you told him a year ago that WildWorks would be making its blockchain-based entry, “I’d have rolled my eyes to the back of my head.”
He cited environmental concerns with some cryptocurrencies and skepticism about what value blockchain gaming would actually bring to consumers. As far as the environmental concerns go, WildWorks says that using the Solana blockchain, the NFT mint for Cinder will have less carbon impact than the credit card transactions processed in other games. And with Cinder, he thinks value will quickly be found by users, as the virtual world will be accessible on day one of the NFT launch, and players will have more control over their in-game creations.
A few years from now, we could be looking at the future of the virtual world, where people actually own the data they create in the game, as opposed to in-game content that has no financial value outside the game. “I’ve been making games now for 27, 28 years. There’s a lot of technologies that come along that people are sure are going to revolutionize gaming, and they don’t. What I think we’re seeing right now with blockchain technology is most of what people have come up with, you could do with an ordinary database, and this is just a complicated and buzzy way to accomplish what a database would do.
“Where we got excited about it was when we started to see things that you could do that couldn’t really easily be done with an ordinary database, and that’s things like players owning content that they create in the game and having control over it is just much easier and much more secure to do with Blockchain technology, and that gets exciting,” Stacey says. “So will that change the game industry? I think the Web3 technologies, overall, absolutely will. And they will, to the degree that the mobile revolution gaming and after the iPhone’s introduction in the West, changed that landscape. And I think that a lot of the systems and even legal framework will have to catch up to it, but right now we’re starting to see games coming up doing things that really are genuinely novel and play-to-earn is one of them. But I think that there’s going to be many more branching off of the smart contract functionality that we probably haven’t even thought of yet.”
NFT-based gaming has “the ability to totally flip the table and put control in the hands of players and creators,” Stacey wrote on Medium. “Consider a platform like Roblox. They provide a platform for users to make and distribute games, and in exchange for providing that platform, they take 75 percent of the revenue generated from their users’ work. They don’t create gameplay experiences themselves, they aren’t the ones whose creative output is actually engaging players, but they get 75 percent of what creators earn because they control the platform and own their users’ output,” he wrote.
“If I make a really cool avatar in Roblox and someone wants to buy it from me, I can’t sell it to them without the platform’s intervention. I can only make money from my creative output in the ways they permit, and their platform is the only place my work can be sold.”
Stacey wrote that Cinder will be “drawing upon the scaffolding of Feral,” a Wildworks game where players control their own mythical animals. Feral won’t be adopting NFT and blockchain gaming, as “the Feral community deserves to evolve on its own path, and crypto-gaming isn’t what its members signed up for.” Cinder may visually resemble Feral in some aspects, “but the resemblance ends there.”
Cinder NFT avatars will be available to use as soon as they’re minted in January, though that’s only phase three of the project. In phase four, avatar editor and room editor betas will be available, along with live events for NFT owners, in-game personal NFT galleries, and a countdown to a new avatar mint. In phase six, Cinder says the marketplace will launch. By phase eight, player-to-player smart contracts, such as for art commissions, will be available.
As Stacey says, Cinder isn’t just a game. He doesn’t see his company’s competitors as Axie Infinity, Roblox or Decentraland, but rather Discord or a voice, video, and text chat app. “I think that what we’re looking to do is create a social space that goes beyond just the firehose of chat threads, and that gives people the ability to interact in ways that are more creative. And we can host events in there: everything from concerts, to lectures, to special interest groups for chat and interaction.
“This is going to be a fun place to go in and make social media to kind of set up scenes and capture things for your Tik Tok or Instagram, and even a place to go and show off your collection of other NFTs is in a gallery that you construct inside Cinder,” Stacey says. “But it’s you know, I wouldn’t want to create the impression that like this is an MMO you’re going to go in, you’re going to choose to be a warrior or a thief, and you’re going to build up a character and go on quests and things. Ultimately, we want to get this to where it’s the community that’s creating experiences for the community as much as we are. If I had to give you a one-sentence elevator pitch, I would say that it’s Etsy meets Burning Man.”