YGG Co-founder Gabby Dizon Shares the Play-to-Earn Story at Neckerverse Summit
Little more than two years ago, few people around the world had heard about play-to-earn. Then, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, amid lockdowns and layoffs, a heartwarming and inspiring story was uncovered about a small community in the rural Philippines that were able to improve their circumstances by playing the blockchain game, Axie Infinity. Since then, hundreds more Web3 games have been developed and released, more tools and infrastructure built, and more unique and talented individuals have been welcomed into an ever-expanding community of gamers, artists, builders, creators, and contributors.
Now, the movement has spread across the globe, even at a time when skeptics and critics abound, sowing fear, uncertainty, and doubt about the current market conditions and the sustainability of the play-to-earn model.
It has also piqued the curiosity of some of the world’s most formidable investors. These investors are among the visionaries who backed Web2 founders in the earliest days of the internet, before most people understood how the internet would transform the world. Like those who continue to support the play-to-earn movement, they see that these challenges are part of the journey toward building a completely new paradigm that is unlike anything the world has ever seen.
In August, a group of Web3 innovators came together to share ideas and envision the future at the inaugural Neckerverse summit on Necker Island, British Virgin Islands (BVI). The invite-only event created a space where leaders from a wide range of fields, including technology, blockchain, venture capital, conservation, social impact, art and sports, could explore how Web3 economic models can be leveraged to build solutions that promote equity and social responsibility.
YGG co-founder Gabby Dizon spoke on three panels, sharing the guild’s mission to onboard millions to the open Metaverse, its vision for the future of Web3, and its most recent activities that are setting new standards for the rest of the industry.
The story behind Neckerverse
At the heart of Neckerverse is Bill Tai, the founder of ACTAI Global, a philanthropic community of athletes, conservationists, technologists, artists and innovators trailblazing for environmental conservation and economic empowerment. He also co-founded the Extreme Tech Challenge, a startup competition for entrepreneurs with a vision to change the world for the better.
A renowned venture capitalist, Bill was an early supporter of a number of world-changing Web2 pioneers. He was among the first few people to see the potential of Zoom in 2011, when the company was a fledgling entrant into an already-saturated video conferencing market led by incumbents like Microsoft and Cisco. In fact, it was Bill who convinced other investors to back Zoom, such as Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang through his early stage fund, AME Cloud Ventures, and Counterpart Ventures co-founder and former Qualcomm managing director, Patrick Eggen. Just two years after Zoom’s seed round, Bill backed the Australian graphic design software company, Canva.
Zoom’s growth skyrocketed amid the pandemic, with its market capitalization peaking at US$161.65 billion in October 2020, and it remains a fixture today. Canva, whose app has made graphic design more widely accessible to non-professionals, saw its valuation peak at US$40 billion in the second half of 2021.
Bill’s first foray into crypto motivated him to back Bitcoin mining giant Bitfury Group early on, joining its US$20 million Series A round in 2014. Currently on the advisory board of Bitfury, which has evolved into a full-service blockchain company valued at US$1 billion, Bill has gone on to support other projects in crypto, such as Dapper Labs and its ground-breaking game, CryptoKitties. He has also co-founded the philanthropic Web3 company, Metagood, and the eco-conscious NFT platform, OneOf.
Neckerverse came into being thanks to Bill’s love for kitesurfing and his passion for bringing like-minded people together. In 2013, he was able to bring both to Necker Island, a 30-hectare private island in the BVI. It is the home of his friend, Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson, who invited ACTAI, then called MaiTai, to spend the week on the island. The group soon became regulars on Necker Island, until the meetups evolved into an annual opportunity for tech and startup leaders to network, partner and collaborate to tackle some of the world’s most pressing issues.
Nearly 10 years later, Bill has continued to create an environment of serendipity, and in 2022, he brought the focus of the event to Web3 and its use cases for social impact.
The Neckerverse experience
The summit was a week spent in conversation with future-thinking individuals, many of whom were, like Bill, early investors in some of the most successful Web2 companies today. They were curious about the developments in Web3, as it was something many had developed a thesis about, but they weren’t fully aware of how it was already being implemented in various parts of the world — such as the Philippines, the epicenter of play-to-earn adoption, and of course, Gabby’s home country.
“It’s been amazing to hear about how Web3 gaming has made such a huge impact in so many lives around the world and enabled people to benefit from this new wave of technology,” said Bill. “Everyone who went to Neckerverse sees the potential of blockchain and the positive future it can create, and that’s exactly why the summit was born — so we could all come together and discuss how we can leverage this technology shift for our collective future.”
“The Power of DAOs for Social Good”
In the panel “The Power of DAOs for Social Good,” moderator Carolina Casas Forga, co-founder of the purpose-driven tech investment fund, Sangha Capital, described DAOs as “one of the most exciting developments in the crypto world in recent years.” Carolina and Gabby were joined in discussion by Amanda Terry, co-founder and COO of Metagood, the company behind projects such as OnChainMonkey, which empower communities and support important causes through the use of Web3 and NFTs.
Amanda shared that Metagood contributed to the Typhoon Odette relief drive, a Web3 community effort led by YGG Pilipinas, the Philippine entity of YGG, that saw US$1.45 million raised to support those affected by the catastrophic tropical cyclone that devastated major parts of the Central Visayas region of the Philippines at Christmastime in late 2021. The relief drive and the participation it inspired demonstrate how DAOs and crypto can create social impact, especially in times of need.
Gabby spoke about YGG’s work on X-to-earn. Emphasizing how X-to-earn models, like play-to-earn, move-to-earn and learn-to-earn, can incentivize people’s passions whose value is often unmonetized, he also pointed out how it can give people ownership of this value that they create in the Metaverse. X-to-earn presents an opportunity for a wider range of people to showcase and develop their talents.
“A lot of things happen at YGG that are community-built initiatives,” Gabby said, pointing to YGG initiatives such as the Guild Advancement Program, YGG Esports’ Elite and Rising Star teams, and the Web3 Metaversity educational platform, that were designed to upskill community members.
“We have community managers from all around the world — everywhere from Southeast Asia, Japan, South Korea and India, through to Turkey and Latin America — who train and upskill new members with Web3 skills that will allow them to own a piece of the network,” he added, explaining how members of the guild help to educate each other, with managers providing mentorship to scholars and content creators streaming videos to teach others how to level up in their game.
“‘Everything’ to Earn: Tokenomics 1, 2, 3”
The panel “‘Everything’ to Earn: Tokenomics 1, 2, 3” was moderated by José Macedo, partner at Delphi Digital, an industry leader that has designed the tokenomics for some of the most prominent Web3 projects including YGG and Axie Infinity. José and Gabby, along with Grace Wong and Shahrooz Chowdhury, co-founders of the full-stack customer engagement platform, Liven, explored the idea of token distribution models and reputation systems.
Gabby said that reputation systems will be “one of the major themes of crypto going forward,” sharing his view that DAOs will be more focused on having people build a reputation based on their actions, whether on-chain or off-chain, and being able to dole out rewards based on that reputation.
They also discussed play-to-earn as a business model innovation developed from free-to-play games. Whereas money spent by free-to-play games goes to ads for user acquisition, Web3 is a model that allows players to be part owners in the games and communities they participate in.
“I see play-to-earn as a way of cutting out the centralized user acquisition platforms that we’ve been using and going to groups that are already interested in what you’re doing — the DAOs and the guilds — and giving the value that’s being created directly to those users instead,” said Gabby.
The Future is Web3
For Gabby, being able to share the story of YGG and the play-to-earn revolution with an audience of Web2 pioneers and changemakers who were curious and receptive despite any unfamiliarity with the Web3 space was part of the “magic” of Neckerverse. He reflects that the future-thinking mindset that defined the quality of the conversations at the summit is the exact way of thinking that will help the guilds space shape its future.
Neckerverse, to Gabby, was a manifestation of people’s curiosity about the path towards Web3 adoption — a part of an ongoing process of thinking about what is next for the industry. He looks forward to seeing more Web2 pioneers explore the space, while remaining cognizant that there is still much education needed to move the industry into the mainstream. By showing everyone at Neckerverse the positive impact that Web3 can have on a global scale, Gabby is optimistic that the builders who share a vision for bringing the benefits of blockchain to those who need them the most will attract more supporters to create impactful projects that can change the world.