Beluga Spotlight: Chris Akhavan, Chief Gaming Officer at Magic Eden
By Will McKinnon December 19, 2023
Chris leads gaming and strategic partnerships at Magic Eden, a premier web3 / NFT marketplace. Prior to joining Magic Eden, Chris served in a number of roles across the game industry navigating multiple platform and business model shifts. As Chief Revenue Officer, he helped lead Glu Mobile's turnaround from a struggling company from the pre-smartphone mobile games era with a $240M market cap to a leading modern mobile free-to-play studio that was acquired by Electronic Arts for $2.4B. Prior to Glu, he was an early employee at pioneering mobile gaming startup Tapjoy which created a platform leveraged by nearly every free-to-play mobile game in the early days of the App Store and Google Play, reaching over a billion mobile devices and ultimately being acquired by ironSource / Unity for $400m.
Source: Magic Eden Marketplace
1. You've obviously been very successful in traditional gaming and built a great reputation. What made you want to switch to Web3 which is still the wild wild west?
After spending close to 12 years in mobile free-to-play, I was excited to explore a new space after my prior company got acquired by Electronic Arts in early ‘21. That was around the same time as the first wave of web3 gaming was blowing up with projects like Axie, NBA Top Shots, etc. I saw a lot of potential for web3 infrastructure to fix and enhance many issues with modern free-to-play game economies that heavily extract value from players without giving them any agency over their digital assets.
2. What has surprised you both good and bad about this industry?
On the bad side, I've been surprised by the amount of damage a few bad actors have created for web3. On the flip side, I've been pleasantly surprised by how incredibly resilient this industry is. After all the horrible setbacks caused by bad actors like FTX, many people outside of web3 were writing off the entire industry, but the builders kept their heads down and stayed committed and now we are seeing a bright year ahead.
3. Many people believe that Web3 games are the best chance for the crypto industry to reach mass adoption. Yet, we haven't seen that happen. Why hasn't this happened? What needs to change and when or if do you think that will happen?
I think this just comes down to the reality that it takes many years to build successful games. Most of the great web3 gaming studios out there didn't really start working on their games until ‘22. Most great games take a solid 2-4 years to build and refine before they see success, so I think we just need to give these teams some more time to get there.
4. Do you think the growth will come from traditional game studios like EA building web3 games or do you think it will come from Web3 game studios?
Just like the early days of mobile gaming, I think web3 will be led by all the web3 native builders out there (similar to how mobile was led by new studios like King and Supercell). The big publishers will come later after they see web3 native studios prove it out.
5. What is the best way for games to leverage blockchain technology?
There is no best way yet; we are too early for the industry to claim there are any best practices. I'm seeing a lot of different approaches out there, and would recommend game developers to just talk to each other and share learnings.
6. Talk to me about Bitcoin Ordinals, and what effect that has had at Magic Eden?
Ordinals came out of nowhere this year, and we are so pumped to have been part of creating that ecosystem. There is something very special about what's happening on Bitcoin right now. For the first time, you have digital artifacts that are fully on chain at scale, and the creativity we are seeing is truly inspiring.
7. Anything else you are looking forward to in the industry in terms of new products, tokens, etc?
I'm excited for our upcoming launch of a new Ethereum NFT marketplace in partnership with Yuga Labs. We are building a marketplace that puts creators first, and think it's really going to shake things up in a positive way as we move into next year!
8. What's in your crypto wallet?
I keep it pretty blue chip: BTC, ETH, SOL, etc. Also rocking my new MAYC as my PFP these days.