Posts from Games

NBA Top Shot

I’ve written on this blog about extensible blockchain games, the ability to own the virtual goods you earn or buy in your games, and the idea that these virtual goods can move from game to game. I think this is a big deal and possibly the thing that brings blockchains and crypto tokens to the mainstream user.

So, here’s an awesome example of that. Our portfolio company Dapper announced today that it is building a blockchain game with the NBA called Top Shot.

Here is the idea behind the game:

NBA Top Shot will feature a social experience built around digital collectibles as well as a complementary head-to-head game designed to create a fun, authentic and accessible fan engagement on blockchain. Like other sports games or fantasy brackets, fans who play the game are tasked with creating their ideal squad, but in this game, their rosters are built by acquiring live in-game moments from the NBA season. These moments, such as a Kevin Durant 3-point shot, or Joel Embiid dunk, which are acquired as digital collectibles or tokens, can then be either owned forever or used to compete against other players in online tournaments and leagues.

NBA Top Shot will start offering crypto-collectibles in the fall, with the game to follow in early 2020. You can get early access by leaving your email address here nbatopshot.com

Cheeze Wizards

Our portfolio company Dapper Labs, the maker of the popular crypto-collectible game CryptoKitties, is back with their second game, called Cheeze Wizards, also built on the Ethereum blockchain.

Cheeze Wizards is in “pre-sale” mode right now. You can “summon” your wizard in anticipation of the game which will be played this summer.

I summoned a wizard this morning from the fire wizards region. I spent a bit more than half an ETH on it and I am ready to rumble.

Dapper built this game for crypto enthusiasts who will be drawn by the large prize pool (322.6 ETH right now and growing) and that is why some of the most powerful wizards (like mine) are quite expensive. That said, you can summon a “neutral” wizard for 0.07 ETH right now which is less than $20. The focus on a smaller number of higher value players fits with where Ethereum is right now in its scaling efforts.

The best way to play Cheeze Wizards is to add the Dapper wallet to your browser. You can do that here. Then send some ETH to it from your Coinbase account (or any other place you hold crypto). Then go to Cheeze Wizards, you will log in with your Dapper wallet, and you are ready to summon your wizard.

The folks at Dapper wrote a great blog post explaining why they made Cheeze Wizards, how it works, and what they hope will happen with it. That post also reveals a lot about where Dapper is heading with CryptoKitties, Cheeze Wizards, and all of the other games they have under development right now.

Funding Friday: Pigzbe

A friend sent me this Kickstarter project earlier this week. I took a look and thought “wow, that’s so great. a digital piggybank for kids with its own cryptocurrency, a mobile app, and educational games teaching them to earn and save.” I backed it this morning and though I don’t normally take the rewards on Kickstarter, I did this time. I can’t wait to give this to a kid when I get it this summer.

Un-Super-Vised

My partner Andy and I were playing with the latest crypto craze, cryptokitties, this weekend and he suggested we sire a USV kitty.

So he contributed a parent from his collection and I contributed a parent from my collection and with the addition of some Ethereum, which I paid from my Coinbase account, we made a new kitty.

Since it is a USV kitty, we asked the USV team to send in name suggestions and Jacqueline won that contest with the wonderful name of Un-Super-Vised.

That’s a handsome cat but the thing I like most is its “lucky stripe.” God knows we need that in the startup business.

In the wake of all that excitement, Jacqueline posted her thoughts on this craze. If you want to know what to make of all of this, I’d suggest giving that a read.

Nailing It

I saw dozens of pitches for what was essentially YouTube between 1998 and 2005. But when YouTube launched, it was pretty clear pretty quickly that they had nailed it and nobody else before them had.

I saw way more pitches for what was essentially Pokemon Go between the arrival of the iPhone and now. But when my daughter told me to download Pokemon Go and play it, I immediately realized that they had nailed something that nobody had before them

AVC regular LIAD tweeted this today:

You are not alone LIAD.

I recall seeing John Geraci‘s ITP senior thesis project in 2005 which was a web version of this idea powered by Google Maps, and understanding that we all want to interact with interactive media in the real world.

I’ve always loved the idea that we could do a massively public treasure hunt together using the web and mobile. But it took over ten years since I first saw this idea to have it really happen.

It made me smile when Emily told me to download it and I am still smiling days later. And I have a gym right outside my front door.

gym on W side hway

The New Entertainment Bundlers

One of the things that many of us dislike about our cable company is the bundle. We are required to subscribe to a host of channels when we only want a few. The promise of going over the top is that we can now choose the services we want without the ones we don’t.

But we are now witnessing the re-emergence of the entertainment bundle in the over the top world.

The leader in the new bundle movement is Amazon which is putting entertainment options into its Prime service. Estimates for Prime membership go as high as 60mm households. We are one of them and have been for as long as Prime has existed.

The other bundler is YouTube. Their newish Red subscription service offers ad-free youtube, “original shows”, and premium music.

I expect Prime and Red to expand over time to include additional services (games, sports, etc). They are the new entertainment bundlers. I also expect others to enter this business. The most obvious candidates are the mobile carriers who already have a regular billing relationship with us.

The good news is that the new bundlers do not have a monopoly in their ability to offer entertainment to us. They have to compete with each other in an open market. So I expect that the bundles that emerge will be attractively priced and will be differentiated by price and content options.

Bundling has cost advantages like sales and marketing that can be offset across multiple services. And it is easier to subscribe to one service than ten. But over the top promises user choice over our entertainment options. With the new bundlers, we may be getting the best of both worlds.

What Is Going To Happen In 2016

It’s easier to predict the medium to long term future. We will be able to tell our cars to take us home after a late night of new year’s partying within a decade. I sat next to a life sciences investor at a dinner a couple months ago who told me cancer will be a curable disease within the next decade. As amazing as these things sound, they are coming and soon.

But what will happen this year that we are now in? That’s a bit trickier. But I will take some shots this morning.

  1. Oculus will finally ship the Rift in 2016. Games and other VR apps for the Rift will be released. We just learned that the Touch controller won’t ship with the Rift and is delayed until later in 2016. I believe the initial commercial versions of Oculus technology will underwhelm. The technology has been so hyped and it is hard to live up to that. Games will be the strongest early use case, but not everyone is going to want to put on a headset to play a game. I think VR will only reach its true potential when they figure out how to deploy it in a more natural way.
  2. We will see a new form of wearables take off in 2016. The wrist is not the only place we might want to wear a computer on our bodies. If I had to guess, I would bet on something we wear in or on our ears.
  3. One of the big four will falter in 2016. My guess is Apple. They did not have a great year in 2015 and I’m thinking that it will get worse in 2016.
  4. The FAA regulations on the commercial drone industry will turn out to be a boon for the drone sector, legitimizing drone flights for all sorts of use cases and establishing clear rules for what is acceptable and what is not.
  5. The trend towards publishing inside of social networks (Facebook being the most popular one) will go badly for a number of high profile publishers who won’t be able to monetize as effectively inside social networks and there will be at least one high profile victim of this strategy who will go under as a result.
  6. Time Warner will spin off its HBO business to create a direct competitor to Netflix and the independent HBO will trade at a higher market cap than the entire Time Warner business did pre spinoff.
  7. Bitcoin finally finds a killer app with the emergence of Open Bazaar protocol powered zero take rate marketplaces. (note that OB1, an open bazaar powered service, is a USV portfolio company).
  8. Slack will become so pervasive inside of enterprises that spam will become a problem and third party Slack spam filters will emerge. At the same time, the Slack platform will take off and building Slack bots will become the next big thing in enterprise software.
  9. Donald Trump will be the Republican nominee and he will attack the tech sector for its support of immigrant labor. As a result the tech sector will line up behind Hillary Clinton who will be elected the first woman President.
  10. Markdown mania will hit the venture capital sector as VC firms follow Fidelity’s lead and start aggressively taking down the valuations in their portfolios. Crunchbase will start capturing this valuation data and will become a de-facto “yahoo finance” for the startup sector. Employees will realize their options are underwater and will start leaving tech startups in droves.

Some of these predictions border on the ridiculous and that is somewhat intentional. I think there is an element of truth (or at least possibility) in all of them. And I will come back to this list a year from now and review the results.

Best wishes to everyone for a happy and healthy 2016.

The Truth About Gamification

We see gamification all over the place on the web and mobile. We are collecting followers in Twitter, likes in Instagram, levels in Candy Crush (I don't play Candy Crush but I know people who d0), and mayorships in Foursquare. People like playing games.

But as the folks from Stack Overflow say in their fifth birthday post on Stack Overflow,

gamification has never gotten a single person do anything they didn’t already basically like to do

When I read that line, it struck me as basic truth. Gamification can amplify things people already like to do. But it cannot get someone to do something they aren't inclined to do in the first place.

So as we design gamification into our apps, games, and lives, it's worth understanding what it can and can't do and what it is good for and what it is not good for.

And a big happy birthday to Stack. Five years, five million programming questions answered. And those answers are viewed by 45 million people a month. I didn't realize there were that many programmers in the world. Maybe services like Stack are making it easier to be a programmer and the number of programmers is growing as a result. Hmmmm.

FIFA Xbox

Interesting blog post on how EA's FIFA game franchise got off the ground.

My son and his friends play lots of Xbox games and they play lots of Xbox sports game. But FIFA is their favorite. It is the game they come back to again and again and it is the game they play year round.

I have this theory, based on a sample size of one (my son Josh), that FIFA for Xbox is responsible for the surging interest in football (which we call soccer) here in the US.

All of my kids played youth soccer but they never loved playing the game. They all went for basketball as their game of choice. So they didn't really learn soccer by playing it.

But Josh has learned to understand the game, the players, the teams, and so much more about football/soccer from playing FIFA. And he watches the big matches on TV and he cheers for teams like Bayern Munich because he loves Franck Ribery. And he loves Franck Ribery because he's awesome in FIFA Xbox.

And his obsession with the sport has led me to become more interested in it over time. We've been in europe during the european cup and the world cup and have hung out in the bars and watched the matches with the locals. It is a great sport and a great experience.

And for us, all of this interst in and love of the game of football, originated with FIFA on Xbox. And I suspect that is true for lots of people in the US who grew up in the age of videogames.

So going back to the post that I linked to at the start of this post, EA didn't think FIFA was going to be popular. They didn't really care about the game. And yet it has become a monster franchise for them and to my mind, one of the main reasons for the surging popularity of the game here in the US.

Like many big deals, it was ridiculed at the start. That's a sure sign you are on to something.