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Ready Games has launched a division to bring mobile blockchain games and non-fungible tokens (NFTs) to the Apple and Google app stores.
That sounds hard to do as it seems like big platforms like Apple and Google are opposed to blockchain games and NFTs. But that’s not entirely true, as you can sell digital items that make use of the blockchain in the stores so long as you abide by the payment systems that Apple and Google have in place.
We’ll explain more about that later. But Ready Games has been established for a while and it recently raised $3 million in a sale of its $AURA tokens. Bitkraft led the token sale, as it had already previously invested in Ready in 2019. Hashed also co-led the token sale, and a number of other funds joined as well, including Tribe, IOSG, Spartan, Mapleblock Capital, Mulana Capital, Dweb3, Fundamental Labs, IBA, GSR, Polygon, SnackClub, and Warburg Serres.
The aim is create a new ecosystem that democratizes access to web 3 game development, said David Bennahum, CEO of Ready, in an interview with GamesBeat. Ready Games is doing that by launching its developer tools and $AURA token that can be used across a number of games and companies. Bennahum believes his company has a chance to help the developers reach mainstream audiences through the app stores.
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“We have the components for creating a distributed mobile blockchain gaming ecosystem,” said Bennahum. “You need those live operations tools, and you need a token that can be shared. So we actually don’t know of anybody else that’s offering these pieces. But nobody has this complete picture. And I’ll also add we do it in compliance with Apple and Google App Store rules.”
This ecosystem could help enable existing mobile game developers to convert their web 2 games into web 3 games while still staying in compliance with Apple and Google app store rules, said Christina Macedo, chief operating officer of Ready Games, in an interview.
Ready Games’ vision is to incentivize web 2 game programmers to explore and switch to web 3, with minimal development time and cost, while distributing games “as normal” through traditional app stores.
Playing nice with the app stores
Macedo said it’s a misconception that by default blockchain-based games are banned/prohibited by Apple and Google. They are not.
Macedo said, “There is a misconception a lot of people have. And this is the piece worth noting. The app store rules for both Google and Apple have two rules that actually really matter for [developers] to be in compliance and they actually don’t have anything to do with the blockchain. They have to do with just making sure they get paid.”
Too many web 3 games attempt to evade the rules because evading them is key to making their tokenomics work. The criteria are: Any purchase of in-game content must honor the requirement that Apple and Google receive their 15% to 30% commissions. This is true whether the item purchased is a traditional in-game item (e.g. a powerup) or an NFT on-chain (e.g. a rare sword).
The developer may not provide links to external websites to purchase any game content (this is one of the issues in dispute in Epic Games’ antitrust lawsuit against Apple). This is why, for example, to this day the Kindle app doesn’t let you tap a convenience link to buy a book from inside the app. And when I buy a new credit for a book on the Audible book app, I can’t do that from inside the app. I have to go to the Audible website, log in, and then buy a credit and use that to buy a book. Then I can listen to that book I bought on the Audible app on my iPhone.
So in the web 3 context, to be compliant with Apple and Google, the developer must ensure that the purchase of the NFT-backed asset occurs using traditional in-game currency, purchased through the normal in-app purchase flow (ensuring Apple/Google got their commission). The developer must also not run in-app screens with links to external means to purchase in-game assets, like an NFT marketplace on the open web.
Ready’s live operations tools allow for all this to happen and be easily managed by the developer. The dev can set the price of the item using traditional in-game web 2 currency (e.g. jewels, gems, etc) purchased via normal in-app purchase flows. The developer can also mint and price the on-chain items using Ready Games’ SmartContract Wizard tool (ensuring the parameters sensible to overall ecosystem health).
And the developer has to allow for the purchase of that on-chain item to happen with the traditional in-game currency (setting the in-app price). So long as that happens, the dev can sell an NFT-backed item in compliance with the store rules. That is, a user can’t use a cryptocurrency wallet to make a purchase in the game.
If, independent of the game, through a player community and other ways, you do happen to want to sell the NFT item on OpenSea or trade it in a browser, then Ready Games will support that. It’s just like how the Kindle or Audible transactions are done. And you just can’t advertise that inside the app store apps.
“We’ve been building mobile applications for 15 years, we totally get it,” Macedo said. “And so we work within frameworks that matter. And if you do that, you can go on chain. And that’s how you stay in compliance.”
The idea of having a token that works across a bunch of games could make it much simpler for game developers to create a blockchain economy. But it carries some risks that Ready Games had to carefully think about, Bennahum said.
The cross-platform token is much more complex than the simpler challenge of issuing a single-purpose token in a single game, like an Axie or Sandbox token, Ready Games said.
So the company designed three controls to make a sharked token economy possible. These are distinct innovations in the field of tokenomics that work towards solving for a distributed game economy, where publishers still own their games, players own their assets, and all of this works across games, the company said.
“We’re offering a utility token that can be essentially white-labeled into the mobile game,” said Bennahum. “So the game developers don’t have to issue their own tokens, especially if they’re not even sure what they want to do. And with web 3, we don’t know of anybody else that offers live operations on-chain, at this level, and a purpose-built token whose economics are designed to go across games where those games are owned by independent publishers yet all sharing the same token.”
How the tokenomics works
All on-chain items must be infused with a quantity of the $AURA token. This ensures the stability and compatibility of items across games.
The infusion of $AURA can only happen using what is called a “FuseBlock” — this is a marketing label for what is a smart contract, controlled by the ecosystem, that the developer then uses to mint the on-chain items. The FuseBlock forces the requirement to infuse with $AURA and sets the parameters of how the object can be sold. So you have to price within bounds controlled and set by the ecosystem.
Because every item manufactured has some quantity of $AURA in it, the value of $AURA is de-correlated from the success of any single game. This creates a universal unit of measurement — an “apples to apples” comparison — between games. It means developers have less risk than if they issued their own token. Think of it as a venture fund: a collection of 100 investments is more stable than any 1 single investment in the portfolio. As a dev, you are de-risking your web3 game economy by being part of a still-larger game economy. This has a big impact on player behavior since for the players, there is also less risk that an item bought in a game will eventually crater in value.
Why do these three control mechanisms lead to a healthy game economy?
Publishers have to purchase FuseBlocks (the smart contracts with $AURA in them) for fiat. So a $1,000 FuseBlock, or a $10,000 FuseBlock. In exchange for dollars, you get the fair market quantity of $AURA in the FuseBlock.
Because the publisher bought these FuseBlocks, rational economic behavior inclines towards selling the combined items for more than the FuseBlock purchase price. It acts as a de-facto control on selling the tokenized items at a loss.
For players, as they purchase in-game NFT items, because they’re infused with $AURA, the players get two very important web3 benefits, which in turn should lead to more player spending on in-game items (and more dev revenue).
Notably, since the items are always infused with $AURA, players can “stake” their collection of in-game assets across all the games, and receive loyalty rewards so long as a) they don’t trade/sell the item for the time period and b) don’t “melt down” and destroy the item and extract the underlying $AURA.
Melting down is the term Ready Games uses to describe the destruction of the NFT item that contains some quantity of $AURA. The smart contract controlling the item contains business logic that dictates where the underlying token(s) should be distributed on destruction. This is an essential feature.
Once the meltdown is triggered by the current owner (a player), the token(s) inside are sent partially to the player, partially back to the developer, and partially to the “ecosystem fund” for further re-investment into the growth of the ecosystem.
In exchange for not doing “a” or “b” for say 30 days, the player receives loyalty rewards from the ecosystem. These rewards are funded by Ready (not the dev) and serve as a powerful retention tool for devs, and motivation to spend on the games by the players.
Melting-down is a potent insurance policy for the player. It means that if the game goes sideways, and the market dries up for the in-app purchased items, the player can melt down and destroy the item and extract the underlying $AURA. The ecosystem controls the distribution of the extracted $AURA — so the player may not get 100% of the value.
The player might get 25%. The original dev gets 25% back. And the Ecosystem Fund, which finances future ecosystem growth, gets the remaining 50%. This means the dev can receive value back on a game that stopped working. This is quite impossible in a web 2 context, and shows the potential for web 3 economics to change the perceived value of digital goods — from being disposable consumables you effectively “rent” to becoming digital assets you effectively “own.” Shifting from renter to owner changes the perception of value — the player spending — this points to why web3 gaming at scale could generate quite large transactions over time.
This whole is a pivot away from what Ready was originally doing back in 2016 when it was creating a platform for hypercasual esports games on mobile devices. That gave Ready Games access to game developers across a wide array of markets, and it has made use of those connections.
After having involved a great number of developers and publishing several mini-games on the Google Play Store and Apple App Store, the company used its 2019 funding to expand the team and explore new possibilities. In a world where GameFi and “play-to-earn” were starting their rise, Ready took the opportunity to build a hub that facilitates mobile game developers to enter web 3. Strauss Zelnick, CEO of Take-Two Interactive, is on Ready Games’ board.
Ready Games’ environment offers a suite of live operations for games on the blockchain while ensuring developers stay in compliance with app store terms. The ability to quickly integrate a shared utility token, $AURA, allows devs to go live with a compliant web 3 game, and get immediate learning on how web3 gaming can bring value to their gaming portfolio. All while reaching “mainstream gamers” through the app stores.
The large number of developers who are already familiar with Ready Games and its tools resulted in reduced integration times. In Ready’s Alpha version, mobile game developers enjoyed integration timeframes of only five days, converting titles from web 2 to web 3.
“Web 3 presents a new paradigm for how games and their communities are built, distributed, and grown,” said Scott Rupp, managing founding partner at Bitkraft Ventures, in a statement. “It’s an exciting tech shift for all stakeholders involved, but it’s also new, daunting, and still carries significant friction for those looking to make the leap. Ready’s tools and token will make it a lot easier for mainstream devs to enter web3 gaming.”
Ready Games also opens its doors to artists, who will be able to create and upload styles and gadgets to be purchased and traded within Ready’s games, while players will be rewarded in an indirect way. By building a play and own environment, Ready allows gamers to purchase items by paying with traditional in-game coins.
Ready Games said it is excited to have partnerships with major game guilds, including SnackClub, with five million members, eager to play the web 3 games as they go live.
“We are excited to partner with Ready in building the leading web3 mobile gaming and user-generated content ecosystem,” said Ethan Kim, partner at Hashed, in a statement. “Along with Ready’s ability to seamlessly onboard a wide spectrum of games and content, their in-depth understanding of developers, creator communities, and players will accelerate mass adoption of blockchain-based gaming.”
Macedo said that the company is going to make grants available to developers to join the ecosystem at the end of the month. The company has about 15 people.
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