‘In 10 years, we’ll all be on Web3’: Animoca Brands’ Yat Siu shares insights during Metaverse Japan Summit 2022 Q&A

Animoca Brands co-founder and executive chairman Yat Siu speaks at Metaverse Japan Summit 2022 in Tokyo via a video call.

From the future of the metaverse to Japan’s creative industry, Yat Siu, co-founder and executive chairman of Hong Kong blockchain company Animoca Brands, shared his insights into some of the key issues relating to Web3 with audiences during a Q&A session at Metaverse Japan Summit 2022, held in Tokyo on July 14. Prior to the session, Siu also gave a speech at the event.

Q1: What are the first steps for people to go into the Web3 metaverse?

Siu: I think the most important first step to enter the Web3 metaverse is that you probably need to buy an NFT. That’s a way for you to enter the space and experience a little bit, which means you need to have a wallet. The example I often give to people is that it’s hard to theorise from the outside what the metaverse is like.

You have to be in it. So it’s a little bit like when people want to do business in Tokyo or in China. From the outside, they can have ideas. But actually, if you really want to do business there, you have to go and enter it, you have to visit it, you have to actually invest in it.

Just a little bit of money, not a lot to learn about it in the same way that we visit a country to learn about it. So I would say that’s exactly the same thing. The difference about Web3 in the metaverse is that you can learn about it without actually going there physically. You can go there virtually anyway.

You can open a wallet. You can engage with it. You can buy NFTs, you can join the communities and learn how they engage with this. One of the popular examples of this for many businesses has been The Sandbox. The reason why The Sandbox has been so helpful is because they’ve got many ways in which you can enter it.

You can participate in the events as well. And it helps you basically with a way of understanding aspects of the metaverse. But I would say the most important thing is to experience it first and you don’t have to start with The Sandbox, but it is perhaps one of the easiest ways in which you can do that.

Q2:What Web3 means to Japan’s creative industry and entrepreneurs?

Siu: So the reasons why we’ve opened an office in Japan and why we’re so excited about this is that, Japan is a real hotbed and a powerful spot for culture. And one of the most powerful things in the world of NFTs is that it is, in fact, a store of culture.

So the places that have culture tend to be, I think, the ones that can benefit really well from this technology. I think Japan has a great opportunity there. Another aspect is that we really see aspects of Japanese culture already in the rest of the world, whether it’s anime, manga or food, for instance.

I think Japanese food is perhaps one of the earliest forms of exports of Japanese culture and of course, video gaming culture, too. Whether it’s Sony or Nintendo, these are all companies that have really created a global impact. So in a way, Japan has already led the way in many ways of creating cultural impact.

And for me, it is not even a question of ‘does it have potential?’ I think, for Japan, it is absolutely critical. Because any place that is in blockchain, anything that is a content piece, a traditional piece of content can become an asset that will then have the ability to be more valuable than it is right now.

And Japan is one of the greatest content producers in the world. So I think for them, for all Japanese companies in the space, I don’t really think it’s a choice. They have to enter it.

The Sandbox is a blockchain-based game under Animoca Brands where players can build and craft their own world.

Q3: How is Web3 changing the world?

Siu: So when you look at Web1, you could ask a question: how has Web1 changed the world? And I think everyone will say, incredibly right, that information access was distributed more fairly across the world and we had broadly more knowledge available to each other. That’s basically one of the big impacts and it made the world smaller. We got to learn about each other’s culture. We knew each other better.

We could connect more business in that sense. And I think this is the aspect of what we will see in Web3 as well, which is more than the power of what we saw in Web1. It will amplify itself in Web3 in terms of reach. 

The second aspect is about how Web3 will completely revolutionise things. We think it is the paradigm of data ownership. Because in the past, data was considered something a little bit ephemeral, not something that you could actually touch. And therefore, it was a strange concept. You could download all your data and the data was not very important.

It’s maybe your photos, it’s for your being, details about you. That data is interesting, maybe, but not very useful. But when you combine this data, as I said in my presentation into the mix of billions of other people, they [big tech companies] are able to start creating these powerful network effects and start selling us products and services that may even manipulate our thoughts in a way that we don’t realise.

So actually, data itself is really powerful. The issue is who controls this data? And so why we could consider this a kind of revolution is that it takes the ownership and rights of this data away from the central platform, which is like a data kingdom, into the hands of the end users. Now we’ve seen similar processes before, and that is when we moved from feudalism to democracy and capitalism.

Those places that had kings and queens in the past, they were the places that had control over everything. They decided your fate and they controlled everything. But what happened to the world when that power went away and to the hands of the people, who had a say in how government could be run, who had a say in how the world should be operated, on the basis of ability rather than, for instance, status.

So these are the things that have changed over time. And of course, the world has become much more innovative and people have much more freedoms, liberties and much economic prosperity as a result of that change. So if we believe, as we do, that this was a big revolution that happened hundreds of years ago in the physical property rights, we think that digital property rights will have the same effect in Web3.

And this is not going to be a small incremental change. We think the concept of digital ownership in Web3 is going to change the world in a really, really radical way, bigger than Web1 and Web2 combined, because it will create both an ability to have ownership of the data that is really very, very powerful and a way of redistributing the effects of that power to the people who have helped create it.

And so what we believe is it will usher in an era that we describe as universal basic equity, because we are the creators of the equity ourselves, because we make the data, we become the source of our own data and therefore of our own value. Now, not all of us will make the same value, of course, but we will all have the ability to essentially create value in a fair manner because we are really adding that to the network effect.

Q4:What will the web3 metaverse be like in the future?

Siu: Well, 10 years is a long time. But from our perspectives, Web3 is the natural evolution of the Internet. Every person is online today and the growing numbers will be on Web3. They will not be on a version that is Web1 or 2. And that comes from a very simple premise, which is:  if you could own your data, if you could own your time and attention online, why would you give it to someone else?

If you can own your assets in your game, why would you not want to own that, right? In relative terms, it’s like, would you rather rent your house or would you rather own your house, right? So from a paradigm standpoint, we think that everything will move into that space. And we think that the adoption rate will also accelerate very quickly.

So 10 years down the road, I think we will all be on Web3. We will be there. I think it can even be sooner than 10 years.


Siu: Everyone who uses the Internet today is actually a contributor to the network effect of the Web. And we need to own a piece of that. I think the other thing is that it is not just a better future for us, but also a better future for our children, because our children are going to be able to learn about financial systems at a fairly young age. We believe that that will help them become more financially savvy and aware, opening a bank account is not being financially aware, right?

Some people would say opening a bank account is access, but that doesn’t make you financially literate. Most of the world still does not understand how banking works. Most of the world doesn’t understand how to allocate risks or how to basically invest. And this is something that we think Web3 and blockchain will broadly change in the world because a lot of our time and attention is being farmed from us in terms of value because we don’t understand it.

And that is basically why we become essentially sort of resources as opposed to actually being end users in  this environment. For Japan, I think there is a great opportunity because you are one of the greatest creators of content in the world and you have a unique culture that you want to share with the world.

So I think blockchain, Web3 and the metaverse are an ideal scenario for that. Your movies and your content has a fascination with science fiction and storytelling of the future. You’re already thinking very much into the future. You’re really talking about robots earlier than most people have in the world. So technology and science fiction has been really something that is, I think, deeply embedded in Japanese sort of zeitgeist.

(Text edited by Kit Lai)