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According to Yuga Labs, the future of NFTs is in gaming.
Bored Ape Yacht Club and Yuga Labs co-founders Wylie Aronow and Greg Solano—also known by their internet aliases Gordon Goner and Garga—shared their vision for Yuga’s Otherside metaverse game in an interview with Decrypt on the gm podcast.
In short, they’re betting big on video games with NFT assets—but don’t want to create a “walled garden.” Since announcing Otherside, which has been described as everything from a metaverse to an MMORPRG, Yuga’s founders have been busy building out its development team.
Earlier this year, Yuga Labs raised $450 million in its first funding round, bringing the lean startup to a massive $4 billion valuation. Now, they’re sprinting toward the launch of their Web3-centric metaverse which, if early access footage is any indication, is reminiscent of “World of Warcraft.”
“We're building a team of creative technologists,” Aronow said. “I've been calling them the Yuganeers, but they're like the Imagineers—they're our creative ninjas.”
Right now, Aronow is extremely busy—to the point where it’s hard to focus on any one thing.
“I don’t prioritize. We do everything all the time,” he said.
For Solano, keeping the original spirit of the BAYC alive is still a priority—but he also wants to show the world what Yuga can do with its war chest of Web3 funding.
“I want to impress and show off technical prowess that we can do now with a bigger team, but also just remind people, ‘Hey, this is a pretty ridiculous club here.’ And we’re just here to have fun,” Solano said.
Doing Things Different
Yuga Labs’ game development process is different from traditional game publishers—their team is moving faster and bringing in NFT holders as de facto Otherside testers.
“I think we're doing things in contrast to the way a lot of gaming companies would do things, starting with the iterative development of the game itself,” Aronow said. “Typically, what you would see is you'd maybe get a teaser, a few months later you get a trailer, three years later, you get a game.”
Instead, Yuga plans to continue to reveal Otherside through multiple “trips,” where selected individuals can explore sections of the upcoming virtual world.
Unlike mainstream game developers, Yuga isn’t making its game products for the largest possible demographic.
“We are always building out everything for the person who bought an Ape for $200,” Aronow said, referring to those who first minted, or purchased, a Bored Ape when they first launched on Ethereum in April 2021.
And perhaps unsurprisingly, Otherside isn’t being designed for kids or no-coiners, either.
“I think one way of thinking about it is as a semi-decentralized, but absolutely Web3 native, Roblox,” Aronow said. “But obviously much better looking and geared for a slightly more adult audience.”
The fact that Otherside looks like a true MMORPG is also unsurprising, considering Solano previously co-authored a book about “World of Warcraft” in 2019.
“We want to tell an amazing story,” Solano said of their game’s creative core. “You know, about what the fuck these Koda things are, and a strange world that we found ourselves teleported into. And we also want to give the space for people's creativity to build on top of and enjoy.”
NFTs in Gaming
Is Yuga Labs becoming a gaming company? If Aronow and Solano’s vision for the company is any indication, it’s possible.
“While we're this tech company, in a way, this blockchain company, what we really are is more like a lifestyle brand, or a storytelling company,” Solano said.
“We’re very much a creative-first company,” Aronow added.
Despite all the controversy and backlash surrounding NFTs in video games, the two founders think the haters—and gamers in general—will eventually come around.
“Every time there’s a new technology, it gets shit on,” Aronow said.
The tattooed founder, who sports an Ape with laser eyes as his profile picture on Twitter, is also convinced that “every AAA gaming studio” has a group of people dedicated to developing blockchain games.
“The next big wave, or the next major wave, in NFTs will center around gaming,” he said.
But Aronow isn’t all sunshine and roses when it comes to the metaverse. He doesn’t think everyone working on a virtual world will do it right.
“The idea of a metaverse that's like a walled garden that's just built for you and you're just gonna get the features that we give you over time—that's just like another Web2 MMORPG,” he said.
“It didn't seem all that innovative to me,” he added. “I like the idea of bringing the community along for the ride.”
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