We have presented extensively what blockchain does in gaming. Recently, the adoption reached new level: AMD, the giant producer of computer processors has entered into strategic partnership with Ultra, a major game distributor, to develop future ecosystem of game distribution. Digital Asset Live Editor-in-Chief talked to Nicolas Gilot, Ultra CEO.
Q1: Why is Ultra the disruption that gaming has been waiting for?
A1: You would have a hard time finding a game developer who’s happy with the current distribution landscape. The digitalization of games has been a big win for some game developers, as it drastically reduced the cost, logistics, and complexity associated with distribution. At the same time, it has created a situation where middlemen are taking a big piece of the pie. Game developers today pay as much as 30% in fees on platforms like Steam and the Apple App Store.
The barrier to entry for creating and distributing a game has been considerably lowered in the past decade, which is an excellent thing. But, just because you can create an interesting game and publish it, there is no guarantee that you will recoup your costs. The stark facts are that the majority of developers, especially indie developers, are struggling to make ends meet.
Today, one path to success is to spend a lot of money on marketing in the hopes of getting the word out about your game. Many developers lack the budgets for this and that means that those developers don’t truly have direct access to their user bases on platforms like Steam. Their games fall by the wayside.
All of that is worsened by the fact that platforms like Steam keep your sales profits locked in their platform for up to 60 days, preventing you from rapidly reinvesting your profits towards your marketing. Developers do not have control over how their content is shared and discovered in the platform, nor do they have adequate access to user data for developing a marketing strategy based on real statistics.
We believe that today’s game distribution platforms are not designed to create the essential link between a developer and their community. The reality is that Steam was designed for another age of the internet. The one before powerful social media platforms such as Twitter, Discord, YouTube and Twitch became the marketing powerhouses that they are today.
Ultra is looking to be the bridge that connects the old and the new.
Q2: How does blockchain make for a better gaming ecosystem for both gamers and developers?
A2: Ultra first offers a competitive fee of 15% (half the fee taken by Steam) and fast payouts, which fixes major pain points for developers. This already makes Ultra competitive.
But of course, our use of blockchain technologies also unlocks new possibilities for game developers to market their games.
First of all, we have the intention and opportunity to re-invent referrals. When they are backed by smart contracts, referrals are totally transparent and can be instantaneous, giving influencers quick access to the funds that they earn, which re-incentivizes them to work harder for developers and their games.
When a developer publishes their game software on Ultra they will have the choice to allow a “promoter” to take a percentage of their game sales.
One of the biggest advantages of our system are Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs), which are unique items that a player can own. Our token factory allows developers to create unique items, put them in their games, and leverage them as both monetization and advertisement events.
It will be written into our NFT game ownership smart contract that influencers will be incentivized to promote those games and items, and to redirect their followers on Ultra.
Our NFT system is an open framework that enables us to gather the interests of various parties into one gold standard. This allows interoperability, fair exchange, and market liquidity.
Ultra opens up a whole new field of possibilities, which includes a referral system for games and influencers. Ultra will be the interface for it, and all game developers will have the opportunity to promote their game through niche influencers.
Traditionally the developers would limit what you could do with items in-game. You mostly can’t resell, rent, or buy items in ways that the developer doesn’t explicitly intend.
Q3: What are the benefits of NFTs?
Blockchain technologies create new streams of revenue that were never possible in the past. It has so much potential that it would be hard to cover everything here, but let’s start with a simple example about NFTs and reselling.
A3: Ecosystems built on blockchain systems have the advantage of true ownership of the items, meaning that users can do with them as they want. There is a big upside for developers here too in that they do not have to roll out their own marketplace solution, nor do they have to manage it. Ultra does it all for them, better, safer, and fairer.
What we are describing here is a sea-change shift in how both developers and players use a platform to interact. True ownership means that what you own online, you really own.
Blockchain allows us to create a fair model where game devs will generate new revenues from that, and reimagine how they are monetizing their games. For example, a developer could create limited edition rare items that can be sold on the market, bringing not just more value into the system, but an element of excitement.
Q4: Can you talk a bit about the relationship between Ultra and AMD?
A4: AMD and Ultra have had an established relationship since the conception of our project in 2017. One of our advisors is Ritche Corpus Head of Gaming at AMD.
The promotion of Ultra to AMD’s networks of developers and and customer base has already begun. Most of these co-marketing activities are still secret, but one example we have given is the distribution of games redeemable only on Ultra in their GPU packaging. They recognize the expertise that Ultra brings to the table and they see the advantages of blockchain technology.
AMD is more invested in the blockchain sphere than people might think. They have a blockchain team which already does R&D and they are convinced something revolutionary is just around the corner. Their general idea is to support Ultra because they believe it has a chance to become a leader in this field.
Q5: What do you think the future of blockchain-based gaming is?
A5: Ultra would like to remind the reader that we are not only focused on blockchain-based games. We prefer to talk about enabling blockchain capabilities. Our platform is designed for all types of applications and this opens up wide-ranging possibilities.
Our vision is that even if specialized blockchain games will do well, it will remain a niche market in the near term.
Real adoption of blockchain will most likely come from big-name game developers who adopt this new technology and implement it in their game properties because of the added flavor and uniqueness that it offers to their players.
We are still a few years off of seeing the real potential that blockchain offers. We think it will revolutionize the industry. We at Ultra are excited to be part of the push for mass adoption, and to see the first integration of blockchain capabilities in mainstream games.