The global Web3 market was worth an estimated $3.2 billion in 2021 and is expected to reach a staggering $81.5 billion by 2030. While Web3 is still in its infancy and the actual potential of this redefining technology is yet to be fully realized, the last few years stand witness to its accelerating mainstream penetration. This is despite the overall crypto market and Bitcoin (BTC-USD) being in a bear market.
Investor and venture capital appetite for Web3 – the next generation of the internet – increased substantially in 2022. Per CB Insight’s “State of Blockchain Q3 2022” report, Web3 accounted for more than 63% of the total funding received during the third quarter, making it the third consecutive quarter where Web3 dominated the funding landscape.
To understand why investors are attracted to Web3, where the Web3 ecosystem is headed, what web3 entrepreneurs can do differently going forward, and to get the latest on the upcoming GAM3 Awards, the industry’s first dedicated Web3 gaming awards, we sat down with Omar Ghanem, the Head of Gaming at Polkastarter, to discuss his perspective and outlook.
Omar commands an extensive background in e-sports, social media, blockchain, Web3 gaming, and social entrepreneurship. He is one of the key members of Polkastarter – the decentralized Web3 fundraising platform and launchpad – which has helped facilitate over 100 Initial DEX Offerings (IDOs), collectively raising over $48 million, with nearly $11.8 million allocated to 27 unique Web3 gaming projects.
Despite prevailing market conditions, the Web3 gaming ecosystem has been able to attract consistent funding throughout 2022. What do you believe is driving this trend?
Omar: Regardless of market conditions and the overall macro, gamers continue to play video games – this was further proven during the COVID pandemic, with time spent on gaming increasing by 39% globally during lockdowns and social distancing regulations.
In addition, it’s no secret that the gaming sector ranks among the world’s most influential and profitable industries, with some of the biggest brands choosing to associate themselves with popular game franchises such as Fortnite and Roblox (NYSE: RBLX), to name a few.
This, in turn, has led to further expansion with VC firms focusing on gaming, particularly Web3 gaming, which sits at the center of two growing, lucrative industries: gaming and crypto.
Many Web3 projects are opting for one or more launchpads like Polkastarter to advance their ideas in front of investors and consumers. What exactly is Polkastarter? How is it different from existing IDO launchpads? More specifically, how does Polkastarter contribute towards Web3 adoption?
Omar: Polkastarter is a Web3 fundraising platform that allows Web3 projects to raise funds from the community in a decentralized manner on the blockchain. To date, we’ve helped raise over $40M+ across 100+ projects and continue to support the growth and innovation in the Web3 ecosystem. We genuinely believe that for mass adoption to happen, we need to lower the barriers to entry for people yet to explore the Web3 ecosystem and rid the space of all the confusing jargon, hurdles, and gatekeeping that currently exist.
One of the main areas we focus on, and my personal belief, is that Web3 gaming is going to be one of the first steps toward blockchain technology’s mass adoption because, quite simply, gamers get it. That’s why we built Polkastarter Gaming back in December of 2021: to bring together a gaming-first focused community that now boasts over 70,000 passionate gamers, to allow them to be the first in line to test & experience the best Web3 games, empower them to play fun titles and potentially earn some money on the side, and educate them about blockchain technology and how it continues to drive innovation in the gaming industry through our “home of gaming” platform.
We recently learned about the inaugural GAM3 Awards, dubbed the “Grammy for Web3 Gaming.” Please shed some light on the idea behind this event. Are there any predefined criteria for participation? Also, how does it benefit Web3 game developers and the ecosystem in general?
Omar: The secret is in the name itself. We decided to call it the “GAM3” awards rather than “Wb3 game awards” or anything of the sort to remind everyone that the focus always was, and always should be, about the quality of the games themselves. We’ve even resorted to calling Web3 games just “gam3s” in our marketing & social media efforts to hammer down this idea and continue to dial the focus back in across our community.
Web3 games historically sucked by “traditional gaming” standards and expectations, but the space is evolving, and we’re here to educate gamers about the opportunities and genuinely amazing games currently in the works in Web3. This is a huge part of why we decided to put together these GAM3 Awards.
We’re very well positioned within the space as a top-tier fundraising platform and one of the largest gaming communities in the Web3 space. Still, we didn’t want to make this event about us, so we invited over 30 jury members from across the space with decades of experience in the gaming industry, such as Justin Kan, Urv Goel, Edward Chang, and Yoshihisa Hashimoto, to help us select the top Web3 games based on actual gameplay, core loop, replayability, graphics, fun factor, and overall quality of the titles themselves.
We also didn’t want game developers to walk away empty-handed, so we’ve put together massive prizes consisting of grants, products, services, distribution agreements, and more valued at over $300,000 from our event partners such as IMX, Machinations, Naavik, and Ultra, to name a few. We’re really trying to showcase the quality within our industry while celebrating the top game titles and developers in what will hopefully become “the” most anticipated Web3 game awards show every year.
Gameplay, strong storylines, and user experience have emerged as some of the biggest hurdles for Web3 gaming. Is the underlying technology now well-equipped to overcome these challenges?
Omar: I definitely agree that we were in prehistoric ages 6-7 months ago, with most games being gated by expensive NFTs that sometimes would cost you over $1,000, only to find out the games themselves were just click-to-earn gimmicks and that painted the entire industry in a negative light. However, we’re now seeing more and more high-quality, free-to-play games with easy onboarding through launchers, including the Epic Games Store, which is a step in the right direction.
If you’ve ever been in a traditional e-sports tournament, you know getting paid is one of the hardest parts about it – especially if you’re a young kid living in a developing country with no bank account. That all goes away, and we’re seeing thousands of gamers around the world joining Web3 gaming esports tournaments and walking away with their earnings within a few seconds post-tournament conclusion. That is what blockchain technology can bring to the gaming industry, and that’s what excites me about the future of what we’re building here at Polkastarter Gaming.
Market sentiment has been pretty dull over the last few months, resulting in an extended crypto winter. Do you foresee a change in momentum, especially when it comes to concepts like Web3 gaming?
Omar: It’s true that market sentiment is down, and the overall macroeconomic situation isn’t the most exciting thing at the moment. However, back to my answer to your first question, gamers will continue playing video games no matter what. Gaming isn’t going anywhere; it will continue to evolve and shift, much similar to the rise of mobile gaming and free-to-play games over the last decade or so.
I personally believe the tipping point will be when gamers pick up a Web3 game and experience a seamless onboarding process without ever realizing that they’re playing a “Web3 game” – that’s when it starts getting really interesting. That’s why I’m super excited about Epic Games listing Web3 games on their launcher. You’re suddenly opening up the doors to over 180 million gamers, which dwarfs the size of the entire Web3 gaming ecosystem currently.
We work very closely with most of the top games in the industry in different capacities, and we have our finger on the pulse of the Web3 gaming space, so I know the real builders are continuing to build with their heads down, worrying more about delighting their players than token prices and inflation rates. Markets will go up and down, but gamers will always continue to play games. That’s the fact of the matter, and that’s why I’m confident we’re only at the cusp of a much larger movement and continued growth in the overall gaming industry.