Home Blockchain Pixels CEO Luke Barwikowski on The Current State of Web3 Gaming, Growing to 500K Daily Active Users, and Building on Ronin Blockchain

Pixels CEO Luke Barwikowski on The Current State of Web3 Gaming, Growing to 500K Daily Active Users, and Building on Ronin Blockchain

Pixels CEO Luke Barwikowski on The Current State of Web3 Gaming, Growing to 500K Daily Active Users, and Building on Ronin Blockchain

Sead Fadilpašić

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| 8 min read

Luke Barwikowski, the founder and CEO of Ronin-based social Web3 game Pixels

In an exclusive interview with Cryptonews, Luke Barwikowski, the founder and CEO of Ronin-based social Web3 game Pixels, discussed his early start in the coding space and his move into Web3 gaming.

He talked about Pixels’ development and successes, what it takes to launch a Web3 game, and why projects should wait before launching a token.

The founder also touched upon Pixels move from Polygon to Ronin, as well as their work with Binance.

In this interview, Barwikowski discussed:

  • current state of Web3 gaming and its future;
  • how Pixels differs from other Web3 games;
  • Ronin migration – move from Polygon to Ronin;
  • achieving 500,000 daily active users and 4.5 million in token revenue in the last 30 days;
  • Pixels building the biggest Web3 casual games company — aiming for a similar impact to Zynga’s influence on Web2 gaming.

You can read what Luke and Matt talked about below, or you can watch the full podcast episode above.

Game Maker, K’NEX Winner, and Bitcoin Miner

Barwikowski started young. At just 11 or 12, he began using a program called GameMaker and its scripting language. He made mini-games for his friends.

He taught himself scripting languages, thinking about how it allows him to build “without any limits.”

Interestingly, more than a decade ago, he won a nationwide contest for building with the construction toy system K’NEX, and:

“I thought coding was really cool because I basically got unlimited K’NEX. I can just build whatever I want.”

From then, Barwikowski moved into Web development and other areas.

At one point, he even mined Bitcoin (BTC). At the time, one could still use a home computer. Barwikowski could “just leave my parents’ computer on and make money.”

However, he was wiping his hard drives all the time, as he was in his hacking phase, “so I lost all that Bitcoin, but it’s fine.”

After he moved from coding to entrepreneurship, he sold his first app at just 18.

Creating Pixels

Pixels, founded by Barwikowski, is a social casual Web3 game powered by the Ronin Network.

Unlike many games, even similar ones, Pixels has seen significant traction. It has surpassed a whopping 700,000 daily active addresses and 500,000 daily active users.

Before working on Pixels, Barwikowski was working on a different product. It was an “8-bit pixel art product” where people could host mixers, holiday parties, and other events.

At that time, there were just three people on the team, briefly competing with a product called Gather Town: “a combination of Zoom and an online game where you walk around and if you get close to people, it opens up video chats. It was spatial video,” he said.

This is the technology he started selling quickly to large companies, including Apple, Uber, Rippling, and Twitter.

However, while still working on that first app, its creator realized that it “wasn’t the best business.” The best use-case scenario for these virtual spaces is people gathering about once a week for an hour. And larger companies used it once a quarter with no other need for it.

In 2021, however, Barwikowski noticed the massive popularity of Axie Infinity.

Furthermore, as he studied economics, “the idea of building an economy ground up inside of the context of cryptocurrency made total sense to me.”

And having a piece of tech in their hands they did not know what to do with, they started forming ideas of an avenue to move into.

“We kind of turned that tech into Pixels,” Barwikowski said.

Bottoms-up Growth Approach

Barwikowski noted that Pixels may look simpler than it is. But there’s “a lot of depth” to it, he said.

It’s 40% games and 60% everything else, said the founder, “and I think a lot of people in the space underestimate how much of the rest you need to build in addition to a game to make a successful Web3 game.”

Therefore, the team is very focused on what Barwikowski calls the Growth Engine, in line with their long-term plans and Pixels’ roadmap.

Much of what they do is centered around the incentive design and “basically a new form of user acquisition.”

Per the founder, Web3, if used properly, is an extremely powerful tool. It unlocks new types of ways for games to grow that don’t exist inside of Web2.

“And what we’ve been experimenting with is basically what we call a bottoms-up growth approach,” he said.

In Web2, games grow from performance marketing. They target a specific audience, spend money per user, and “then it just becomes a game of math for them.”

They’ll decide if this game is successful or not right there. If it is, they’ll pour millions into advertising. And they need to raise millions to do that.

In Web3, the team takes the complete opposite approach to the growth strategy, Barwikowski said. They aim to create the best incentive structures to “help our users help us grow.”

That way, very little money is spent on user acquisition, for example, a few thousand dollars for giveaways.

“But we haven’t done any paid advertising, no performance marketing, anything like that,” Luke Barwikowski said.

And this is how they can grow games in a new way that makes their growth strategies hyper-competitive against Web2 games.

Furthermore, they can take this growth engine built for Pixels and eventually apply it to other games in the ecosystem.

Major Moves: Ronin and Binance

Pixels was established in April 2020 on Polygon. However, the team announced its migration to Ronin in September 2023.

The Pixels team has a lot of respect for the Polygon team and the tech they built, Barwikowski said.

But the hardest part of Web3 is user acquisition and distribution, he added. It’s difficult and costly.

Ronin “had a level of distribution that doesn’t exist anywhere else inside of Web3 right now.” They’ve already done the hard work of onboarding millions of users onto their chain through Axie Infinity. “That is extremely valuable.”

Per Luke Barwikowski,

“I kind of viewed Ronin as almost like a new type of publisher in a way where they have access to a great dedicated user base.”

People loved Axie, and even though Axie’s DAU was slightly down, there were still many users in that ecosystem “that could be resurrected.”

This was “very true,” Barwikowski said, and many Pixels users now are from the Ronin ecosystem – the majority are (former) Axie Infinity players.

Therefore, the growth began with the core Axie Infinity user base that Ronin had built out.

Now, the game is getting very strong traction inside Southeast Asia and other markets.

One more benefit of moving to Ronin, he said, is knowledge.

There were many who tried giving the Pixel team advice about Web3 Gaming – but they themselves never launched a Web3 Game. They didn’t understand what actually comes with it.

The Ronin Sky Mavis team knows what they are talking about, said Barwikowski, so their knowledge, mentorship, and guidance have been invaluable.

Meanwhile, the team revealed that Binance rolled out the PIXELS token.

Binance “probably understands Web3 and tokenomics better than anybody” whom Barwikowski talked with over the last two to three years.

Their due diligence process is extensive, long, and intense, he added, but ultimately worthwhile for both parties.

Binance wanted to “make sure that we had something that was sustainable, of real value […] They have a lot of concern for the things they launch.”

Putting Tokens Before the Game is Easier, But….

There has been a trend in Web3: many teams launch tokens first, while the games come out years later.

The token may start strong but goes to cents because there’s no ecosystem.

Pixels took the opposite approach.

Barwikowski argued that teams launch tokens sooner than they should simply because it’s the easier thing to do.

“Actually having something that’s ready to use a token is quite difficult,” he stated. Launching a token is “a very large commitment” and shouldn’t be taken lightly.

It took Pixels much thought, preparation, and experimentation to get to this point.

Moreover, they had a soft currency as a Web3 currency, BERRY. This helped the team understand better how to manage a live Web3 currency before actually launching the Pixel token.

And yeah, we’re really glad that we got the lessons that we learned through this first go because otherwise, this second go maybe wouldn’t have been successful, right?

The founder advised that a project – be it a token, a game, or something else – should always keep asking itself why it exists, what it aims to accomplish, and what value it adds.

These may seem like simple questions, “but the answers and the things that you learn are not so clear at first,” Barwikowski said.

One needs to be in this space to understand and build an idea around how all these Web3 components should actually interact inside of a game.

Meanwhile, this is still a very experimental company, the founder said, and the community knows that. They’re all testing the game together.

Unlike many other projects, he said,

“We build in public, and we build with community.”

What doesn’t work in the first iteration is fixed for future use.

Per Luke Barwikowski, the team still has “probably one to two years of really fine-tuning what this looks like inside of this first game that we’re building out, Pixels, the game everybody’s playing and enjoying right now. The ambition is much more in the future.”

Additionally, the next chapter of gaming is going to be play-to-earn, and Barwikowski is “all in.” It’s possible to make it sustainable, he argued, and the company “that cracks that has a huge opportunity in front of them.”


About Luke Barwikowski

Luke Barwikowski is the founder and CEO of Pixels, the largest web3 game by DAU.

With over 2.5 million total players, Pixels is a social, casual Web3 game powered by the Ronin Network, focusing on farming, exploration, and creation in an open world.  As CEO, Barwikowski says, his mission is to build the biggest Web3 casual games company.

His background in software engineering started at 12, and he built and sold his first app at 18.

Luke Barwikowski holds a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and Economics from the University of Michigan.

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