Romanian federation, basketball stars and anti-NFT catapult… Unagi puts fantasy into sports Web 3

In the wake of the unicorn, Sorare sneaks into the eel Unagi. Co-founder, Rémy Pellerin, explains in 20 Mint au Carré how his fantasy football platform Ultimate Champions was born…

Unagi is reminiscent of eel sushi or the Ross Geller mantra, but not necessarily sports. Why did you choose this name?

For the reference to Japan, the land of gaming because Unagi is a video game development studio specializing in Play To Earn (game that rewards the player for his achievements) and blockchain technology. We created it with the aim of making this new type of game accessible to as many people as possible. And the first one we developed was called Ultimate Champions. It is a fantasy sports platform in which real athletes, such as football players, are represented by digital maps in the form of NFTs. The user will assemble a team of eleven of these players and based on their performance in the real world he will collect points. At the end of the weekend, the points are added up and if he has performed, he gets rewards, especially player cards that are added to his collection, which he can trade, resell, etc.

Does it look a bit like Sorare?

We obviously have a lot of admiration for what Sorare has done. But we struggled to get people to come and play with us because there are high entry costs. We come from free to play (games that are free to use, but often offer micropayments to enhance the experience). We worked for a long time at Ubisoft in this sector and we wanted to make this type of game that requires no investment to have fun. We also have another gameplay with 11 players on his team, a bank of substitutes, trying to fully put himself in the role of manager. We’ve created our own tokens that allow us to distribute token rewards in addition to cards, which we can spend to improve our team.

And you don’t offer the same teams. Have you signed your own partnerships?

Yes, it’s important. We currently have agreements with about forty clubs. We started with Arsenal in particular. We are very happy with this long-term, exclusive partnership and we have also signed with a few clubs in France, in Ligue 1 and in Ligue 2. And more recently, we signed a partnership with the Romanian Federation to bring all the clubs in this live in the country.

How do you negotiate with a federation? Have others tried it before you?

Not in Romania, no… There is a first phase where you have to explain what you are doing. A little information about what blockchain brings. We managed to build a prototype quite early to demonstrate what we wanted to do and the federation was very excited about our vision. It gives them an additional revenue channel and they can reach a new generation of fans, who may be less used to watching a game for two hours and consuming football differently, especially on social networks.

Do you also participate in other sports?

All the way. Our vision is to become a multisport platform. We started with football because it is the biggest sport. The one we know best. Then we’re going to integrate basketball. We have signed a long-term partnership with the Euroleague, which brings together super teams like Barcelona, ​​Real Madrid, Bayern and Milan. These 38 clubs are a bit like the European Basketball Champions League. There are more than 500 competitions a year.

With the same mechanics as in football?

The gameplay has not yet been defined in detail. But we want to do something more dynamic. For example, offer users to manage their team live. We know that basketball fans are more used to statistics than football fans. For a game like ours that’s data-driven, that’s great. There are plenty of things to do and our game designers come up with it all.

What blockchain is Ultimate Champions based on?

On Polygon. But we wanted to be super accessible and can therefore simply buy NFTs with credit card in euros. Before paying, however, you must come and try the game for free. All players who start have the same virtual budget with which they build their team. Our goal as a developer is to make a game that people like. They come to have fun with their friends, make new connections, etc. And only if they want to move faster, they spend a few bucks…

What does Web 3 ultimately bring for a game like this?

The problem with games and the traditional game model, especially free to play, is that the users don’t really own what is in the game. the previous year is lost forever. Our NFTs really belong to the players. They can sell, trade and even destroy them if they want to.

But when the game disappears, the value of the NFT also disappears. It’s no use anymore. Are we really changing the rules of the game?

We are changing the rules of the game for the user. The NFT is a collectible that can be played with. Even if the game ends, the card retains its value to a collector. Zidane’s 98 Panini card still has a lot of value today.

You worked at Ubisoft, who had setbacks at the launch of its NFT selling platform. Many players have made it clear that they do not want these paid tokens. How do you explain that NFTs have such bad press with some gamers?

We need another training phase so that people understand the importance of NFTs. This interest is property. NFTs allow the player to trade or sell any items he earns in a game. There is a lack of knowledge on the subject. I think we are at the same time at the beginning of free play, when many players rejected this model and preferred to pay €60 for their game, own the box and not incur any additional costs. Today, free-to-play is installed by default. We are convinced that playing to earn will become more democratic and that there will be more and more games with this model.

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