How do you build camaraderie when everyone is WFH?
At BASIC/DEPT® we all knew the power of music, but the life it takes when each of us becomes vulnerable is what makes it sound even better.
JAMS didn’t have much of a vision at first. It turned out to be one of the best things that happened to our agency.
Every Monday morning, an employee owns the proverbial mic for a few minutes. They tell the 120-ish people on the agency-wide call about a playlist they created, the meaning behind it, and a specific lyric.
It’s a break from reminders about timesheets and other announcements; a time to roll back the shoulders and get re-introduced to a co-worker through their favourite music.
The idea became even more powerful as the pandemic reared its ugly head. Checking in at the start of each week became critical to our sanity.
In sharing playlists and the stories that follow, walls are effectively broken, tears are sometimes shed, friendship is organically formed, and culture is most certainly built.
JAMS is now a staple of our agency’s identity. It shows that everyone has something to contribute that has nothing to do with a job title. It literally sets the tone every week.
Today, around the world, employees at our partner agencies as well as at our clients use JAMS to get to know each other.
The Vinyl Identity
From a branding perspective, the identity borrowed from the visual language of artwork shared during JAMS sessions and of spinning vinyl.
The colour system is vast and emotional. We wanted it to match the vibrant visual language of the music. We also carried this approach into our UI elements with adaptive systems.
We were even intentional with minutia of the scrolling experience – like the nostalgic “click” sound of an iPod wheel as you scroll through songs on the site. Our brand fonts are used throughout to ensure that JAMS is recognisably BASIC/DEPT®.
If JAMS makes you nostalgic for the back seat of your parents car or to the days of flipping through CD booklets, then we did what we set out to do.
The page content and the art direction behind it is largely inspired by the contributions of our employees, specifically the quote they chose to share with everyone at the agency and their actual playlist.
It’s another way that we allow everyone at the agency who shared something to feel heard and recognised – it’s a remix of the term “inclusive design.”
The site is by no means a creation of just a few people. It’s the culmination of dozens and dozens of our own people – making everyone feel heard.
Creating the Site
To create the site, we partnered with Eric Van Holtz of Van Holtz Co. and his colleague, Jake Whiteley. Under the hood, GSAP is the technology we used to create all of the animations and interactions. The homepage has two views of the most recent playlists: CRATE and GRID.
CRATE gives the feeling of being in a record shop or inside a basement, flipping through stacks of vinyl records. On the playlist page, the hero image rotates as if it’s spinning on a record player. Scrolling down, you’ll see content being revealed – artist quotes, album artwork, and a carousel of playlists.
We had fun on the NOTES page by displaying imagery from the featured playlist in a style similar to the 1990s DVD screensaver animation; it continually bounces off of the edges of the screen. We wanted the animations and interactions to support the content and represent a throwback to the days before digital audio.
Creating the Video
Central to the site is the intro video. We shot it in our San Diego HQ and featured our own people. The team went thrifting for props over lunch. The entire process felt very organic, much like our approach to JAMS in the first place: off the cuff but always a shared experience.
We styled the shoot with analog technology from a bygone era: a transistor radio, an antenna TV, a cassette deck, an Ikegami tube camera, to name a few. The makeshift set purposefully felt like a vintage record shop; JAMS is your favourite record store; your basement; your Honda Civic; that place we all remember listening to music. It’s an extension of you.
Paving the way for our own stories
In a surprising way, JAMS has become a powerful catalyst for storytelling, prompting employees to share anecdotes of struggle, loss, and celebration.
One employee created a playlist for Hispanic Heritage month. “The lyrics are very personal to me as they are a celebration of my home country of Mexico. México te llevo en el corazón, con la alegría del mariachi, me brota la inspiración.”
The lyrics by Luis Miguel translate to, “Mexico, I carry you in my heart, with the joy of the mariachi, inspiration is born.”
The song is a celebration of the colours, aromas, textures and music of a country beloved by its people,” shared the employee. “But there are about 20 countries where Spanish is the official language, so JAMS creates a beautiful and unique opportunity to celebrate each other with musica en español. That’s what JAMS provides – the opportunity to learn more about each other.
Luis Miguel, BASIC/DEPT® employee
Another employee curated a genreless playlist inspired by the 1994 Beastie Boys record, Ill Communication, which spans pop, punk, folk, rock, hip hop, and jazz. He shared a quote from a 1963 spoken word session by Bob Dylan that he added to the playlist.
“You’ll find God in the church of your choice, you’ll find Woody Guthrie in Brooklyn State Hospital, and though it’s only my opinion, I may be right or wrong, you’ll find them both in the Grand Canyon at sundown.”
The employee followed with an explanation about how the quote relates to his recent loss of a pet.
Hospitals and churches are where people go to find closure, find answers, find hope, beauty, inspiration; to find something deeper. But they aren’t the only places. For anyone who’s lost someone, just go outside, find that place that’s special to you and reconnect. They’re no longer physically there, but can still be there for you.
A playlist created by Studio Dumbar/DEPT®, our Netherlands-based partner agency, is just the beginning. In the spirit of JAMS, our DEPT® family members now make playlists and art to share with each other.
Art credit: Christopher Noort (Lead Designer) and Giovanni Zanella (Motion Designer)
Of course, the idea of sharing playlists feels as old as the creation of fire and by no means do we take credit.
That said, we’d like to think we played a small role in allowing agency culture worldwide to become more vulnerable through the lens of music. Our global family of DEPT agencies now share their JAMS on social channels through a branded identity for the world to see.
The next wave is the most intriguing. We plan to produce short documentaries spotlighting the compelling stories told by our curators. Who knows – there might even be a JAMS charity event and scholarship one day.
It might sound overly aspirational and unclear, but that’s how it all began – and we wouldn’t want it any other way.
- AWWWARDS — SITE OF THE MONTH — 2022
- AWWWARDS — SITE OF THE DAY — 2022
- THE FWA — SITE OF THE DAY — 2022
- CSS AWARDS — SITE OF THE DAY — 2022
VP of Growth
With an increase of 32% in seven years, there now are 3.09 billion active video gamers worldwide. Top that off with the growing influence that Web3 has on gaming and the possibilities are up for grabs. Merit Circle noticed these opportunities and wasted no time. DEPT® worked alongside Merit Circle to develop a Web3 gaming platform that boosts gamers’ experiences.
Three key takeaways
- A pleasant Web3 onboarding & gaming experience Just-in-time learning and a strong community make the platform user-friendly, shifting the focus back to what it’s all about: playing games.
- Engagement through a gaming-first platform Immersive experiences, guides, and community help make sure that gamers stay engaged at each part of their gaming journey.
- A strong, loyal community through gamification Typical gaming elements, like leveling up and earning rewards make the platform feel like a game and strengthen social competition.
A pleasant Web3 onboarding & gaming experience
Web3 gaming is known but unexplored by most gamers worldwide. This comes as no surprise, because the current Web3 onboarding experiences have not been pleasant (to say the least).
Historically, there have been difficulties with wallets, trouble obtaining the right in-game tokens, and volatile pricing on NFTs. .That’s why the Merit Circle Web3 gaming platform developed by DEPT® features user-friendly onboarding to Web3 and its relatively unknown functionalities. With just-in-time learning, we guide the user through the platform, explaining new concepts on-the-go.
Altogether, the platform shifts the focus from a difficult and unpleasant familiarisation with Web3, to what it’s all about: gaming.
Engagement through a gaming-first platform
The ability to leave the physical realm for just a moment is what gamers crave. . The visual-heavy design of the platform emphasises this feeling: it transports users inside a game while exploring. To help gamers decide what to play, we give them a sneak peek through pieces of insight and gameplay. Moreover, guides and community help improve each gamer’s performance. By listening to the gamers’ needs and leveraging Web3’s possibilities, Merit Circle and DEPT® created a platform that lives and breathes gaming.
A strong, loyal community through gamification
After attracting, activating and engaging gamers, you want to retain them. To achieve this, DEPT® blended gamification into the platform.
For example, participation earns you experience points (XP) which levels you up. Leveling up is part of the social component, creating competition between gamers and making them feel like part of the community. It also comes with early access, NFT drops and other rewards. These gamification elements result in a strong and loyal community.
It takes a unique approach to build a platform at the crossroads of gaming and Web3. Something we’re very happy to have found in a partner like DEPT®.
Thale Sonnemans, COO at Merit Circle
Kingmaker of the industry through a strong partnership
DEPT® guides Merit Circle in forming a dedicated team to sustain the platform and improve as the industry evolves. Possible future additions are team play, leaderboards, automated tournaments, and the development of a two sided platform that will increasingly connect gamers and game developers.
Merit Circle aims to raise the industry standard by developing a platform that covers everything a gamer could need. They are expected to be a kingmaker in the new land of Web3 gaming.
Jochem van Rossem
Many NFTs have come and gone, but HAPE PRIME has taken the digital fashion landscape to a whole new level with each avatar being fully 3D, dressed in attention-grabbing outfits and bringing, most importantly, some serious attitude.
Find out how DOGSTUDIO/DEPT® took on the challenge set by Digimental, the founder and lead designer at HAPE, to elevate the HAPE’s digital presence. The solution? The HAPE WALK.
How HAPE leveraged WebGL micro-framework
To create the HAPE ecosystem, DOGSTUDIO/DEPT® worked with an already existing design; a well known anthropoid in the metaverse sporting fashionable clothes and a strong personality. With this in mind, the team had to design and build a website to give the HAPEs motion within a fully immersive experience.
The team went beyond the classic content-focused pages presenting NFT projects, using a new custom OGL WebGL micro-framework. OGL, a WebGL library used by developers who prefer minimal layers of abstractions, was customised into a micro-framework with specific in-house modules. These modules included a homemade PBR rendering engine, skinning, post-process and animation player, bringing the HAPE family to life.
Web design inspired by high fashion
With a website design inspired by high fashion magazines, the team was able to perfect the HAPE strut; an immersive walk which users use to scroll through the page and control their experience through rotation and different zoom levels. Every HAPE has a different style, attitude and personality, all of which were chosen by the design and development teams using an extensive Graphic User Interface.
The immersive experience was completed with custom music in rhythm with the HAPE strut, the cursor and its click animation, the Hapewalk icon, and bold CTAs.
visitors during launch month
minutes average time spent on the site on launch day
comments, likes and retweets on announcement post
weeks to build the platform
CEO / CCO at Dogstudio
After a successful Berlin-based hybrid first edition in 2021, we took our metaverse event a step further in 2022 – by organising the world’s first 24-hour Meta Festival that took place across three time zones in Asia Pacific, Europe and the Americas. More than 6,500 attendees from 109 countries – that’s a coverage of 55% of the whole world – gathered in the highly immersive Metapolis metaverse world on June 28th to hear from 123 leading web3 innovators, brand marketers, futurists and technologists. Several hundred others tuned in to live streams on YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter and Twitch to take a peek into the metaverse.
A look back
In 2021, after more than a year of sitting in boring webinars due to the ongoing pandemic, we decided that the ‘new normal’ just wasn’t good enough and reinvented virtual events by founding Meta Festival – a first of its kind festival experience taking place in ‘Metapolis’, a tailored virtual world realised by our partner JOURNEE – The Metaverse Company™ on Unreal Engine. After all, everyone’s talking about the metaverse. But, according to our research, only 16% of people understand what it is. We wanted to change that.
Same tech excellence. But bigger and better.
After having realised immersive web3 experiences and NFT projects for clients such as H&Mbeyond, Motorsport Games and The Drone Racing League, we wanted to take our Meta Festival to the next level and make it even bigger and better in 2022.
We once again partnered with JOURNEE – The Metaverse Company™ to bring Metapolis back to life. While the landscape was stylised differently from the first version, the virtual world once again proved to be an example of the limitless possibilities the metaverse offers, showcasing spectacular 3D visualisations in raytraced rendering quality.
All that attendees needed to access Metapolis was a device and an internet connection. Thanks to a collaboration with Ready Player Me, each visitor had the opportunity to create their own custom avatar with which they could dance and move as well as walk or even fly through Metapolis. An integrated chat allowed them to communicate with each other.
8 million people reached
First edition 2021: 4,000+ Visitors
First edition 2021: 40+ Speakers
Inside the Metaverse
Five unique stages
Once they were inside Metapolis, attendees were free to explore five unique stages focused on Web3, Pop Culture, the Betterverse, Immersive Experiences, and Diehard Tech. Speakers on these stages included experts from Netflix, Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, and more. Each of the stages had its own theme and several screens that attendees could approach with their avatars to tune into the talks.
In addition to these five stages of ongoing sessions, there was a Main Stage which featured live programming tailored to each region, taking place between 2pm – 5pm local time in Singapore, Amsterdam and New York. On the Main Stage, visitors got to hear from top-notch speakers such as web3 experts Cathy Hackl, Paula Kilgariff, Diego Borgo and Gmoney, as well as leaders from brands across industries, including Google Cloud, Ready Player Me, The Volkswagen Group, H&Mbeyond, HAPE, The Fabricant, Coca Cola, WIRED, disguise, Burberry, Heineken, Salesforce, DRESSX, Headspace, Decentraland, Epic Games, Algorand, PwC UK, Campaign, Forrester, and more.
Cocktails, karaoke & NFTs
Aside from being packed with information and inspiration, our Meta Festival also featured a Playground area with fun workshops (e.g. yodeling), karaoke, live magic, cocktail classes and yoga that encouraged attendees to walk around the grounds and experience a true festival feeling. For those visitors who craved after-party-vibes, there were even live DJ sets in the so called ‘boiler room’…
Additionally, since NFTs are the topic of the moment, we of course also hosted an NFT workshop during Meta Festival. Furthermore, attendees could browse an NFT Gallery inside of Metapolis to purchase a number of custom NFTs created specially for the event.
Livestreams on LinkedIn, Twitch, Twitter, and YouTube
Although Metapolis was freely accessible for anybody that registered for Meta Festival, we wanted to also give less tech-savvy audiences the chance to experience our experts and speakers. Therefore, we streamed the live talks happening on the Main Stage to LinkedIn, Twitch, Twitter, and YouTube, allowing us to reach an even bigger audience.
Behind the scenes
Even though Meta Festival 2022 was a fully immersive event, it took a big and committed IRL crew that worked 24h around the clock to make it all happen.
We flew our hosts for all three time zones to Amsterdam, where we had set up a studio with a greenscreen for the live moderations. An external production team worked hard to guarantee a smooth experience for the attendees.
At the same time, a dedicated team of Depsters managed the communication with the visitors (disguised as ‘Happy Zebra’, DEPT®s very own mascot) and made sure that all speakers were briefed and ready for their panels.
Until next year!
Meta Festival 2022 was a big evolution from 2021’s Berlin-based hybrid edition. And, from sponsorship opportunities to VR headset capability, there’s only more we can accomplish from here. We’re excited and hungry for Meta Festival 2023, because who knows what next year will bring… Stay tuned!
Experience the website
Executive Creative Director
With a staggering audience of 81 million people, the 24H of Le Mans Virtual has established itself firmly as one of the pioneers of the fast-growing world of esports.
Motorsport Games, the developers behind the virtual race, partnered with Algorand and DEPT® to launch an NFT marketplace to sell, auction, and promote iconic moments from the 2021 race as they happened.
A new first for a historic event
As the longest-running endurance race for sports cars, the in-person Le Mans race has amassed an equally long list of historic moments. The 24H race is punctuated by driver switches, pit stops, inevitable mechanical failures, and the transition from day to night. It’s a demanding test for both drivers and their vehicles and the race’s history encompasses everything from major wins to high-speed crashes.
When the in-person event was postponed in 2020 and Motorsport Games launched the 24H of Le Mans Virtual, the immersive simulation event was designed to have all of the hallmarks of the original—including those same historic moments.
For the 2021 race, Motorsport Games decided to celebrate the return of the virtual event with an NFT collection of these moments. Working with DEPT®, they set out to launch an NFT marketplace to package and sell the race’s historic moments both from its inaugural year and also as they occurred during the race’s second outing.
Iconic racing moments, now collectible
The 24H Le Mans Virtual NFT marketplace was built using Algomart, the open-source platform on the Algorand blockchain created by DEPT®. We worked with Motorsport Games to take Algomart out of the box and launch their branded marketplace just in time for race day 2021.
Using Algomart opened the door to what otherwise might have been nearly impossible. Building a full-scale branded NFT platform from scratch requires an inordinate investment of time and resources. And, with blockchain technologies still relatively new, most brands don’t have the in-house capability to marry the off-chain and on-chain systems needed to build a blockchain-based marketplace.
Algomart provided a solution to these issues that looked and functioned like a traditional e-commerce experience. Moreover, it put Motorsport Games in control of creating their own bespoke offering with a tech stack that could scale as needed.
Motorsport Games’ NFT offering consisted of five collections, each representing a world-renowned racetrack, and each containing multiple NFT packs. Much like the NBA’s successful TopShot NFT series, fans who purchased these could “rip” packs to reveal iconic moments of sports history. In the Le Mans case, these moments were captures of the race from the immersive platform created by Traxion.gg.
Depending on the rarity of the pack and just how iconic the moments it contained were, prices ranged from $5 to $50. But it’s also worth noting that Motorsport Games also released 526 editions of four “common” NFT packs for free, all of which were claimed within a matter of hours.
Ultimately, by taking advantage of Algomart, we helped Motorsport Games successfully enter a new and exciting market that fits the brand of a pioneering esport like the virtual Le Mans race.
An important foundation for the esport revolution
The first collection of NFTs for the 24H Le Mans Virtual was generally well received.
The promotional free packs were claimed quickly and nearly 60% of the total NFTs available have been purchased. Overall, fans were excited to see a sports car race enter the NFT world and even more excited that the Le Mans NFTs would be created on the Algorand blockchain.
By working with DEPT® to create an NFT marketplace, Motorsport Games has built the foundation early for an evolution in esports that seems inevitable. As blockchain technology ushers in play-to-earn gaming and draws more attention to the fast-growing world of esports, Motorsport Games will be able to expand their NFT marketplace accordingly.
Director of Web3 at DEPT®
The Drone Racing League (DRL) is the world’s premier professional drone racing property. Millions of fans watch the best drone pilots in the world compete in high-speed, highly competitive races broadcast on NBC, Twitter, and other international sports networks.
DRL partnered with DEPT® to launch a series of NFT collectibles by building a branded platform on the Algorand blockchain, making them the first brand to take advantage of Algomart.
A reputation for leveraging groundbreaking technology
DRL doesn’t just hold competitions IRL. During the pandemic they launched a full-scale virtual transformation by taking advantage of the DRL Simulator. The cloud-based technology enabled DRL to broadcast live races within an immersive simulation and proved so successful that it stamped DRL as a pioneer of a new era of sports racing.
With the rapid expansion of Web3 and the metaverse, DRL has since partnered with Algorand’s Playground Labs to take digital drone racing a step further with blockchain-enabled ticketing, fan transactions, and, of course, digital collectibles in the form of NFTs.
After learning about DEPT®’s role in creating Algomart, Algorand’s open source technology enabling brands to launch their own NFT platforms, DRL approached us for help in this endeavour.
A non-fungible, first-of-its-kind promotion for a 21st century sport
Building a full-scale branded NFT platform from scratch represents a hefty investment of both time and money. Furthermore, blockchain technologies are still relatively new and finding a team that can marry the off-chain and on-chain systems needed to build an NFT marketplace is tricky. Most brands don’t have this capability in-house, limiting options even more.
Algomart is a groundbreaking piece of technology in that it provides an out-of-the-box solution to these issues, putting brands in control and enabling them to enter a new and exciting market with a bespoke offering that feels like a traditional ecommerce experience and can scale as needed.
DEPT® helped DRL take full advantage of everything that Algomart has to offer. We worked with their team to take Algomart out of the box and launch their branded marketplace in under a month. Their first run of 400 NFTs featured fourteen drone pilot avatars created by the award-winning digital artist Metapunks. Of that first run, 387 NFTs were a “common” design and the remaining thirteen were one-of-a-kind “rare” designs.
Rather than releasing their first set of NFTs for purchase or auction, DRL debuted their marketplace at Algorand’s 2021 Decipher conference as a promotional offering. They distributed 400 flyers with QR codes which attendees could scan and find out which of the fourteen designs they had redeemed.
As a promotional release, DRL’s NFTs symbolized the brand’s place at the head of a first-of-their-kind 21st century sport. Additionally, they provide an exciting, low-risk way for DRL to test the waters for digital collectibles.
The entire ecosystem of blockchain and NFTs is going to bring people closer to the brands they love and open a whole host of new experiences.
Anne Marie Gianutsos, CMO, Drone Racing League
An exciting future
Going forward, DRL has big plans for their NFT marketplace. Recently, they’ve announced their official mobile game, which will allow fans to compete in play-to-earn virtual races for cryptocurrency and NFTs. The game was launched as part of DRL’s partnership with Algorand’s Playground Labs and DEPT® continues to have a role in helping expand the marketplace to include a secondary marketplace.
Play-to-earn games are a much-anticipated part of the future of blockchain. By integrating them with their NFT marketplace, the possibilities for new NFT offerings from DRL are almost limitless and will continue to be facilitated by Algomart.
Director of Web3 at DEPT®
Dequency is building first-of-its-kind decentralised music licensing marketplace for music and visual creators to connect, collaborate and transact. Built with web3 technology and ethos, Dequency seeks to connect visual creators with recording artists and other music rights holders and provide a simple, transparent, and fun licensing experience. They turned to DEPT® to help bring this vision to life and build the marketplace.
Building a decentralised music licensing platform
Dequency aims to build a platform that eliminates third parties from music licensing transactions to increase the speed of payment, reduce fees, and give control of the system to market participants. The Dequency platform will enable music and visual creators to connect and collaborate on NFT art and metaverse content more easily.
Initially catering to on-chain content such as motion graphic NFT projects, video games and metaverse productions, Dequency wants to showcase recording artists offering their music to license and facilitate communication between the parties to foster community. With the ultimate goal of creating a fully-decentralised, trustless music licensing marketplace, Dequency will also provide creators income-generating opportunities with minimum fees and instant payment.
The power of blockchain technology to help streamline music licensing
All visual productions that use music require a synchronisation licence (AKA “sync licence”) negotiated between the copyright owner of a piece of music and the party seeking to use the music. The license permits the synchronisation of copyrighted music to any other type of content.
Dequency believes that blockchain technology has the power to revolutionise the market for music licensing and create more opportunities for artists. The company wanted to build on Algorand, a blockchain that is known for its environmentally friendly “pure proof of stake” consensus mechanism. Algorand offers quick, efficient and secure transactions on its blockchain.
Licensing of music into film,TV or other applications in 2022 is currently akin to booking travel in 1975; inefficient, rife with unnecessary intermediaries and rent-seekers, and closed off to those unable to get through the corporate gatekeepers.
George Howard, Dequency Co-Founder
DEPT® is very familiar with building on Algorand, as we built the first white-label, open source platform for launching an NFT marketplace on the Algorand blockchain. And we’ve worked with a number of companies who are looking to launch NFTs or build platforms on Algorand.
Through a series of design and architecture sprints, we helped the Dequency team flesh out their idea. Over the course of five months, we then designed and built an MVP of the product, focusing first on offering up ready-to-sync music for visual projects that are legally licensed directly from the music rights owner, and recorded on-chain.
Shortly after the MVP was created, Dequency made history by executing the first-ever sync licence on a public blockchain. “Late Night People” by Goldfish ft. Soweto Kinch was licenced through Dequency’s SmartSync contract for use in Algorand’s Decipher conference, held in late 2021.
In early 2022, Dequency was also able to raise $4.5 million through an investment round led by Borderless Capital to further build out the marketplace. The funding will go toward building out Dequency’s peer-to-peer function, enabling music creators to upload their work to the platform and directly license for use in visual art projects.
DEPT® is currently working with Dequency on phase two of the project, focused on enabling music creators and rights owners to host their catalog on Dequency and work directly with visual creators looking to purchase the rights to use music in their projects.
When Dequency fully launches, the marketplace will be the only option to license music on-chain for blockchain-native content such as motion-visual NFT projects, games, and metaverse productions.
The Dequency platform built by DEPT® facilitates communication and direct transaction between music and visual creators, giving them the opportunity to benefit from this explosion of artists entering the space.
Keatly Haldeman, Dequency Co-founder & CEO
Global SVP, Engineering & Technology
Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) in games are booming. The decentralised autonomous organisation Merit Circle foresees a new era in which gaming not only costs money but also creates financial opportunities. Merit Circle chose DEPT® to be its strategy & technology partner and develop a gaming community platform that brings capital, expertise and players together.
Next level gaming
Gamers play for fun, to be challenged or to experience a sense of belonging. NFTs bring gaming to a whole new level by adding an earning element on top of this gaming experience and opening up the possibility to easily create open economies . Play & earn blends video games with in-game economics that reward players with NFTs for their performance. Gamers can sell their NFTs in games and across marketplaces to other players and collectors. Ownership of NFTs can also grant access, rights and benefits from reward schemes, live events and early releases. NFTs make certain aspects of games tradeable and turned the play & earn industry into the biggest development in gaming nowadays. According to Alexis Ohanian, the founder of Reddit, 90 per cent of people within the next five years will not play a video game unless they are being properly valued for that time.
Starting in 2021, Merit Circle focuses on developing the play & earn economy and has already gathered a massive community that’s now the most significant gaming DAO in the industry, both in market value and treasury size. To pave the way for future growth, Merit Circle asked DEPT® to create a revolutionary NFT marketplace that will truly make its gamers’ lives better. Specific wishes were to automate the onboarding process for gamers and enrich their community with coaching and education that goes beyond gaming. And finally, to create a clear financial overview with a pay-out function that integrates multiple crypto wallets.
Developing a whole new market
The community is an essential part of the world of gaming, but onboarding new gamers was very labour-intensive. This goes beyond just creating an account: it’s about getting familiar with the concept of Play & Earn gaming, helping with the right set-up of the wallet and game device, choosing the right game and teaching newcomers the basics. In a new platform built from scratch, we automated this whole process while still ensuring every single gamer feels comfortable, welcome and heard. By adding elements of comradery, advice and interaction to the community, we aim to make play & earn gaming more accessible.
Currently, Merit Circle provides thousands of gamers with scholarships to play the popular games Axie Infinity, and Vulcan Forged for free. Making actively participating in the games more accessible to the masses, as for some NFTs, prices can run up to thousands of dollars. In exchange, Merit Circle receives 30% of everything a gamer earns. The community platform supports scholars in all kinds of areas. Scholars and more experienced gamers with the right social skills, so-called coaches, come together here to learn from each other. Progress and achievements are tracked via leaderboards. Coaches not only coach their scholars with game challenges and skill learning but also help with operational processes and educate scholars on crypto, finance and personal development. The platform integrates and facilitates learning, earning and community and forms a significant step towards a competitive and scalable platform in the play & earn gaming industry.
DEPT®’s approach is unique! There are only a small number of agencies that can fulfil this role within a blockchain scale-up like Merit Circle, as DEPT® is doing now.
Thale Sonnemans, Head of Operations at Merit Circle
Meeting all the gamers’ needs
The first version of the gaming community platform is set to release early in Q2 of 2022, with more than 30 exciting play & earn games in the pipeline that are sure to attract new gamers. Through open and transparent in-game performance tracking, points for improvement are found and addressed. When the platform is finalised and functioning as envisioned, DEPT® will guide Merit Circle in forming a dedicated team to sustain the platform and improve as the industry evolves. Possible future additions are team play, switching easily between different games and gamification of the whole scholarship process. Merit Circle aims to raise the industry standard by developing a platform that covers everything a gamer could need. With DEPT® in the game, Merit Circle is expected to be a kingmaker in the new land of play & earn.
Jochem van Rossem
Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are at the heart of Merit Circle, a rising star in the crypto industry. NFTs enable the play & earn economy that Merit Circle focuses on, in which gamers buy and earn NFTs that they can sell and trade. For this, Merit Circle asked DEPT® to develop an NFT marketplace that distinguishes with an experience that is devoted to both gamers and game developers.
By gamers, for gamers
Merit Circle is all about games. Investing, playing, building and now the trading of the assets that power the play & earn economy with an NFT marketplace. For Merit Circle, it’s the final piece in their portfolio that closes the circle. While most NFTs are being bought and sold for their aesthetic and speculative properties, gaming NFTs add a new layer by enhancing the gaming experience. Instead of just displaying your shiny item, you can also use it in a gaming metaverse to slay that terrifying dragon. This allows for its own niche in the crypto industry, one that Merit Circle is set on conquering.
With a massive market share, OpenSea is currently the most dominant NFT marketplace by far. Still, new players with a heavy focus on the gaming industry such as Fractal, are popping up every day. However, what better company to build an NFT marketplace than a community owned gaming DAO, which is already fully tailored towards helping gamers succeed in this space. And on top of that, Merit Circle has another advantage that most competitors lack: the actual content. It has the benefit of being able to leverage a rich network of games, each bringing its own gaming community. To accommodate this expected growth, we built a gaming community platform from scratch that makes onboarding and interacting more user-friendly. At the same time, we developed the NFT marketplace for this community to trade their gaming NFTs.
Upgrading the gaming NFT marketplace experience
At OpenSea, NFTs for gaming are treated like any other NFTs and every profile looks the same. Creators have few options to display the usage of an NFT in a game, or to tell the larger story behind it, which is essential for the world-building on which games rely. Without these two essential properties, gaming NFTs are mostly considered for their financial history and possible value gain. In a nothing about us, without us approach, we held a series of 1-on-1 interviews with game studios, gamers and investors. In three explorative design sprints, we listened to user experiences, complaints and wishes, and discussed prototypes and new solutions. This way, we learned what would be needed to upgrade the current experience of trading NFTs for gaming. At the same time, we also aspire to address the general issues with NFT trading that we currently see.
Anyone who has taken a dive into the world of crypto, wallets, NFTs and gas fees, can tell you how incredibly difficult it can be to truly get in to the crypto industry. Especially if you are not tech-savvy. The UI is often lacking, and sometimes it’s unclear what is happening or how to get engaged. We decided to meet this challenge head-on with contextual education in an approach called just-in-time learning. Instead of referring users to support forums and FAQ repositories in which they have to find their own way, we provide short explanations and next steps. By applying proven design patterns that users will know from webshops, the user experience becomes smoother. Transparency was another key factor, for which we ensured the fees and value of the NFT are clearly visible. We also worked with Game Development Studios from the very start of the project, which allowed us to lower the threshold for creators and Game Developing Studios to create their own marketplace. The Merit Circle Marketplace will be giving them a good deal of options to customise their own landing pages, enabling them to create a unique environment that fits their identity and needs.
Wider appeal to the masses
Together with Merit Circle, we firmly believe that a better user experience is essential for Web 3.0 to break through to the masses. With the launch of an NFT marketplace for and by gamers, we aim to move the needle and make the trading of NFTs for gaming more accessible for everyone. Authentic to the Merit Circle brand, and with a clear focus on creating value and improving the gaming experience. Merit Circle has the clear ambition to lead the play & earn industry, and with the addition of this NFT marketplace to its ecosystem, Merit Circle is one step closer to minting that role.
Jochem van Rossem
Non-fungible token (NFT) sales soared 20-fold within a year, from $13.7 million in the first half of 2020 to $2.5 billion in the first half of 2021. By the end of 2021, the marketplace for NFTs reached a $41 billion value. To help brands make the most of the opportunity, DEPT® created the first-ever open source, white-label solution for launching an NFT marketplace, built on top of the Algorand blockchain.
Taking advantage of a massive opportunity
NFTs open up avenues for consumer brands to innovate and let consumers engage with digital ownership and digital collectibles. But, brands have been missing a straightforward way to launch an NFT marketplace to leverage the benefits of unique digital assets. To address this, DEPT® created the first-ever open source, white-label solution for launching an NFT marketplace, built on top of the Algorand blockchain.
NFTs allow brand loyalists, collectors and investors to own and engage with a piece of virtual brand property. The market for these virtual goods is expanding exponentially. For brands, digital assets are a game-changer in terms of engaging, connecting and creating value with their audiences. Why? Because collecting is something that humans have done throughout history. But now, the ability to digitise and certify memorabilia gives brands new ways to provide authentic experiences to consumers. This is especially valuable as brands compete for customers on a fully digital playing field.
NFTs also represent better monetisation for creators, a more intimate connection with consumers, and a much better fraud prevention mechanism, all while providing total ownership and control to the owners. At the end of the day, it’s a fundamentally better distribution method that brands can leverage to generate new and increased value.
Unfortunately, these blockchain technologies are still very new, and the complexities and required expertise make starting from scratch with NFTs extremely difficult and costly. Brands need an out-of-the-box solution that makes it easier for them to enter the market, have the control to make a bespoke offering, and a tech stack that can scale and grow in this new space. Together with our long-time client, Algorand, we recognised the need to lower the barrier to entry to allow brands to take charge of their digital assets and how their users engage with them.
The entire ecosystem of blockchain and NFTs is going to bring people closer to the brands they love and open a whole host of new experiences.
Anne Marie Gianutsos, CMO, Drone Racing League
DEPT® created a ready-to-use platform called Algomart to assist brands in getting started with NFTs. Algomart is an open source platform built on top of the most cutting-edge blockchain technology from Algorand in order to quickly create unique and user-friendly experiences. Algorand is an attractive infrastructure on which to launch these marketplaces as it is eco-friendly, scalable, and offers inexpensive transaction fees.
Algomart provides core modules that can be used out of the box and enable brands to easily create new models and experiences, whether it’s engaging with customers through auctions for digital collectibles, creating NFTs to engage with gamers in the metaverse, offering something redeemable in the real-world or blending physical and digital experiences. Brands can get started easily, as the development and deployment experiences use cutting-edge infrastructure like Terraform and Docker. Additionally, Circle allows brands to remove the complexities for marketplace users creating and funding crypto wallets, so users can use a credit card like any other ecommerce transaction.
Bringing people closer to the brands they love
Since the launch of Algomart, DEPT® has been in discussions with a number of brands to launch an NFT marketplace, including global sports brands, lottery games, fantasy sports providers, food and beverage companies and more.
Motorsport Games used Algomart to launch its first ever NFT marketplace for its live Virtual Le Mans 24-hour race event. This included opportunities to find exclusive moments and artwork on the marketplace.
Also, the Drone Racing League, the world’s premier, professional drone racing property, became the first sports league to run an NFT marketplace through Algorand. The marketplace features unique 3D avatars of DRL’s Algorand 13th Pilot, MannyH!MSLF, to use for gaming and in the metaverse.
David Markley, Director of Business Solutions at Algorand, said: “NFTs exploded as many of the world’s top brands realised the role the digital assets can play in a diverse set of applications. I’m excited to see DEPT® recognise the opportunity and launch its state-of-the-art platform that removes complexity for brands to more fully incorporate NFTs into their businesses.”
I’m excited to see DEPT® recognise the opportunity and launch its state-of-the-art platform that removes complexity for brands to more fully incorporate NFTs into their businesses.
David Markley, Director of Business Solutions, Algorand
Head of Marketing US
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