Web3 growth marketing with Sky Mavis, PlayEmber, and First Light Games: ‘a beautiful moment of a bear market’

By John Koetsier December 5, 2022

Is web3 marketing in a beautiful moment?

It certainly doesn’t feel beautiful. It feels painful, like the pain of Ethereum being down 70% from its one-year high last December of $4,600. Or Bitcoin, down to the $17,000 range from last December’s heights of over $50,000. 

But here’s the thing: the web3 space isn’t defined solely, or even primarily, by the price of cryptocurrency. Rather, it’s defined by a reimagining of the internet based on principles of decentralization, token economics, and publicly available data in the form of blockchain technology. And while — let’s be honest — the jury is still very much out on how successful this particular reframing of the core technologies that have made the internet what it is will be, it’d be hard to argue the impact that many of the ideas behind those principles have had on social platforms, structured communities, games, finance, and platforms.

So I recently took some time to chat with 3 people who are inventing the future of mobile games who are heavily invested in the emerging web3 ethos:

  • Quinn Campbell, the VP Growth at Sky Mavis, makers of Axie Infinity, with almost 3 million daily players, $3.6 billion traded on-platform, and an Axie that was sold for $820,000
  • Dan Reynolds from First Light Games, who are in the late stages of making a “free-to-play, Web3, mobile gaming, battle royale tour de badass”
  • Jon Hook, CMO of PlayEmber, a web3 monetization platform that has driven 100 million downloads and new users who have signed for for 100,000 new wallets so far

A beautiful moment of a bear market

A key question: where are we in the evolution of web3 games, web3 experiences, web3 communities, web3 growth, and, crucially, what will the emerging web3 growth marketing stack look like?

According to these experts, a bear market is just what the web3 space needed.

“I think we’re in this kind of beautiful moment of a bear market,” Quinn Campbell says. “We’re actually able to build every day in a way that only a bear market truly affords … there’s definitely a shakedown going on, but the projects that are able to really survey and build through this bear are going to be the foundation of the next decade of NFT gaming, and of web3 as well.”

In other words, bye-bye yield farmers.

Bye-bye insta-DeFi protocols pumped by clueless influencers.

Bye-bye 50,000 new NFT collections every day produced by MidJourney or Stable Diffusion and named via a random name generator.

“Now you’re starting to see these game studios go back to their roots of creating a fun, sticky core gameplay first, and then just sprinkling some web3 magic on top of it,” says Campbell.

Web3 growth marketing: traditional or brand-new?

Something I’ve struggled with during the bull run of both crypto and web3 is the super-hyped marketing tones using newer platforms like Discord and Telegram. 

Generally, the hook has been: join our Telegram or Discord to get early access or free tokens or some other benefit, and the reality was that tens of thousands of people (bots?) jumped on the offer, boosting vanity stats — “there are 3 million people in our Telegram channel” — and grabbing early rewards.

But … not really engaging over the long term.

And, then inevitably, the incredible uselessness of over-crowded channels blasted with everything from newbie questions to random spammy pitches to NewUser2398 just joined to the very occasional authentic company updates, which essentially forced me to get off of virtually every Telegram channel I joined.

The signal to noise ratio was just too low.

So how do you do web3 growth marketing that works? Do Discord and Telegram really work? Are there other channels?

Jon Hook says we don’t have to throw out all our existing marketing knowledge when entering the web3 space.

“I think it comes back to just the basics that we all know when you are making a game: who are you targeting and what is their motivation?” he says. “You’ve definitely got like some of the early adopters of web3 — web3 degens — they know all about NFTs and tokens and staking … and they expect Discord, right? That’s their community, that’s their friendship base, that’s how they interact.”

But also, Hook says, there are those people that just love mobile games and have happened to find a new web3 game. And they’re just playing it because they like playing it.

“If you’re gonna onboard these normies, well, where are they?” he adds. “Do they know what Discord is?”

Probably not. And very likely, the normies are on Facebook or Snap or TikTok, and ad campaigns aimed at those platforms stand a good chance of success. But when you’re dealing with a mix of “degens” and normies, formulating a coherent marketing strategy is more challenging.

Essentially, the upshot is: no-one really knows what the ultimate, definitive answer is, says Dan Reynolds of First Light Games.

That’s challenging, because they’re just about to release their first big web3 game, and there’s no playbook. There is a playbook for traditional mobile games: soft-launch, fine-tune, spend on the traditional channels, optimize your campaigns, engage and retain your new players, users, or customers, and essentially rinse and repeat according to the size of your budget.

But what’s the playbook for web3 growth marketing?

“The challenge that we face right now is to try and strike that balance between tapping into this world of web3 speculators, but also aiming to take the game mainstream around the world,” Reynolds says. “So one thing that we are focused very much on right now is to do what we know we are good at, which is creating a good game that’s gonna be enjoyable … whilst using as much of the blockchain technology as possible and staying in the loop with everything new that is coming out.”

Web3 growth marketing: a new challenge that traditional mobile games don’t face

While the success rate of new games and apps tells you all you need to know about how hard marketing traditional mobile games really is, there’s additional challenges in the web3 space.

One of them: the sheer diversity of personas to target.

“I think what’s so inherently different about trying to grow and then manage that scale of community of a web3 game versus web 2 is just the sheer variety of users or players or archetypes that you have in your ecosystem,” Campbell says. “We have like 11 or 12 different player archetypes that we’ve identified within Axie … and only about half of them actually play the game.”

Those 11 or 12 different personas include:

  • hardcore PvP battlers
  • eSports players
  • People just playing for fun
  • Land owners
  • SLP earners (SLP is smooth love potion, which is an ERC-20 token you can earn in Axie Infinity)
  • There are also scholars in the game
  • And others who do nothing but participate in governance discussions around the coming Axie Infinity DAO (decentralized autonomous organization)

Plus, there are content creators. Community tooling developers. And even more.

All of this is fascinating and exciting and bodes well for the formation of not just a game but a community, if not a micro-society with a significant amount of complexity, an economy, and defined acceptable social practice, but it does have a downside for game and app publishers.

“There’s absolutely no way to argue that that person is any less valuable to us than somebody actually playing the game every day or vice versa,” says Campbell. “And so it even makes it hard to actually come up with entirely new LTV equations and figure out who we’re really buying and what to optimize for at the end of the day.”

Layer in ATT and Privacy Sandbox for Android on top of that, with limited models for recording conversion values and limited capability for measuring cohort value and activity over time, and the scale of the challenge becomes clear.

So much more in this Web3 growth marketing podcast

There’s so much more in this podcast.

Subscribe to the Growth Masterminds podcast if you like listening to podcasts, or subscribe to our YouTube channel to get notifications when we post new videos with growth experts.

We also chat about:

  • Interconnectivity in games via web3 mechanisms
  • Portability of assets from game to game
  • Digital ownership
  • In-game or in-app monetary policy with token economics
  • Wallet relationship management
  • Web3 marketing stack
  • Attribution in web3 marketing
  • Bringing the next billion people onto the blockchain

Also: we get each expert’s best advice for those new to the web3 space about how to get engaged, how to learn, and how to start experimenting with potential web3 tie-ins for your existing apps or new ones.

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