In today’s ever-increasingly digital world, gaming continues to be one of the largest growing verticals in the global economy. It is estimated that over two-thirds of people under 18 in the United States play online video games, putting it only behind watching YouTube videos as an activity. In fact, over half the entire United States’ population were digital gamers in 2022, according to Business Insider. The research team at crypto.com projected the 2023 global gaming market will reach $187.7 billion in total revenue, a nearly 3% growth rate despite economic turmoil.
Looking at blockchain technology, gaming continues to be one of the most exciting – and most capitalized – verticals in the crypto ecosystem. Our friends at crypto.com valued the blockchain market at over $3 billion in 2023, with projections to grow to over $65 billion by 2030. For further proof, blockchain-based games experienced the highest percentage of daily unique active wallets (UAW) amongst DeFi, NFTs, and social platforms in the last year:
The crypto gaming scene first ignited with collectible game giants like CryptoKitties. These charming, blockchain-backed cats sparked the NFT craze, allowing players to truly "own" and trade their in-game digital assets. Soon, play-to-earn titles like Axie Infinity, where players battled and bred Axies, took center stage. These games rewarded skilled players with crypto tokens.
Today, the crypto gaming landscape is far more diverse. Metaverses like Decentraland and The Sandbox offer virtual worlds players can explore, build upon, and even monetize. Trading card games like Gods Unchained and Splinterlands have found renewed life powered by NFTs, while strategy games like Sorare and Upland capitalize on blockchain's potential for unique, verifiable ownership.
One of the most exciting projects in the realm of crypto gaming currently is Star Atlas. Taken directly from Star Atlas’ docs:
“Star Atlas is a full-scale, open-world gaming universe, where players traverse the galactic unknown in search of valuable materials, building civilization along the way. The exploration of new worlds within Star Atlas provides the player the opportunity to create an intergalactic empire, outfitted with an armada of ships and space-stations; that is, if they are able to keep their empire safe from opposing players. In an ongoing struggle for resources, territorial conquest, and political domination, players band together in factions to secure their piece of space and defend it. All assets in Star Atlas are tradeable on a vibrant marketplace, rewarding time spent in the virtual world with real world cash.”
While Star Atlas is still in development – with the final, fully-fledged game potentially years away – it's already generating serious buzz. The game has attracted attention en masse on X, and has fostered a raucous community on Discord, Reddit, and YouTube. Being a Web3 game, the growing Star Atlas gamer community are also contributors and builders in the Star Atlas universe, using build programs to create tools and businesses that complement existing development. Below, we will dive head-first into the galactic universe that is Star Atlas, showcasing what is available to play now, how the game operates, and its roadmap for the future.
The Team Behind Star Atlas
Michael Wagner is the CEO of ATMTA, Inc., the development studio behind Star Atlas. The four other co-founders are Danny Floyd, Jacob Floyd and Pablo Quiroga. Prominent investors in the Star Atlas project include Sino Global Capital, Republic Crypto, and Animoca Brands.
A World 600 Years into the Future
Star Atlas takes place in the year 2620, as humanity has achieved intergalactic travel and encountered numerous alien civilizations. In this futuristic universe, three main factions compete for resources, territories, and political control:
- The MUD territory that is controlled by humans
- The ONI region run by alien creatures that bears resemblance to Ahsoka Tano (for you Star Wars fans)
- The Ustur sector, run by sentient cybernetic beings
Upon beginning your Star Atlas journey, players choose to belong to one of these factions. Each faction has strengths and weaknesses, and the locations of these nations will determine strategic advantages based on the production potential of what nearby raw materials are available.
From here, the possibilities will be virtually endless. Players traverse deep space, with each visible star representing a real asset that can be visited and mined for valuable resources. These resources can be used to craft all different kinds of machinations, including space stations, mining installations, space ships outfitted with specialized armory, and more.
The game only continues to get deeper from here. Players enjoy a fleet of ships and traverse space alongside other players. The ships can be outfitted with a plethora of different components as well as crew members that enhance the features and capabilities of the fleet. Players can also band together inside of factions, using Decentralized Autonomous Corporations (DACs, a form of decentralized governance we will touch on further) to create sprawling space cities that combine the economic might of many into one galactic empire. DACs can impose taxes, fees, fines, and rules for its “citizens” creating truly diverse and malleable gameplay experiences. These groups of players can then engage in intergalactic warfare, plundering enemy fleets for assets and prestige.
As we will detail, not all of what has been described above has been fully implemented into a playable experience yet, and thus, for clarity’s sake, we will leave this discussion of gameplay and talk about what makes Star Atlas unique and how the game leverages blockchain technology to make it all happen.
Star Atlas: A First of its Kind Fully Self-Sovering MMO:
Even if you've never encountered the term, you've probably played or at least heard of a massively multiplayer online (MMO) game. Fortnite, FarmVille, World of Warcraft, and Minecraft all fall under the MMO umbrella. Some key aspects of MMOs include:
- Persistent Worlds: The world keeps going even when you're offline, with other players changing the landscape in your absence.
- Massive Communities: Thousands, even millions, of players can explore and interact, fostering a vibrant online society with its own culture and dynamics.
- Character Progression: Players create and develop their own avatars, acquiring skills, gear, and power as they journey through the game.
- Diverse Gameplay: From racing rocket ships, to mining different galaxies, to engaging in intergalactic warfare, MMOs are designed to offer a plethora of activities to suit every playstyle.
The trailblazing mission of the Star Atlas team is to create a MMO that is fully self-sovereign. What does that mean? Let’s discuss what makes current MMOs not self-sovereign. Popular games like Fortnite and World of Warcraft rely on developments, updates, and rules implemented by a central authority, usually the game's developer or publisher. This means players have limited influence on the game's direction and are subject to the whims of the creators. Moreover, the games rely on closed economies; that is, virtual goods and currencies can exist and be traded by players, but they have no real-world value and exist solely within the game's confines. In this closed economy, all player data and in-game creations are owned by the developer.
With the power of blockchain technology, Star Atlas can create a sprawling universe fit with player-driven economics and governance – a world crafted not by corporate overlords, but by the collective whims of its inhabitants. A digital realm where every click echoes with the weight of ownership.
Plunder through galactic structures built by rogue architects, their designs voted on by the masses. Barter for gleaming armor forged by fellow players, as factions of players rise and fall by the tides of community favor. Instead of pre-packaged quests doled out by faceless NPCs, adventures can be crafted from the fires of player imagination. Every aspect of the Star Atlas universe can be shaped by the will of its players through an autonomous governance organization– these are just a few of the imagined possibilities. Below is a visualization of how Star Atlas plans on using blockchain technology to make this all possible, relying on the Solana network and two native currencies, ATLAS & POLIS, which we will discuss later:
Why hasn’t a fully self-sovereign MMO ever been done before? As you can see, it’s not easy, and it takes a lot to build one. From Star Atlas’ white paper:
“... You need an infrastructure that scales well – and decentralized from the ground-up. You need a solid backbone of lore and gameplay; a player base; an engaged creator community—continuously building and polishing the code base … all of this should be controlled by an
autonomous governance organization, able to unilaterally change any aspect of the game … the game also needs a self sustainable economy. One that covers infrastructural costs and funds development efforts. It should also allow efficient feedback loops to track and drive fun and engagement, allowing the game to continuously evolve over time, while adding new attributes and perfecting existing ones.”
What is available to play now?
Here is what is available today, ranging from 1.) mini multiplayer experiences to 2.) the beginnings of the galactic multiverse Star Atlas promises to 3.) a developer toolkit to help build out the Star Atlas ecosystem:
- Showroom Pre-Season (R2.1) — This pre-alpha release features multiplayer, Ground Racing single player mode, flying several fly-ready spaceships, dogfighting and racing tracks. There are multiple experimental modes as well, including a third person shooter against computer opponents.
- Star Atlas: SAGE Escape Velocity and its successor, SAGE Labs. This is the early iterations of what will eventually be the fully fledged experience discussed at the beginning of this paper. SAGE Labs is a fully-fledged economic loop with extraction, crafting, scanning, and redemption loops with randomness baked into the mix. Players may use any Star Atlas ship and crew to produce valuable assets and explore the Galia expanse. This upgrade introduces 29 new assets that will now be fully traded with floating, competitive prices.
- Foundation SDK (F-KIT) — An open source piece of software for developers looking to build on Solana; functions as an in-game bridge with an embedded wallet, connecting gameplay transactions in Unreal Engine 5 with the Solana network.
- Star Atlas: CORE — An episodic graphic novel that follows a crew of heroic adventurers across the galaxy while immersing readers in the lore of Star Atlas.
- Star Atlas DAO — A governance framework that allows players to stake their POLIS and participate in the governance of the game. Over time, the community will have an increasing role to play in governing the entire Star Atlas metaverse.
- Faction Fleet and Faction Claims — Available at play.staratlas.com, these games offer a more passive style of gameplay that allow players to earn ATLAS and mine for R4, the most important resource in the game.
Economics and Tokenomics of Star Atlas
An immense amount of work has been put in to create a robust and dynamic economy of tradable assets. This involves the implementation of smart contracts and other code relating to resource management, building, fighting, and all other in-game activities. Understanding all of the inner workings of the Star Atlas economy is not necessary to enjoy or understand the game itself, but if that is of interest, the Star Atlas Economics Paper is an incredible resource.
There are 4 pillars to the Star Atlas Economy that we will touch on:
Most important to the pillars are the two Star Altas native tokens, ATLAS, and POLIS. We will let Star Atlas explain the role of ATLAS themselves, taken from the linked Economics Paper:
“ATLAS will serve as the native in-game currency within Star Atlas. It is the lubricant of the metaverse. Players will initially leverage ATLAS to acquire digital assets such as ships, crew, components, land, and equipment. However, as in any real economy, a financial system is necessary to facilitate commerce. Whether it be through NPC merchants, or direct peer-to-peer transactions, ATLAS is the unit of account to execute operational requirements. Operating expenses, such as personnel for mining equipment, fuel for ships, and repairs for damages will all need to be paid in ATLAS.”
Looking at tokenomics, the total supply of ATLAS is 36 billion, with about 40% currently in circulating supply. Star Atlas designates ATLAS as an inflatable token, hoping the monetary mass (circulating supply) will grow at roughly the same rate as the in-game economy itself. Below is a visualization of the initial allocation of ATLAS tokens and the distribution curve:
Turning to POLIS, below is the Economics Paper’s definition:
“POLIS is the governance token used at each level of governance, representing financial stake in the game, voting power in the DAOs where it is staked, and control of the Treasury. It has a fixed supply that will not grow (unless a decision to the contrary will be made by governance down the line).”
POLIS currently has a peripheral role in the current iterations of Star Atlas games. Ultimately, POLIS holders will have the power to shape the game. Star Atlas includes in their documents that this autonomy extends to potentially replacing the founding Star Atlas team as the primary provider of game assets and design, should the community so choose. Closer to the present, the DAOs' immediate focus encompass changes such as economic adjustments, feature rollouts, asset release schedules, and the exciting prospect of integrating player-crafted content.
All assets in the game, including galactic real estate, raw materials, and ships are validated on chain using non-fungible tokens (NFTs). These NFTs can be traded in-game using a custom on-chain marketplace developed by the Star Atlas team.
The economics of resource management is where the complexity really sets in. On a high level, players have to consider many costs when it comes to the extraction/retention of materials, R&D relating to equipment, and costs relating to interspace travel. Players can take different roles in this multifaceted process and help each other build the most efficient refinery operation. Moreover, the aforementioned often require contracting the service of NPCs, with each “type” of NPC worker providing different strengths/weaknesses and costs. Again, we highly recommend reading Star Atlas’ Economics Paper for a more in-depth examination.
In the future, players will be able to own and exchange land NFTs, corresponding to virtual real estate in the Star Atlas universe. This has shown the potential to be incredibly lucrative for players in other metaverse-related games, including Sandbox and Decentraland.
As the value of different assets within the game increases, the risk-reward of being attacked/waging war on other players will create an exciting dilemma for gamers. In the future, battles between rival factions could have thousand-dollar consequences for those involved.
Each quarter, Star Atlas releases a State of the Economy Report, taking a deep dive into many different facets of the Star Atlas economy. When looking with a wide-lense view at the game’s traction, we can see positive growth in Daily Active Wallets during the last quarter, signaling growing interest in the game. While the grey areas show a decline in the back half of Q3, the heavily-anticipated release of SAGE Labs combined with positive economic tailwinds has boosted usage:
Another way to look at the game’s traction is to look at the Star Atlas marketplace and its native token, ATLAS. The ATLAS/USD pair has performed mightily over the last quarter, posting near 400% gains since October. This can be attributed to the release of SAGE Labs and its enhanced marketplace, increasing demand for ATLAS tokens. With the fully fledged game still years away, evaluating the success of the current iterations could be looked at as a fool’s game, but even with the limited releases available to play, Star Atlas has curated a growing community and an in-demand token.
As we have mentioned, Star Atlas is attempting to do something nobody else has done before in building a fully self-sovereign MMO. Moreover, their implementation of Unreal Engine 5 brings a level of graphics and gameplay that has certainly not yet been seen in the crypto gaming space and is utilized by the most popular Triple-A games. The size, scope, and endless possibilities of Star Atlas potentially put the project in another tier compared to other metaverse games.
Again, as a game potentially years in the waiting, surveying the landscape for analogous competitors is difficult. Games such as Ember Sword and Covenant Child promise a similar metaverse experience but are also still in beta/alpha testing stages. Another interesting title that has garnered a lot of attention in the space is Gran Saga: Unlimited, another MMO still in development but with exciting reviews so far. Gran Saga has the sort of “endless gameplay” and player-to-player interactions that make Star Atlas tick. While Metaverse-related platforms certainly took a hit during the crypto winter, it is evident that investment in the space is still robust and a multitude of well-capitalized teams will be releasing titles in the years to come. We believe it is too early to pick winners and losers. Interestingly enough, Star Atlas took the time in their whitepaper to compare their product to traditional Triple-A games, compiling this graphic below:
Most of what we know about the future of Star Atlas comes from their appearance at Solana Breakpoint 2023. Excitingly enough, CEO Michael Wagner began his keynote address with the statement, “Next year is our year, the year of Star Atlas.”
Wagner's presentation showcased several up and coming modules and releases. The first of these showcases was Showroom R2.2 which will include Combat Racing and an integrated XP System. Moreover, Wagner was joined on stage by the team at MetaGravity, a company that has partnered with Star Atlas to provide multiplayer gaming scaling solutions. Metagravity believes they will be able to scale the game's simultaneous player count to over 30,000 players; current scaling solutions are only capable of providing connectivity to about 100 players simultaneously.
Finally, Star Atlas unveiled another product being delivered in 2024, the Star Atlas Crew Companion App. The Star Atlas companion app is a new take on the move to earn model where players can walk, run, or cycle to level up crew members to use in Star Atlas. Each crew member will have various aptitudes, traits, and rarity that can be used in either the Unreal Engine 5 Racing Environment or in SAGE. For those looking for a more in-depth discussion of the future of the game, Wagner’s full presentation is a great resource.
Star Atlas has undeniably captured the imagination with its audacious vision of a sprawling, blockchain-powered metaverse. While the dream of an immersive, player-driven virtual world like those depicted in science fiction is captivating, it's crucial to maintain a healthy dose of skepticism. As mentioned, the metaverse landscape is competitive and each day brings new entrants. The recent FTX collapse, in which Star Atlas had significant funds tied up, serves as a stark reminder of the project's vulnerabilities.
There are plenty who question whether current technology can truly deliver the fully immersive experience Star Atlas envisions. However, the team's phased rollout approach, akin to the internet's gradual evolution, offers optimism that future iterations will be able to deliver.
The team at Star Atlas is still years away from full launch. Unforeseen obstacles could derail the project. That being said, the buzz surrounding Star Atlas is undeniable. From gamers and enthusiasts to businesses and investors, all seem eager to stake their claim in this potential digital frontier.
In conclusion, Star Atlas presents a thrilling blend of awe-inspiring potential and grounded concerns. As we navigate the path towards a potential metaverse future, this project serves as a fascinating case study in balancing ambition with technological realities. Only time will tell if Star Atlas realizes its ultimate goals, but the journey is undoubtedly worth following.
Disclaimer: This report was commissioned by Star Atlas. This research report is exactly that — a research report. It is not intended to serve as financial advice, nor should you blindly assume that any of the information is accurate without confirming through your own research. Bitcoin, cryptocurrencies, and other digital assets are incredibly risky and nothing in this report should be considered an endorsement to buy or sell any asset. Never invest more than you are willing to lose and understand the risk that you are taking. Do your own research. All information in this report is for educational purposes only and should not be the basis for any investment decisions that you make.