For surprising side hustles, it’s pretty hard to top David Solomon, the Lollapalooza DJing CEO of Goldman Sachs. But when it comes to left-field career departures from the mega investment bank, Grant Haseley’s is right up there.

Late last week, Stockhead sat down for a lengthy chat with the New York-based, former Goldman analyst about his Web3 gaming studio’s upcoming “kill-to-earn” zombie shooter title.

Undead Blocks, which, in 2021 and ’22 raised US$1.7 million in funding from Animoca Brands, Genblock Capital and Double Peak, is a fast-paced, fun-looking survival splatter game that Haseley has ambitions to make a benchmark for “sustainable tokenomics” in blockchain gaming. That, as well as just a damn enjoyable, popular and accessible time waster and “pizza money” earner.

As for the zombie angle? Yeah, he readily admits he’s the latest to hop on board an enduringly captivating entertainment genre that simply refuses to die.


Killing off the banking career

Hi, Grant. Before we go into specifics about Undead Blocks, I’m intrigued to learn what led you to give up a career with one of the world’s leading investment banks for what many might consider a pretty risky move into crypto-gaming development… 

Yeah, it’s a pivot alright. But it’s not so out there when you consider my full background. I went to the University of Buffalo for pure math and that’s really when I got into cryptography as a senior in college in 2015. So I got into this sphere pretty early on and I was always a total video game junkie – Madden, NBA, FIFA, all the classic titles.

So when you put those things together, it’s not such a shock that I’ve ended up going in this direction. But yep, before this, I was in an actuarial-development program and then began to play a video game called investment banking, where you’re looking at a computer all day and the game’s objective is to make rich people richer.

Frankly, I got sick and tired of doing that and just wanted to help build something where I could create some joy for people, explore new technology and hopefully make a really successful game in the process.

Did your banking mates think you were nuts to leave that career? 

Oh yeah, of course, I mean I still talk to some of my old colleagues about it all. At first they had no idea what I was talking about… “What, you’re gonna go quit your high-paying job at a bank to go sell NFTs? You’re going to be the next Bored Ape Yacht Club? But you know nothing about building video games, Jon Snow.” I heard all the scrutiny, but I’ve always enjoyed proving people wrong.

In what sense are you hoping to prove the doubters wrong with this? 

I think this is the ultimate play where I can show people that, one: yes – play-to-earn gaming can be a sustainable model if you get it right. And two: we can make Web3 games fun. A lot of Web3 games, as I’m sure you know, are essentially grind-heavy, decentralised yield farmers. And, really, most of them are just not very fun to play. At all.

And many projects, too, just sell a token, sell NFTs and never produce a product. We’re going to be one of the first Web3 games with a tangible, playable, fun game on various platforms.

And what we’ve built, over the past two years, it’s something my team and I are really proud of. I think we’re definitely going to shock some people next week when they see our game launched – the polish, the earnings mechanism… there’s a lot to be excited about with it.


What is Undead Blocks?

Can you give me the quick-ish elevator pitch for Undead Blocks? 

Sure. Undead Blocks is the world’s first multiplayer, free-to-play, Web3 zombie survival game. It’s going to be on PC, Mac, and mobile, cross platform and console controller compatible, and we’re launching it on ImmutableX [the Aussie-built, Web3 game-focused Ethereum layer 2 blockchain].

Very basically, it’s a game where you kill endless hordes of zombies and can earn crypto.

In terms of genre, are we talking a straight-up zombie shooter? 

It’s an FPS [first-person shooter] that’s inspired by CoD [Call of Duty] Zombies crossed a little bit with some Mario Kart-style elements.

We wanted to create a really fun, social game. And a game that is skill agnostic, blockchain agnostic, and platform agnostic.

So it doesn’t matter if you’re the best Call of Duty player in the world or just an average player, you’re going to have fun in our game and it doesn’t matter if you know nothing about Web3, crypto and NFTs. You don’t need any of that kind of knowledge to download and start playing the game, or play it on your web browser or mobile.

The desktop versions of Undead Blocks are console-controller compatible.


Who are Wagyu Games?

So Undead Blocks is the first big, flagship game for Wagyu Games, your gaming studio – how did that team come together? 

One my of my co-workers, Michael Branson – director of analytics at Wagyu Games – is someone I knew during my actuarial experience and from working in Asia for a while. He and I found and acquired a great Vietnamese gaming studio and a portion of their developers and rebranded them into Wagyu Games.

From my perspective, leading up the financial side, I was confident we could build a tight, locked economy that can’t be exposed and manipulated, and we just needed a good blockchain gaming studio that could help build the game for us, and help us with the blockchain and ERC-20 token minting side of things, in-house.

We then got some FPS specialists from Kevuru Games, who worked on Fornite, and they did all our OG artwork for us for Season One. We’ve since been hiring, over the last year and a half, our own animators, stylists and art team. We’re almost at 50 people now, across the globe.

So we’re slowly building it out and we’re using the Unity engine, which is where all the mobile games live. Many of these Web3 games aiming for AAA quality are going to the Unreal engine and it’s going to take them years to get it right.

We’ve been able to put this thing out in a year and a half using Unity for play on mobile, and that’s really going to give us a huge competitive advantage in this space.

I’m the biggest Unity fan around, and that’s where we really want our game to live – on mobile. That’s where we can really make our bread and butter, as a console-grade experience, fun indie game.


Earning mechanics and tokenomics

How do the tokenomics work in Undead Blocks? 

The tokens are: $UNDEAD [currently available for purchase on the, LATOKEN and Uniswap exchanges], green ZBUX and gold ZBUX. And it’s a free-to-own meets play-to-earn mash-up. Free-to-own people can grind for Loot Coffins and own cosmetic skins they find. But you can also play to earn if you so choose, too, by buying a weapon NFT.

Let’s go through the tokens one by one. What does UNDEAD do?

So UNDEAD is the governance token, and that’s what you’ll be able to use to have voting rights on maps, tournament structure, new weapons. You can also buy cosmetics in our ecosystem with the UNDEAD token at a discount from traditional fiat, ETH, and the gold ZBUX as well.

And you’re also going to be able to use the UNDEAD token to upgrade your weapons and make them stronger. So it really is an all encompassing governance token. That’s what it’s meant to do.

Green ZBUX?

The green ZBUX – the regular ZBUX, that’s your asset-grinding currency. You can use them to acquire cosmetics.

In CSGO you get loot crates for free, but you buy the keys. In Undead Blocks you just grind for the green ZBUX then you can use them to buy loot crates, aka Loot Coffins, and we don’t charge you for keys. If you want more Loot Coffins, you can buy them with ETH or the UNDEAD token or any fiat.

And gold ZBUX?

The gold ZBUX are what you can earn if you’ve bought a weapon NFT. And that’s the play-to-earn mechanic of Undead Blocks where you can swap gold ZBUX for any crypto in our treasury – ETH, USDC, BNB, MATIC… we don’t even make the UNDEAD token a cash-out option because we don’t want that stigma of oh, people are just dumping the token, we don’t even make it an option for people.

You can also use your gold ZBUX to upgrade your weapons for damage, ammo capacity and accuracy, and to make purchases in the game.

And the free-to-own aspect you mentioned – that comes in with the green ZBUX, right?

Yeah. Let’s say you’re a Web2 gamer and you’ve been playing Call of Duty Zombies forever and you’re kind of bored of it but you’re still into the zombie genre. You play our game, you don’t need an NFT, you just hit those green boxes and start accumulating green ZBUX.

You then find out you can open Loot Coffins with them, and get skins that you can use in game or potentially sell on – that’s how we get people into the Web3 ecosystem. We’re basically onboarding them for free, letting them get some of these cosmetics and then we hope to upsell them with more cosmetics purchases or upgrading their stuff  – that really is the game plan.

Various power-ups can be found in-game.


Play to earn is undead… so is ‘kill to earn’

“Kill to earn” is a term I’ve seen Undead Blocks use, which is essentially zombie-game-speak for “play to earn”. I’ve heard some crypto influencers label play to earn a dead concept but I gather you think it’s still very relevant? 

I think some of the top Web3 gaming influencers aren’t doing this side of the industry too many favours with that. We need to support the builders in this community. If you turn off your entire consumer base and tell them don’t buy an NFT, don’t buy a token, but then all of a sudden, you are a champion for owning your assets… you’re only just gonna push everyone back to Web2 gaming.

Play to earn is not dead, but you have to set expectations low. I don’t really have a clue where play to earn, play to own, win to earn, where any of this stuff is going to be in three years.

But I can tell you that you can build a sustainable model in Web3 gaming if you just don’t overextend yourself, the way Axie Infinity did. The dual-token economy, that idea where you just take in one token and issue the other and watch it go to zero – that idea is dead.

Is the idea of people getting rich from play-to-earn gaming no longer valid, though? 

Look, we’re not making anyone millionaires with Undead Blocks. But if you want to come in, earn five bucks a day, play a fun game and hang out with your friends and earn pizza money, we’re going to be more than able to do that.

Maybe you then go full degen and buy a couple of Loot Coffins because you want to try to open up a gold skin and sell it on for a couple of hundred dollars. That’s the vibe we’re going for. And I think that’s how we get the most people in.

But in terms of sustainability, it’s why we’re not putting our reward currency on the blockchain. What we’re saying is we’re going to generate revenue through micro transactions and give our NFT holders a portion of it. So we only have 6,000 weapons that will be able to earn money in the game. At one point there were hundreds of thousands of assets floating around in Axie Infinity and most of them are now worthless.

I can’t keep half a million people happy every single day by earning money in the game – you’ve got to have people come in the game play for fun. That’s where our cloud-gaming mobile strategy comes in, and where our mobile game can be just as good as big zombie games.


Web3 zombies is the way

Is Web3 gaming the biggest gateway into crypto for the mainstream? Or is it zombies? Or both!

I’ll give you a statistic. Some 57% of our community is in their first Web3 game. They didn’t show up because they were looking for a yield farmer. They showed up because they Googled CoD Zombies, and we hit that algorithm on YouTube. And they saw us giving gameplay that looked a lot like OG CoD zombies.

Here’s the reason we made the zombie game. It was because we basically looked at the entire gameplay loop landscape of Web2  gaming, and we said, “What can be targeted? What can be attacked?” It’s not Fortnite, which is more popular than ever. It’s not Call of Duty. It’s not Overwatch. It’s not the MMORPGs.

There’s only one ecosystem we found that people play en masse – but they’re not having fun, and it’s Call of Duty Zombies and other zombie shooters. So, Activision is moving away from CoD Zombies. They’re focusing on Warzone, and we totally get that.

But CoD Zombies is a wounded animal. There’s millions of players out there that just bought Call of Duty for the zombies mode, and they’re upset with their product. Just type in “Call of Duty Zombies is garbage” into Google, and you’ll see what I mean.

And millions are still watching zombie shows, too. You’re definitely onto the Z part of some sort of zeitgeist here.

That’s right. HBO just put out The Last of Us. The Walking Dead is still hot. Train to Busan is still one of the most viewed movies every single year. World War Z is another one. People love zombie culture and it’s particularly relevant right now. And that’s where I think we can win over a lot of Web2 gamers.

It’s really tough to get a Web2 gamer off Fortnite, but it’s much easier to get them off Call of Duty Zombies and bring them into your ecosystem. And that’s what we’re working on – winning over the Left 4 Dead and Resident Evil players, too. There are so many people in the world who love that genre and that gaming genre.


Mainstream view of NFTs and crypto gaming

Do you think the negative perception of NFTs and blockchain gaming that many people outside the crypto bubble have is warranted, and is it changing? Or has the great crypto implosion of 2022 put a few extra bullet holes in general sentiment? 

I think we were making a lot of progress with perception of NFTs and Web3 gaming until you know, 3AC, Celsius and FTX. But when Paris Hilton removes the Bored Ape as her profile pic, when Jimmy Fallon stops talking about it, that’s when you know we’re probably at ground zero again.

I think Wagyu Games and Web3 gaming is less impacted by that because we’re not really a social NFT group. We’re not just a profile picture project. A lot of people look at NFTs and say, “Why would I want to buy a high-priced JPEG?” not understanding the immutable asset, blockchain angle.

But gamers have an easier time understanding that we’re making in-game purchases for cosmetics here. We’re going to onboard them with a fun game, and then they’re going to realise, wait a minute, there’s another whole part of this ecosystem where if I buy something, I can then sell it? I think that’s where they’ll become more intrigued.

If you look at CSGO on the Steam marketplace, people have been buying and selling skins for almost a decade. Now the problem with Steam is it’s very restrictive in terms of what you’re able to sell, they take a massive cut, and they can shut the game off at any time – and then you lose your assets.

Valorant did this where you lost all your season one skins for Valorant 2. That is a great example of how we can use blockchain to a validate these transactions so that you actually own assets, and protect the consumer because now we’re not going to turn those skins off. They’re going to trade forever.

Gamers want the product but they don’t like the stigma. But there is demand for the product because they are making these micro purchases every single day. The average Web2 consumer is not buying NFTs every day but the average Web2 gamer is making in-game in app-purchases. So it’s just about enlightening them that you’re actually able to now own those assets, and sell them if you want to even make a little bit of money on the side.

Examples of different weapon “skins” that can be found and claimed in-game.


Tournament earnings potential

You talked about “pizza money” in terms of earning from the game and keeping expectations low. But what about tournaments? Can players come in and potentially earn more money that way? 

Yes. And look, we didn’t even blink when it comes to tournaments so far. In our beta phase we’ve done over $150,000 in sponsored tournaments. We hardly even tried to find sponsors, they were just coming in. We just stopped hosting them for the moment, because we want to put this game out there now.

We did a September tournament series, though, in which we gave away 50 grand, fully sponsored by different Web3 companies – ImmutableX, PokerStarter, Lumens. And we just locked in a quarter-of a-million-dollar deal with ImmutableX to do sponsored tournaments for the next two years.

You know, you can’t just get the average person excited about a ZK rollup. But you can get them excited through Web3 gaming that’s fun and engaging. And yep, our strategy with that is generating revenue through skin cosmetics, but also tournaments as well.

So we strike a sponsorship deal, we keep a percentage, then we continue topping up the treasury. It’s just another way for us to generate revenue and make noise and get people to play for free.

What sort of tournament money can players expect to potentially earn if they win? 

Again, we’re keeping expectations low. First place in a tournament is going to win, maybe $100. But that’s awesome if you’re a Web2 gamer, just playing games for fun, you come in and maybe you win $100, right? Or maybe you might bag yourself a one-of-one skin that’ll never be minted again. This can bring lot of people continuously coming back to the well.

I want to be able to show potential investors that the average revenue per user is stable, and we’re growing our player count and then I can go and raise more capital. We don’t even need to do that right now. But that’s the the five-year vision for us in terms of expanding on Undead Blocks and making more games.

Are there more games coming? 

There are definitely more in the pipeline. The sequel to this one will likely be a six v six. A “PvPvZ” where you can die by a zombie or shoot each other. So that will have its own NFT collection and maybe its own governance token. But it’s early days for that just yet.


The Mario Kart dopamine hit

You mentioned a Mario Kart element in the game earlier. What did you mean by that? 

Yeah, you’ll see what I mean in one of the video demos I’ll share with you. But, basically, I mean the Mario Kart-style dopamine rush of hitting boxes in the game – the green and gold ZBUX and the red blood boxes, which are power-ups. It makes a noise and you get that box’s contents.

People still play Mario Super Bros, they still play Mario Kart. Professional racecar drivers don’t play Mario Kart, it’s people on Friday night hanging out with their friends, because they want to hit their friend with the turtle shell, or the banana peel. We’re taking that same mechanic and putting it in our game, and I think that’s going to work.


‘Esports are dying’

And there’s an element with boxes in tournaments, too, where if you’re lucky enough to hit a certain one, you could get the highest score that way and pretty much take everyone else out, which, when it happens, you’ll think, ‘Holy sh*t, this is the coolest thing ever.”

You don’t have to be the best FPS player to do that. And you’ll always play if you think you’ve got a fair shot.

The problem with a lot of gaming tournaments is, people think they’re rigged because the best players just come and take all the money. That’s why eSports are dying or are in trouble. ESports orgs are in trouble, because no one is watching the content right now. So with this element, we give some randomness aspect, where someone could all of a sudden earn $100. And I think people will go ballistic for that.

I know we’re getting into more of a crude area here, and there’s a luck/gambling element to that. But what’s doing well on Twitch at the moment are these gambling streams, where people are watching sports card pack openings… loot crate openings – that’s seriously what people are watching with content creators hyping it all up.

So, we’re going to lean into it. We’re not shying away from it one bit.

What about the regulatory environment for that sort of thing? Isn’t there some sort of concern with that? 

There could absolutely be regulatory legal issues that arise around it. We’ll tackle it if the game gets big enough. We have a plan in place and are flexible, but it’d be a good problem to have, if people are enjoying our product.

I want Undead Blocks to really function as a zombie killing casino where no one can lose. And I have to be very careful when I say that. But imagine entering the game, knowing nothing about it, you hang out with some friends because it’s a social game, and then you could randomly make $100 that day from it…

Why would you ever play anything else for fun? Even if you have a 0.01% chance. Even if it’s one person out of 3,000 a day that can win this $100 prize, why would you play anything else?

So we’re certainly not guaranteeing people can earn anything. You could play for seven, eight hours and not pull a gold ZBUCK. But when you do, then that’s a hit of dopamine. There’s just nothing else like this game out there.


The gameplay loop is king

What do you think is the most important element to making a successful blockchain game? 

It’s the gameplay loop. It doesn’t even have to be triple A mechanics. I mean, some Web3 games in development, it’s going to be years before they’re really ready, and by then, what’s the next gaming engine going to be like?

The graphics don’t have to be insane quality. Our graphics are good, don’t get me wrong, but it has to be something that’s replayable and keeps people coming back to the well for fun. And that’s more important than high cinematography and teaser trailers. those are things that don’t matter. Those are things that help you raise money, sure. But those aren’t things that help you build a player base.

So you’re moving out of beta and are launching the game with its first map this week, on February 28 (ET). What should anyone interested do next to get involved? 

I’d just say go to, download the full game for free – you don’t even need to connect a crypto wallet. Just start playing and then give us some feedback. Even send me an email personally at [email protected]. I want to talk to people, I want people to say, hey, Grant, I played your game for five hours. Here’s what I liked. Here’s what I don’t like.

Or join our Discord, too, and become part of our community. If you enjoy the game, we hope you stay around. And so far, through our beta product, we’ve managed to pull in about 2,500 loyal, active daily users who’ve done exactly that.


This interview was edited lightly for clarity. All information and opinions expressed in this article should not be construed as financial advice. The author holds Bitcoin and Ethereum and some other speculative digital assets, but has not yet invested in Undead Blocks at the time of writing.