Web3 is Coming to the Mainstream in Japan

Luxury
Digital Entertainment Asset (DEA) co-founders and co-CEOS Kozo Yamada (left) and Naohito Yoshida (right) seal their business alliance with TV Tokyo Corporation President and Representative Director Ichiro Ishikawa (centre).

Web3 — the catchall term for decentralized internet services, including cryptocurrencies, blockchains and NFTs — has taken the finance and tech world by storm, but elsewhere it is still very much underground. Granted, art NFTs (or PFPs) held its allure for most of 2021 and the better part of 2022, when the NFT market grew to US$25 billion in trading volume. This pace continued into 2021, but has significantly lost momentum since May of this year. DappRadar data shows that volumes have dropped to about US$700 million in October, compared to the highs of 2021-end and 2022-start.

However, one sector of the NFT ecosystem has continued to see traction from its beginnings till now. The killer use case of Web3 is NFT games, often called “GameFi” (game finance) by those in the know. These games allow players to earn tangible NFT assets through gameplay, which they can then sell for a profit on the market.

A game screen from Graffiti Racer, a racing/coloring game in which players color NFT game characters and then race them to earn DEP tokens.

While not yet mainstream, “Play and Earn” NFT games that reward players for their time are growing increasingly popular in many countries, especially in the eastern hemisphere of the globe. According to a 2022 NFT gaming statistics report published by Finder.com, India leads the GameFi world with 33.8 per cent of survey respondents having played an NFT game. Hong Kong, the UAE, the Philippines and Vietnam follow in the top five spots. Furthermore, over 10 per cent of respondents from Southeast Asia, South America and Africa said they were planning to try out NFT gaming in the near future.

In Japan, where TV still reigns supreme, major television station TV Tokyo is taking steps to promote Web3 content — including NFT games — to the mainstream audience. They have partnered with a Singapore-based GameFi company, Digital Entertainment Asset (DEA), operator of the PlayMining NFT gaming and metaverse entertainment platform, to collaborate on the creation of Web3-related educational content.

Menya Dragon Ramen, a Play-to-Earn NFT game on the PlayMining gaming platform.

“Cryptocurrency and Web3 unfortunately have a bad image as being unsafe and associated with scams. We aim to change that,” said DEA co-founder and co-CEO Kozo Yamada. “Through our business alliance with TV Tokyo, we will promote the many advantages of Web3 technology by creating unbiased educational television content that highlights Web3’s great potential with actual case studies of innovations with other industry leaders.”

TV Tokyo, a Nikkei Inc. subsidiary company, specialises in popular Japanese animation, among other content. TV Tokyo President and Representative Director Ichiro Ishikawa said that the Web3 partnership would enable TV Tokyo to make content that is useful for all and break through into new business sectors.

DEA has also recently signed an MOU for a separate collaborative Web3 partnership with global internet services giant Rakuten Group. Notably, Rakuten was an early mover in Web3 — they operate the Rakuten NFT marketplace and Rakuten Wallet crypto trading exchange. Their partnership with DEA will lead to collaboration on synergies between the two companies to enhance their services.

Game screens from Menya Dragon Ramen, a mobile RPG/simulation game in which players operate a ramen shop and harvest ingredients from monsters they defeat in dungeons.

In addition, DEA received a minority investment from Rakuten Capital. Hiroshi Takasawa, President of Rakuten Capital, pointed to DEA’s proven track record in the Web3 domain and experienced management team as prime drivers for the investment.

DEA co-CEO Yamada, who started his career as a television producer at TV Tokyo for 15 years, is also an influencer in the Japanese NFT space. He operates the “NFTv” Youtube channel and “NFT navi” web media, and is the creator of the NFT Awards. He co-founded DEA in 2018 with video game production veteran Naohito Yoshida, a serial entrepreneur who previously IPO’d three companies.

DEA’s PlayMining platform has its own token, DEAPcoin ($DEP), which was the first Play-to-Earn token officially approved by Japan’s Financial Service Agency. DEP can be earned by playing PlayMining’s growing catalogue of casual NFT games — current titles include Job Tribes, Cookin’ Burger, Menya Dragon Ramen and Graffiti Racer — and spent in the PlayMining NFT marketplace. Many NFTs for sale can be used directly in the games, and the market also features premium collectible NFTs from famous artists in the Japanese anime and video game industries. A metaverse initiative is also in development for the platform.

While game developers traditionally lose a lot of value to middlemen, Web3 helps them retain it.

DEA pays out royalties to creators on PlayMining NFT, and helps with IP monetisation for third-party studios who launch NFT games on the PlayMining platform. 

A promotional screen for Graffiti Racer, a Play-and-Earn NFT game on the PlayMining gaming platform.

“There is a lot of potential across the Web3 industry,” Yamada said. “Innovations in digital asset ownership and interoperability will attract mainstream users. For instance, for scholarship models in Play-and-Earn, in-game items in the form of NFT assets are rented to new players (‘scholars’) so that upfront NFT costs are not a barrier to game entry. This is helping to bring a lot of non-gamers into Web3 gaming.”

“With interoperability, in-game NFT assets can be moved across different games operating on the same blockchain and potentially even to other blockchains in the future,” he added. “This means we can use the same game items or your favourite characters in multiple game worlds. Gamers will understand the value of interoperability naturally because they spend hours levelling up their characters in games. Being able to own in-game characters as an interoperable digital asset opens up a whole new potential for rewards and new forms of entertainment!”

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