AMA Highlights: Epik
By Daniel Dal Bello, Director.
May 13, 2021–10 min read.
Epik is an NFT platform working with triple-A gaming platforms and entertainment IP brands to create in-game cross-collaborations specifically designed to deliver brand new immersive experiences.
Their established B2B ecosystem with large brands and artists is a key strength. Their deep industry experience gives them a strong ability to understand users and develop product-market fit.
Epik’s unique product is the world’s first business-to-business-to-consumer blockchain solution for licensed virtual goods using NFT digital collectibles.
As we’ve been watching the NFT market grow and mature over recent months, we were excited to have this conversation with Epik — which has been actively working with NFT since 2018.
In this post, we have compiled key questions and answers from the event.
Daniel Dal Bello
Welcome to you both and thank you for being here. Could you please start by introducing yourselves and also what you are working on at Epik?
Hi, I’m Gary, COO of Epik. I’m really passionate about this space. I’ve been in crypto since 2013.
Prior to Epik, I’ve worked with some of the biggest brands and celebrity artists, producing large-scale Ultra Music-style concerts across the world. And now at Epik, we work with the biggest brands and IP to create premium digital merchandise and collectibles.
Hello! I’m Darren Smith, VP of Product at Epik. I’m working on the development of all of our products here at Epik, including our B2B platform and marketplace.
Daniel Dal Bello
For us here that aren’t across what you are actually creating, what is the short story of Epik so far?
Epik is an NFT platform working with AAA gaming platforms and giant entertainment IP brands to create in-game NFT goods and marketplace. Epik is the leading NFT crypto-company coming out from stealth since 2018.
We work with over 360 clients including half of the top 25 video game companies such as Tencent and Garena and global brands like Warner and Universal.
We specialize in unique NFT drops with many coming out this year from some of the biggest names.
Epik is different because we are both an NFT technical platform and the world’s leading digital agency that has already been producing in-game drops worth millions of dollars for the last 3 years.
Epik solves the problem of content creation with our network of games, brands, celebs, artists, and influencers — creating unique, one-of-a-kind, and valuable content becomes simple with our massive network and experience.
Lastly, as the leading digital agency, we help solve the pain and complexity of licensing agreements between all parties.
Epik presents itself as both an NFT technical platform and a leading digital agency already producing unique in-game drops worth millions of dollars.
Has Epik always been utilizing NFT technology or do you have a history of non-blockchain services prior to your NFT platform?
Yes, since the beginning, Epik has been a blockchain technology company. Our CEO, Victor David is a tech founder — so he understood blockchain.
He was really into gaming and NFTs when NFTs emerged, he was in Dallas for the ERC-721 final code review.
On our team, we have Will Entriken, lead author of ERC-721. So we have been into NFT since the beginning essentially.
But back in early 2018, people didn’t know what NFTs were.
However, we understood the key was to bring mass adoption to blockchain technology, and gaming was the way to do it.
We wanted to tap into the global wide userbase of mainstream games, so while we built tech to support games get onto blockchain and access new content by way of digital collectibles and NFT, we were very early.
We started helping games with their needs, new content. Brands and IP were key so we started helping games get IP.
Then over time, we grew to become the leading digital licensing agency. Now, we have access to 1000’s brands. We are a licensing agent, we work with our brand and IP owner clients, but we are also a B2B technology provider.
This is now how we are both a tech and NFT company, and service provider for IP content.
You clearly have a well-developed list of companies and brands that you have partnered with or previously created content for. When speaking to these parties about NFTs and your vision, how have you seen the feedback develop over the last year — before and after the NFT hype?
We spent years beating the war drum for NFTs. Focusing much of our energy on education. We were always known as the ‘blockchain or tech guys’ in the licensing industry.
Our CEO was doing panels on the future of tech and innovation and licensing summits back in 2018. Now since this year, NFT has gone more mainstream and we spend less time educating.
Our conversation has shifted and our clients are coming back to us because they trust us. They come asking how we can help them develop a digital merchandise strategy.
We work with the biggest brands, across many sectors. Record labels, art, sport leagues, etc.
Each company, each brand is unique, but Epik can help them all.
We bring not just the technical know-how of blockchain and business know-how of licensing, but we also bring a huge network of digital platforms and games. With access to 100s of millions of daily active users.
To add to that, with COVID, many bands have participated in in-game concerts over the past year. We have been deeply involved in this space, and it enabled game publishers to realize the value of digital merchandise, and what Epik can bring to the table.
How do you compare your service to any regular in-game exclusive content, and what would you say are some of the main unique selling points that come with cutting out the middleman for both your existing customer base as well as the end-user?
We’re actually not cutting out the middle-man. Epik specializes in crossover content. Much like you’d see in real life like H&M x Jimmy Choo. We have done merch drops like Ultraman x Arena of Valor (Ultraman is the #1 anime on Netflix, Arena of Valor is the #1 MOBA game in the world by Tencent).
By creating unique collaborations like this, we create unique experiences and content. These would be examples of some of the NFTs we would produce.
Now, not only can users collect and admire the beautiful digital art of an item, they can gain utility inside of a game for example.
So really, we connect and bring elements together, to create unique and new content. We are a bridge, we don’t cut out.
That being said, our technology does eliminate the complexity of NFT creation and distribution in addition to dealing with complex business processes like IP royalty settlement, etc.
We saw some interesting reporting on online events. One recent example reported on was the VR performance of artist duo Blasterjaxx on social VR platform Sansar.
Next to an in-game concert, there was also the possibility for players to pick up exclusive virtual merch for their avatar, and there was a code for 10% off real-life, unreleased Spinnin’ merch.
What role did Epik and NFT technology play in making this event and the handling of this virtual merch etc. possible?
Yes, that was an exciting event. Live virtual concerts have gotten extremely popular and something Epik does a lot of. Our clients are the biggest record labels in the world. Universal, Warner Music, Spinnin’ Records… on and on.
Epik put that event together, we connected the game (Sansar) with the artists (Blasterjaxx), to create the live virtual concert and monetization.
This event was an in-game merch drop without NFTs.
Now imagine, the possibilities to increase the utility and engagement if NFTs were incorporated. Collector souvenir merch from the event etc.
These are the things you will see this year coming from Epik — ultra-unique NFT experiences.
We are the only NFT company working with AAA games.
Is there an example case that you give of an event/collab that Epik facilitated that included NFT integration?
Licensing can be a complicated/long process. We have deals and drops coming out soon that we completed in the middle of 2020 before this boom of NFT even started.
Understandably, some of these games, etc have rigorous and high-quality development and require time to build the in-game collaboration. So you will see many exciting events starting to happen soon.
Our first product built is actually a B2B NFT distribution system which was completed in early 2019. You can see our first smart contracts being done like over 600 days ago or something.
We started working with Ethereum [in] our beginnings in 2018. I’ve been an engineer for more than 20 years, and understand how to build and scale massive products.
We are implementing a series of hybrid solutions to create the best possible user experience, and minimize fees. We want this product to be mass-market.
Technically Epik is launching official NFT blockchain collectibles in games of clients using Ethereum. As Ethereum requires gas fees and on/off-chain communications with the client games these need to be managed.
How is this done exactly?
You touched on something very important. Which is the fact that our digital platforms and games are our clients. They are trusted entities. Which is how we are able to use solutions that are more efficient than say a P2P play in a marketplace today, which is where blockchain and the trustless nature have a lot of value.
It seems like the bread and butter of Epik lies with its facilitation of crossover collaborations between brands and games.
What exactly does Epik do for brands and digital platforms (games) to help them find each other and collaborate successfully?
That’s right. Epik items are official name-brand licensed NFT merchandise. Epik items are produced from collaborations between brands and digital platforms and they are specifically designed to deliver you brand new immersive experiences.
It can be very difficult to navigate the world of licensing, and find the appropriate people to talk to, etc. That’s where Epik comes in, with our relationships and client network.
For example, one of our clients is Tencent. Does Tencent have its own business development team, that can source and procure IP content? Absolutely, they have a huge team.
But they still come to Epik. We can still help and support the objectives and needs they have for IP.
Longer-term, we have a B2B marketplace where game publishers and brands can come together to propose and negotiate terms for the creation of digital merchandise. They can discover each other on their own through this platform, much like LinkedIn.
Do you see this platform also being used by projects such as Terra Virtua? It sounds like they fit the customer profile.
Yes, absolutely! Epik supports and works with all. Mainstream games and crypto-companies. Epik is B2B and we are also a licensing agent.
We absolutely collaborate with household crypto-companies and products. In this instance, Terra Virtua would be a client of Epik.
The industry is young. By helping each other grow we all grow.
Bringing more mainstream into the industry and increasing the frequency of (NFT) transactions, will build a market for all of us.
Epik provides a proprietary system based on blockchain technology to manage millions of digital wallets, consumer payments, royalty splits, and collectible item management, with real-time remittance and reporting, transparency, and traceability for all crossover item transactions.
To our understanding, this system is currently built on Ethereum, with current transaction costs — how should a regular user be able to afford a transaction, and who foots the bill?
Yes, depending on where the merchandise is sold. When the NFT lives within our platform, gas fees are not applicable. Only when items leave, will the user (sender) incur the gas fee.
When I say ‘our platform’ this doesn’t just mean Epik’s own marketplace etc. it also includes our client network (game companies, digital platform).
Epik is a network of marketplaces, that is a good way to visualize what we are and the scale of what we are.
How does the user experience look for brands and games? Is there a dashboard with participants and data?
How are the payment methods integrated?
How accessible is the NFT creation for those without technical know-how?
Let’s look at an NFT drop that happens in-game. In this scenario, the users/players of the game have a direct touchpoint with the NFT items, inside the game and the item may have attributes/features within the game.
For example, maybe it’s a Supreme crossover, and users can buy that outfit for their avatar.
From a B2B standpoint, Epik has built a B2B SaaS platform that has client portals for each the brand side and game side.
So you are right, it’s like going onto a website, and the gaming/platform side can find and propose for IP. Brands similarly will have a portal to view and vet new opportunities.
Our platform does all the heavy lifting under the hood related to licensing and royalties and also the creation and distribution of the resulting licensed NFT items.
No technical know-how is required.
The concept of metaverses within gaming has proved to be a great use case for blockchain and value-add for creators and IP owners of all sizes.
What is your vision when it comes to the integration of content, collectibles, and royalties across metaverses?
At Epik, we have already begun the development of the Epikverse, which is like a gateway to all metaverses (both crypto and non-crypto — meaning mainstream platforms).
Epikverse provides interconnectivity between other metaverses, so that users, commerce, and items can happen regardless of which metaverse you are in.
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Epik is an NFT platform working with triple-A gaming platforms and entertainment IP brands to create in-game cross-collaborations designed to deliver brand new immersive experiences.