What’s it like to PM a crypto gaming company?
We had a contract with an anon marketing firm. Our buttoned-up white shoe law firm basically said “what’s the point?”
I’ve seen some shit in my decade plus as a PM and I have to say that building a game on the blockchain is hands down the most fascinating and chaotic type of product to build.
I was on the founding team of the Cash App from the day Jack said to a small group of people, “I want to send anyone money over email,” dropped the mic, and left it to the rest of us to figure out how to implement his Wonka-esque vision. This is much crazier than that… At a traditional tech company, there are brand guidelines, best practices, daily sync-ups, laws & regulations (that if not followed will land you in literal jail), and all sorts of other clear guardrails. You build a product that you need to sell to people and it ends there.
At Pirate Nation, we’re doing all the normal things it takes to build a game, engaging a community of alpha-hungry degens from all across the globe whilst working on a robust monetary policy for Pirate Gold, a made up in-game currency. In web2, “Community” is not a thing and business mostly takes place over email and Zooms. There is no Discord or allowlisting, no 24.5 minute hype cycles, no 19 year old anon CT influencers pumping their bags, mostly just investor funds flowing from old rich VCs directly to Facebook and Google as ad spend to acquire customers.
Being a PM in crypto gaming means that I’m sitting at the intersection of game theory, psychology, sociology, brand marketing, product development, art creation, growth hacking, micro and macro economics (a class I only got a B+ in as a Freshman), tokenomics, community building, and and and. It’s beautifully fun chaos that challenges every part of my brain and forces me to expand my definition of what it means to be a PM on a daily basis.
Talking to Customers is Fun
Before we can actually launch the game, we need to manage a glorified AIM chatroom whose only update is the addition of GIFs and darkmode.
As a PM, having such a direct line to the customer is a full-on superpower if used correctly.
The piece that I love most is that I can conduct meaningful diligence and customer research in a more playful and informal setting because the gaming / crypto culture allows for it: goodbye surveys, hello memes-based forms of communication! Understanding your customer deeply is the most important part of being a PM and it’s never been easier thanks to Discord.
It’s Global and 24/7
I am interacting with people all around the world which means the days stretch in both directions as you make scheduled accommodations to chat with people in faraway lands. There is no such thing as the dreaded country launch because from Day0 everyone with an internet connection can interact with your product and potentially be a customer. For this very reason, we built the entire site in such a way that we can translate to a new language as soon as we have the translation files ready which means that we have international accessibility.
In just the last week, I’ve met with people from India, Singapore, Bolivia, Romania, Lithuania, Brazil, Uganda, Germany, UK, Latvia, Puerto Rico (does this count??), Bosnia, Serbia, France, Japan, Greece, and even New Jersey! It’s exhilarating to be doing business in such a global fashion this early on and being able to work with people from all different cultures and backgrounds.
The sheer number of communication platforms can be overwhelming at times. I’m receiving inbound communications on Telegram, Discord, Signal, Slack, Phone, iMessage, WhatsApp, and the occasional email. The lack of email is actually curious coming from a world where I’d receive dozens a day. Thankfully, I’m in the beta for Beeper which centralizes all those platforms into one unified screen but without it, I’d be totally screwed from all the platform switching. (Full Disclosure: Not a paid shill, just a fan.)
Doing bizness (capital B) with anon folks is something entirely new and are mostly uncharted waters for me as I’ve attempted to develop a deep level of trust with people whose real name or physical location I may never know. Especially with the prevalence of bad actors in the space, this requires a real leap of faith on behalf of both parties.
We had to sign a contract with an anon marketing firm and our buttoned-up white shoe law firm basically said “what’s the point of a contract? If they breach, who do you even sue?” I will say though, it is funny to sometimes address people in business context by their pseudonyms: “Great idea but have you figured out how this will impact ROI, Panda42069?” (Do I sound like a Boomer?)
So, Love or Hate?
I joined crypto gaming and in particular, a really small start-up because I wanted to challenge myself and apply all the skills and tactics I’ve acquired through the years. Throughout my career, I’ve always said that if I feel like I’ve hit a wall or am no longer learning, it’s time to move on. Using that framework, I’m not sure I’ll ever move on because the amount of things remaining to learn and master is incalculable. Goodbye AB testing button colors and subject line headers and hello doing real product work again where every day is a new day.
I can’t wait to launch Pirate Nation to the world and get real time actionable feedback from the community.
Join our Discord and let us know what you want to see us #buidl!
Dread Pirate Fern
— — —