More than 20,000 builders, creators, and investors working in the Web3 space descended on Austin, TX, for one of the biggest blockchain conferences of the year—Consensus 2023. Forte was there to hear from innovators in Web3 gaming and the metaverse about what the industry is focused on and the challenges ahead.

In a word, Thursday’s theme was “intersection.” Panelists explored how blockchain, AI, and other technologies are intersecting with one another to drive innovation and disruption across multiple industries. From AI and Web3’s impact on social interaction, culture, fashion, and gaming, to cross-media intellectual properties with Web3 communities at their core, many spoke about the interplay between various segments of the industry to drive growth and adoption for the space. 

AI and Web3

It was no surprise to hear AI come up in several of the panels at Consensus 2023. With the recent surge in publicly accessible generative AI products, experts in the industry were keen to explore what it means for Web3 and what blockchain can bring to AI. 

While there were some concerns about the risks of unchecked AI and its potential for disrupting the labor market, the discussion overwhelmingly centered on the opportunities it presents for driving innovation and growth in gaming and the metaverse. 

“Like what electricity was to modern society, I see AI as the ‘electricity’ that will power the metaverse,” said Cathy Hackl, author of Into the Metaverse. “Creating in the metaverse won’t happen manually. It will be driven by conversational interactions with AI.”

AI’s potential to accelerate creativity and bring down barriers for content creators was a recurring theme. Panelists noted that AI will open new opportunities for professional creators and players producing user generated content (UGC), effectively blurring the lines between the two. 

“What’s really exciting is the different ways that AI tooling accelerates the creative process,” said Justin Melillo, CEO of Mona. While he acknowledged the fears surrounding possible job losses, he saw AI primarily as a way to realistically meet the content creation demands of immersive games and metaverse experiences. 

On-chain IP and the power of Web3 communities

Another common thread was the power of Web3 and digital ownership for building passionate, engaged communities. Specifically, panelists explored how those communities can support the creation and expansion of IP as players, fans, contributors, and investors. 

In a panel on “Hollywood 3.0,” Colin Brady, COO and CTO of AMGI Studios, expressed astonishment by the level of engagement and feedback in Web3. 

“The power of the community in Web3 blew my mind,” said Brady. “We started with one image on Discord and the community immediately started giving us input. We shared everything with them as we were building and really created the entire project with the community.” 

This sentiment was echoed by Luisa Huang, co-founder and COO of Toonstar, the studio behind a number of community-driven animation projects, including The Gimmicks. She explained that contributions from the community and its connection with the IP surpassed expectations, with fan-created content making its way into the series and even generating a beloved character that garnered its own spinoff. 

“We have a creator portal where people can build backstories to their NFTs. They have the ability to take those stories and create their own mini ecosystem,” said Huang. “We have completely community-driven episodes that were created by the owners.” 

Developers also acknowledged the need to give back to the community and create reciprocal relationships not just to collect ideas and feedback, but to generate value. 

“Every huge IP is built on the shoulders of every fan that’s there for them,” Huang added. “What Web3 has done is that now we’re recognizing the fans for their contribution. We’re recognizing the community for their support and sharing the value with them.”

Reciprocity between communities and developers is central to Forte’s philosophy. Web3 and digital ownership have a unique ability to enable economic models that benefit developers, consumers, and community creators, improving alignment between them and generating positive-sum value. We call it community economics.

Onboarding the mainstream

Throughout the day, we heard from speakers in the gaming, film, metaverse, and music industries. Despite their disparate backgrounds, there was a clear consensus (pun intended) that finding more effective ways to onboard mainstream users needs to be a top priority for the industry. 

“We have to reduce the friction,” Hackl said, when asked about onboarding the next 100 million users to Web3. “Give people ways to purchase in fiat and then let them choose if they want to mint on-chain or engage with the Web3 elements.” 

Huang also explained her thinking on the subject, saying, “We’re thinking about, ‘How do you bring people into that world in a way that doesn’t feel intimidating?’ Tech can be intimidating to people.”

To make Web3 onboarding feel less daunting, Toonstar is taking a tiered “Web2.5” approach, bringing users in with accessible content and then giving them clear reasons to engage further with the Web3 aspects of the product and community. 

“We’re inviting people to come in and enjoy great content by their favorite creators,” Huang explained. “The content is never token-gated. Once you get into the world of co-creating and engagement, that’s when you bring them into the Web3 side of things.”

Other panelists called out the industry’s focus on tech and its attempts to educate users on complex technology as an area for change. “The user experience really needs to be central. In Web3 it hasn’t always been about the user experience, it’s been about the tech,” Melillo said.

Brady took a similar position, emphasizing the need to move away from technical terminology and give users the benefits of Web3 without needing to understand its mechanics.  

“We want an NFT in everyone’s pocket, whether they know it or not,” Brady said. “The terminology is going to go away.” 

That idea holds true to Forte’s long-held position that Web3 games need to deliver the benefits of digital ownership and on-chain identity to users and developers with as little friction as possible. 

We see Web3 as both a toolkit for developers and a design philosophy for delivering value to end users while building shared interests for communities and creators. The experience of that alignment and value should exist seamlessly within the game and not require any extra knowledge from players. In other words, you shouldn’t have to be a blockchain expert to engage with a Web3 game.