Cover Mik Naayem of Dapper Labs (Photo: Supplied)

Dapper Labs is the brand behind Crypto Kitties, NBA Top Shot and UFC Strike, as well as the currency Flow. The chief business officer and co-founder speaks to Tatler about the future of Web3 gaming

Dapper Labs makes digital gaming as accessible and easy as possible for the masses. But what do the company’s partnerships with sports giants NBA, UFC and NFL mean for both casual and die-hard fans? What does Dapper Labs’ Flow ecosystem actually do? For a brand that wants access to “everyone who has a phone”, what are Dapper Labs’ next steps? When Tatler’s special projects and VIP communications manager Natalya Xavier sat down with Mik Naayem for Tatler TV: Metaversed on July 7, she was determined to find out.

In case you missed it: Watch Season 1 of Tatler TV: Metaversed here

Between Crypto Kitties, a hugely successful blockchain game (and one of the industry’s first NFT collections), and Flow, a new blockchain built for the next generation of apps, games and digital assets, Naayem has had his hands full. The world of applications is massive, but Dapper Labs found its strength in collectibles, consumer products and gaming. Since its launch two years ago, NBA Top Shot, a marketplace where sport fans can buy, sell or trade basketball video clips and memorabilia, has been a gateway to Web3 technology adoption for many novices. Earlier this year, the brand passed US$1 billion in sales.

But why sport? Naayem says success is all about tapping into what people care about. “It started with the idea of people owning and collecting virtual things they care about. When we spoke to sport fans, it became obvious: people love to see incredible athletes achieve greatness. Those moments of greatness are what make us fall in love with a player or a team. These moments can be deeply emotional too. We knew that if we could package these moments and sell them to people they would be considerably better than a portrait on a piece of cardboard,” he says, recounting his own standout memory of football ace Zinedine Zidane famously headbutting Marco Materazzi at the 2006 Fifa World Cup. “I can tell you exactly where I was and what I was doing when that happened,” he says, laughing. Now, his platform is giving fans a chance to relive and own other iconic moments in sporting history.

The industry moving at a lightning-fast pace, and obtaining the rights to these clips takes time, but the Dapper team are working to stay ahead of the curve. “The process takes times and we are actively working with partners to shorten timespan. Relevance is really important, and we want to remain part of the conversation,” he says.

In May, Dapper Labs debuted a US$725 million ecosystem fund for the blockchain’s development to boost gaming, infrastructure, decentralised finance, content and creators. “The money is going to current developers building on Flow and attract a next wave of entrepreneurs and developers building the future. It’s aligned to the mission of Dapper Labs, which is to bring billions of people to Web3. We want to move towards more fun and utility for users with decentralised apps on Web3,” Naayem says.

The fund helps those who are obsessed with building the future. “We look for great entrepreneurs who are visionaries; who really care about their future customers, and who care about the experience and value they are adding, and above all, those who are truly pushing the industry forward,” Naayem says.

Other topics included how Naayem builds and maintains a sense of community, how Dapper Labs ensures rarity and value for its collectibles, the overlap between gaming and the luxury market, how the company intends to cater to those that aren’t gamers or sport card collectors, and finally, his advice for those looking to build games in the metaverse. “Be obsessed with delivering joy, fun and above all, value to [your users]. That’s the best way to be successful,” he says.

As for the future, Naayem is excited: “Over the next 12 to 18 months we are going to see higher quality games [on the market], in which the fun will be more central to the experience. They will rival what you can have on a mobile phone app store and console games. With open democracy [where users can own land, vote and trade work with others], Web3 may explode the value that’s created in the gaming industry. My hope is that the same kind of revolution we saw [years ago] when mobile phones [started having] games, is what we see again with Web3 games,” he says. “I think it’s possible.”

In case you missed it: Watch Season 2, Episode 1 with Mik Naayem of Dapper Labs here

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