Fan engagement platform Espo is set to launch its blockchain-compatible metaverse, EspoWorld, for fans and teams.
Speaking to Planet Crypto, Espo’s CEO Henry James shared the first details of the platform’s next expansion.
This follows on from Espo’s release of its Esports platform in February. James described this as “version 1.0” for their gamified fan engagement plans in the Esports space.
What is EspoWorld?
EspoWorld will be Espo’s own metaverse web app, comprising various ‘districts’ each linked to a certain Esports team.
These districts will feature a Team HQ surrounded by virtual plots of land, which players can then buy. Each plot of land will have its own ID linked to an NFT – or Non-Fungible Token.
Players will be able to build and customise these plots of land. EspoWorld will include integrated mini-games from third-party game developers. Espo will also produce its own mini-games, such as treasure hunts within the metaverse.
As fans engage with these games and challenges, this will upgrade their corresponding Team HQ in the centre of the district. James hopes this will create “fun and friendly competition between the different fan communities.”
Some of the more popular blockchain-based games, such as Axie Infinity, require an initial payment to get started. EspoWorld will be available on a freemium basis, meaning it is free-to-start, but will see some in-game items, such as plots of land and objects, available at a price.
Pending on Espo’s current seed investment round, James stated that the first feature set of EspoWorld will release in Q1 2022. The whitepaper will also come out shortly.
Espo currently has partnerships with various top-level Esports teams, including GODSENT, Team BDS, and Alliance, appealing to fans of League of Legends, Fortnite, Valorant, Rocket League and more.
EspoWorld Blockchain Strategy
In terms of EspoWorld’s blockchain strategy, James described the project as ‘blockchain agnostic’.
“We have realised through our research that some of the teams that we’re really working with today have a different stance on the different types of blockchain networks,” he said. This will give teams the option of choosing between chains when minting NFTs via the Espo ecosystem.
G2 will launch its NFTs on the Polygon blockchain, while OG Esports partnered with Binance NFT for its NFT drops.
Along with not running on a single blockchain, EspoWorld will also not have its own cryptocurrency token. James explained that he believed in most cases “these cryptos or utility tokens create unnecessary extra friction for the user to consumer the end product or service an application has to offer.”
Instead, it will feature Espo Loyalty Points. These can be collected via engaging with the metaverse and third-party social media or live streaming sites. Players can redeem these for digital items within the metaverse, or for real-world items from EspoWorld’s Team Partners. These include limited-edition merchandise, and opportunities to play with professionals on steam.
The Value of NFTs
EspoWorld will include NFTs that have in-game utility. However, speculative NFT trading is not intended to drive the app, according to James.
One of the largest hurdles for NFTs, James said, comes from the scare factor of NFTs and cryptocurrency volatility. This has led Espo to ensure that NFTs are not the focal point of EspoWorld.
“We’re striving to create a metaverse where people are coming to engage and play because it’s cool and fun. Our goal is to create a long-term outlet for Esports fans to expand their experience, as opposed to attracting users solely interested speculating on the value of NFTs,” he said.
James further added that building EspoWorld with NFT capabilities will “present a unique way to enable exclusivity around a particular item or utility within a digital environment” that is more transparent.
“In my view, the NFT element of any project shouldn’t be the key selling point. The selling point of any good NFT project should be ‘What’s the utility, and do I care to use it?’ I like NFTs that are not just buy to hold, but on a buy to use.”
The Future of NFTs
Expanding on the NFTs usage, James said he thinks this could be the “Day Zero of the NFT space.”
James described NFTs that represent art or other forms of media as “the primitive starting point for the utility potential of NFTs.”
He further added: “So, we’re trying to be an innovator in that space, and demonstrating that you can pack a great deal of utility into a single NFT via an interactive environment such as EspoWorld.”
It isn’t just about new NFTs, however. James said Espo is in discussion with Esports teams about “offering additional utility to some of their existing NFT collections in EspoWorld.”
This would “[give] a new set of features to those NFT holders, which they would never have anticipated when they first acquired those NFTs.”
James hopes that in EspoWorld’s future, there can be more of a crossover for NFTs, linking in-game objects with their physical counterparts.
“You could buy a Limited Edition T-shirt on Espo from GODSENT, and you receive this T-shirt at your home address, plus the digital NFT version of that T-shirt in EspoWorld for you to display in your Fan Room, or wear on your avatar.”
However, James did state this utility is “still some time out.”
The Future of Gaming
Speaking more broadly, the Espo CEO touched upon how this technology could affect the wider video game industry.
“Buying in-game items has increasingly become the leading revenue model for the video gaming industry, but I think the back-end mechanism will change,” he said. “Rather than ‘renting’ these items from the game publisher, I think we’ll see gamers owning the in-game items they purchase outright, and they will run on blockchain technology.”
James cited the likes of F1 Delta Time in already making these changes.
“While the game publisher still has the power to change the game, the publisher won’t have the power to revoke access to an item purchased by the gamer.”
As for Esports teams, James stated that after speaking to many team executives, the current trend is shifting towards relying on revenue from digital assets – including the likes of NFTs.
[Featured Photo by SteelSeries via Flickr]