While crypto faces regulatory uncertainty and rides waves of volatility, NFTs, digital land and blockchain games keep trading, flipping and creating buzz. Stockhead asked Australian Kieran Warwick – co-founder of NFT auto-battler Illuvium – for his take on the virtual land and play-to-earn gaming space, and learnt more about his project in the process.


Hi Kieran. Congrats on your recent land-flipping success. Are there similar opportunities out there right now for potential digital real-estate moguls?

Thanks. When it comes to metaverses like Axie [Infinity] and Decentraland, I think the opportunity to earn 10X on your land value has probably passed. Owning land in those games will still always make sense, but if you’re looking for the large returns, you need to find games early.

How do you go about finding land-owning games before they moon?

I’ve got five criteria before deciding whether or not to invest. How active is the community? How capable is the team? What’s the market cap size? How many land plots are they creating? And does the land have a use case?

So, with community, jump into projects’ social media channels and feel the vibe?

Yeah, you need to be active on Twitter and follow the OG crypto people. They’re constantly tweeting alpha. From there, follow the trail, and check Telegram and Discord channels. If communities are brimming with activity, then the potential of the project will be trending and apparent.

Any red flags potential investors should look out for?

From a player perspective, stay wary of games that have a high barrier to entry, or in other words, cost a lot to join in. You can easily find yourself in a situation where you’re working for months to make back your initial investment.

What are the metaverse/NFT use cases you see taking hold?

There has to be some connection to the main game. Simply selling rare land plots without a use case doesn’t work long term. The uses I see taking off are resource mining, advertising, and interoperable partnerships between games.

Got your eyes on any other land-flip opportunities or NFTs?

Mars4 is going to be big. They will be launching sometime in the next few months. I’m also bullish on Cryptobeasts. I just picked up a few rare eggs, which are attached to the land. And, of course, plots in Illuvium!

Illuvium will be an NFT auto battler set within a rich, open world.

Gotta love a segue… Give us the Illuvium elevator pitch. What will give it the edge as a blockchain game?
Illuvium’s quality standards are what will make it stand out in the space. We’re talking AAA-quality artwork, rich and deep lore, creative world-building into an immersive story, and our talented team. We’ve poached 80+ elite engineers and artists, with most coming from AAA [games] studios, major entertainment franchises, and acclaimed projects in their fields.

It’s an exciting game because players experience actual ownership of functional assets in the game. They are real-world collectibles, but they don’t just sit in a digital space gathering digital dust. They can be used, in very dynamic and fun ways, in video games where they also evolve both in value and function. As a crypto project, players and stakers get to enjoy distributions and earnings.

The Animoca Brands founder believes Axie Infinity is delivering crypto its “Angry Birds moment”. Do you agree?
The traction Axie has right now is remarkable. But we’ve just barely scratched the surface on viral mainstream games. In my opinion, the Angry Birds moment will come when a play-to-earn title delivers AAA-quality graphics and addictive gameplay, fully integrated with the best that blockchain elements have to offer a decentralised game.

Iluvium is a DAO (Decentralised Autonomous Organisation), right? How does that bring value to a game like this one, and its users?
Yep, for Illuvium, being a DAO means its stakeholders all have ownership – real assets such as NFTs and coin – and a chance to help steer and guide the project. That, in itself, enriches their experience as a community member.

But you get much more – 100% of funds from all game-related purchases go back to the stakers in the protocol. Our revenue distributions add another layer of excitement to playing in the Illuvium universe.

So, players in the game can influence how it all operates?
Yeah, and this is because decentralised games are democratic. The player has a direct influence on their play experience. For gamers, this is a dream come true. Imagine being able to love a video game but thinking it could be better if only it did X, Y and Z? With Illuvium, you can propose an improvement, and if the majority agrees, then your idea can be implemented.

How does the DAO actually work? 
Illuvium’s three tenets are that we strive to be open, transparent, and governed by the community. $ILV holders govern and maintain the protocol by electing the Illuvinati Council and holding governance discussions in Discord, which any Illuvium server member can observe and join in on. The level of influence we seek to empower everyone with is frank on our part. Being our community member means you have a voice.

Do you think DAOs are the way of the future for gaming projects?
I think it’s a type of organisation that will become more popular in general. Traditional companies may find this model more appealing because all the stakeholders can clearly see the DAO is on their side, and they have the incentive and motivation to remain on board with the project for the long term. A crypto project – and I’d argue any business endeavour – is successful when there is transparent and collaborative engagement within its community.

Sydney-based Illuvium co-founder Kieran Warwick.

What’s your crypto background? How did you get into it all?
I first got into crypto back in 2016 when I was part of the world’s first OTC exchange. That exposure to BTC led me to ETH and many altcoins. Unfortunately, in those early experiences, I saw the negative side of the volatility, and I left the space for a few years. Kain [Kieran’s older brother and founder of DeFi unicorn Synthetix] was in my ear talking about crypto coming back and things looking positive. I started experimenting with yield farming, and before I knew it, I was hooked again.

You’ve created Illuvium with another of your brothers, Aaron. What strengths do you think you both bring?
Yep, the founders are me, Aaron, and Von Neumann – our one-and-only anon. Aaron is one of the most intelligent and best problem solvers I’ve ever seen. He had no exposure to crypto before Illuvium, had only designed games as a hobby, and yet was able to design an incredible GDD (Game Design Document) and some of the best tokenomics I’ve seen in a project.

Von Neumann is equally as talented but in artistry. He sees the world differently, and his unique perspective on optics, elegance and tasteful execution allows him to innovate incredibly complex CGI elements. For example, his 4D holographics have never been created before.

As for me, throughout my career, colleagues have said my major strength is my vision. I can pick market trends faster than most. But I think my biggest strength is bringing groups of intelligent and capable people together to achieve a common goal. I’ve been fascinated by the play-to-earn model in gaming, so ultimately decided to build an NFT collectible game. I went to Aaron to design a game that would capture the action and excellence we haven’t seen in this space.

Do you think NFTs and gaming are going to bring the retail crowd flooding back into crypto?
The thing about crypto is, it’s always been taboo to people not in the scene – too opaque for most people to understand or even care to understand, and notoriously risky. But gaming… it’s easy to understand and entirely normal for nearly half the people on Earth. This makes it preferable for mass adoption and it’s why I’m so bullish on the NFT gaming space.

Why do you think play-to-earn gaming is taking off in South East Asia at the moment?
It’s taking off in other places, too. Gaming is, without doubt, much more appealing than working a typical 9-5 or doing hard labour outdoors! All you need is a laptop or phone and an internet connection, and depending on how good a player you are, you can earn more from play-to-earn gaming than a regular job. For this reason, play-to-earn gaming has taken off everywhere.

Creatures known as “Illuvials” battle it out in the Illuvium world.

What do you think is Illuvium’s biggest challenge in its own mission to adoption?
Educating users about play-to-earn. It almost seems too good to be true at first, but gamers will realise this is the next big thing in gaming over time. It’s enjoyable to potentially see big rewards for time spent playing, especially when the game itself is genuinely enjoyable, and that is what we are working so hard to deliver. Just a damn good game.

Are you satisfied Ethereum is the right blockchain for Illuvium?
I will always have confidence in Ethereum. ETH has the largest community of devs out of any blockchain, and I don’t see that changing soon. EIP-1559 will be exciting and has the potential to solve much of the gas issues faced by the chain, but ultimately, for us, we’re utilising a layer two protocol – Immutable X. So we don’t have the same scaling issues such as gas prices, minting cost and slow transaction times as mainnet ETH.

What’s coming up for the project?
We’re launching a mini-game soon that will include land sales. The details are currently being discussed in our governance council, but we’re hoping to have those finalised in the next couple of weeks, and the mini-game launched a month or so after that. We’re working round the clock with an insane production schedule to get it all done in record time.

Nice. Anything else you want to add, or leave our readers with?
If you’re into games, Illuvium will have it all. And by that I mean everything that makes a game addictive. It’ll be a gamer’s game – a vividly realised RPG and action-packed auto battler. We can’t wait to deliver it.

You can find out more about Illuvium here.