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Illuvium’s launch. Navigating early challenges.

Polemos has seen some exciting developments in blockchain gaming, undergone several internal changes, and our content team has returned our focus to our blockchain gaming origins. This newsletter will catch you up on the recent updates we’ve got our eyes on, and what’s new at Polemos.

The first arrivals…

Illuvium is finally launching, and it’s become worth covering on YouTube. The July 25 launch date announcement comes with a launch date trailer, which delivers glimpses of a character narrative that is still lacking from the open beta. To watch the trailer and get a detailed breakdown of its meaning (and all its Star Wars parallels), check out this video from Cavan Roe: Illuvium Trailer Breakdown.

Illuvium Airdrop Season may be an even bigger milestone than committing to a date in a fancy trailer. This airdrop is a ‘first’ in a few big ways:

  • It’s the first time players can earn this much (210,000 ILV pool)
  • They can earn it by playing Overworld
  • Airdrop Season will cross over from Testnet to Mainnet

30,000 ILV, is dedicated to Airdrop #1. That’s the Private Beta 4 and Open Beta (Testnet) portion.

The remaining 180,000 ILV, or Airdrop #2, is for Open Beta (Mainnet) and Illuvium Beyond. This airdrop is when Illuvium transitions to Mainnet for the first time, and will continue for five months. For the latest rundown on the airdrop and how to maximize it, check out our video on best ways to earn airdrop points.

We’re closely tracking the trajectory of Illuvium activity since the airdrop began. According Immutascan’s page tracking illuvials and unique owners, a month since the start of the airdrop, Illuvium’s unique owner count had grown more than five fold, accelerating from a few dozen new owners per day to thousands per week. The total number now, though, stands around 29,000.

We’ll give these stats another look when Airdrop Season makes contact with Mainnet.

(As of now, the Airdrop Season pool totals 260,000 ILV including the 50,000 ILV Loyalty Airdrop, but the opportunity to earn a portion of that has come and gone. The snapshot measuring loyalty was taken April 14, 2024, to reward dedicated early players.)

Illuvium’s early days aren’t easy

To the players it’s Airdrop Season, but inside Illuvium this is undoubtedly a hectic and critical phase. Part 1 of this two-part airdrop, during which players can earn ILV for finding and capturing rare Illuvials in the Overworld will set the tone for the earliest days of Illuvium’s Mainnet. It’s the prototype for what playing and earning can feel like in the Overworld.

Partway through the reward period, Illuvium made a bunch of Rangers unhappy when they announced changes that will affect the way airdrop points are scored.

Master Shards, like the master ball from Pokémon, guarantee the capture of any Illuvial. Due to Illuvium’s changes, the recipe cost for this shard skyrocketed from eighty Shard Dust to 800. Some users in Illuvium’s Discord are sympathetic to the changes. They believe the motive behind the change is to encourage using a variety of shards, and to ensure that the Testnet portion of the airdrop properly tests the intended gameplay that will hit Mainnet in just a few weeks. This has continued into Pre-Season 2 where master shards now cost 2400 dust.

Others are utterly angry that Illuvium would change the rules during a reward period, after they’ve invested significant time and effort into the game, only to have their chances at airdrop points throttled down.

Cavan, our resident ranger, thinks the angry camp might consist of ‘pure airdrop farmers’– folks who travel from game to game farming airdrops for value, caring little about the game’s long term success.

Illuvium may have preferred to avoid irking the airdrop farmers. Kieran Warwick spoke on the topic during an AMA we discussed in March.

“… people love to farm airdrops. If you farm an airdrop and also fall in love with the game, that’s a match made in heaven. We’ll be leaning heavily into that.”

Watch Cavan break down the controversy and hear his take in our video: Why did Illuvium do this?

Games regularly face the challenge of maintaining appeal among diverse player bases. Token incentives make this even more complex. Throughout these pre-seasons, players are judging how rewarding Illuvium is both intrinsically and in terms of cold hard airdrop points. Striking the balance is complicated and Illuvium’s early days aren’t easy.

Early isn’t easy

There’s a concept in space travel (and speculative fiction) called a “wait calculation.” It states that if reaching a distant galaxy would take more than 50 years with current technology, it’s better not to send the ship at all. Instead, focus on building better spacecraft– because the more advanced ship will overtake the earlier, slower rocket en route. Games are known to wait for the right time to launch. Fortunately, AAA blockchain games aren’t rocket science, and they don’t take 50 years to build.

At times, working for Polemos has felt like being the pioneering capsule sent far ahead of the AAA blockchain games we anticipate, to build the resources and technology the games will demand once they arrive. The goal of our game lessons and our NFT lending tech is to complement the true asset ownership that blockchain games offer, and realize the full potential envisioned by the industry.

We’ve been doing a lot more than waiting.

We established a strong
web2 gaming audience —

Our initial content strategy on YouTube revolved around the blockchain gaming projects we expect the most from, (along with some warnings about the ones we doubt.) We shared game interviews, peeks at early access, and covered crypto topics broadly. A year ago, covering only these lesser known, in-development games that comprised the web3 game industry limited the sort of content we could make and the insights we could gain.

We broadened our horizons and began covering mainstream titles, and we found our way on YouTube. We monetized gaming audiences across 3 new channels, covering major releases like Baldur’s Gate 3, Starfield, and Skull & Bones. In our Polemos_News channel we felt the propulsion of growing with viral titles from the moment they exploded, like Palworld and Helldivers 2. Creating content for a larger potential audience allowed us to uncover insights about game content audiences, how best to pitch the content, and our own team’s talents. Our team honed our craft and video quality to eventually compete with some of the top gaming content creators on YouTube.

Midway through 2024, we have now shifted our content strategy back to blockchain games, where exciting news and releases are worth covering.

— and then told them
we’re web3 people

Today, interest in blockchain gaming is a small and separate subset of video gaming, with most mainstream gamers still disliking blockchain games. With low expectations and a thumbnail that read “PLEASE DON’T BE MAD,” we revealed our web3 origins on our most successful web2 gaming channel. As expected, we found some support from blockchain enthusiasts in the comments, but it remains challenging to even show crypto gaming content to traditional gamers on YouTube. While we haven’t sworn off trying, we have recalibrated our strategy to revolve around the small but growing community of gamers enthusiastic about blockchain games.

A remarkable proportion of this small, growing community are watching our videos. Back on our OG YouTube channel Polemos_io, our recent coverage of Illuvium has found meaningful success. In a game mode with only about 29000 unique wallets, our video ‘Illuvium ultimate guide beginner to overworld stage 3‘ has amassed more than 8000 views. There are other content creators in the space on YouTube, and some of them offer valuable information, but their videos are sparse. The skills and insights our team honed in the web2 space have carried over into our renewed coverage of web3, and, at least for Illuvium, we’re in a strong position to grow even more on YouTube.

Being early is both exciting and challenging.

In mid-May, we announced that Richard McLaren had decided to depart from Polemos to pursue career opportunities outside of web3. Richard played a crucial role in building Polemos’ technology capabilities and assembling our team.

As we navigate back to the blockchain gaming projects central to our mission, we have streamlined our content strategy. This shift led to a restructure, resulting in a smaller, more concentrated team and also led to us bidding farewell to Hal Crawford, our Head of Content. Hal’s creative leadership and insights greatly contributed to our successes on YouTube. Going forward, our content will focus on web3 gaming, defi news, and education. We have also hired new developers to advance our lending technology and ensure a strong launch of our core products.

During this transitional period, CFO Carl Wilgenbus is serving as interim CEO. With his finance background and experience leading teams of 50+ members in startups, Carl is leading Polemos alongside founders Kevin O’Hara and Darren Smorgon until a new CEO is appointed.