‘Addiction to a game in which you own your assets? You can’t compete with that’: Illuvium’s Kieran Warwick
Kieran Warwick, co-founder of Illuvium – one of blockchain gaming’s most anticipated titles – made a popular appearance at NFT Fest on Thursday, and he grabbed a few minutes with Stockhead after his on-stage chat.
Kieran was speaking with Binance Australia’s Charis Campbell in the main “Right Click Save As” theatre, and it was a good discussion. Main takeaway? That Illuvium is being built out as a fun-first game.
“In 10 years from now, Illuvium players won’t call it a ‘crypto game’, they’ll just call it a ‘fun game’,” he told Binance’s Corporate Product Manager.
Once that session wrapped up, Coinhead‘s bloke on the spot somehow managed to push his iPhone past several others vying for attention to record a few words…
Hey Kieran, at the risk of just sounding overly money/ROI-focused at this positive event full of positive project builders, do you think we’ll ever see a crypto or NFT bull run to match some of the others we’ve seen, and in crypto gaming specifically?
It will come back. And here’s the stupidest part about it, projects will come back and surge again – even the ones that shouldn’t.
Probably especially the ones that shouldn’t, right?
Yep, and that’s the craziest part. You’ve got projects in this sector that are literally just duping people. If you’re a project that has staking and long lock-ups, and if you’re not building anything and not fulfilling promises, all you’re doing is creating an echo chamber – with people who can’t escape that because their funds are locked in.
And it’s then in their best interests to keep tweeting, to keep making “it’s going to the moon” videos. It can breed a pretty toxic environment.
You’ve got various investments in the blockchain gaming sector, such as Fancy Birds and Ethlizards. Some of those investments have, of course, taken a pretty big hit lately. Do you think it’s easy to get caught up and become a degen in the middle of a bull run?
It definitely is – but as for those guys, they’re still building strongly. I’m not worried about them at all and am actually extremely confident in them. I speak to them all the time and they know what they’re doing, they’ve got runway and have just kept on going right through all this. They’ve got some surprises in store, too.
There are more buzzwords and buzz phrases in crypto than the average week in a San Francisco WeWork office. But here’s one I’d like your thoughts on… “Play to earn”. Is it a dead concept?
Probably… I mean, it’s a term that’s a means to an end. But I don’t think another term needs to be coined at this stage. There’s “free to own” there’s “play and earn” there’s all those other terms out there. I just don’t think we need to market games like that with respect to what the financial incentives are.
I think we need to market them as simply, playing fun games, where you have ownership. In terms of how you get ownership, there are multiple different ways and strategies to do that. In Illuvium, for example, you don’t pay for them, you capture them in the game.
Play and own, then? I’ve heard that one being bandied about.
Yeah, that one’s been going around. And “free to own”. Again, everyone’s searching for buzzwords. I just think, let the people decide what it is. I don’t think it really should be coined by developers, necessarily.
You coined one, though, right? IBG – interoperable blockchain game?
Yes, but that describes what we are, as a genre. And I think that’s important. We’re the first AAA that’s melding different styles of gaming in this way.
There’s Illuvium Zero, a city-builder game where you extract resources. You take those resources into another game, which is The Overworld in which you use those resources to go and make armour and weapons and capture your Illuvials [the game’s monster/creatures]. Then you take those Illuvials and you bring them into the Arena, which is the auto-battler genre.
So we’ve essentially mashed three genres of gaming into a single title, in a single world, as well. The only way it’s possible to do that is through blockchain technology.
Blockchain tech, not “crypto” tech. Deliberate semantics?
Yes. There is definitely something in calling it an Interoperable Blockchain Game instead of a crypto or Web3 game. So many people see those common words we know and use in the industry in quite a negative light. Words such as crypto and NFTs and Web3.
But blockchain is being more widely adopted by education, by finance, by so many sectors. If people understand that in 10 years time it’s a blockchain that underpins this, then that’s okay. It’s just a fun game that uses blockchain technology.
As far as NFTs are concerned, like you were saying – it’s all about the concept of verifiable ownership of assets – is that right? Is that where you’d say their core power lies?
One hundred per cent. And it’s something that gamers have been wanting for decades. Once people realise they have addiction to a game in which you can own your assets? It’s game over. You can’t compete with that.
If Pokémon were to release two new games – one in which you own your assets, one in which you can’t… which one do you think people are going to end up playing?
Do you still get those “aha moments” as you and your brothers and 170-strong team build this thing out?
Definitely. I mean, for me I know what we were building from day one, but it wasn’t until I experienced playing it [in private beta testing phase 2] and going from one world to another – from the Pokémon-style game to the Teamfight Tactics-style battler, it just blows me away.
And capturing that first Illuvial… I’ve only just done that and the idea that I can take that and go and sell it for real money… I’m just sitting there going… ‘whoa’.
There are a lot of mainstream gamers who simply don’t get, or even passionately hate, the idea of Web3 gaming, right?
Yeah, and for sceptics looking in at “Web3 games” and just thinking it’s all bullshit, I totally get it. There’s nothing out there right now that compels me to want to play. There are a lot being built, but nothing out there yet. There are some serious titles being developed, though – Civitas, Shrapnel, Cloud Castles and others.
Investing in the right games now, though? We’re talking generational wealth.
So when do you expect the blockchain-gaming narrative to really kick into overdrive with a wide audience?
With us, we’ve still got a first-mover advantage, but I would anticipate we’re not going to hit full mainstream adoption until 24 to 36 months from now.
Ah Christ, sorry, I’m out. That’s too long.
Ha! Yeah, pack up, it’s over. But no, genuine, proper adoption will come when there are multiple games, multiple catergories and genres that are available to people and when they realise this is just as fun as the games they’re used to, but owning their assets. When you have that situation, across maybe 20 different titles, that’s when we hit mainstream adoption.
The problem with that is, it takes so long to build games.
And how far away is Illuvium from moving out of private beta 2 testing, then?
I would say we’re probably three months away. We’re going to have Illuvium Zero, we’re going to have the private beta 3 which has PvP, and we’re going to have the Overworld – all out within the next six weeks.
It’s coming. Mainstream adoption might still be quite a ways off, but, Illuvium – it’s close.
This interview was edited lightly for clarity and flow. And, as always, none of the contents of this article should be construed as financial advice.
At the time of writing, the writer holds a handful or two of different cryptocurrencies as speculative investments, including Bitcoin (BTC), Ethereum (ETH), and assets mentioned in this article – Illuvium (ILV), Fancy Birds (FNC) and an Ethlizards NFT. It might go without saying, but we’ll say it anyway: cryptocurrencies and NFTs are risky investments.