Mike Rubinelli talks to NFT NEWS TODAY about his latest project, “Blockchain Brawlers”. He explains the secret recipe they have been cooking in the WAX Games Studios, which will make this P2E experience so unique.
Blockchain games are still in their infancy. Unbalanced economies, caused by players ‘mining’ games for assets, still permeate the space, but that’s about to change. Games like Blockchain Brawlers are seeking to revolutionize the space and put gameplay before profit, player before developer.
Mike Rubinelli is no stranger to the needs of the player and he’s no stranger to developing games either.
The Head of WAX Games Studios has been ‘in the game’ for longer than most and his record speaks for itself. Gaming is second nature to him, a language he truly understands – from programming to developing and of course, playing.
Mike’s experiences developing countless classics for Disney, Midway and EA Sports, as well as being CEO of Esports Mogul, puts him in a realm of his own. He understands how to create an immersive experience for the player and he also sees the enormous potential of play-to-earn (P2E) and NFTs.
“It’s no longer money going into the developers’ hands as a zero-sum game,” he said. “It’s money going from one player to another player and that’s really, really powerful.”
“For every kid whose mom has said “stop playing those video games because you can’t make any money from it!”. That’s all changing now with the player participation economy.”
Players can make a meaningful income playing games now, but that’s not enough for Mike. He is driven to develop games, which touch the lives of players and their human needs – their emotional chords.
That’s where Blockchain Brawlers could shine. We’re yet to see the game launch, but their ‘Founders Edition’ NFTs have struck a major chord with the community.
It’s no surprise that the early NFT auctions were a resounding success for WAX. Mike knows his community inside out and interacts with them on unprecedented levels. Mike once wrote his personal email address inside the Madden NFL ’95 manual and spent months responding to thousands of passionate football fans.
“Your community matters, players want to win,” Mike said. “They care about what you do and when you make decisions that create really beneficial experiences, it’s a powerful thing and can change people’s lives.”
“When I have a decision to make, my first reaction is: what is the best thing for the players? How is this decision going to impact the player? So you start with the player and you work backwards. It’s a very customer-obsessed way of thinking, but that’s how I’m wired.”
What kind of in-game experience can we expect from Blockchain Brawlers? Mike promises a user-friendly, simple experience, which does not alienate the traditional gaming community.
“I don’t want to confuse you. I want to delight you as soon as I can,” Mike said. “I want to engage you. Now – granted, you’ve paid a decent chunk of change to play this. So, you’ll probably keep playing, but I don’t think like that. I assume this is a free-to-play game in terms of on-boarding.”
You can’t buy the kind of experience Mike has in the gaming world. Certain experiences are formative. Mike recounts a time when he worked for Disney and they invited in a ‘usability tester’ to play their latest ‘city builder’ game.
“We had a woman come into play and we’re all watching her. She plays it for about 60 seconds. Then she says: “Okay, I’m done.”
“We were like – no! Please keep playing. She said: “I don’t want to. It’s confusing. I don’t know why I’m playing. I’m totally frustrated. I play about 12 free-to-play games today that do not confuse me and that inspire me. So why am I going to engage in your titles?”
As a developer, you may have 60 seconds to convince the attention span of a free-to-play gamer – so it would be wise to make your in-game experience smooth and painless. If this player-first mentality adopted by Mike catches on in the P2E space, mainstream adoption is inevitable.
Blockchain Brawlers will not electrify from day one. Mike has always maintained that day one will be the worst version of the game.
WAX Games Studios plan to analyze the player behavior from 1050 ‘Founders Edition’ NFT holders. Based on the results of their extensive analytics, they will make necessary tweaks and adjustments to the game and its economy.
Isn’t that every developer’s dream? To be able to make meaningful adjustments based on real analytics and how people actually respond to the game.
“We think that’s the secret sauce,” Mike said. “And that’s another reason we only want to have a few players up front.”
“I had this really smart guy that worked for me at Disney,” Mike recounts. “He was a Stanford graduate and had a bunch of quantum physicists on his team. A lot of big brains! They would launch a game and in terms of meeting performance expectations, they were accurate about 40% of the time.”
“Even with unbelievably intelligent people on your team, you never know how a group of 10,000 people are going to behave. You make all these assessments, all these baseline considerations, but you never really know. Performing to 40% of expectations? That’s an ‘F’. But in this space, it’s kind of an ‘A’.”
The road ahead for Blockchain Brawlers is not laid out in solid concrete and that’s because the game will be player-driven. They’re working on a calculated masterpiece at WAX Games Studios and they have the team to pull it off.
One thing Mike does promise with BB is an experience never-felt-before in the P2E space, which will draw players into the Brawlers’ world through narratives. Perhaps these narratives will be similar to those we have always adored in the WWE – but this time, you will be living your own narrative in the metaverse.
“We’re going to have a roadmap that leads towards a very ‘real’ game. A game where you’re making human choices,” he said. “There’s all sorts of ramifications for your decisions. Your wrong choices have consequences. Your right choices have benefits.”
“What we want to tell people is: all these things are coming and trust us because we’re a different team. We think differently, we act differently.”
Finally, Mike revealed a mouth-watering little nugget to us. Something which truly hints at things to come in the P2E gaming space. WAX Games Studios are planning to immerse the owners in the Blockchain Brawlers’ journey – through developing narratives for each Brawler’s ‘manager’.
“We’re going to write narratives that are not just for the brawlers, but for the Brawler owners,” he said. “In discord we have 30,000 people and there’s probably 3-400 that post every single day. Now we’re starting to see their personas and their personalities come through. We’re keeping files on all this! It’s going to be incredibly fun.”
We wait with bated breath, sir! Bring forth the Brawlers, we say!