Game veteran Greg Canessa has joined Web3 gaming firm Sequence as president and COO.
Canessa has had a long career as an executing in gaming spanning 25 years, including a stint as the first general manager and creator of Xbox Live Arcade. (I first interviewed him as he was getting Xbox Live Arcade off the ground). His appointment at Sequence shows that he believes Sequence will be one of the platforms that thrives in Web3 gaming.
Sequence, formally known as Horizon Blockchain Games, got its start in 2017 and spent a lot of its time building out a full tech stack for blockchain gaming. It built the game Skyweaver and serve as a strong title for TCG players.
Before joining Sequence, Canessa held the position of Google’s global director of strategy & business operations for games from 2017 to 2023.
During his tenure, he spearheaded critical strategic, operational, and marketing functions for Google’s triple-A cloud gaming ventures. Before that, Canessa achieved acclaim as the GM and creator of Xbox Live Arcade (XBLA) at Microsoft from 2000 to 2007. Under his leadership, XBLA introduced the world’s first console digital distribution business, delivering 75-plus indie and retro titles.
“This reminds me of the days of XBLA in some ways because it’s this little engine that could could idea flying under people’s radar in a disruptive way,” Canessa said in an interview with GamesBeat. “It has the innovation and the potential to lower access barriers, improve distribution and create more shots on goal.”
He was also project director of Battle.net at Blizzard Entertainment; vice president of mobile at Activision Blizzard; vice president of video game platforms at PopCap Games (acquired by Electronic Arts), and senior vice president of studios and & GM at GSN Games (a division of Sony). His contributions extend to the development and publishing of titles from key franchises like Call of Duty, StarCraft, Diablo, Hexic, Plants vs. Zombies, Peggle, UNO, and more, alongside core triple-A game services.
“Time and time again, I’ve seen what a platform can do by simplifying the developer experience, unlocking awesome player experiences, and creating new business opportunities for developers. Sequence represents the platform solution for web3, web2.5, and blockchain-enabled gaming,” said Canessa. “Sequence is a complete end-to-end platform, purpose-built for gaming, that removes the complexity around blockchain, and lets game developers achieve their business goals by building the innovative play experiences that will transform our industry.”
Canessa met Sequence CEO Peter Kieltyka at an industry event in Manhattan last year. They talked for a while and stayed in touch.
“I love the internet. I’m very passionate about the internet. I love the building blocks and evolution of the internet. And I have a passion for Web3,” Kieltyka said. He made a lot of contributions to open source tech as well. But he never worked in the game industry.
“I’ve been a gamer my whole life. But I’ve never really formally worked in the industry. And in some ways, that’s a good thing. In some ways, that means I have blind spots. Anybody can recognize that. And we’ve been talking for the last year and a half or so about gettting an incredible COO to join the company,” Kietyka said. “We’ve been doing a search for a long time. We went through a lot of amazing candidates, but we were looking for the right person. And then we got a chance to meet Greg and honestly, instantly, we saw his ideas and his passion for what we were doing.”
Yet Canessa was initially skeptical and it took a while to convince him to join. Canessa said he was impressed with the organization and the tech stack and the talent. Canessa said he was interested in Web3 and blockchain as technologies and what they represented in democratizing data ownership and improving security.
“I think it’s absolutely 100% here to stay in our society and in our world. The challenge for me, just to be blunt, is the application in gaming,” Canessa said. “The last year has been unbelievable in gaming content quality. But at the same time, the industry is facing so many challenges, right, and we’re just we’re seeing it every day, issues of distribution, issues of privacy of ownership, of access, of distribution. Game companies are laying people off, going out of business, pulling games, and communities are having games ripped away from them. These problems are things that bother me. I open my morning reading and I see more bad news. And it sucks.”
As a passionate hardcore gamer, Canessa said he appreciates a disruptive platform and innovative tech that can push the industry forward and help solve those problems and lower barriers for gaming and game developers. That’s what he tried to do with Xbox Live Arcade.
“Creating new business models for monetization to help retain industry jobs — these are all things that excite me. And this is where I see the potential of Web3. The industry is still in its infancy. It hasn’t found a killer app. It’s still very early. I see the trend lines over the years,” Canessa said.
On the negative side, there is a lack of focus on fun games and bad actors who come in to disrupt the market in a bad way. Disillusionment sets in and developers rush out of the industry. But Canessa believes we are in a new part of the cycle for Web3 where developers return in a more organic and healthy way.
“This is where I’m excited about Sequence. This is the only game platform that is a full stack platform that is purpose built for gaming. There’s nothing like this,” Canessa said. “It is purpose built to lower access barriers, remove all the bullshit of complexity for the developer and enable the developer to build focus on fun games.”
Canessa believes that with tons of shots on goal, the blockchain game companies will find the killer app. This was how multiplayer games as a service took off, he said. He knows that blockchain games need the hits to reach scale.
“The ultimate opportunities unlock when we can broaden access to a much, much bigger audience,” Canessa said. “This is where the traditional games industry could come in. our vision for Sequence is to be the platform that facilitates all those things so you don’t have to worry about wallets and chains and all of this lingo. You put your focus on your game.”
Kieltyka said the goal was to make technology accessible through gaming and remove the technical obstacles to accelerate the creation of content by developers. This year is a test to prove that.
“We had good architectural vision and we focused on being comprehensive,” Kieltyka said.
Sequence’s strategic expansion
Canessa’s appointment aligns with Sequence’s strategic expansion plans across Web3 and gaming. The platform aims to utilize Canessa’s industry knowledge to empower Web3 game developers, enhance player experiences, and introduce blockchain features into traditional Web2 games on mobile, PC, and console.
Sequence, known for its all-in-one development platform, enables developers to seamlessly integrate Web3 into their games for onboarding, monetization, growth, and player retention. From collectibles and ownable rewards to fully on-chain experiences, Sequence’s modular stack addresses technical challenges, allowing developers to focus on creative execution.
The platform’s solutions cover seamless wallets, accounts, marketplaces, payments, nodes, and blockchain data for web, mobile, or PC titles built using Unity or Unreal Engine.
In November, Sequence launched Sequence Builder, the industry’s first all-in-one no-code game development platform for Web3, triggering 1,000% developer growth in December. The platform has gained trust within the Web3, Web2.5, and blockchain-enabled gaming ecosystem.
It was also voted the Game Changers 2024 “Best Blockchain and Web3 Technology” accolade by Lightspeed and GamesBeat. In fact, Canessa was considering joining Sequence at the time and the Game Changers award helped convince him to take the leap.
Sequence is developed by Horizon Blockchain Games, creators of the award-winning web3 trading card game Skyweaver, backed by leading investors including Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc., Ubisoft, Xsolla, Bitkraft, Brevan Howard, Coinbase, Polygon, and others. Sequence has 75 people in 17 countries now. The company isn’t raising a new ruond of funding now.
Winning over gamers
As for the notion that Western players hate Web3, Canessa said, “The player perception right now is negative. It’s going to take time to change. I think that the lack of innovation in terms of application of this technology in novel and interesting ways to make fun games is part of the reason why the player perception is negative. We saw people latch onto NFTs, but without interesting utility the people are just speculating, which brings in some degenerate behavior like it’s all about trading. What I’m saying is the power of the platform — removing the access barriers, bringing people in to do more experimentation and risk taking — is going to result in some of that gameplay innovation that will shift player perspective to the positive.”
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