Among the Web3 community, that is to say, those who are building the next generation of the internet, there is a prevailing sense that things can be done better, smarter, and fairer than ever before. What are those “things?” Everything, basically, ranging from how data is shared to how video games are created to how you send money abroad. But there is also a growing consensus that Web3 is touching sports in ways that view thought possible. Again, this in a variety of different manners, from NBA‘s Top Shot NFTs to the investment of Web3 firm Chiliz in FC Barcelona.
But we are interested in parsing out whether Web3 can touch the most traditional of sports – horse racing. Some might say that it already has. For example, there are already several NFT horse racing games. The most prevalent is arguably Zed Run, a simulation game where you buy, breed and race virtual horses. But while Zed Run has proved to be popular, we wouldn’t say that it has disrupted the horse racing industry, nor is it likely to do so. The typical racing fan is way more interested in betting on the Melbourne Cup field than they are about any non-fungible racing action.
Zed Run and virtual racing
Indeed, games like Zed Run – and it is essentially a play-to-earn game – are only disruptors in the sense that you would call EA’s FIFA a disruptor of soccer. It’s not really there to replace the traditional racing industry, even if the founders had loftier ambitions. Yes, we might one day see a situation where another one of those Web3-linked concepts – the metaverse – has a role to play in horse racing. But for the moment, that seems out of reach.
But if we are to consider other ways that Web3 might change racing, we need to perhaps consider ideas that do not aim to replace one thing with another. Back in April, Game of Silks, a Web3 startup, received around $2 million in funding for its NFT horse racing project. The idea is simple – tokenize real-world horses on the blockchain, and allow the owners of the NFTs to earn rewards for the horses’ real-world performances. It’s not mainstream yet – far from it – but it is the sort of launchpad that could be, or at least act as a blueprint for similar concepts.
Projects can augment the industry
For our two cents, these ideas will be much more beneficial as they are complementary to – not in opposition to – the existing industry. There are wrinkles to iron out, of course, as Game of Silks faces the same challenge as any play-to-earn game: how to ensure the liquidity of the project when the value of the tokens declines (a big theme for 2022).
There are other ways that Web3 technologies and ideals could augment horse racing. For example, the use of the blockchain for betting exchanges. But it still comes back to using Web3 as a means to improve and sustain an existing industry. People don’t enjoy horse racing for reasons of winning money alone. They appreciate the breeding of an animal, the skill and bravery of the jockey, and, yes, the knowledge that depending on an animal means things could go off script.
As Web3 begins to become mainstream, we are likely to see many more projects like Game of Silks. They might take a while to catch on, but we can see it being normal for racing projects to utilize NFTs, blockchains, and crypto. But as for replacing the sport of kings with a virtual alternative, it looks like a non-starter.
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