Take 5 With Mark Yeend, Co-Founder and Head of Marcomm at Shrapnel

1. Can you tell us about your background in gaming and entertainment, as well as how you became interested in the crypto space?

I’ve been making video games for more than 25 years. From handheld games to PC to consoles, and even augmented reality. I was running creative teams at Xbox first-party publishing for 11 years. I’ve worked on some big franchises like Harry Potter and Star Wars and Halo. I’ve always loved advanced technology: from interactive audio systems to putting Dolby Atmos on the Xbox to a Magic Leap and iPhone crossplay proof-of-concept. I then worked on HBO’s Interactive & Immersive Experiences team where we explored how emerging media-focused technology creates opportunities for premium-quality entertainment. That’s where I met my cofounders. And when we pitched Shrapnel for funding, everything clicked: blockchain was the new technology piece, and creating a new entertainment franchise, it was too good to pass up.

2. Scepticism towards blockchain is still common among traditional gamers. What do you think needs to be done to convince them of the added value that the technology can provide?

I honestly don’t blame them. The very short history of blockchain businesses, including games, has been inconsistent and littered with high-profile mistakes. But the paradigm shift for gamers that blockchain brings is an undeniable increase in value and experience. It’s all about ownership. When gaming assets are built on-chain, it enables concepts like provenance, attribution, asset history, real-world value, and to go beyond a single experience. Skill-based rewards and user-created content will be intensely engaging. When great examples of those kinds of use cases come to market, gamers will take notice and open their minds.

3. How is the nature of storytelling evolving, and how can projects succeed in telling an impactful transmedia story?

It’s the most exciting time to be a creator. Barriers to publishing and distribution are lower than ever. Barriers between audience and creators are dissolving, sometimes evolving into wild collaborations with sky-high engagement. New technologies at scale (like AI and ML) are powering stories that can respond to an audience and change responsively to be ever more delightful. On the other hand, the more things change the more they stay the same. Art is art, as ever. I think creative teams can gain early success by telling stories they are passionate about and bringing meaning to them personally. That’s infectious. From there, look for which medium resonates best with the story, and where the audience will love your story most. Then imagine vividly the world your story is told within and try telling another story within that world. Then look at another medium, adjacent to your first, and imagine how the story could be extended or made more immersive or made more interactive. These are just incremental steps from your seed idea. And as ever, being persistent seems like the most important thing.

4. What are some of your key learnings from leading MarCom for a Web3 game?

Right away, I was so impressed by people following us early, just based on the core premise. The broader community is open-minded and willing to imagine something can be good before it is published. That is new for me. I also found it refreshing to find less competition, fewer restrictions, and a very focused set of platforms where communities and customers engage. I mean, you can get pretty far with a website, a Discord, and a Twitter account. We’ve also found it volatile; highly susceptible to market variations and adjacent news events. We’ve had to learn how to surf some big waves in the last 12 months, so that’s always top of mind. Another surprise was how passionate and talented the web3 community can be. Once you have their attention, a community wants to interact and create, and they want information. And even when we can’t provide information, we can respond and show that we appreciate their interest in our project. I love that.

5. What does Shrapnel get its creative inspiration?

If you’ve seen our game trailer or glimpses of our gameplay, it’s pretty clear. We’re a first-person shooter game set in the not-too-distant future. So we’re doing military elements, some light sci-fi elements, and we’re striving for drama on a global scale and very personal character-driven drama too. So any films, series, graphic novels, and video games that are best-in-class with those ingredients, that’s going to inspire the project. We’re ambitious about competing directly in the genre, but also making sure that Shrapnel is unique and identifiable among that amazing competition.

6. How do you predict the future of the blockchain gaming space?

I’ll take a stab at answering. We’re going to see more and more projects that add a lot of value to the user experience and are increasingly secure and more trustworthy. We’ll see fewer projects that are flaky and sketchy and low quality. Those are easy predictions; just natural evolution like any new trend in business or tech. I think we’ll see a reduction in the importance of specific blockchains and specific platform technology. Walls will break down. Chain bridging and industry standards will emerge to enable the early steps toward interoperability. User experience and onboarding will become frictionless. And the “leisure economy” will accelerate. I don’t think anyone’s looking to replace the incredible technology and business models that currently exist in the core gaming space – it will be additive, a driver of player value.