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Crypto-economics will make Ember Sword a more vibrant gaming experience


Bright Star Studios’ upcoming game will challenge World of Warcraft with a new take on the genre. Among other things, by letting players buy and operate virtual land plots and cities in their game in order to make the universe more alive.

Since World of Warcraft saw the light of day in 2005, it has been the gold standard for how to create a magical, virtual universe that is still relevant almost 20 years later – and has earned staggering sums along the way.

Mark Laursen, CEO and co-founder of Bright Star Studios.

A new game studio from Aarhus is currently working on the game Ember Sword, which will challenge the genre’s giant by adding fresh elements to the game experience. Among other things, with a new technology that makes it possible to play Ember Sword directly in the internet browser – across mobile, PC and console. An artificial intelligence that always lures the player on new adventures in the game. And a blockchain-based economy, which gives players the opportunity to buy and develop the land in the game, so that the experience becomes more vibrant for other players. And 35,000 players have already pledged to buy DKK 1.2 Bn worth of land plots in the game.

“It was not what we expected. I always thought the game would be great. But we started with 2D, which became 3D, and the 15,000 land plots have become 150,000. And it could be even bigger, the demand is there, but we also had to set ourselves a goal that is realistic to achieve,” Mark Laursen, CEO and co-founder of Bright Star Studios, says.

The first version of the game will not arrive until the end of the year, while the full experience is expected to be ready in 2025. However, the game has already earned staggering amounts before it was even released thanks to its blockchain mechanic, but the CEO promises that they are first and foremost trying to create an excellent game – which has the potential to show a new commercial path for the gaming industry.

Ember Sword wants to solve 3 problems in the MMO genre:

  • High friction: It is cumbersome and time-consuming to download a game and keep it updated. That’s why Bright Star Studio has developed a technology that allows players to access their game directly in the browser and start playing in a matter of seconds – whether from the computer or the phone.
  • Low engagement: MMO role-playing games offer amazing peak experiences when the big dragon has to be killed, but also many hours of grinding for resources and training the character. Bright Star has developed an AI Game Master that creates a more vivid experience automatically and in real-time.
  • Closed Economy: Players do not have the ability to translate the value they have created inside the game once they have finished playing it. Bright Star changes that with its open marketplace where cosmetics and land plots can be bought and sold for cold cash.

An open gaming economy

As a former professional World of Warcraft player, it was obvious for Mark Laursen to throw himself at a game in the same genre, and use his experience to improve the flaws and shortcomings he had experienced. And one of the wishes from the getgo was an open economy, where he as a player could trade in the swords, armour and other rare items he found on his adventures.

“The original concept was just a crypto-based, digital currency that allowed players to trade with each other. Gear and skins worth billions of kroner are already being traded in the big titles today – the publishers just don’t allow it which makes it a dark market. We would rather open up the economy and activate trading as part of the game in a safe and secure way,” Laursen says.

Blockchain proved to be the obvious technology for the purpose, as it made it easier for the new studio to add the marketplace without having to build a huge, financial setup. At the same time, the technology instils credibility: Developers can not tinker with the rules of the game’s economy – e.g. a certain skin’s rarity – once they are established on the blockchain.

Ember Sword uses the blockchain to establish how rare an item is in the game. At the same time, the plan is to enable video clips from the gaming platform Twitch to be saved along with the sword, so that the next owner can see which monsters it has previously killed before buying it on the game’s open, crypto-based marketplace.

Distributed game development

With its blockchain-based business model, Bright Star enables players to monetize their achievements in the game, but the CEO stresses that this does not mean you have to buy anything to play it. If you fight your way to a rare, cosmetic upgrade for your sword, it can be sold and converted into old-fashioned cash – while items that make the player stronger or getting the hero to the next level can only be achieved by playing.

The game’s economy does however gives players a monetary incentive to participate and engage in the game – making the virtual world come to life. A principle Ember Sword also makes use of in its ‘Artist Workshop’, where players can design and sell cosmetic items for the game. And a principle that especially applies to the trading of virtual land plots in the game:

“The goal of a Massive Multiplayer Online game is that a lot of people play it at the same time. But if you look at the cities in some of the big games – for example, World of Warcraft – they do not change; you meet the same people and shops each time you visit. By letting the players own and operate parts of the game, they participate in creating a living universe available to all players, where the landowners get a share of the sales that take place in their city,” Laursen explains.

Thus, he heralds a future for Ember Sword, where the game’s earnings are distributed between content creators, landowners and the game studio itself through the blockchain. A model Laursen expects will lead to a better gaming experience.

“No one has found the recipe for making a good blockchain game yet, but we only use a blockchain because we have a clear vision for doing so. Developing the good game is our first, second and third priority – and the blockchain is just a small part of the game,” Laursen says.

The gaming industry’s many business models:

Even though the gaming industry is young, its business models have been constantly changing.

Sales of physical copies and digital licenses have always played a big role, but right from the start, unit sales were followed by arcades, where you could buy yourself one play at a time. Later, the Hugo showed that games can also be licensed for TV stations, and since the turn of the millennium, the range of possible business models has grown tremendously:

  • Game as a Service: Since World of Warcraft was launched in 2005, it has required a $15 subscription per month to play. The revenue ensures the continuous development of the game.
  • Free 2 Play: The esports giants League of Legends, DOTA and Counter-Strike are free to play. In return, they make money by selling, among other things, cosmetic upgrades in the game – so-called skins.
  • In app purchases: Mobile game developers quickly discovered that it was lucrative to get players to download their app for free and pay for a game currency in the form of jewels or blackberries inside the game instead, which could then in turn be used to progress faster in the game.
  • Play 2 Earn: The latest addition utilizes blockchain technology to create the game’s own, more or less complex, economy, which can be used to reward those players who are particularly skilled or active in the game.

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