Jon “Neverdie” Jacobs has done some crazy things, like running for “President of Virtual Reality” and buying a virtual asteroid for $100,000 in real money in the online game Entropia Universe. Now, his Neverdie company is trying to raise a ton of money via the Ethereum cryptocurrency through an initial coin offering (ICO) so that he can build cross-platform online game avatars. It may seem far out, but he has already raised more than $2.1 million from backers.
Like Bitcoin, Ethereum is a cryptocurrency that creates an immutable and transparent ledger, which is distributed across a lot of computers in what is called a blockchain. It creates secure transactions, and it enables developers to build software programs on top of it. Entrepreneurs can raise money through Ethereum by staging ICOs, and Neverdie wants to use his money to enable much better online games.
Jacobs created his Neverdie identity, or avatar, in many different worlds. But he wants to be able to take his avatar across a bunch of virtual worlds. So, he is creating a Neverdie Teleportation ICO. He wants to create virtual tokens that you can use to transport your avatar from one world to another. By giving players the ability to move from one world to another, Neverdie believes players will be liberated and be able to engage in much more commerce than they currently do. And Ethereum could provide the cross-platform currency that greases the skids of this new economy.
And here’s another twist. Jacobs believes that artificial intelligence advances will destroy a lot of jobs in the coming years. He thinks Neverdie can create a lot of jobs by using the tokens and giving them to people for playing games. Yes, he believes in paying people to play games, using the proceeds of the Ethereum ICO. Jacobs thinks this will create a lot of jobs to offset those lost to AI.
It’s an ambitious plan by Jacobs, who operates the Rocktropia virtual world, where this model of paying people to play games has already been tested. I heard Jacobs talk about this plan at the Gamelab event in Barcelona. He is also speaking at the CoinAgenda Europe event in Barcelona this week. I interviewed Jacobs after his Gamelab talk. Here’s an edited transcript of our interview.
GamesBeat: You’ve already raised quite a bit through pre-sales, and then, you’re targeting a very large amount?
Jon “Neverdie” Jacobs: The idea is, we started about two and a half weeks ago, basically the moment we had the site up and the exchange mechanism in. We started selling the coins. Also, we were giving some of our existing players from Rocktropia coins, so they can vote in the Rocktropia elections. It started off gradually, but we got one $50,000 investor very fast, not anybody we knew. That started to fund our marketing for the ICO.
GamesBeat: I need to back up a bit and understand this all.
Neverdie: Here’s the thing. I don’t know if you follow what I’ve been doing for the last couple of years. I ran for president of virtual reality, which is kind of an out-there thing. But the reason I did it was because, with my experience, I’m seeing that unless we connect virtual worlds and massively multiplayer online role-playing games [MMORPGs], we’re not getting value out of it. Players aren’t getting enough value. They’re not growing. Everyone is stuck at a certain level of growth.
In addition, in Entropia specifically, the players need to get more involved in the direction of it. All they’re doing now is complaining. I wanted to hand over — to create a democracy, as much as possible, so they can be actively engaged. They have money tied up in it. It’s not just a game. This is their assets.
I put myself out there for that purpose and also because VR was booming. I thought, “These guys don’t even know the mistakes they’re making. We’ve been making them, but nobody’s listening to us.” That was the point. Then, my means to do that is — OK, we could do it with a teleportation system. If you think about it from a theory point of view, if you could just teleport between worlds, that would make it work. That became the basis of how I was going to achieve it.
I felt like I could create jobs at the same time because there’s a way to twist the business model of games to include actually paying people. A lot of games, like in Entropia — we give away a lot of freebies to get people started, but when you cut that off, you lose a lot of people. You could just take a section of your revenues and say, “If you want jobs, here you go.” It helps support the economy. Because the jobs being lost to AI and the like, it fits with the challenges of the world. I wanted to make what we’re doing more relevant to what’s happening in the world.
Anyway, I came up with this system but didn’t have a means to implement it. Ironically, or strangely enough, the whole ethos of Ethereum is creating smart contracts on the blockchain. They’re called smart contracts because they’re transparent. You can see how they work. You have these transparent contracts that can actually be a constitution of a country. Then, token holders can vote, and it’s all written into the contract. There’s no way to change the rules.
In addition, you can create tokens very easily. Those tokens can represent anything you want. They can be a coin to run your business. They can be a teleport token. They can be a sword. They can be some wood. They can represent any kind of a resource. Effectively, you can create a database, just like we do inside games, and suddenly, through this unlimited token creation and fully transparent tracking on the blockchain — literally, I was able to create them myself.
Then, the challenge is, we’ve got the tokens. I can make enough that would work for all the world. I can make enough and come up with a business plan that would make sense for people to finance the ICO. Then, all I need is [applications programming interfaces] and [software development kits] to connect it to the various gaming engines and create the balancing for the cost of death and teleportation in worlds. Bang, we have it: a decentralized teleportation financial system. Whoever opts in is then supporting the growth of an interoperable economy.
Ethereum gave me the solution. It also was completely in line with what we need, what I felt like virtual worlds need, in order to — and not just virtual worlds. All the gaming platforms people operate on, whether it’s mobile or iOS or whatever, the markets are saturated. You have to keep looking for new platforms. This is a new platform. We were able to gamify these tokens instantly by creating skill points, skill tokens, hit point tokens. There are so many ways. It’s amazing because you suddenly don’t have to build your own database. It’s peer to peer, the ledger, on the blockchain. It’s a remarkable new platform.
It’s almost like everything I spent the last year and a half raving about like a loony — now, I could put it together. Coming here, for example, I would have been — let’s say, had I not gotten as much financial support as I have in the last few days, it’d still be like, “OK….” A lot of it’s coming from Korea, which is a huge gaming community, as well as crypto.
Here, this is on Etherscan. This is entirely transparent. You can verify these things. This is my account. I’m just watching addresses where people are depositing to buy the coins. ICO Korea here, 4,921 ether. I’ll click on that. That’s $1.478 million. You look at the rate it’s coming in right now — 18, 26, 31, 58. You can see how fast it’s coming in. There’s a small one. That’s $60. That’s $90. That’s $1,200, $3,000, $33,000. I can’t remember what the biggest one is. But this is coming from Korea. They’re very excited, and I didn’t know them two weeks ago. It’s hit their gaming communities, and I think they get it, the idea of connecting economies.
There’s obviously a real — it’s more than just me. And that’s not the full amount. That’s just that account.
GamesBeat: What do you want to do with this money?
Neverdie: The first thing is to create the applications programming interface [API] and the software development kit [SDK] and the wallet in order for people to be able to gamify their experience of being on the blockchain. That’s where the initial raise money goes. Obviously, it goes through the roof. It expands upon that, and we can start development for certain games. But the biggest use, my key — this is the play.
The teleport token, I made 10 billion of them. Which is not a ridiculous number because if all the games where everybody’s hopping around — you can imagine there might be hundreds of millions of hops a day. How many people die each day in video games? These are the infrastructure points of games, the common points. With the teleport token, at the price we’re selling the coin, initially it’s 10 cents. The moment we close the ICO, we have a billion-dollar valuation. If everyone buys them at 10 cents, that gives us our billion-dollar valuation on the total circulation of coins. With the Neverdie coin, we set it initially at 100 million, but it’s undervalued compared to the teleport token.
Once the trading begins on the exchanges — everybody who’s buying the coins can’t wait to trade in them. Judging by what we’ve seen in other coin launches, that could very quickly go to a dollar for the teleport. Suddenly, we have a $10 billion market cap on virtual reality transport. That sounds far-fetched, but here’s the thing: I’ve not sold a lot of the coins. The majority of the coins are reserved for funds.
One fund is the loot pool. Let’s say once it gets to 10 billion, just to make it sexy, we have 15 percent of the unsold coins in a loot pool. That’s $1.5 billion we can use to underwrite the value of virtual goods in opt-in games and worlds. Just intrinsic core value. They’ll have their own market value based on their use in the game. We’ll have a $1.5 billion fund for jobs, where we’re paying $10–$15 a month. That helps people get into the economy from all walks of life, all revenue streams, all countries — some of them from countries with minimum wages that are 10 cents an hour. We can let them all into this global virtual goods economy.
Another fund is the game development fund. We have that $1.5 billion. Everybody who’s a token holder gets to vote on how that’s released and to whom. We get a democratic funding of new content for the system. People don’t have to pay for it. It’s already in the market value. Then, we have a small portion — let’s say 10 percent — that goes to the VR government. That’s for starting organizations to protect avatar rights in this digital economy. Really just organize the infrastructure, the voting mechanisms, community management. There’s also some funds to deal directly with the real world, so this economy is helping people in the real world, lifting people out of poverty, delivering computers to villages, all kinds of stuff like that. Investing in exponential technology that could potentially impact the future of this economy. Once it’s alive, everyone is going to care about it.
We have these primary funds. Then, we have revenue left over for system development and partnerships. We can make some of the big deals right away. I can try to get some of the big — lots of developers out there are trying to figure out what is their business model for the future. If we can bring in strategic partners at this stage through partnerships, acquisitions, mergers, whatever, then we can accelerate the whole business a lot more.
That’s my formula for the use of funds and for driving growth. This has already been proven with Ethereum. Ethereum is now the second in market value next to Bitcoin. Bitcoin has a $40 billion market cap. Ethereum has about $30 billion. But Ethereum is becoming the platform for not just this but also a lot of other incredible new business ideas — like a new version of the Web. Their market cap, as it’s been growing — all the people that were investors originally, they’ve been peeling their value and funding what they think is the great things to have on the platform.
Ethereum has financed the growth of the platform with its market cap, but that group of investors is not experienced enough to really identify and create a cohesive gaming community on top of it. It makes a lot of sense to have a layer. Through creating an infrastructure with two very common things, we create the layer, and then, we do it again on top of that. When we think of how explosive the Internet was, the app stores, the iPhone — that’s how it works.
Obviously the question is, how strong is Ethereum? Can it really support this?
GamesBeat: Didn’t it have a sort of mini-crash already?
Neverdie: Yeah, it had a mini-crash, but it’s recovered. What I see already, for me and for what I’m trying to do — there isn’t anywhere else to do it right now. They’re getting the momentum. That momentum can oftentimes, in these types of scenarios, actually position them for the future. All the tools are there, and the problems are surmountable. The issues of transactions per second and whatever, latency — all those issues are surmountable and in their road map. Again, people that are doing things in the blockchain are flexible as to how to proceed. It’s something to be excited about. If you don’t give it a crack, you certainly will be just watching, right? You have to jump on something else.
GamesBeat: How many people are working with you?
Neverdie: We have a very small team. When I was developing all the Entropia stuff, we left the coding to those guys. We’re just six people right now that are handling all of our stuff. We don’t want to get too big. Even when we were building Rocktropia, you have to let people go after the production cycle. If you’re too bloated, you’re not as flexible.
We’re a very lean team, and we’re not looking to be the developers of the content. We have a couple of ideas that we’re launching with, like Asgard VR, but the idea behind them is we’ll kick off these virtual reality worlds, mixed realities. We’ll maybe build some of it on a modular basis, and then, through the game funds, we’ll let other people expand them out. They’re open-source worlds.
Again, I think it’s nice to change roles. I’ve had a long story, and it’s nice to use that for whatever you do best. Be a bridge now.
GamesBeat: It’s very adaptive of you.
Neverdie: One likes to reinvent. The thing is, I can’t achieve my visions under these situations. We can’t reach our potential. One has to adapt and reinvent. It’s a challenge. There’s a period when you do it where you’re thinking, “Oh, God. This is not looking good.” You’re catching me at a moment where — just this backing we’ve got right now validates the insanity of the moves. Now, I have to create the partnerships and get people to opt in.
If you have all of this value, that’s the attraction. It’s pretty simple and straightforward. I’m seeing people really gravitating toward cryptocurrency and that ability to trade and monetize. It’s just the right time. The world is changing again.
Disclosure: The organizers of Gamelab paid my way to Barcelona. Our coverage remains objective.