BitGuild is a blockchain trading platform for gamers that aims to tokenize characters, items, and in-game assets. The players will own their in-game inventories, and will be able to trade them, transfer them between different games, and maintain their progress even if a favorite game gets shut down.
The company is led by Jared Psigoda, a veteran of the gaming and digital currency industries. Before founding BitGuild, Psigoda was CEO and co-founder of Reality Squared Games, a successful video game company with more than 80 million registered players. He took it public in Asia in 2016. He has since founded Livestar, a development studio focused on bringing live streaming and other social media apps to a global audience.
“We watched the gaming industry deteriorate over the years, as developers had to make more addicting and profitable games in order to survive,” said Psigoda. “A lot of times, this came at the cost of player experience and game lifespan. Games like Crypto Kitties are all pretty basic in nature, but they very clearly demonstrate their ability to solve problems that have plagued both gamers and game developers for years. The implications of having a true gaming network built on the blockchain are nearly limitless.”
Block Tribune talked to Psigoda about his plans for BitGuild.
BLOCK TRIBUNE: There are a number of companies that are doing what you’re doing. So what’s your differentiation?
JARED PSIGODA: I think the main one is our combined knowledge of crypto-gaming and virtual assets. So obviously my background is in running a couple of different gaming companies, starting with doing gold farming way back in the day and then getting into game publishing, game development. But I’ve also been a crypto-investor for quite a while. So I think a lot of the companies out there, they’re either gaming companies who are really trying to get an understanding of crypto, or they’re crypto-companies who really don’t have quite an understanding of gaming. So I’d say the first one.
Number two is the way we operate the whole business. So we’re not raising money or using an ICO as just another method of raising capital for our company. Basically the entire ecosystem revolves around our PLAT token. So we as a company are of the mindset to be non-profitable in a sense that everything should be about the token and… Yeah, I’d say those are the main two.
BLOCK TRIBUNE: Gaming has always sort of been on the outskirts of the cryptocurrency revolution, since it’s always been about trading and interacting with things. How will that adapt when you’re actually doing something that’s monetized with a cryptocurrency token?
JARED PSIGODA: I actually think it’s very similar and, you know, actually, to my knowledge, some of the top guys out there in cryptocurrency wer at the bottom of the barrel in the gaming industry. And by that I mean my background in World of Warcraft is gold farming. Even going back to 1999 or 2000 when we were trading items for Ultima Online or EverQuest or those first-generation really early MMOs. I mean, a lot of people that did the business that was in early on, including Brock Pierce, you know from IGE. We always found it pretty natural that a virtual item could be worth real money. So, I mean, we were selling virtual swords and armors and paladins online over ten, 15 years ago for hundreds or even thousands of dollars. I think, both in the terms of gaming entrepreneurs as well as gamers themselves, they’re actually very used to buying or selling or purchasing virtual items for real money. So I actually feel it’s the natural evolution.
BLOCK TRIBUNE: What does blockchain add to that?
JARED PSIGODA: Blockchain adds a couple things. Number one is the absolute safety of transactions. So when we were doing these virtual bid exchanges back in the late ’90’s, in the 2000’s, there was rampant fraud. There were sites that were out there just to scam people, where it would say, ‘Hey, we’re gonna sell you 500 gold in this game.’ You know, ‘Pay us now with your credit card and then meet us at the bank in this in-game city at two o’clock.’ And nobody would ever show up, you know, a lot of people were getting their money scammed. A lot of the gold selling platforms were getting their money scammed.
In addition, like, for example World of Warcraft. Blizzard was absolutely against anybody trading their items out of game. They did not think that game items should be tradeable for real money. So they would ban everybody’s account. And once they banned everybody’s account, they would lose all that gold or armor or weapons that they worked for. So I think blockchain, because of the strength of the cryptography that runs the blockchain itself, as well as smart contracts and everything being programmable right in there, being able to trade items back and forth without any middleman and having one-hundred percent safety, I think that’s the biggest one.
BLOCK TRIBUNE: Okay. What’s going to be the evolution of this? I mean, obviously trading in gaming is a huge thing and can only probably get bigger with addition of the tokens. Do you see it translating to other things?
JARED PSIGODA: I still think this is going to take a couple of years. So if we look at all of the blockchain games on the network right now, they’re all pretty simple in the way they’re built. So I mean CryptoKitties, that game is 2,500 lines of code or so and a smart contract. CryptoCountries, which is the other popular one lately, is 450 lines of code. So I think right now the first stage is just going to be kind of trying to figure out what can be done by combining smart contract technology with game design. Especially now with the ethereum network, it’s not really able to handle a massive scale of a game.
The way I see this evolving over the next couple of years is, I think a lot of games in the future, it’s going to be as precise as you kill a monster, that’s a blockchain transaction. When that monster drops a piece of equipment for you, that’s going to be a blockchain transaction. So I think we’re gonna start out and kind of do simple web-based games like we’ve seen with CryptoKitties or CryptoCountries or anything like that, that are basically just images on a website that you can buy and sell. But I think as it evolves, we’re going to be able to see larger games, we’re going to be able to see client-side games, and maybe even a game like Diablo II which has one of the most fantastic loop systems out there. Where people will play for hours and hours every day to get unique, rare equipment. But, you know, having a game like that where every piece of equipment is dropped actually goes straight to the player’s wallet and they’re able to freely trade those. I think we’re gonna see over the next few years a whole new genre of games evolve that is pretty trade-focused and economy-focused in the way they’re designed.
BLOCK TRIBUNE: You mention that your ICO isn’t necessarily a fundraiser. What’s your money-making plan to sustain this?
JARED PSIGODA: Oh I mean it’s definitely a fundraise. We raised about $30 million in the private sale, which I guess turned into $25 or $24 million over the past couple of days. And we’ve got another 14,000 ethereum or so in the public sale. So, you know, we’re raising enough money in my opinion. But also the company owns a portion of those tokens, which is 25% of the total token allocation.
BLOCK TRIBUNE: Right.
JARED PSIGODA: So if we are successful and this thing takes off, then the tokens will raise in value and we should be more than adequately funded to do the things that we need to do. But again, you know, what I’m personally kind of against in this ecosystem right now is people with normal companies who just see ICOs as a way of fundraising. You know, if we sell tokens to all of the early users and people that are supporting us and then we are taking out profit in bitcoin or ethereum or fiat currency ourselves, that’s not how a crypto-ecosystem should work. I mean, everybody who is a PLAT token holder should, in effect, be able to benefit from the growth in the platform.
BLOCK TRIBUNE: Now you have another company, Livestar, that you’re working on. How’s your focus between everything that you’re doing?
JARED PSIGODA: So Livestar, I’m basically done with, essentially you could say. So Livestar was a social network that we started in mid-2006 and we worked on for a year and a half or so. That’s basically turned over to the team to run. I’m 100% focused on BitGuild.
BLOCK TRIBUNE: Gaming used to be cyclical when it was platform-oriented with the PlayStation and Nintendo. You know, when the platforms came out it was booming and then it would hit this lull about three years in.
JARED PSIGODA: Right.
SBLOCK TRIBUNE: Now that everybody’s sort of switching to online games and PC, has that been eliminated as a concern?
JARED PSIGODA: I think it is a little bit. I mean, the nice thing you know once you got into free-to-play games or mobile games was that the entry curve for anybody to develop a game dropped by an immense amount, and with online games as well. From one person being able to develop a massive hit like Minecraft which was designed, drawn, and engineered by one guy in Europe. So you know a lot of great games were built by five, ten-person development teams compared to console, which had pretty massive teams. And you had to deal with the cycles of the hardware themselves. The first few years of the new system were great, and then it would kind of drop down and you waited for the new hardware to come out that had the newer, better games. But I think the way that the trend is moving right now, especially with being able to play a game online with millions of people right from your browser. It’s not quite the issue that it used to be.
BLOCK TRIBUNE: What are your demographics like? Who’s playing these games and trading in these tokens? And will that change with the added incentive of potentially being able to monetize tokens?
JARED PSIGODA: Right, I think it’s gonna be a couple stages and I’m pretty brutally honest. I think stage one is going to be crypto-people flooding games. I think it’s still a little bit difficult for non-crypto users to get through the process of setting up a wallet, of getting on an exchange, and everything like that. So I think phase one is crypto-people playing the game.
I see stage two as trying to on-board gamers into cryptocurrencies and into crypto-gaming. I think that’ll probably be towards the second half of this year, early next year. And hopefully, this is something that we feel has the potential to help make crypto more mainstream. Again, because gamers are very apt at accepting new technology and game designers are very good at building design flows that allow for the least resistance for somebody to get acclimated to something. So I mean, you know, we would be consistently thinking about what the design flow should be for a user who’s never purchased cryptocurrency to be able to buy cryptocurrency and play a game.
So I think it will go from crypto-guys playing games to gamers learning about crypto over the next twelve to eighteen months.
BLOCK TRIBUNE: Do you ever see it getting to the point where grandmothers and people like that are immersed in this?
JARED PSIGODA: Scarily enough yeah, I do. This is something when we first did free-to-play gaming, it was almost a joke. You know, when free-to-play came out it was, 18 – 35 male was the essential entire gaming demographic. When you got into free-to-play, we had this massive onslaught of 40+ female players who were playing Candy Crush. They were playing all of the slot games on mobile apps, they were playing the casino games. So I do see the potential for a much older crowd to get into this eventually. I think that the key behind that is not to design, because a lot of really appealing games towards that demographic could be designed on the blockchain. I think the issue right now is that the difficulty for somebody to go and set up a wallet then set up an exchange and purchase on an exchange and … I think that’s more one of the problems that the entire cryptocurrency community needs to resolve over the next couple of years, which it’s still pretty hard for a newbie to figure out how to buy and use cryptocurrency and not lose it all.
BLOCK TRIBUNE: What cryptocurrencies are you sort of long on? There’s only about five thousand of them out there right now beyond your own. Do you see incorporating say Litecoin into your working …
JARED PSIGODA: We’re looking at a couple right now, so personally, my theory is that for gaming to really excel on the blockchain, we need to resolve the transaction per second problem that we have right now. So, you know, with bitcoin and ethereum only being able to do five or ten transactions per second and anytime we exceed that the fee is going up quite a bit. There was a time last year when ethereum, it cost ten, $15 to send a two-dollar transaction. So for me, I am really looking forward toward Tier 3 blockchains that are able to solve for scalability. Personally, I’m fairly bullish on EOS, but we are looking at several different options right now. But I’m pretty bullish toward Proof of Stake or Designated Proof of Stake, to create a network that’s able to scale quickly, ’cause I think for games, we’re gonna need to be able to do hundreds of thousands of transactions per second. If we have everybody in a game playing and every time they kill a monster that’s a transaction on the blockchain and every time that monster drops a piece of loot, that’s a transaction on the blockchain, then I think we’re gonna definitely need some new blockchain technology to be able to do this really massively at scale.
BLOCK TRIBUNE: What are you doing, if you are doing anything, about trying to integrate this world that you’re building into bricks and mortar? Are you trying to set up deals with Starbucks or anything like that to bring that crowd into this?
JARED PSIGODA: Not quite. We’re pretty focused on the virtual world right now. So it’s just everything being online. We think the online gaming sale market is a big enough pie as it is for us to go after.
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