EPIK’s very own co-founder and CEO, Victor David, was recently invited to the Brave New Coin podcast hosted by Andy Pickering on August 12th, 2021. Many of you might have already heard of the podcast — or many did not. But to make sure no one misses out from the exciting news in the crypto and NFT spaces shared by Victor David, we have come up with the podcast transcript highlighting the key knowledge everyone will be interested with, especially gamers, NFT and crypto enthusiasts.
It’s great to have you here, Victor! Before we delve into the wonderful world of NFTs and dive deep into the metaverse, let’s just learn a little bit about yourself and your background leading up to you founding EPIK — just a short version of your career path.
Okay, sure! I’m a programmer from the late 1990s and early 2000s. I guess my big claim to fame was building low-level socket middleware for the biggest telemarketing company in North America. From there, I went on to become an entrepreneur, and I never thought I’d be in the blockchain space, but then fast forward into 2018, NFTs were actually coming out.
I was there in Dallas, in the ERC-721 code review, from the ground zero and things started to emerge. Because of my experience and being a part of the original dot-com era, everyone was really excited about NFTs and people wanted to do art, people wanted to generate content, people wanted to do a marketplace — the OpenSea guys were coding it out beside me. I really went out there and said, you know, I’m going to swing for the fences, build the biggest enterprise ecosystem, and focus on games and brands.
It was basically a passion project for a very long time but we got a lot of traction. We went from 10 companies to 30 companies to now being the largest company working with over 250 game companies — over half of the top 25 game companies in the world [are] our clients. We put brands into those game companies and focus on the digital merch of these crossovers and the next evolution is integrating with them to do NFTs. We’re the only NFT company to do any deals with AAA game studios and implement any kind of NFT solutions with them.
So, that’s kind of the origin story [of] how we get here.
The EPIK ecosystem, its business model and how it works.
Absolutely fascinating, Victor! Now, if you could maybe just expand a little bit on how the EPIK ecosystem works and what kind of business model it is, because what’s so interesting is [that] this is just a brand new world, so everyone is literally building and making it up as we go along and all these exciting new opportunities are unlocked, right?
Yeah, great question! That is the huge differentiation between EPIK and everybody else. We are B2B (business-to-business) focused and in the end, the consumers do interact with us. But our clients are primarily businesses, and that was our strategy from the beginning. In that vein, we’re the only ones that really work with all the other marketplaces, the biggest exchanges, the biggest game companies.
We’re primarily B2B — that’s our business model — and by working together, you can think of EPIK as this massive distribution force. In the traditional model, you would put your brand into one game, maybe like a console game, and find out the results of that interaction or that licensing agreement three years later as a postmortem.
What EPIK specializes in is digital merchandise and short-term collaboration crossovers. So now, all of a sudden, let’s say a Disney-Star Wars movie coming out soon, we could put them into five different games simultaneously on different geographic regions and run that campaign for a month where they’re getting promotional placement, as well as the opportunity to drive revenue via digital in-game items and then them also in NFTs. So that’s kind of our business model right there.
Bringing characters from different brands into games and how digital items now represent everything in the physical world.
Amazing! I suppose the example of [what] you’re talking about is Fortnite, right? Because Fortnite is obviously one of the uh biggest, evolving metaverses right now with millions of players. And what’s fascinating about Fortnite is that they have been able to do what you were just talking about in terms of bringing in characters from across different brands and companies and movie universes.
That’s when things start to get interesting. When you’ve got all these characters that wouldn’t normally interact with each other, [then] suddenly they’re in the same environment and what you’re talking about is, what happens when you unlock the abilities of NFTs and extrapolate it out? Things start to get really weird but really interesting, right?
You’re absolutely correct! That was our go-to example of how a game can increase retention and excitement. Proposing content and IP (intellectual property) that their own players wanted, we pioneered that with EPIK, not just the biggest goliath game companies, like Fortnite, but also to small game companies. Initially, it’s all user-generated content, which is still going to be massive just like YouTube is generating content. But, there’s going to be a place for premium license content and that’s really what EPIK is going for.
Bringing in [something] interesting about the items, that’s really the thesis of EPIK. We’re [a] digital merchandise company. We are the largest licensing agency putting brands into AAA games — it’s all about digital merchandise, whether it’s in-game items or NFT items, and how this can tie across all the different metaverses.
Digital items are what I had an inkling feeling of when I was talking about my obsession with an MMO — World of Warcraft — that these digital items meant more to me than physical items and [that’s] the transition happening right now where [it’s] becoming a real sticking point with younger demographics. The idea behind EPIK is that these digital items now represent everything like physical items do in the real world which is class, identity, membership.
Now [in the digital world], people will go look at their digital wallets — something that EPIK is obviously building — and they remember that game they played when they’re in high school, they remember their journey of [playing] when they’re in college. They don’t have to spin up the entire game, they can just go look at their history of digital items. This is where digital items then become a focal point of [the question], “can one platform rule them all?”
Absolutely! We might get to a point where one of these vendors emerges and becomes Facebook — coincidentally, Facebook is also doing their own metaverse. The idea behind EPIK and what we’re trying to do with [is to give] people ownership of their items and access [them] without having it necessarily tied to the games. Being able to bridge all this together and have this layer of interconnectivity with these items is really interesting to us.
How challenging is it for a company to deliver all of human beings’ desires in one platform? How should the metaverse be looked at in the future? How EPIK is working in connecting the different metaverses?
Yes indeed, Victor! I did want to talk to you about what’s happening at Facebook. Anyone watching the NFT news cycle has seen Mark Zuckerberg’s comments [where] he said that basically, in five years time, he wants Facebook to be seen as not a social media company but as a metaverse company which is quite incredible to hear [and] makes a lot of sense.
The worry there comes from the famous quote by the CEO of Epic Games, Tim Sweeney, [wherein] he said, “This metaverse is going to be far more pervasive and powerful than anything else. If one central company gains control of this, they will become more powerful than any government and be a god on Earth.” He’s right though, isn’t he?
Well, yes! I love actually that more and more companies are coming in.
What we’ve just talked about there is Facebook. We’ve [also] talked about Epic Games and their success, but we didn’t mention Amazon who has now done their own MMORPG, Blizzard who did World of Warcraft and the other big players out there. When you look at the big tech companies and their foray into gaming, it’s going to be a challenge. It’s not an automatic win for them, so it’s scary what Facebook is doing and it’s not quite easy.
[You shouldn’t] look at the metaverse as almost like one gaming platform evolving to become the metaverse but more like the next evolution of the internet where everybody is living online, everyone has their own unique tastes, and has that freedom and ability to cater to whatever they desire to search, explore, learn, and spend their time doing [what they want]. For one company to be able to encompass all of human beings’ desires, it would be very incredible for that to be accomplished. In terms of our company, our idea is to work with all the metaverses.
I definitely think that these goliaths coming in are initially scary, but if you look at Facebook, they’ve been into it for a very long time with their VR and strategy and you can see where this is going now.
EPIK is going to put up a big fight, as well as the other big companies. As a person who’s played and been quoted “addicted” to MMORPGs, it’s basically about the people, the social activity behind it and that’s where Facebook definitely has an advantage. But in terms of “can
they create an experience that will encapsulate everything that they want to do?”, that’ll be the
biggest challenge for them.
How the metaverse works in the digital and physical worlds, an example of how a brand/celebrity can be interoperable, and how the metaverse levels the playing field.
Fascinating thoughts, Victor! I completely agree with you. There are going to be a lot of different environments and I’m sure you’ve read the essays by Matthew Ball. He talks about his high-level mental framework for what a metaverse is — this idea that it’s an environment that never resets or pauses or ends, it just continues indefinitely. It’s a living experience that exists consistently and independently for everyone in real-time and that can be both in digital, physical, private and public networks, experiences and economies, and open and closed platforms.
All of those different parts of the future world are parts of the metaverse, but the key — and your kind of alluded to this as well — is we need this idea of the blockchain term “interoperability” for these environments to talk to each other so that they can carry through things like NFTs, be able to wear our digital avatars, and play with our digital swords across all these different environments and have it all make sense, right?
Absolutely! That is the biggest challenge in front of us today. For some companies, like Facebook, [they] are trying to create that encompassing experience. For our company, for sure that’s our biggest challenge but we feel like we have a really good head start. As mentioned, we have the most clients [with] over 300 video game companies and over half of the top 25 game companies as our clients.
As this kind of organization that works with everybody, our ecosystem as an outsider, we’re not our own game company and we’re not our own social network platform. Our purpose is to serve our clients [and] that strategy has really resonated with them that’s why they choose to work with us, not just because the size of our network but because our business model is really in service to them — to create this interconnectivity in their best interests in order to make everything a win-win situation.
Going to the scenario about Travis Scott. We’re looking to build a world where Travis Scott [is interoperable]. That could happen not just in Fortnite but also in Roblox and Minecraft and all the other big games. Why would they do that? Well, number one [reason], it levels the playing field. These game companies mostly do this kind of stuff for retention and engagement within their communities.
We’re building a world where it’s almost like a movie theater. We could then distribute this experience across all the different metaverses so the brand wins. Travis Scott gets to sell more tickets and gets more exposure, [but the] only [thing] that he doesn’t know is what games he’s most popular in. EPIK can now provide this data and say, “Okay, you’re really popular in Fortnite. You’re also popular in Roblox but not so much in Minecraft, etc.” Then, he can decide where he wants to focus more of his energies, [typically] on the places that he’s not so popular [yet].
The metaverse companies are happy because now they get to compete on even ground. They also get to offer this new content and experience. They’re also very happy about EPIK being able to distribute these experiences everywhere — and that’s where we talk about a win-win situation.
Where are we in NFT adoption and when do NFT games start to become mainstream?
Absolutely fascinating again, Victor! And what’s interesting as well about NFTs is we had this massive explosion of interest in an NFT around the start of this year when the trading volumes on all the marketplaces just exploded and we saw the people [do] auctions [which] took NFTs right to the forefront of public consciousness, but most of that was based around digital art and memes. You guys at EPIK are sort of more focused on gaming [and] I think you do everything. Where do you think are we at in terms of this cycle of adoption for NFTs and when do gaming NFTs start to have their moment?
Great question! The funny story is, one of my mentors is a guy named Hank
Rogers, and he’s the founder of Tetris — we’re one of the co-founders, dumped a lot of personal money into his own avatar-based company in the 90s. He believed in this vision [that] it’s all about timing!
What’s interesting is that user-generated economies are definitely important. Consuming content is a little bit different than buying items and merchandise. Even if you look historically at the Sims and other games that have user-generated economies, they haven’t flourished well. Is that going to stay that way in the future? No! I definitely think it’s going to grow crazy over the next decade. These generated economies are going to flourish.
However, the easiest bridge to cross for most consumers is to still make consumer-purchase decisions based upon premium license content, which is what people do nowadays and what anybody does when they buy a Nike hat or Under Armour socks. People understand that [they] have an affinity towards brands and branding, and that’s where EPIK really felt like. We’re a crypto company, first and foremost, that happened to also become the world’s largest [digital] agency.
Our focus has always been on the premium mainstream of messaging. We had the technology to do an NFT marketplace in the very beginning. We had our first smart contracts doing an NFT marketplace and B2B hardcore, fully integrated game company/NFT management where you can buy, sell, transact NFT items in your in-game economy in 2018 — way too early. I was pitching other companies this blockchain solution and they didn’t understand anything about blockchain [or] anything I was doing. I’m there doing the biggest licensing shows in the world and talking about the future of blockchain.
Our goal at EPIK has always been about the mainstream adoption curve, that’s why we focus on premium license content. It’s not to devalue user-generated content. The messaging in the beginning was to say, “Hey, this is cool! I can do my own art and put it up for sale and I can make like 3 ETH. This is really cool! I couldn’t believe that would happen!”
EPIK has been doing this since 2018 — when it wasn’t hot — and as It became hot right now, it’s really exciting for us because it’s something that we’ve been focused on. Our ability to integrate more AAA games and give users access to NFTs [will] really add more people to blockchain, which is why we take that alternative approach in terms of working B2B.
We’re here to help everybody, we’re here to make the market bigger. We’re not here to compete for the same slice and elbow each other out. We’re here to bring more people to blockchain and more people to NFTs to expand the overall pie.
How EPIK is leading the way to this revolutionary breakthrough, its recent achievements with AAA games, and the future of blockchain gaming.
Very nice, Victor! As we slowly start to finish off this part of the podcast, anything that you’re willing to share [about] EPIK projects that might be in the pipeline, or on the drawing board, or NFT trends that you see emerging across the next 12 months, or the next hype cycle? What’s coming up in the short to medium term?
Yeah! The trend is exactly about gaming. As things became hot, everyone would go through the same thought pattern we have been living in for the last 4 years; that it goes to NFT marketplaces [first], then to gaming, and will ultimately end up in the metaverse.
Some people have just leaped ahead like Mark Zuckerberg — because he’s a visionary — and is now the same with other people that are pumping the metaverse. But the in-between stage is gaming, which you’re starting to see right now. ‘GameFi’ is what people are calling it where they are focusing on generating income from playing crypto games and making money from NFTs — play to earn.
I also feel like us being the leaders and the only guys to do integrations with AAA games. We did an integration with Asphalt 9 — downloaded over a billion times with Gameloft. We’re the first guys to really prove out real data based on statistics or surveys that gamers are going to want to adopt NFTs. That’s pretty much a mantra that’s been repeated and people say, “Oh yeah! They’re going to adopt it because they adopt everything really quickly.”
We just had a press release yesterday from one of our long-standing partners, Garena — they’re the number one mobile game [company] in the world. We did an amazing deal with them that came out. With over 100 million daily active users, that is just incredible!
The integration we did with Asphalt 9 gives users the option to play, win and earn NFTs, and over a million people decided to explore the world of NFTs. Now this is real data! This is now groundbreaking! It’s specifically labeled inside Asphalt 9, The Epik NFT Challenge — Play and earn and win an NFT! That would be the primary reason why anybody would decide to click that, and yeah, over a million people have participated in that challenge to win NFTs.
Being the leader in the space, gaming and NFTs are definitely here! If you look at crypto projects, when there was a downturn in the crypto markets recently, gaming related crypto projects had increased in value by ten times during that period — that’s some interesting data! This tells us that people believe in crypto projects that are related to real-life businesses, real-life use cases, where there’s actually more users and new adoption. I definitely feel like the next trend is gaming and blockchain and EPIK is leading the way there.
To give you a quick rundown, as mentioned, we just recently did a release [with] Garena. We put in the number one DJs in the world right into the number one mobile game in the world, Free Fire. Then, we’re doing a collab right now that’s also coming into Second Life — we put brands in there and NFTs are coming out. We’re now done launching our marketplace in the last month. We will be reaching 4 different major game company integrations with NFTs and announcements. I definitely feel like gaming and blockchain is the future and intermediary step and then the next thing will be the metaverse.
Absolutely fascinating again, Victor! Thank you for sharing your thoughts there. We do indeed live in exciting and interesting times.
For newbies in the world of crypto and NFTs, this podcast will help you understand further the blockchain technology and why this is becoming a trend today. For gaming, crypto and NFT enthusiasts, this served as an eye-opener that these technologies, including the metaverses, are here to stay and will shape the future of mankind. As Andy Pickering said, “We do indeed live in exciting and interesting times.”
Check out the full-length podcast here:https://youtu.be/Govq7XIcQeg