Saudi Arabia has ramped up its economic diversification efforts driven by its ambitious Vision 2030.
In a bid to diversify its economy away from a dependence on oil, the kingdom has embraced emerging technologies, such as blockchain and artificial intelligence (AI), and tapped into booming markets like gaming.
But while the country has yet to leave a significant mark in the global game and AI development, the ripples of its investments in the gaming sector could extend far beyond — at least, that’s what Web3 experts say.
“Based on our work and communications that we have, Saudi [Arabia] is very, very interested in Web3,” Animoca Brands co-founder Yat Siu told Cointelegraph.
“I think Saudi [Arabia] understands the principle that Web3 gaming or blockchain gaming — the one that we actually prove the owner assets — is going to be the future of gaming.”
Thanks to the interest of its young, tech-savvy population, Saudi Arabia, along with the United Arab Emirates, is driving the growth of the Middle East’s gaming market. According to a Boston Consulting Group report, the kingdom represents 45% of the sector in the region, with a value of more than $1.8 billion. It also boasts one of the largest game revenues in the area, according to game content studio Allcorrect.
In 2017, the kingdom established the Saudi Esports Federation to regulate and develop the country’s gaming industry.
Bloomberg reported in April that Saudi Arabia, through its Public Investment Fund, invested $38 billion in the sector as it looks to become a global gaming hub.
Although the Saudi government understands the “high-level concept” of Web3, its potential, and how it can align with esports — where teams can own stakes in games they play — Siu said it remains unclear what its integrations to gaming would be due to the absence of clear rules on cryptocurrency and other virtual assets:
“Cryptocurrency is something that is still to be explored. It’s being investigated. I think [Saudi Arabia is] quite forward about how to deal with it. But they haven’t come up with anything yet.”
“In places like Hong Kong, Japan and the UAE, there’s much more clarity as to what you can do with crypto and Web3. You can map out a strategy,” Siu added.
While it remains to be seen what Saudi Arabia’s Web3 gaming applications would look like, Siu noted that the kingdom is looking at other markets and learning.
“That’s why they’re talking to us. Because they want to know what the best practices are and how they can learn,” the executive explained. “There are very few places in the world that we’ve seen such a hunger and desire to sort of be at the cutting edge.”
“You can feel sort of the desire to have progress and to lead in Saudi Arabia. I think that’s kind of unique,” Siu added.
How gaming can spur Web3 adoption
While pushback from the traditional gaming community and developers persists, Siu claims a successful conversion of users into Web3, whether it’s in gaming or not, should come with financial literacy.
“You can’t really be a true Web3 user if you don’t have at least a certain level of financial literacy that goes above and beyond having a bank account,” Siu said.
The Animoca co-founder claimed that most Web2 users are not capital investors because they’re mostly labor people compared to Web3 people who understand investing.
“What we found is that the path to Web3 mass adoption isn’t giving [Web2 users] just a wallet. That’s actually the easiest part. The harder part is how to make them aware that what they now have is an asset that has potential value, and it could do things and has different network effects that need to be maintained as real value.”
Meanwhile, Mythical Games CEO John Linden told Cointelegraph that he already sees Web3 adoption in the gaming sector, albeit at a slower pace.
“I think we’re seeing some [adoption] already. We’re seeing people that they’re introducing the [Web3] concept. They do understand the concept of buying and selling assets,” Linden said.
The gaming industry veteran pointed out that Web3 should enhance user experience and not just give them the means to generate income:
“[Web3 gaming developers] have to focus on new game models. When you start doing that, it introduces creator economy, digital supply chain, ownership of guilds and the ability to come up with your own theory within the game itself.”
“Those are principles I think gamers will attach to,” Linden added.
The Mythical Games CEO projects that the Web3 gaming segment could onboard 50 to 100 million players in the next two years, with their own titles targeting 10 million by the end of 2023.
Coinbase holds 5% of all Bitcoin in existence: Data
Blockchain intelligence platform Arkham recently identified that crypto exchange Coinbase holds almost 1 million Bitcoin (BTC) in its wallets. The coins are worth more than $25 billion at current market prices for BTC.
According to Arkham, the exchange’s holdings amount to almost 5% of all existing Bitcoin. Arkham said that Coinbase holds a total of 947,755 BTC. At the moment, Bitcoin’s circulating supply is around 19,493,537, according to coin information website CoinGecko.
Arkham has now identified $25B of Coinbase Bitcoin reserves (~1M BTC) on chain.
This makes Coinbase the largest Bitcoin entity in the world on Arkham, with almost 5% of all BTC in existence – about as much as Satoshi Nakamoto. pic.twitter.com/7sDOczS7WT
— Arkham (@ArkhamIntel) September 22, 2023
Furthermore, Arkham also noted that it tagged and identified 36 million Bitcoin deposit and holding addresses used by the exchange. According to Arkham, Coinbase’s largest cold wallet holds around 10,000 BTC. Based on the exchange’s financial reports, the intelligence company believes that Coinbase has more Bitcoin that are not yet labeled and could not be identified.
While Coinbase holds over $25 billion in BTC in its wallets, the exchange only owns around 10,000 of all the Bitcoin it holds, which is worth roughly $200 million, according to recent data.
Meanwhile, community members expressed varying reactions to the news about the amount of Bitcoin the centralized exchange holds. Some believe it’s a sign to withdraw their BTC from exchanges, warning holders not to wait until exchanges start to halt withdrawals. Others say that since there are legitimate concerns over cold wallets, there’s no good way to store their assets.
When it comes to Bitcoin ownership by companies, business intelligence firm MicroStrategy still owns the most BTC. In earnings results posted on Aug. 1, the firm’s co-founder Michael Saylor declared that the company owns 152,800 BTC, worth over $4 billion at the time of writing.
Coinbase CEO warns against AI regulation, calls for decentralization
Brian Armstrong, the CEO of crypto exchange Coinbase, expressed his stance on artificial intelligence (AI) regulation in a recent post on the social media platform X (formerly Twitter).
On Sept. 23, Armstrong explained that he believes that AI should not be regulated. According to the Coinbase CEO, the AI space needs to develop as soon as possible because of reasons such as national security. In addition, Armstrong also noted that despite the best intentions of regulators, regulation “has unintended consequences,” arguing that it kills innovation and competition.
Count me as someone who believes AI should not be regulated
We need to make progress on it as fast as possible for many reasons (including national security). And the track record on regulation is that it has unintended consequences and kills competition/innovation, despite best…
— Brian Armstrong ️ (@brian_armstrong) September 22, 2023
The Coinbase executive cited the internet as an example. Armstrong believes there was a “golden age of innovation” on the internet and software because it was not regulated. The Coinbase CEO suggested the same should be applied to AI technology.
Furthermore, Armstrong also presented an alternative to regulation in terms of protecting the AI space. According to the executive, it would be better to “decentralize it and open source it to let the cat out of the bag.”
Meanwhile, various jurisdictions across the globe have either started to regulate AI or express concerns about its potential effects. On Aug. 15, China’s provisional guidelines for AI activity and management came into effect. The regulations were published on July 10 and were a joint effort between six of the country’s government agencies. This is the first set of AI rules implemented within the country amid the recent AI boom.
In the United Kingdom, the competition regulator studied AI in order to identify its potential impact on competition and consumers. On Sept. 18, the U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority concluded that while AI has the potential to change people’s work and lives, the changes may happen too fast and could have a significant impact on competition.
Bitcoin miners double down on efficiency and renewable energy at the World Digital Mining Summit
Bitmain rolled out its next-generation Antminer S21 and S21 Hydro ASIC miners at the World Digital Mining Summit (WDMS) in Hong Kong on Sept. 22, revealing the crucial performance stats the entire industry has been waiting for. The S21 has a hash rate of 200 terahashes per second (TH/s) and an efficiency of 17.5 joules per terahash (J/T), while the S21 hydro hashes at 335 TH/s and 16 J/T, which is notable given that until recently, most Bitcoin ASICS were operating above the 20 J/T level.
With electricity costs continuing to rise year-over-year and the Bitcoin halving projected to occur in April 2024, ASIC efficiency is quickly becoming the paramount focus of miners, and many are also pivoting toward folding in renewable energy sources as a core component of their operations.
Bitcoin miners focus on efficiency and renewable energy
Sustainable development in the mining industry was a core theme discussed in a majority of the panels at the WDMS. In the opening roundtable, team members from Terrawulf, Core Scientific, CleanSpark and Iris Energy shared their perspectives on how further integration of renewable energy sources will become a critical strategy to implement for many miners after the April 2024 Bitcoin supply halving.
According to Nazar Khan, Terrawulf’s chief operating officer:
“There’s a significant transition going on in the supply side of the generation process; there’s a concerted effort to decarbonize the entire supply stack, and so when we talk about Bitcoin miners consuming more renewable energy, that’s part of a broader theme that’s happening across the United States without Bitcoin mining as well. The role that we play is locating our Bitcoin mining loads in places where that’s happening and how do we facilitate that decarbonization process.“
One impact of the upcoming supply halving is that miners will maintain the same capital and operational costs, plus the need to pay down any revolving debts, while essentially seeing their block reward distribution cut in half.
For this reason, miners will either need to increase the percentage of their hash rate derived from sustainable energy sources or make efficiency adjustments to their ASIC fleet to maintain or increase their profitability.
Regarding the rollout of the Antminer XP 21 and its potential impact on the mining industry, BMC founder Justin Kramer said:
“The S21, if reliable, fairly priced and readily available — and yes, that’s a lot of ifs with Bitmain’s history — could revolutionize the crypto mining landscape with its efficiency. It is basically packing the power of two S19 100T miners into one unit. Despite this, the burgeoning aftermarket firmware market, coupled with hydro/immersion systems, give miners more tools to keep older generation miners, such as the S19, profitable also. Thus, while the S21 represents a notable advancement, it may not render sub 110 TH/s miners entirely obsolete.”
When asked about the more exciting aspects of the new S19 XP, Kramer noted that:
“I like that Bitmain is rewarding environmentally friendly mining farms with better pricing and advanced delivery with their new Carbon Neutral Certificate. But, I’ll add that, it was a little surprising when I noticed that both new S21 models offer 33% more hash rate (S21 200T versus 151T on S19j XP; S21 hydro is 335T versus the S19 XP Hydro at 257T). Is this a coincidence? I’m doubtful, and it likely signals more of the same systematic model releases from Bitmain where a slight tweak to the firmware and maybe a few other items that are adjusted results in a moderate increase in hash rate and a brand-new miner.”
Bitcoin is en route to becoming an ESG asset
A theme of the past few years has been an increase in Bitcoin miners and BTC advocates pushing back against the assertion that Bitcoin mining is bad for the environment, and that the industry’s reliance on carbon-based energy production accelerates emissions.
Countering this perspective, Hong Kong Sustaintech Foundation professor in accounting and finance, Haitian Lu, bluntly announced that:
“Bitcoin mining is promoting renewable energy adoption in many areas.”
Lu explained that “over the years, Bitcoin mining has become more efficient and is also using cleaner energy. History tells us that human development from an agricultural society to industrialization to the future of a digitalized economy goes with every increasing energy consumption per capita. What makes the difference is human’s ability to use renewable energy increases, thus achieving sustainable development.”
Like the perspectives shared by other panelists, Lu said that Bitcoin miners’ participation in demand response agreements with power producers and distributors leads to energy grid efficiency, and they “provide an economic incentive for the development of renewable energy “promotion and development of renewable energy projects.”
In addition to Bitcoin mining tapping into stranded energy, encouraging the development of renewable energy projects and helping to balance electric grids, the efficiency advancements of next-generation ASICs like the Antminer S21 reduce miners’ energy consumption while also allowing them to boost their profits.
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