SteemMonsters is one of the first, and most successful, collectible card games on a blockchain. Only 2 months old, it has already raked in over $200,000 in revenue. Steemit's Content Director (@andrarchy) recently sat down with the co-founders of SteemMonsters and had a wide-ranging discussion during which they explore why they built the DApp, and how they leveraged Steem’s unique value propositions to take their application from concept to revenue generation in such a short time. The full interview is featured at the end of this post in both video and audio formats, but we’ve also broken the interview up into a series of short clips which are interspersed within the text of this post and highlight particularly valuable portions of the interview.
Entrepreneurship on Steem
SteemMonsters is now officially a hit which makes the SteemMonsters (SM) team a pair of bona fide entrepreneurs though, as they explain, the process evolved in a very organic way on Steem. While both founders have experience in the business world, neither have ever started or run a company. But, the existing tools and community enabled them to launch without spending a huge amount of time or money, making the risk very low while the rewards were potentially massive.
As SteemMonsters’ Lead Developer @yabapmatt explains, the upside potential is especially high for web developers because the platform is still so young which means that many ideas have yet to be done. Because Steem is also a social platform, entrepreneurs like the SM team can directly engage with their customers so as to gain a deeper understanding of what will delight them, while at the same time providing those customers with an ever growing range of outlets for expressing their delight, contributing to the project, and spreading the message.
Ownership of Digital Assets
But why build the application on a blockchain at all? Games like Magic the Gathering and Hearthstone have been tremendous successes and even have online variants, so why reinvent the wheel? The first part of their answer comes down to ownership. Part of what made MtG so fun was that you owned the cards and could trade them. But when MtG moved online, and similar games like Hearthstone became popular, players lost the ability to have exclusive ownership of their cards.
Instead, Blizzard (the company behind Hearthstone) has total control over the game and the digital assets used by the players. Blockchain integration creates the opportunity to combine the best of both worlds. Like Hearthstone, SteemMonsters is a digital game that people can play online against anyone, but you can also own the digital assets and then trade or sell them freely without having to trust in a large corporation like Blizzard that has total control over the digital assets used in Hearthstone.
The Benefit of Decentralization
Another major benefit of having SteemMonsters on a blockchain is that it enables the game to be decentralized. Since all of the information is public (on the blockchain) anyone can create their own version of the game. That means that anyone is free to make their own user interfaces for the game. If the SM team were to do something that the players didn’t like, anyone would be free to create their own version of the game.
Turnkey Blockchain & Turnkey Userbase
By leveraging the Steem blockchain the SM team saved themselves the time, energy, and expense of having to develop their own blockchain. By building on Steem, they were able to bootstrap a user base off of Steem’s pre-existing user base, possibly the largest in the space.
Why Not Ethereum?
@yabapmatt had originally considered building a card game on a blockchain. First, he considered Ethereum but decided against it due to its fees and long block times. He didn’t want to build a game that cost someone money every time they wanted to make a move, or wait some indeterminate amount of time for the game to progress, assuming the transaction wasn’t rejected entirely. For these reasons, he began looking into building his own blockchain, but soon realized this was unrealistic.
Steem a Compromise?
At first, @yabapmatt felt that leveraging Steem was a compromise due to its lack of smart contracts. However, as he began working on the application, he realized that by leveraging “soft consensus” mechanisms, they could actually build a fully decentralized application on Steem that achieved all of their goals. He also has high hopes for the Hivemind project (being developed by @roadscape) which will deliver the tooling that will make implementing such features far easier. @yabapmatt explores these concepts in his “Tech Talk” series (Tech Talk Part 1, Tech Talk Part 2).
Soft Consensus v. Hard Consensus
The key distinction is that between “hard” and “soft” consensus. SteemMonsters leverages soft consensus whereas a DApp like Cryptokitties leverages hard consensus. If someone attempts to submit an invalid Cryptokitties transaction to Ethereum, the blockchain will reject it. But this comes with a cost, which is that it takes time and expensive energy for the entire Ethereum network to come to a consensus about whether or not the transaction is valid. This doesn’t just create a bad user experience, it also limits the growth potential of the application. Soft consensus is when any transaction can be submitted to the blockchain, but the DApp only recognizes valid transactions.
According to @yabapmatt, the outcome is effectively the same with the only difference being whether the verification is happening at the blockchain level or on a meta-layer. Technically, all that’s needed is a public, immutable ledger, but Steem has the added benefits of high speed fee-less transactions and an existing community that provides both users and talented contributors. The SteemMonsters team is confident their application will have all the capabilities and decentralization of an Ethereum DApp, while offering the speed and free transactions unique to Steem applications.
How Successful is SteemMonsters?
Both @yabapmatt and @aggroed were surprised by the level, and type, of success that SteemMonsters has had. Not only was it rapidly adopted thanks to Steem’s turnkey user base and the high overlap between the Steem demographic and those who play collectible card games, but it has also benefited in some surprising ways from pre-existing enterprises on the Steem blockchain, like steembay. Steembay enabled players to begin selling and trading cards before SteemMonsters.com even supported the feature.
Each steembay post also functioned as an advertisement for SteemMonsters, contributing to its viral growth. Thanks to these feedback loops, SteemMonsters has earned over $200,000 since they launched just over 2 months ago on May 26! It’s important to note that this is not money they have raised, it’s money they’ve earned by selling over 1,500 starter packs and almost 100,000 booster packs! Unlike most projects in the space which are raising capital based on unsubstantiated claims, SteemMonsters is an actual product with paying customers and the team is eager to reinvest those earnings into making the game even better.
Open Sourcing SteemMonsters
Success is about much more than revenue for the SteemMonsters team. They want to open source the development of the game itself and, to that end, have launched the largest writing competition on Steem with a $1500 SBD reward that will be distributed among the top 6 teams. While these are opportunities for all Steemians to earn more STEEM, it also feeds back into SteemMonsters by providing storylines and acting as a decentralized viral marketing campaign!
Once again, this highlights the benefits of leveraging a pre-existing blockchain ecosystem. Because there are DApps that already leverage Steem as a platform for hosting and engaging with content, the moment a new application goes live, it creates new opportunities for every Steem user regardless of their preferred application. One especially illustrative example of this synergy is the dlive.io user who earns revenue by opening their pack on a livestream and then uses that revenue to buy more packs.
Advice for Developers
As the lead developer of SteemMonsters, @yabapmatt expressed his belief that blockchain, as an industry, is still rife with opportunity and if a developer is overwhelmed by the prospect of having to learn the entirely new set of coding skills needed to build smart contracts, Steem is an especially promising option. Steem enables developers to leverage their pre-existing web development skills and add in very simple APIs thereby gaining all the advantages of blockchain integration without having to learn Solidity or C++.
Because Steem is built from the ground up to power web applications, the SteemMonsters team was able to take their business from concept to revenue generation in a few months, but only by integrating the assets and skills they’ve spent their lives building.
More Than Technology
For @yabapmatt, Steem integration gave SteemMonsters more than just a technical advantage. Because every Steem holder benefits from improvements to the ecosystem, Steemians are eager to give their support to promising projects like SteemMonsters. This shifted how even @yabapmatt and @aggroed view their earnings. They want to give as much of it back to the Steem community because, “we’re all going to the same moon.”
This highlights the effectiveness of STEEM’s Proof-of-Brain algorithm in autonomously distributing stake so as to properly align the incentives of all the necessary parties. While the engagement, excitement, and investment the Steem community is making into SteemMonsters is due in large part to the compelling universe that the SM team is creating, it is a testament to Steem’s economic technology that so many people continue to feel rewarded for doing so which only makes them, as well as @yabapmatt and @aggroed, even more committed to investing their time and energy in SteemMonsters.
Thank You SteemMonsters
We want to thank the SteemMonsters team for working with us to generate our first official Steemit podcast! If you’d like to view the entire video you will find a copy below along with an audio-only version. Be sure to head on over to steemmonsters.com to check out the game and for updates from the team, follow them on steemit at steemit.com/@steemmonsters.
Full interview (video):
Full interview (audio):
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