RAWG Wants to Hack the Gaming Community With Blockchain
Today more than ever, the gaming world is all about achievements and showing off gamers’ mastery of their favorite pastime. For gamers that spread their playtime over several consoles, it can be a pain to keep track of their catalogue and harder still to find better games to play and master. Publishers staunchly refuse to even consider cross-platform functionality and wall off their users’ gaming data, fragmenting players’ attentions.
RAWG, a new blockchain-based platform for gamers, offers a different path, letting users centralize their various profiles in a single account. This gives them a comprehensive view of their game collections, achievements, and even helps them find new titles that match their interests. I had the opportunity to sit down with Gadji Makhtiev, the company’s CEO, to discuss the project and the broader impact of blockchain on the gaming industry.
Where did the idea for RAWG originate?
Me and Alex [Gornostaev, RAWG’s CPO] were analyzing traffic data from Kanobu, our gaming website. We noticed that half of the visitors came looking specifically for our catalogue of game information, and the other half came for news, game reviews, and other content. Our news department, however, was using up 80% of our budget, while our database support only got 20%. We also noticed that there really wasn’t a central place where gamers could find all their favorite games’ information easily. Gamers had to visit Twitch to see gameplay, Reddit for community opinions, YouTube for reviews, and so on. We realized that RAWG could be a valuable opportunity.
You’ve been in gaming for over a decade with Kanobu; why turn to blockchain and content curation?
We’ve been a part of the community for a long time, and are very deep into it, so we’re always looking to make it better. The market is quickly changing as gamers get older. Today, the average gamer in the US is 31, and where 10 years ago gamers had trouble finding $50 for a game, now that’s not really an issue. The bigger problem is a lack of time, and gamers’ needs to make better purchasing decisions to fit their time constraints while still having fun.
It’s great to pour 6 hours into The Order 1886 or even 100 hours into the Witcher 3’s massive world, but overall the gaming market is changing with a variety of play experiences. New genres are emerging, and gaming is producing more diverse ideas as it becomes a more artistic medium. This also creates some confusion for gamers who don’t have time to research new titles or keep up with news.
Also, the borders between consoles are more blurred than any point in history. More than 70% of gamers play on multiple platforms, which makes curated content more valuable than ever before for gamers. Realistically, it's more reliable to leverage the gamers themselves to curate content, as it would be unfeasible for an editorial team to review the thousands of games published yearly.
What is RAWG? How does it work for users with different needs?
First, RAWG is an infotainment service for any gamer. Users can find all the essential details they need about a game they’re curious about on a single page—release date, creators, consoles, trailers, and more. This is the core of the service. However, we also collect media content from across the web including YouTube, Twitch, Imgur, and Reddit, giving users a chance to explore a game as deeply as they like before purchasing it.
This also helps us improve the service, because we can draw from gamers’ preferences, played games, and favorite creators to recommend games they would like or other potential titles from the same studio. It’s also more than just a publisher or a company name, too; we have information about artists, directors, and the developers who made the game. Games are an art form, and we want to highlight the craftspeople who build these amazing experiences, including voice actors, composers, and more.
Our second big focus is centralizing gamers’ catalogues on RAWG. Users can sync all their separate profiles to upload their information onto their RAWG “shelf”, and have their achievements, user tags, and game data in one place. This also enhances our recommendation engine and even improves the social side of RAWG. Gamers will be able to create different lists of their favorite games and follow other users to see their collections. We will also provide users with UGC tools so they can work with our database and supply information about games and creators. This is a great part of curation, and it works amazingly with our compatibility system which highlights gamers’ similar interests based on their collections.
We’re also using blockchain to provide even greater incentives to join and participate in the RAWG community. Gamers on RAWG will be able to receive our tokens as rewards for in-game achievements, and they’ll be able to exchange them for rewards in our ecosystem, or even into fiat. We chose this achievement-based model for a simple reason: its offers a great measuring stick for gamers, and they give us useful data about player preferences that we can incorporate into our recommendations. We also hope developers will be encouraged to integrate our model into their designs to build an even more seamless ecosystem.
What are the biggest pain points RAWG is trying to solve?
The “what to play next” problem is our main focus, but we’re also working on addressing several pain points. The infotainment aspect gives users an easier way to make decisions; UGC tools empower users to share knowledge and get recommendations; and the personal library grants users greater control over their game libraries. Even our tokens, which on the surface are about monetizing users’ gaming experiences, help us provide a better, tailored recommendation for each user.
Do you think blockchain will have the same effect on gaming as it has on industries like finance and logistics?
I think in the long term, it may even have a bigger impact. Gaming is one of the most technology and data-driven industries. Creators, publishers, and sellers are always looking for any new technological edge they can use. Blockchain offers a lot of solutions to big problems across the industry—copyright protection, in-game economies, and p2p transactions, to name a few. Ethereum’s ERC721 protocol, for instance, is a great base for next-gen online collectible cards. More importantly, gamers are receptive to such features which create complex virtual ecosystems and economies, so the “last mile” problem is not as prevalent.
How do you see blockchain impacting the gaming scene and industry in the future? Will AAA publishers join the party?
What we have now is a high level of interest—conferences full of market experts and developers. You can be assured that AAA publishers with their own distribution channels and large in-game economies will be among the first to deploy blockchain. For example, Microsoft already announced that they will use blockchain to calculate publishers’ revenues on Xbox Live.
What were the biggest lessons you took from Kanobu that you’ve implemented at RAWG?
The biggest takeaway for me is that the age of solo projects is over. The only way to have success is to build a strong team that covers as many areas of expertise as you need. Even Marvel made the Avengers its main franchise, and not Iron Man.
How do you envision RAWG growing in the next few years?
Our most short-term plans are adding UGC tools and functionality, launching our tokens, and improving our recommendation algorithm. We’ll also be building mobile platforms soon as well. This is just the beginning, too. RAWG must not only learn how to recommend games users will love but also identify those that fit their current needs.