'Provocative, Expansive, and Uncompromising': How Saga Origins Aims to Shake Up Crypto Gaming

Layer-1 blockchain Saga announced back in March that it was launching an in-house video game publishing division called Saga Origins. Now with the mainnet and SAGA token live, we have a clearer sense of what to expect from the upstart publisher.

Saga CEO and co-founder Rebecca Liao set out the vision for the publishing arm in a recent interview with Decrypt’s GG, claiming that it is looking to publish games that are “provocative, expansive, [and] uncompromising.”

This is a divergence from the typical approach in the Web3 industry, with many crypto games focused on inoffensive and often family-friendly experiences. Even some shooter games, like The Machines Arena, opt for cartoonish graphics to reach an Everyone 10+ rating—though there are more adult-oriented games like Off the Grid and Shrapnel in the works.

When you look at the wider gaming space, aside from Tetris and Minecraft, Grand Theft Auto V is the highest selling game of all-time—a game notorious for its mature nature. And only four of the top 10 best selling video games of all-time hold an E for Everyone rating.

“A lot of the games that we have been looking at, and certainly the games that we signed so far, are definitely mature content. And we wanted to make sure that there is a home for that,” Liao told Decrypt. “I think in Web3, most of the games are ‘E for Everyone.’ So this is just a different look for audiences.”

This approach isn’t just a way to be provocative, but also to give developers “freedom of vision”—although Liao admits this level of freedom sometimes gets “pretty intense.”

The Saga network made a name for itself over the past few months by launching “play-to-airdrop” campaigns. These competitions incentivized gamers to try out the projects on the Saga testnet in return for SAGA tokens. This sparked a huge increase in interest in games on the Saga network, and the publishing arm plans to continue this marketing strategy.

“We basically invented play-to-airdrop last year,” Liao said. “After examining all of that, we’re like, ‘We’re ready to be a publisher. We’d like to be a publisher.’ I think games in the space really deserve it.”

While responsible for multiple different elements, from licensing to playtesting and distribution, video game publishers also handle marketing. Saga believes that its successful play-to-airdrop campaigns makes it well-equipped to become a publisher too, with token incentives fueling user acquisition.

This move into publishing didn’t come out of nowhere, though. In fact, Liao said that it was the game developers that were asking Saga to publish their games.

“We just kind of looked at them and were like: ‘We’re a chain. What are we going to do with a publishing arm?’” Liao explained. “But as we heard more and more of these requests, and then as we understood what’s really happening in the wider gaming industry, it made a lot of sense.”

The gaming industry has seen a record number of layoffs in 2024, and Liao sees this as the moment for Web3 gaming to rise up as an alternative to traditional AAA gaming. “At Saga, we’re thinking that there is a place for Web3 here,” Liao explained of the industry.

Still in its infancy, Saga Origins has yet to announce any games as of yet. But by the time of the annual Gamescom conference in August, gamers should expect “bigger reveals,” Liao said, which could potentially include alpha versions of games that are available for players to try out.

Edited and additional reporting by Andrew Hayward

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