Sniper Spotlight with Brian Ross, CEO of Draft Labs

Gaming has emerged as one of the main use cases for Web3 technology. Ownership of in-game assets, real-value transactions through cryptocurrency, and open virtual landscapes like metaverses have shown that the technology we all hold near and dear can be used to entertain, engage, and inspire, all while bringing more joy to people’s lives.

One of the games that has gained more traction this year is Draftables, a build-your-own American football franchise game from two longtime friends who shared a love (and saw the limitations) of classic sports games.

We caught up with Brian Ross, co-founder and CEO of Draft Labs, the creators of Draftables, to get his take on Web3 gaming, the future of the company, and the inspiration for the game. Enjoy.

Could you identify yourself and the role you play at Draft Labs?

My name is Brian Ross and I am the co-founder and CEO of Draft Labs, the studio behind Draftables, one of the “hidden gaming gems” on Avalanche.

I started my journey into crypto around 2018 when I immediately recognized blockchain use cases in gaming. Growing up, I was all about games like Clash of Clans and Fifa Ultimate Team. The idea of creating this whole new economy where players could trade openly blew my mind.

Draftables originated as a passion project between myself and my co-founder, Simon Peterson, longtime friends with a shared love for sports video games. Playing these games together over the years, we began to notice their limitations and embarked on a journey to address these issues using emerging technology. Over time, Draftables has evolved into the game it is today, with a dedicated team of experienced members who have joined us on this journey.

What is Draftables and what has been the inspiration for creating it?

Draftables is a digital football world where users act as owners, coaches, and managers of their exclusive digital franchise. They’re tasked with scouting out and training new athletes, building and upgrading the facilities that support their team, and competing online in competitive leagues against other users. To simplify, Draftables combines the world-building features of games such as Clash of Clans or SimCity with the competitive and strategic elements of managerial games like Football Manager or Franchise Mode in Madden Football.

That being said, Draftables is much more than just a game!

It’s a digital sports realm driven by a peer-to-peer economy. What sets us apart is our integration of some of Web2’s most renowned IPs into Draftables – bridging the gap between Web2 and Web3.

What does Draftables bring to Web3 that other games so far haven’t – what makes it unique?

It is important for us to address shortcomings in current sports video games and that’s why we decided to be the ones to bring the free-to-play model to sports gaming. Paying to play has long been a significant hurdle in Web3 gaming, and we firmly believe that blockchain technology should not mandate users to purchase an asset to enjoy the game.

I would say one of the most compelling aspects of the game is the uniqueness of each athlete in the game. Unlike NFL-tied players, every athlete you own is unique and exclusive to you—there are no duplicates. This grants users full control over the development of each athlete, compelling them to train and compete regularly to unlock their full potential. This dedication can lead to a more competitive team or enable users to list their enhanced athletes on the marketplace for a higher price.

Why did you decide to build the game on Avalanche?

Avalanche’s subnets are making transactions more cost-effective and fast transactions, even in the face of extreme demand. As we look towards the future, subnet technology lays the groundwork for an expansive and interconnected sports ecosystem across the globe.

What is $DRFT – its role in the Draftables ecosystem and how players can earn it?

$DRFT is the centerpiece for improving your franchise. Whether you want to train your athletes and improve their stats, upgrade your buildings, or simply purchase our season pass or other in-game purchases, our token is the key to rising above the competition.

We believe that seasonal games powered by blockchain technology are the future. This means that Draftables will continuously be rolling out new game features, content, and ways to connect with the community. $DRFT powers all of this and enables users to experience everything that the Draftables world has to offer.

When we set about building an in-game economy, we wanted it to mimic the competitive nature of Draftables and football at large while still retaining the fun and continuity of the game. To do this, we have leaned into mirroring real-world sports economics. From the 10,000-foot view, what this means is that from competing in matches and performing well, users are rewarded with our token, $DRFT.

That said, a cornerstone of a healthy economy is demand outpacing supply. To ensure this, $DRFT can be spent to improve a user’s franchise in several ways. Additionally, $DRFT can be used to purchase compelling in-game assets that range from limited-edition cosmetics to in-game consumables. I don’t want to give away what all of these assets are just yet, but the Founder’s pass NFT will start to introduce our users to them!

What role does rarity play for Draftables NFTs?

“Elite” level athletes in Draftables are hard to come across. While many teams will be made up of lower and mid-tier athletes, only the top-level franchises will have these standout NFTs helping propel them to the top of the league. Rarer athletes can be found in packs and on the secondary market, and can be improved through engagement with the Draftables training system and constant competition.

This adds a unique aspect to rarity within our game, offering users a sense of control over the abilities and traits of these on-chain assets.

Could you talk about the tournament between early testers of Draftables – the statistics, reception of the game, and more?

In October 2023, we held a pre-alpha tournament for our initial 100 users. Each player spent an average of an hour and 19 minutes in gameplay during the tournament, resulting in over 3,100 games played within just five days.

Do you have any plans to expand beyond American football to other sports?

Right now, our team is solely focused on building an American Football game on the Avalanche blockchain, and we intend to continue focusing on this game for many years to come. However, we plan to expand past American Football into other sports when the time is right, and we will certainly consider becoming blockchain agnostic as the Web3 industry continues to shift over the next few years.

Web3 can be a challenging industry to build in. Does Draft Labs (or you) have a philosophy that guides everything during the volatility?

I think that the Web3 gaming era has had an incredible start over the past 5+ years, despite many gamers not having been presented with good enough games to truly show them the value of bringing things on-chain. I honestly don’t blame them. The UI is clunky, many projects are sketchy or complete rug pulls, and we just don’t have the proper regulations set in place to make this a mainstream commercial product.

Who wants to spend $5 in fees on an in-game action? How can you justify that?

Every day, technology becomes stronger and more attractive. Improvements like Avalanche’s subnets are making transactions more cost-effective, and crypto is beginning to legitimize itself as tomorrow’s method of payment and storage rather than just “magic coins.” When you put the entire thing into perspective, the only way for the Web3 gaming industry to go is up.

I believe wholeheartedly that Web3 gaming has an incredible future. Ownable assets and peer-to-peer in-game economies add depth and immersion to gaming that has never been possible until now.

What is a day in the life of the average Draft Labs team member?

Despite busy schedules, everyone at Draft Labs absolutely loves what they do, which makes working here an enjoyable experience. Whether someone works in community management, engineering, or any other position, everyone brings unique backgrounds and interests to the table, creating daily learning experiences and making critical thinking necessary at every team meeting.

Most importantly, we’re all super excited about what we’ve been building over the past few years, and we can’t wait to see what challenge we get to face next together.

What would be a home run for Draft Labs and Draftables by the end of this year?

One of the first community events that we plan to host is a tournament for users to test out the MVP of Draftables for themselves and share more feedback with us. The MVP is a really fun multi-platform app that gives users a great idea of what is in store.

However, it is a testing ground for what users like as we continually build, test, analyze, tear down, and repeat. We had a Closed Alpha tournament near the end of last year that was extremely successful and played a major role in the changes we’ve made to the game since then. This time, we plan to do it on a much larger scale and put some great prizes up for grabs!

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Upcoming mint May 16 — stay tuned! Also, sign up for our game on our website for early airdrop points! We’re having a whitelist giveaway soon as well.

Where can our readers find you?

We’re across Discord, X, Instagram, e-mail, and more. The best place to find all relevant links and more information is through the Draftables website.

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