Here's an interview that I did not long ago with Maxim Blagov from Enjin Coin. It was originally intended for my job but we didn't end up deciding to run it. So why not publish it myself?
Enjin Coin has built a new ad-free multi-blockchain explorer called EnjinX. I had a chance to speak to Maxim Blagov, founder and CEO of Enjin Coin. He spoke about the motivations for building an ad-free block explorer and Enjin Coin.
The Blockchainization of Gaming & All Things
Ask anyone in the blockchain space what industry will next be revolutionized by the blockchain. The most common answer is gaming. NEO founder Da Hafeng famously gave an interview where he characterized gaming as a way to continue developing blockchain technology in the face of extreme regulation.
Gaming has been one of the most successful decentralized application markets in the blockchain.
In the end, we’re creating a platform for all games. I think that’s what’s going to make a difference. It’s like Eth in a sense. Eth is like the electrical power plant and we’re the computer, you could say.
Massively multiplayer games have existed for have existed for a couple decades. The first one to integrate a real marketplace for items was Unreal Tournament. Today it allows for the official sale of skinned items, but the the black market for such items has existed far longer.
Likewise, games like World of Warcraft and Minecraft by nature have a third-rail economy. Players offload excess items and acquire rare ones. The original Enjin platform, which precedes Enjin Coin and EnjinX, has a majority of WoW and Minecraft communities (guilds). Players use Enjin communities for trading in addition to other purposes. Enjin Coin developed out of this organic system.
Enjin Launches Enjin Coin
A 41-year old Russian-born Australian living in Singapore, Blagov told me the first established Enjin back in 2008. Brock Pierce’s Digital Entertainment Network was an early attempt at what Enjin Coin now does through the blockchain. He says that when Ethereum came along, the idea finally clicked into place.
The company was founded in 2008 in Australia. Enjin is a content management system for gaming communities but with a social layer.
We were thinking, how do we get game items on the blockchain? And Ethereum allowed us to do that. Because, to me, Bitcoin is like a virtual currency like WoW gold, so the moment that clicked in my head, I realized that all things should be on the blockchain. They should have real value.
A $100+ Billion Market Opportunity
The gaming industry has grown in scale more than $10 billion per year every year since 2012, according to Statista.
Those outside the gaming community may not understand the amount of money that people can pour into games. With games that don’t allow for some form of trading, this amounts to a one-way street. You can put money in, but you can never get money out.
Players sometimes lose interest and move on to other games. Thousands of dollars can be invested at that point. Enjin Coin addresses the problem of how these investments can be recouped.
The blockchainization of the gaming industry won’t to be reversible. Strong alternatives with solid, built-in markets will attract users over time.
The model of transferable digital items will likely expand to other digitized content. You should be able to sell MP3s and e-books you no longer listen to. These industries won’t be happy to hear as much. The blockchain provides limitless potential for ecosystems that can make everyone happy. Blagov agrees, saying:
That’s why we kind of designed Enjin not just for gaming. This is the reason we built EnjinX and the Enjin Wallet. 90% of those have nothing to do with gaming. It’s just the blockchain industry. It’s just everything is so similar and synergized together. That’s why we built these wide-ranging products that work for both non-gaming and gaming.
The Enjin Coin Solution
ICO-funded back at the end of crypto boom of 2017, Enjin Coin raised $23 million. The idea is simple enough: create a fast platform that easily enables game developers to integrate economic models into their games.
Every item on the Enjin Coin platform has a value in ENJ. Various factors determine the real-world ENJ price of a nonfungible (unique) item. Extremely rare items are worth more even if they were not expensive to acquire. ENJ is locked up when an item is created.
ENJ trades against Ethereum and other crypotcurrencies across 32 trading pairs. Notable exchanges like Binance, OKEx, and HitBTC list ENJ against BTC and USD. At time of writing it sported a market capitalization of over $25 million. The price had spiked to over 5 cents during recent trading.
A unique aspect of ENJ-enabled games is the ability of developers to share items across games. A user can buy a hero or an item with the intention of using it in one game and find that they also have access to it in another game. This can happen at the time of purchase or later on.
Enjin Coin has over 25 games utilizing its platform. The majority of them are not 2D scrolling games or otherwise low-quality. Blagov says:
50% of the games we have were already developed and they saw Enjin and they were like, ‘Oh, we should use the Enjin platform and keep developing our games.’
Lack of Human-Centric Block Explorers
“We’re a usability type of company. We really focus on the user experience,” Blagov says. He told me that, in his view, the majority of blockchain explorers are not very human-friendly. This isn’t the only reason to build EnjinX, however. Since its initial launch and surge, Ethereum has seen the release of several more token standards.
I looked around the market and I never saw a proper explorer. Etherscan is the one being used the most, and Blockchain.com, but there was never a proper explorer that just had everything that people use. Like if I had a Bitcoin hash or a Litecoin hash or an Ethereum hash, I don’t want to go to different sites.
I want to go to one place, paste the hash in, boom, get what I need. I want the same UI, I want the same feeling, so I get familiar. And just because it’s a different chain, I shouldn’t have to change sites, or go to a different UX. EnjinX aims to be a truly universal, ad-free experience with great usability and speed. We plan to add Bitcoin, Litecoin, Dogecoin,
EnjinX will support as many as seem plausible. Token standards that are very important to Enjin Coin are ERC-721 and ERC-1155, which enable nonfungible (unique) and fungible assets in more advanced ways than standard ERC-20. The Enjin Wallet was one of the first to support ERC-1155. It’s crucial to their model. Blagov tells us:
It’s going to be really cool, because this is the first time you’re going to be actually visualizing gaming assets on the blockchain. Visually and really cool data, everything about it.
All 29 games on Enjin Coin use ERC-1155, but it hasn’t even been officiated by Ethereum’s core developers yet. In short, due to the nature of the platform, they’re ahead of the rest of the Ethereum world in terms of adoption.
For users who will require 1155 support, they’ll be among the most popular wallet choices. Blagov says that 1155 is “far superior to 721 in many ways.” 1155 is a cheaper way to send many items, and has support for fungible and non-fungible tokens. In short, less Ether is required to use it and it’s more flexible.
Crucially, later in the interview, Blagov says that the company will eventually make it easier for players to trade using EnjinX and within Enjin Wallet itself. He says the wallet will soon have a token exchange within the wallet. Essentially, a player could find assets on the blockchain, determine who owns them, make an offer, and conduct the trade from within the whole Enjin ecosystem.
It’s not difficult to imagine the markets that would sprout from such features. ENJ is necessary to make swaps on the Enjin Coin platform. As such, demand for ENJ organically grows with gaming ecosystems.
Blagov explains that EnjinX is necessary from a developer’s perspective because there is a lack of fully-featured explorers.
Blagov says that EnjinX gets the brand awareness of the block explorer itself out of the way. He rightly stated that they’re probably the only block explorer which doesn’t have its branding at the head of the page. The focus is on usability and user-experience.
To me, that actually lowers usability. I’d rather not even have my own branding on the interface. To boost adoption and usage.
EnjinX will eventually support “every blockchain with real demand and use.” Blagov says that there is real time involved in fully supporting blockchains, so they don’t have any interest in supporting coins where the primary transactions are the block reward or where there are no real markets.
The Ad-Free Model
Maxim Blagov has a philosophical and personal dislike of advertising.
We really try to get down to the bare metal, to get the data into that interface, so the user can always have the freshest possible data and the best way to see it. And this is why ads are horrible to us. Just a single ad anywhere makes me need to design a different kind of UI. When we don’t have ads as a requirement, a whole different UI is possible.
In the case of EnjinX, the question arises: how will you pay for all this? As it turns out, it’s not a charity effort.
The funding is perfectly reasonable. It’s for devs. We’re going to sell a chain API for developers. Right now the key alternative is Infura, and they’re specialized in Ethereum. Crypto Kitties, other wallets, any kind of software that’s going to use Ethereum needs an API. You can’t really connect directly to the nodes. You need something in between. So we’ll be offering a developer API that connects to all the chains that we support. That’s going to be the main model and revenue for EnjinX.
EnjinX aims to provide a highly available streaming API of all the blockchains it supports. Game developers within Enjin Coin and other blockchain developers have a need for reliable data.
EnjinX's value proposition is that it intends its API to be as simple as possible and user-responsive. It will be funded with a subscription model for developers. Meanwhile, the public gets access to an ad-free Etherscan alternative. Blagov says he noticed that Etherscan have been updating their user-interface in response to the competition from EnjinX. He says:
They already put something on Twitter and I noticed they’re integrating some of our ideas into their interface. It’s cute.
I did find a recent Tweet from Etherscan to this effect.
On the same note, he says that Etherscan gets their blocks about 10 seconds slower than Enjin, which is important for developers trying to build fast software.
Chart from TradingView.