Gods Unchained is looking to be the first blockchain card game to make a dent in the audiences of Hearthstone, Magic: The Gathering — Arena, and a host of smaller games like The Elder Scrolls: Legends by offering you ownership of cards. And it’s adding a heavy hitter to its deck.
Today, Immutable said it’s hired Chris Clay, who shepherded Magic: The Gathering — Arena through development to its open beta phase. He’ll be Gods Unchained’s new game director. The studio (formerly Fuel Games) says that Gods Unchained is the “most sold blockchain game of the year” (meaning that it’s sold more non fungible tokens [NFTs] that any other), and adding Clay’s experience with one of the biggest card games in the world should help its future growth. Gods Unchained went into open beta in July. Fuel says it’s sold more than 4 million cards and generated $4 million in revenue.
Clay has worked in games for nearly 20 years, and Immutable says that during his time with publisher Wizards of the Coast, Magic: The Gathering — Arena experienced a great deal of success. It had 3 million active players since its September open beta, and it’s brought in more than $100 million. While Magic seems like a no-brainer in the digital space, Magic: The Gathering Online never brought in that many active players in such a short amount of time.
With Arena humming, why would Clay leave now?
“When I was interviewing with the team, I actually asked why they were looking for me now when they had already done so much of the difficult work already. When it became clear that they were looking at Gods Unchained as an evergreen product, and that they wanted to take it to the next level of usability and play ability, I jumped at the chance to be a part of a project that I believe has the chance to change gaming as we know it,” Clay said in an email interview.
“Leaving was a deeply personal and difficult decision, but I knew I needed a new environment to thrive, and so I made the heartbreaking decision to resign. I took a few months to get back in shape and drop the crunch weight, and here we are today.”
While you could argue that all live service games are in a continual beta state, as developers and designers are on a constant drumbeat of addressing bugs and feedback and creating new material for their products. But one of the challenges Gods Unchained provides is that it’s still in a beta state as it creeps toward is launch date, and Clay finds that attractive.
“I’ve spent parts of my career prototype games, launching games, and maintaining live games and the Beta and Live periods are always my favorite. It’s the time when all the hard work is finally coming together and paying off, and whenever you make a change you get immediate feedback from the players. Especially in this era of streaming, there has never been a better time to be refining a game in beta, as you can watch people of all skill levels playing at any time of day,” he said. “You can grab clips of bugs, and interact with the streamer’s community for direct feedback that while not always positive is almost always respectfully put.”
Why blockchain now?
Over the past couple of years, we’ve seen a great deal of hype around blockchain, but few results. CryptoKitties isn’t a real game, but that hasn’t stopped people collecting its cats. Gods Unchained is one of the first examples of a real game in which the benefits of blockchain and owning your in-game items translates to existing genres — how many of us have own baseball cards, Magic: The Gathering decks, or Pokémon?
“I think gamers have been ready for a trustless system that gives them control over their digital assets for years. With our current goals for simplifying the experience for players they shouldn’t even need to care that it’s on the blockchain. It will just work for them and give them that control. Another way of looking at it is that most people don’t have any insight into how our global banking systems, they just work and we trust them and that’s where I want us to get to,” Clay said.
You buy card booster packs with the Ethereum, a cryptocurrency. Fuel Games is also adding debit card purchases as well. This gives people who aren’t using crypto a shot at playing Gods Unchained. Since it’s on blockchain, this card game provides for you to have ownership of your cards, which you can sell or trade in the community.
But are using debit cards safe in a game like this?
“This is a place where I know I’m happy we’re working with a trusted partner, so we never come into contact with debit card information. For anyone worried about it, though I’d strongly suggest looking into virtual debit cards for an extra layer of security,” Clay said.
Gods Unchained cofounder Robbie Ferguson also fielded this question: “We work with our trusted partners to provide this. But you can always still pay with Ethereum!”
Immutable has raised $2.4 million from Coinbase Ventures, Continue Capital, Nirvana Capital, and Sora Ventures.
Updated 8:23 a.m. with comments from Chris Clay and Robbie Ferguson.
Disclosure: I back the Patreon for the Hearthstone podcast of one of Gods Unchained’s designers, ADWTCA. My coverage remains objective.