The NFL is Creating the League’s First Blockchain Game with Mythical

The NFL entrusts Mythical Games to develop the league’s first blockchain game called NFL Rivals, an arcade-style free-to-play football experience where users can buy and sell player NFTs to upgrade their teams. While Mythical Games is not yet a household name in the esports industry, its financial backers are on the A-list.

Andreessen Horowitz led the funding for Mythical Games’ $150 million Series C round last November, which also included investments from:

  • Michael Jordan
  • The investment arm of the NFL 32 Equity
  • New England Patriots owners Jonathan Kraft and The Kraft Group
  • Partners of a team
  • Michael Gordon of Fenway Sports Group, owner of the Boston Red Sox and Liverpool FC

Other investors include crypto firms FTX and Binance, as well as RedBird Capital, D1 Capital, and The Raine Group. The Series C round valued Mythical Games at $1.25 billion.

NFL Rivals will go into private beta later this year before launching worldwide for mobile and PC web games in early 2023. It will be Mythical’s first game to be licensed by a major professional sports league, but the NFL leaned toward signing a multi-year deal with the company amid the success of Blankos Block Party, an open-world multiplayer game from Mythical that recently became the first NFT game offered through the Epic Games Store.

Prior to NFL Rivals, Mythical Games is also releasing Rarity League, a collection of officially licensed fan-inspired NFT helmets for all 32 NFL teams. Each team’s helmet drop is capped at 2,500 NFTs costing 0.14 ETH (Ethereum), which currently equates to about $188 USD. Rarity League NFT owners will have access to the NFL Rivals private beta.

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Association with Mythical

“Part of the reason we like Mythical so much is what they’ve done with Blankos, they’ve created some really great game design at prices that consumers can partake in, like $9 and $10 purchases paid at Fiat at instead of having to pay. in ETH. That’s the experience I think you’re going to see in NFL Rivals,” said Ed Kiang, vice president of video games for the NFL. “When we look at Mythical and Web3 games, it tends to be a younger skewed audience. But it’s also not necessarily the people we’re trying to target, older people, higher disposable income people who are crypto enthusiasts, that’s not really the segment we’re targeting.”

SportTechie’s Joe Lemire recently spoke with Kiang about the new NFL virtual reality game, Pro Era. You can read more here.

Mythical’s deal with the NFL is a joint venture with the NFLPA, and the players are expected to help promote NFL Rivals. Typical head-to-head matches in NFL Rivals will last just two minutes and will be a combination of simulated play with some screen tapping to control players. The gist is that fans can act as GMs by collecting NFTs from players to build their teams to compete against other teams. NFTs will be available at different tiers, with rarer tier player tokens providing better in-game performance.

Part of the reason we like Mythical so much is what they’ve done with Blankos, they’ve created some really cool game design at prices that consumers can partake in, like $9 and $10 purchases paid in Fiat instead of of having to pay in ETH. That’s the experience I think you’re going to see in NFL Rivals.

The CEO of Mythical Games is John Linden, who was previously the studio head of Activision and worked primarily on the Call of Duty franchise. Linden spoke Tuesday at a Twitter Spaces discussion hosted by nft lately, saying that Mythical’s development of NFL Rivals has had a nostalgic theme and has been inspired by the 1990s arcade-style games NFL Blitz (first released in 1997) and NBA Jam (first released in 1993) . He thinks the fast-paced NFL rivals will serve a more casual gamer than the Electronic Arts league’s Madden video game series.

“The crazy thing about the Madden franchise is that even though it’s in its 32nd year, it’s not a huge user base. And the reason for that is that it’s not a super accessible game,” Linden said. “It takes a lot of skill, a lot of effort to really understand that game and be really skilled at that game. And what we’re doing with NFL Rivals is the NFL cleared a path with us to build that fan-favorite game,” he added during Twitter Space. “You can pick up the game, play a couple of rounds, drop it, and come back to it later. Our goal with the NFL is to put this in the hands of tens of millions of players.”

Target market for NFL Rivals

Linden painted the age of the NFT players as older than Kiang’s goal for NFL Rivals. “I would say the median age is definitely in that 18-34 age bracket for whites,” Linden said. “In fact, we saw that many players had their children playing with them, we see many videos where they play with their children. We think the age demographic will be similar in the NFL, 18-34, maybe even 18-45, especially with the collector aspects. We have a couple of things that we’re going to announce later with sports memorabilia, traditional sports memorabilia companies that we’ve been talking about, and I think that will affect that demographic as well.”

Linden added, “We see a lot of people that when they sell their Blancos [NFTs], they end up using that money and buying more whites. So getting liquidity in the game has a tendency for them to buy more,” he said. “I think it will be a big web3 trend to see: where does that money go? Are they just cashing in and taking it? Some of them do and that’s great. We’ve had people pay bills with the game and that’s great too.”

A study published in July by the National Research Group found that 67% of sports fans preferred physical memorabilia to digital ones and that 72% of 3,250 fans surveyed saw NFTs as “a way to make money.” Another recent study by MKTG Sports + Entertainment surveyed 350 professionals working in sports and entertainment, with one in three respondents (30%) saying they “believe that NFTs exploit fans.” The study also found that 73% of industry professionals admit to having “some or little knowledge” of non-fungible tokens.

Entering the blockchain gaming space

“What we want to avoid is creating an NFT project that looks like some kind of speculative NFT art project,” Kiang said. “We’ve never seen this as a major type of speculative product, so we’re not as affected by fluctuations in the cryptocurrency market,” he added. “Our focus has always been on creating great games for everyday fans. I think a lot of what we see in the cryptocurrency market also reflects the stock market in general.”

NFL Rivals will allow fans to purchase NFT player cards and packs using cryptocurrency, but Kiang expects most users to pay in fiat currency by linking their credit card. Linden estimated that 77% of NFT transactions on the Blankos Block Party are paid for with fiat currency. The entire cryptocurrency market has lost $2 trillion in market value since its peak in 2021.

Related: More on cryptocurrencies will be covered in SportTechie’s upcoming webinar, “Assessing Cryptocurrency Partnerships: Spotting Dangers and Building Long-Term Success in a Volatile Market.” Sign up for free here.

“When it comes to cryptocurrencies as a payment method, we saw a lot of demand from our customers, let’s say up to six months ago,” JPMorgan Chase’s global head of payments, Takis Georgakopoulos, told Bloomberg this week. “We see very little right now.”

Kiang called free mobile games a “massive part” of the gaming industry and hopes the NFL will do more in that space. The league also has a partnership with mobile game developer Skillz.

“Value is what you perceive it to be,” Kiang said. “Our partnership with Mythical and what we’re doing with NFL Rivals, the ability to create value is inherently built into the quality of the game,” he adds, “if we’re creating truly great gaming experiences in the same way that a free-to-play mobile game does For people to understand the value of characters in the game and the boosts available in the game, then I think they’ll want to spend to really express their hobby with the items they can buy. And I think it’s the same with blockchain-based games.”

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