Welcome back to the latest episode of the” Games From The Block” podcast. Today I’m honored to host Michael Rubinelli, a legendary figure in the gaming industry with over 25 years of experience in executive leadership, product development and continual revenue growth in iconic companies such as Electronic Arts, Disney, THQ, and others. Today, Michael Rubinelli has shifted from traditional gaming to blockchain gaming industry as the head of Wax Studios, the official gaming studio of Wax Blockchain that recently released its first title, “Blockchain Brawlers.”
According to a Wax Studios Press Release published on April 11, Blockchain Brawlers native token BRWL achieved $431 million in volume within the first two weeks of release while active players earn an average of 5,000 BRWL ($900) per day.
If you prefer reading, below is part of the transcript. Questions addressed by the host, George Tsagkarakis.
Michael, let’s start by telling us who are you and what is that you do in WAX Studios.
I’m Michael Rubinelli, the chief gaming officer for Wax Studios. This means I head up all the gaming initiatives. What we’re doing as an organization? So I bring in, you know, kind of my traditional gaming background. I’ve worked with many big gaming companies and done many exciting things.
With your experience working for leading companies like Electronic Arts, what elements must a traditional game have to succeed?
Yeah, it’s a great question. And it’s not a question that really, I think we spend a lot of time looking at. People talk about what makes a great football game or what makes a good fighting game. But what makes gaming great in general is a topic I think that I always like to discuss.
And the thing that I say that all great games have in common is they have a progression towards a desirable goal if that makes any sense. And so what I mean by that is that as long as there’s a player, you’re moving forward towards something that you want, you will be retained. And that’s compelling, that’s appealing.
Like I want to level up in an RPG, or I want to be this level in Candy Crush or Garden Scapes, or I want to win the Super Bowl. Like there’s all these things you want to do, or there are all these things you want to accomplish, you want to discover, craft play progress.
As long as you’re progressing towards a desirable goal, that makes the game fun to play. If where you’re going isn’t very fun or isn’t worthwhile, then the game isn’t fun, and it won’t succeed. So meaningful progress towards a desirable goal makes games great in my mind.
Could these elements apply to NFT Games?
Yeah, look, I got in this space fairly quickly, and I saw the power of what it could do. And, you know, I’ve had a lot of moments in my own life when I’m playing games. And at some point, my friends stop playing, the servers get shut down, or the development team stops development, and I walk away, and what do I have to show for it?
I don’t have anything to show for it. And sometimes this is, you know, many years of commitment. And you know, investing of my time and my attention to a product. And all I have is my memories. And now what we’re saying seeing is with, you know, play to earn gaming and, you know, kind of nets that put the power of the inventory, the power of the items in the hands of the players.
They can do with it whatever they want to like. And that’s liberating. Right. If I craft something, if I get a rare drop, loot comes with that. Earning, collecting, and progressing are all mine.
I can do it with them as I see fit and give it to my friends, and they can play with me, which is a lot of fun. And that makes me feel good. I can trade them with people I don’t know again, which is good. It’s a barter system. It lives outside of the game.
Ultimately you can sell these things (items). And so when I think about the digital objects that I have in my inventory of all these other games, they’re locked in that world, and I can’t do anything with them. It’s a total bummer, but when I think about NFT-based gaming, I have complete control over what I do with those assets.
Like that’s a powerful thing as a player, it’s no more like, Oh, I have to pay the developer, and I don’t have anything to show for it. It’s like, now I am the content creator. And I can do this with these things as I see fit.
Leaving traditional games behind, what does an NFT game stand out and become successful?
I think that it’s a really interesting thing that I think about a lot. Like, I talked to many of my friends who are traditional gamers and traditional game makers. And there’s a lot of misinformation, I think, that drives the hey, yeah, right. Oh, it’s eco-unfriendly like it is.
And if you look at what we do on WAX, we’re the most kind of carbon-neutral blockchain in the world. Like we lose no energy for our chain, the same amount of energy to generate all these transactions on our chain is the same energy consumed by five Americans over a year. It’s next to nothing comparatively.
So it’s eco-friendly. So you can’t put that argument up against kind of wax-based gaming. Then they say, well, you know, we have to use our predatory. They don’t have any utility. Well, did you have you look at how we use them in games? Traditional game developers say, “I don’t want to be a part of this, ” “It’s a scam,” “It’s a rug pull,” “It’s a pyramid scheme,” or a “Ponzi scheme”. There’s no value. Everything goes flat.
If you really boil it down, there are some people and some traditional gamers who have looked at Axie Infinity, or they’ve looked at Alien Worlds. They looked at popular games on the blockchain and said, well, those aren’t real games, and how dare they?
You know, there’s this real elitist attitude, and it’s really unfortunate. But I think that once you understand that blockchain gaming is trying to create a player-to-player world, we live in a creative economy, if you will, like, that’s a compelling thing that they should embrace. You go to all those players telling you how bad it is and say, “What did you do with all the items you’ve earned in World of Warcraft playing for ten years”? Nothing. Nothing. You couldn’t do anything with that.
What if you took that same World of Warcraft and brought it into play to earn space? All of a sudden, all these things as you go up and hit the level cap and progress and go through raids, all that inventory is available to be given to your friends to play with you, which makes you feel good as a player, right?
That’s a positive. Or you can sell it on a secondary market again, which allows more players to come into the game. You’re monetizing those items. It’s a real positive. You know, a kind of naivete or fear of the unknown is what these players are bracing against.
And they hate the notion of some of them, I think, security concerns that come with the space, seeing games mood and collapse is never fun. And the fact that they’re not real games is also, again, an elitist attitude. But you see that a lot.
How did the idea of developing Blockchain Brawlers born?
Yeah, look, it’s born out of kind of a mix of, you know, love of wrestling and nostalgia from our childhood, right? Like we all grew up, you know, everybody here in the studio involved in development where like, we all grew up as fans of wrestling, including the company that makes the that made the figures that inspired the UFC.
They were just absolute classic wrestling fans from kind of the eighties and nineties. You know, the Hulk Hogan era, you look at the Rock, you look, Andre, the Giant. Like all, these are our heroes growing up as kids. And they said, you know, we love to make these, you know, kind of action figure looking wrestlers that are original IP and campy, fun, and interesting.
And we said, well, gee, we love wrestling as a gaming kind of construct, so why don’t we combine these things and make a blockchain, a blockchain-based wrestling game called Blockchain Brawlers. And, you know, that’s how it all came to be.
Blockchain Brawlers did over $430 million in volume within two weeks of launch. Where do you credit this success? Does it have to do with the game’s quality or popularity as the first official Wax Game?
That was it was a benchmark for us. It shows that the token that the game produces has because of the utility in the game and has value on all these centralized exchanges is all these decentralized exchanges that are creating a real demand to own the token to grow the.
I think what I will tell you is we stated a goal that was kind of twofold.
We wanted to control the token supply and have to be very, very tight and very limited. And so it is the initial kind of, you know, circling supply is low. And then we told everybody where the circulation supply would be when we got wisdom these exchanges. So understand saying it was a limited kind of a precious thing.
We weren’t going to put out hundreds and hundreds of millions or billions and billions and billions of tokens. Like it was just like a real small supply. And then we married that within the game. This is why you need the token. So we explained to the people on the exchanges and the community what the token’s value was like.
You need to craft; you need to heal. You know, you’re going to win it when you brawl. You know, if you want to equip a swag kit, which is our kind of a cool esthetic component, we have, you know, you need to do that. We showed all these different places where, you know, brawling and using Brawl.
That token that you earn has value in the game.
We really bring a very professional gaming kind of experience to the space. And it’s been very well-received in that regard.
Yeah, I think it’s a natural question. And the first question is why is it only kind of click to Brawl, and the reality is, we’re able to do this within 90 days of development. So imagine we have a team in three months, and this is what we put up. I think it’s unbelievably impressive for the limited amount of time that the game has been in development.
We are impressed with what we’ve been able to do from a development standpoint, but we know that we have this three to five year horizon that we look at.
And so the better question is not what is it today, but where is it going to go?
It’s like playing this game because the earning potential is excellent, the characters are colorful, and it’s fun to craft, it’s fun to brawl, it’s fun to heal, and it’s fun to be in the community.
But what I want to say is play this game because when you do all those things and you play PvP, you get involved in factions and faction wars, and you look at our daily or weekly competitions. You see, all these things that we’re doing, this is a very gaming-heavy experience, and kind of the ones you get the best rewards are the ones who are the most intelligent players or the sharpest and the most tactical.
We do! As you can imagine, we think the play-to-earn space is just really bright for somebody to come in and put out a lot of different kinds of games. So this is our quote-unquote fighting game, and we’ll do different genres of games that will develop from an internal standpoint.
We have different developers working for us, building various kinds of games. We are preaching of the benefit, the value of WAX. We’ve gone to the development community, to traditional game developers, people that have a long and distinguished career of making critically acclaimed, commercially acclaimed games.
We’re convincing them to go ahead and bring them to the WAX blockchain. And we’re going to help them, you know, publish them. We’re going to support them. We will do everything we can to make sure the world knows that these products exist.
I stop playing my mobile app. I stop playing my PlayStation 5. I’m just gaming on WAX, and it’s so fun. We want to shift traditional gamers into the space and make them feel like they’ve made the right decision.
That’s the first order of business for us. Make the games as fun as they can be.
What is the reason we haven’t seen any 3D, MMO/MMORPG on WAX yet?
To see an MMORPG on WAX, somebody would have had to start back in 18 or 19. Blockchain gaming wasn’t really a thing. I can tell you that if you look at the Metaverse that people are talking about, whether it’s The Sandbox or Legacy, there are a lot of groups that are bringing that kind of experience into the blockchain space.
We haven’t announced it yet in that regard, but that’s why you don’t see those things today. But I will tell you that it makes a ton of sense for the reasons you and I talked about with Lineage (NOTE: listen to the podcast for this conversation.) You have that kind of experience live on the blockchain, and it’s coming. It’s coming.
All those games will start to show up, and they’re going to be a ton of fun to play. And then players, I think, will get kind of excited by how much control over their type of inventory they have.
Five years after the first NFT game, I feel like we are still doing baby steps. Do you believe play-to-earn economies are sustainable? What does a P2E economy last over the spawn of the years?
My perspective is maybe different than other people’s. I’m a traditional game maker. I have what I like to call “the infinite perspective.” I don’t sit there and go; what can I build and run for the next six months? I say, what kind of experience can I create that runs forever?
When people look at play-to-earn, they often mistake that it’s played for a profit. The idea is to have items that you’re earning, whether you’re crafting or some UGC model, that you can then monetize outside the game.
Whether you profit or not is up to you. The whole idea, though, that I always say is that if you focus more on the play and less on the earning, the earnings will come over time.
If Lineage 2 was a play-to-earn game, and the economy collapsed, you were playing it for seven years. Over those seven years, you’re taking little bits and pieces out of the game. You’re selling them on the secondary market. You know, you’ve got real monetary value to show for your time at some point.
Many people focus on whether they lost money or didn’t ROI fast enough. If you leave prematurely and don’t give yourself a chance to play a game for a long time, you may be upside down, and that’s your fault. Not the fault of the game.
Are you playing any games? And more importantly, are you playing any crypto games?
I am. I play a lot. I play many crypto games because I want to understand the references that people make and what they’re talking about, and, more importantly, where they’ve come from.
So the reason why Blockchain Brawlers, I think it’s so easy to onboard is its slick UI and it’s fun to play.
I’ve played many not very good play-to-earn games, and I get confused. I’m very game savvy, yet I come to this product and don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t know where to go.
So I play Office Land, space gaming, and Arena of Glory. I play a lot of blockchain brawlers. I play Metropolis Origins, an up-and-coming game from our studios, which I love. It’s being built by a guy named Graham Devine, an unbelievably talented game designer.
So yeah, I play a lot of play-to-earn games because I enjoy it. But it’s also teaching moments for me. Like, I love to know what other companies are doing, how they’re doing it, and what works and what doesn’t. So I’m a student from the works that I interact with.
Thank you for reading my Interview With Michael Rubinelli, head of Wax Game Studios.