Inside Cross the Ages: A Conversation with CEO Sami Chlagou

Pri / Malazdot

Cross the Ages is one of the most exciting web3 gaming projects in the space, a card game boasting download numbers and other metrics that would be the envy of the traditional AAA space as well. With a unique gameplay system coupled with a sprawling original intellectual property behind a rapidly expanding world, it is a notable project and one to watch. We had the opportunity to chat with Sami Chlagou, the CEO and co-founder of the company behind the game to discuss his plans and vision of the game, the web3 space as a whole and what is to come in the future.

::The conversation has been lightly edited for clarity::

Could you give a quick introduction of yourself?

My name is Sami, I’m the CEO and co-founder of Cross the Ages. I come from the gaming industry and the audiovisual sector. After eight years in movie production, I spent ten years producing video games. Our company owns seven studios across the world, and we released more than sixty video games across the new console generations, and we own more than 100 IPs.

What is Cross the Ages?

My co-founder and I started having conversations around the end of 2020 with the idea of creating something sustainable on the blockchain. First, we created the lore, the storyline, based on a book with seven writers behind it. The first volume was translated into six different languages. It served as the foundation, to create the community and the emotional background behind the world, on which we would then build multiple games, movies, and a whole ecosystem.

With more games and movies, merch and more coming, Cross the Ages is more than just a game. The collectible card game is just the first of many. Usually, when you start a project in the gaming space, the game comes first, and the story is created behind it, and nothing good comes out of that. However, with something like Harry Potter or Game of Thrones, when you start with the super strong storyline and its massive success, you can count on a large existing community for your game.

We had the exact same concept, bringing Arnaud Dollen and Alain Damasio on board at the earliest of stages alongside other celebrated sci-fi writers and storytellers, with a 10-year project to create a long-term, relevant starting point, a huge story. We didn’t want to just create something using blockchain technology and be done with it. It’s very interesting to see how it all develops, step by step.

What was your original inspiration behind Cross the Ages, gameplay-wise? How did it all get started?

I’m a huge geek. I have collected Magic and Pokémon cards since I was nine years old. You might remember how the Pokémon cards’ prices skyrocketed in 2020, and I sold six of my boxes to fund Cross the Ages. First, we had just a few people, then we expanded to a team of ten in November 2021, and by the end of 2022, we had around 70 people. Now, we’re up to around 120 in total. We contacted internationally renowned artists after the book was done, people working on IPs like Star Wars, Marvel, Harry Potter, League of Legends, and they all came on board to create a whole new universe.

Why do you see the TCG genre as a good fit for web3 gaming? Did you have the idea to include the tech from the very beginning?

Yes, from day one. I have a web2 background, so I worked on many systems where the players don’t own their assets, and the experience I created could stop at any moment. When I turned 35, I decided that I would only create experiences where every asset is interoperable – in this case, the tokens earned in the TCG will play a part in the long-term vision, and they will be useful in the MOBA, in all of our games. I believe this technology solves all of my past concerns. The book, the trading, the collection, the opportunity – it is all there, with many things to enjoy.

In my mind, the TCG genre is the perfect model for the application of the blockchain. The NFTs offer tangible information about the card and the way they evolve. It’s a niche genre, but it’s one with super-loyal players. We have over seven thousand unique players every day and 35-40,000 monthly, which is incredible loyalty in a bear market.

There are a wide variety of card game titles looking to utilize the blockchain technology to its fullest. What would you say is CTA’s unique selling point?

I believe that a rising tide floats all boats, and we need our competitors to succeed as well to increase the overall user base. However, we did focus on making a very unique gameplay approach. With everything on the blockchain, we don’t do nerfs or errata where you can’t play with a card, as we want to protect the players’ investment.

So this is why we made a game that is like a mix of chess and go, using mechanics from other board games as well, with cards placed on a 4x4 grid from a 30-card deck. With a total power cap on your deck, plus various Trinity synergies at play, we have many levers to pull, and designing many cards in advance lets us make sure that we can regulate the game if something gets out of hand, plus there are specific web2 components that we are comfortable changing as needed, and we’re continuously rolling out new features.

Cross The Ages players are already getting a chance to participate in offline LAN competitions. Where do you see the game on the casual-to-hardcore spectrum, and what are your plans to support competitive play?

That is my favorite part. To start, we’re already offering cash prizes for the best-performing ladder players, and we are setting up larger and larger competitions, building up towards a World Series event. It is a completely different experience to play like this, the pressure, the intensity, the depth: it’s like a second community for us, worldwide competitors. With tangible winnings on the line and all the competitive potential, it is very different from other games where you can only get NFTs.

Since high-level competitive play was a key part of the design from the very start, it is very easy for us to push it. We’re organizing high-stakes physical tournaments, and we see them as a great way to onboard people by making them a great event to follow and participate in, even if you are not a professional player.

Onboarding web2 players into web3 environments continues to be an important design consideration. How does this impact your approach in designing CTA’s client and gameplay?

I think this is the most complicated thing, to be honest. We’re talking of very different communities. We have 30-40 million people with wallets, engaging with web3, and a multi-billion web2 audience. We have to take it step by step. We made sure to go with “play and earn” instead of “play to earn” because it’s not meant to be a job, it’s meant to be something you enjoy.

We create a lot of social media content, and we try to keep onboarding as simple as possible. There are many ways to get involved, you can read a chapter of the book or become part of the community before even playing the game. In my opinion, the key to our success is that players don’t need to directly engage with the web3 elements, they all form an invisible layer inside the game. It doesn’t have to be web2 or web3 – it has to be good.