Sergei Sergienko, is the co-founder of Crypto Gaming United (CGU), a Singapore-based league for crypto gamers who embark on the play-to-earn path, the very path that made Bitcoin what it is today. The lifeblood for blockchain games is NFTs, and Australia-based Sergienko sat down with The Tokenizer’s New York Columnist Max Smetannikov to talk about the origins of CGU and what play-to-earn means for millions of underemployed and unemployed in the developing countries, as well as about the economics of blockchain gaming business.
By Max Smetannikov
T: Your last high-profile project was Chronobank. Can you help us connect the dots to CGU?
SS: Chronobank and Chronotech, as it has become known subsequently, has always been about work. We have always tried to tokenize people’s work time. To do that, we created the LaborX platform, which is the largest blockchain freelancing platform in the world. And one day, we said, you know what – we need to add a gaming category to this platform. So we did, and the next day we saw our traffic on the platform triple. Obviously, we investigated, and what it was – all of those jobs were “I will play Axie Infinity for you.”
So, in other words, it is still the same, still, people selling their time for crypto. It just now comes in the form of gaming.
So I am still waiting for work-to-earn to become popular again, but while we are waiting, I guess play-to-earn is the thing to do. That was a joke))
T: So CGU started around one game – but what’s next? Will there be other games on the platform? Will it always be game-related?
SS: The first question everybody asks – Axie Infinity is great, but we have all seen it before when one company becomes too big and then goes tits up. Obviously, we understand that risk. We cater to it, and we account for it. Axie is just a start for CGU. It’s a very good bouncing platform, but we do have a number of games in the pipeline. We have already started on Waves Ducks, Rising Sun, and we just have partnered with Aavegotchi.
If you’ve been around the block a few times like we have been, you understand that a correction comes with every rise in the market. Everyone is expecting a crypto winter, and without a doubt, it will happen; we just don’t know when.
And for this turn of events, we are especially suited, as we don’t just rely on games. We are constantly thinking about what to do with our people if games go belly up. At the moment, we are thinking along the lines of completing surveys, doing signups, research. All these other things where such a great number of motivated people can be used.
T. What are the tokenomics of CGU? Why is this token popular? Why did it sell out in 6 seconds?
SS: At the moment, the token is popular strictly because of the reputation of our team and Mark Carnegie, our co-founder, as he comes from the financial world. I come from the crypto world, as do our respected teams. As far as the tokenomics are concerned, we have not rolled anything out yet, but there will be staking, there will be buybacks, there will be lending protocols for the players, and we will have financing for the players where CGU token will be used. So all this anticipation peaked the interest towards the token. Also, gaming and metaverse have been hot for a couple of months now, so the IDO was well-timed as well.
At the moment, it is all in the development stage, but the tokenomics are coming soon. There probably be buybacks using gaming tokens generated, closely followed by creative staking in everything.
T. The lifeblood for CGU is NFTs. How ubiquitous will NFT become outside of gaming?
SS: When people think NFTs today, they think of a .jpeg picture in a cloud. Now, the thing is, an NFT stands for “non-fungible token.” For me, this means a token that is not the same as any other token. It’s a token where you can embed any information. Look at Axie NFTs – they represent basically a character in a game. My dream is to have NFTs represent particular people, or, to be more precise, the reputation of particular people, of anyone. That is what I imagine NFTs will become. Things like insurance contracts will be a perfect match for something like this. It would also work great for settling up for jobs.
T. Let’s talk about different categories of people who bought your tokens. Let’s start with investors waiting for more listings on more exchanges. What are the plans in that regard?
SS: The token at the moment has very little liquidity. It’s a timing matter. We have agreements in the pipeline, and we are working to list the token on as many exchanges as possible to get the token to as many people as possible.
The way it usually happens, you go to the top ones, and once they add you, the other ones follow.
T. Can you explain the concept of scholarships? Is this a feature native to CGU business model?
SS: The scholarship concept is native to any guild that is out there. The concept of scholarship is simple. Say there is a game, and the game has characters. Like, take chess and chess pieces. Imagine that you have to buy a chess piece set to be able to play against someone. And whoever you play against would have to buy their own chess piece set. Say those 16 figures cost $16,000. Obviously, that means that not everyone in the world would be able to play this game. Now imagine that you go and buy ten 16-piece sets and give them to people to play with. That’s what our scholarships are.
We buy the NFTs that are required to play in the game and give them to people to play for a share of their winnings. Or rather – for the share of their earnings. Winnings is not the right word here. When there is a win, this implies there is a loss. Here, and this is the feature of blockchain games, — even if you lose, you don’t lose anything financially.
T. A lot is made out of these scholarships available in places like Cuba and Turkmenistan. What do you make of that?
SS: Blockchain as a movement has always been about changing things, decentralization, giving people a chance, especially with the banks, the banks being the bad guys in this context. With play-to-earn, people don’t need anything to start participating in the blockchain economy. They need the cheapest device out there, like the cheapest smartphone. It is quite invigorating and cool for people in economies that you mentioned, where they were always – their entire life – slammed around by the system, to have an opportunity to make a dollar or two or ten! Some guys make $50 or more per day – all while playing a game.
It’s amazing to see how people all of a sudden realize the power of being treated as a link in society as opposed to being a number that marches at a May Day parade. And it is liberating for the people to participate in it.
For the lack of a more modest expression, we are doing God’s work here. We are giving people a chance that no one has given them in generations.
Talking about Cuba, for the past couple of generations, they have always been oppressed by the regime. And all of a sudden, they can earn something by themselves as opposed to being controlled by the state. It’s quite glorious, and my voice starts shaking every time I talk about this.
Because this is truly an amazing step towards personal freedoms that blockchain and the vision of Satoshi brought us in 2009.
T: Let’s talk about gaming developers. You have mentioned that you are buying gaming assets, the NFTs, in bulk. This has got to make you many friends in that industry?
SS: The are a couple of stages of game development. The first one is basically an idea. We do have a number of games like that in our pipeline, where the team we think is capable. In this case, we pre-buy gaming assets that don’t yet exist at a very heavily discounted rate. We are talking cents on a dollar. Then there is a stage of game development where concept art is completed, the game is created, and it is coming out within a year. In this case, the game would approach us, and we would still buy gaming assets in anticipation of this game launching. We would also get a discount here, around 20 percent off-nominal price. Then there are games that are already out there but need players. In this case, we would buy the gaming assets at individually negotiated discount. That discount would normally be 0.5 percent off the nominal price. Then there are existing games where we would come in and buy existing gaming assets off the market. These are the games that we have missed or the games that we think have great potential. A lot of the times, we would still approach the game, and they would still give us favorable terms to purchase gaming assets. So it’s actually a pretty awesome system!
T: Let’s imagine we are talking a year from now. Right now, you have 100,000 people on the waiting list and about 6,000 active players.
SS: In one year’s time, I would like to see 100,000 active players in different games, across different jurisdictions, and hopefully in every country in the world. On top of that, I would like to see people completing tasks and other jobs on blockchain and earning their fair remuneration for that. If we achieve at least half that, I would be rather happy.
T: Are you planning any other services for the people working for
CGU – like a payment card, a corporate loan, on top of the pension you already plan to provide?
SS: First off, the mark is this. Many games have mechanics that allow you to withdraw your tokens only once every fortnight, week, month. We believe that cash is better when the quickest. That’s why we are giving people an opportunity to withdraw tokens immediately at the pace they are earned. We have that system in place already, and we are doing trials at the moment where people would be able to withdraw tokens daily.
Then there is reverse lending. Let’s take a person from Turkmenistan who doesn’t have a device and wants to play. He passes our screening. In that case, we would be able to fund his device in lieu of his earnings for the first two weeks of play. This is like a reverse loan. I am trying to stay away from the word “loan” as this makes us sound like a bank – we are not. But effectively, we are funding people’s tools so that they can support themselves and be able to play and earn.
All of that is not built yet for anything on the blockchain, so we are the first ones doing this.
Also, when you have got people earning stuff, and when you work with people, things like pensions, accumulation funds, people appreciate that, and people do need these things. In that vein, we are doing integrations, and we are working on a tech stack to support that. These are auxiliary services that will be coming out pretty soon.
T: How many people do you think will be eventually working for CGU?
SS: You see, I have always been telling people that they are not working for, they are working with us. For CGU, I would like to see 100,000 active players by this time next year and 1,000,000 within five years. In the support roles and such … I would like to do this as effectively as possible, but I have not yet had a company this size growing this quickly. If it takes 10 people to keep 1,000 people playing, then we are looking at growing to 1,000 people staff in a very short period of time.
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