What to Expect From Xai as It Aims to Become Ethereum Gaming's Valve

Key contributors to Xai, the Ethereum-based layer-3 gaming network, say they aim to build the next Valve, developing their ecosystem in a similar way to the video game titan behind the Steam marketplace and some of the best-loved games of all time.

Tobias Batton, co-founder and CEO of Ex Populus—a game studio that works closely with the Xai Foundation as a “labs company” of sorts, he previously told Decrypt’s GG—explained that the Valve model is how they envision the future of the gaming network.

In the same way that Valve has its own internal studio creating games like Half-Life, Counter-Strike, and Portal, Xai has Ex Populus working on multiple upcoming releases. Equally, as Valve offers development tools, so does Xai through its partnership with Sequence.

“That’s kind of how we think about things in a very broad sense for the Xai ecosystem,” Batton told Decrypt via Zoom.

While Valve games are widely adored, the firm has arguably become even better known for the market-leading Steam platform. Valve’s store has quite the head start, with over 100,000 games at present while Xai has just a couple currently live. But by the end of its new Vanguard: Genesis campaign, Batton says there will be a healthy library to choose from.

The campaign saw a near-instant spike in transactions, with Xai accounting for 41% of all transactions in the Ethereum scaling network ecosystem, according to L2beat data, amid its own all-time high for transactions.

Over the past 30 days, Xai has recorded the most transactions of any Ethereum layer-2 with over 114 million transactions; Coinbase’s Base network is next up with 83 million transactions over the same span.

Most of that activity has not been tied to gaming, however, as users first interact with the budding network—launched back in January—by taking advantage of rewards initiatives amid the Vanguard: Genesis campaign.

“The first activity a lot of people latched onto is called our Vanguard mint, which is this massive NFT drop,” Batton said, explaining that more and more transactions are coming from Unicorns Bingo, a play-to-earn mobile game. “I think as more things release throughout the campaign, you’re going to see a lot of that activity engage with the games.”

This follows the previous Xai Odyssey campaign last year, which saw a similar jump in user activity—with 500,000 connected wallets collectively generating 5 million daily transactions, ahead of a rewards distribution of tokens that were worth a grand total of nearly $200 million at XAI’s peak price in February.

Set to run through November, Vanguard: Genesis will help launch a dozen new games on Xai, but that’s not the full extent of what’s coming to the network—other games will come via Xai’s partnership with The MIX and perhaps other launches. Alongside this new suite of games, the campaign will also see new quests, achievements, and rewards available for the community.

“We think about this as an ecosystem-wide event,” Batton told Decrypt. “We can build this huge momentum curve and then slot in different game launches into that momentum.”

Crypto Unicorns marked the start of that release slate late Tuesday, completing its migration from Ethereum sidechain Polygon to the Arbitrum-based layer-3 gaming network. This franchise is one of the crypto industry’s most stalwart gaming brands, offering a play-to-airdrop campaign (Unicorns Bingo) as the migration was under construction.

While Crypto Unicorns is already widely known, Batton highlighted a lesser-known project called The Lost Glitches as one of the games he’s most excited to launch.

“I encourage you to go look at their Twitter account and look at their media. Oh my goodness, it’s amazing,” Batton said. “It’s probably the best-looking card game I’ve ever seen, which is saying a lot because Parallel looks great. But I think The Lost Glitches takes it a step further.”

Aside from these games, Batton also expressed excitement for Final Form, a card-driven auto-battler game that his own Ex Populus studio is developing. Beyond that, there are several other games planned to launch via the campaign, some of which remain unannounced as of this writing.

Coming back to the Valve comparison, Batton sees the Vanguard: Genesis campaign as comparable to the massive, annual Steam Summer Sale that has become a reliable event for gamers. In turn, this isn’t going to be a one-hitter quitter. Instead, there are plans to do “two or three” seasons, as he called it, per year.

“Every season is going to have a group of games that we promote. And I think the focus is likely to be on new games launching,” Batton said. “But we’ll also be happy to bring games back from previous seasons that are maybe doing retention campaigns, especially if they have something new to offer.”

That’s the long-term vision. For now, the team’s eyes are set on Vanguard: Genesis, which Batton hopes will populate Xai with must-play games and help the network live up to the promise generated by sizable hype and a valuable token drop earlier this year.

“Our focus has been: Let’s go out and find the best triple-A, production-quality games. Let’s get like half a dozen of those to just crush it in 2024,” he said.

Edited by Andrew Hayward

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