Sydney-based brothers James and Robbie Ferguson have launched one of the first eSports games on the Ethereum blockchain, which they hope will transform digital asset ownership in the video-gaming world.
Gods Unchained is the second game on the blockchain created by the young brothers, who previously launched Etherbots and have also formed the company Fuel Games.
Robbie, 21, told The Australian Financial Review tying the game to the blockchain would give players true ownership over their in-game purchases, which would then allow them to be traded and hold real-world value.
“Gamers are already used to the idea of non-tangible assets having value … People are staking their livelihoods on these digital assets and third-party content on games,” he said.
“But they have no guarantee about any continued value or consistency in the game items, except for a licence agreement.”
Gods Unchained is free to play and will have a set of assets that are free to win in the game. However, it will also sell some assets to be used in the game, which will be given added value by limiting the number available.
Different freemium approach
This is different to the way most video games and apps work at the moment, where the value of your digital assets can change when the developer decides to release more of the assets or offer special deals.
In Gods Unchained, which goes live on Monday night, the intention is that users will also be able to exit the game at any point and either make-back or get a return on their investment by selling their in-game purchases.
The pair have attracted $2.7 million in funding for their venture, with Continue Capital and Nirvana Capital leading the seed round, which also had participation from Sora Ventures, Spartan Group and Coinbase.
The Millennials, who are both developers, first became interested in blockchain around 2014, but Fuel Games did not start to take shape until James attended a start-up accelerator in Santiago.
He also considered building a smart contract system for financial derivatives, but he wasn’t confident that legally it would not be viewed as a security.
Ethereum gaming origins
The brothers were also gamers growing up, and related to the frustrations of Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin, who discovered the “horrors” of centralised services while playing World of Warcraft.
The 24-year-old Russian-born tech whiz says on his “about.me” page that he was playing World of Warcraft during 2007-2010, “but one day Blizzard removed the damage component of my beloved warlock’s Siphon Life spell. I cried myself to sleep, and on that day I realised what horrors centralised services can bring.”
When building their first game, Etherbots, which was played entirely on the Ethereum blockchain, James and Robbie still worked full-time and pulled 120-hour weeks to bring their creation to life.
“There was a large crossover between the crypto and gaming demographics,” James said.
“At high points, we had over 5 per cent of all transactions on Ethereum coming from Etherbot usage and had over 1000 people playing the game. It was a proof of concept for us and we knew the next game we’d build up scalability tools and an entire platform to run the games, called Apollo, and we’re using the blockchain for asset protection.”
The entrepreneurs have already attracted the attention of other blockchains, such as Dfinity, which is also interested in being used for Gods Unchained asset protection and trading, and the company claims to have been approached by a major games publisher interested in using its Apollo platform.
There is major money to be made through in-game or in-app purchases, with the hugely successful free game Fortnite generating about $US269 million in revenue in April, according to digital game sales tracker SuperData Research, thanks largely to the sale of cosmetic “skins” for characters.
Continue Capital’s Allen Hsu said gaming often became the first “killer applications” on new technology platforms.
“We believe advancements made by Fuel Games will have a widespread impact, and we also feel there is a possibility that they will produce killer applications within the blockchain industry,” he said.
“The quality [eSports] teams focusing on gameplay are thinking heavily about creating long-term utility value for virtual assets, which are quite crucial at the moment within this space.”
The brothers are now focused on improving their Apollo platform and fine-tuning the game so that it’s attractive for all gamers in all countries, not just those also into the crypto space who can speak English.
“We see gaming as arguably the best-use case to open the gates for mass-market adoption of blockchain technology, and Fuel Games appears to be leading that charge,” Nirvana Capital founding partner Alfred Jian said.