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Ethereum Gaming NFT Marketplace Aqua Shuts Down Citing Slow Industry Growth

The gaming NFT marketplace Aqua is no more, CEO Sean Ryan announced on Linkedin Friday. The plan was first shared last month, but as of today, it’s official.

“At Aqua, we did some things well and some things not as well, but the Web3 gaming market isn’t scaling to a mass market size in a time frame that made sense,” Ryan wrote. “Therefore, it was time to call it a day and move on to other opportunities, especially for our awesome employees.”

“I’m still a firm believer in the idea that gamers will own their gaming assets, but it’s going to take a bit longer [than] we had all hoped,” the CEO added.

Ryan, who previously worked as a VP at Facebook, launched Aqua in 2022 and partnered with blockchain firms like Immutable and Polygon Labs. Now, after less than two years, the “player-focused” NFT gaming startup has closed its doors.

In a graphic attached to the post, Ryan also shared that the startup struggled to raise funds in a broader crypto gaming market with “slower-than-expected growth.”

“I’m a strong believer in the category, but sometimes one is just too early,” Ryan told Decrypt‘s GG when reached on Friday.

Aqua aimed to offer a gaming NFT marketplace as well as more white-glove, embedded marketplace solutions for game developers. The marketplace supported NFTs on Ethereum, as well as scaling networks Polygon and Immutable X.

Earlier this year, Ryan told Decrypt in an interview that Aqua was designed for true gamers—not “degen” crypto traders looking to make money by flipping gaming NFTs for profit.

And from his conversations with over 50 different blockchain game developers, Ryan found that devs overwhelmingly wanted a seamless game marketplace that doesn’t pull gamers out to a third-party website. 

Such has been said again recently by Aqua’s competitors at Sequence, which just launched its own tool for devs to make their own in-game marketplaces.

For better or worse, there’s now tons of competition in the gaming NFT marketplace space. Gaming key retailer G2A recently took its leap into NFT sales, OpenSea has revamped its gaming offerings and content (but has laid off staff), and Magic Eden has also emphasized gaming as a core focus going forward.

But Aqua isn’t the only gaming NFT platform that’s pulled back this year. In August, GameStop announced it was killing its NFT wallet, citing “regulatory uncertainty.”

Edited by Andrew Hayward

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