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Mythical Games will launch NFT marketplace for Blankos Block Party

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John Linden, CEO of Mythical Games.

Mythical Games plans to launch an nonfungible-token (NFT) marketplace for its Blankos Beach Party video game.

Once the alpha version of that marketplace opens next month, the company will make the transition from a maker of a game with collectible digital items to a game with items that you can buy and sell. Eventually, you’ll be able to earn those items (which are cute, vinyl-like characters dubbed Blankos) through gameplay and cash out your NFTs with any currency, said CEO John Linden in an interview with GamesBeat.

In other words, it’s an example of the Leisure Economy, where we get paid to play games. Mythical has been working on its NFT technology, which is based on blockchain, the decentralized, transparent, and secure ledger technology. That technology makes it possible to track transactions and make it easy to audit things. The full game will debut on the PC in 2021.

Until recently, Linden didn’t mention NFTs, since there was a kind of backlash against blockchain and cryptocurrencies as the tech went through its boom-and-bust cycle. But cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum are booming again, and NFTs have gone through the roof.

“When my mom starts talking about NFT’s and Saturday Night Live does a skit on it, I gues we can talk about it, too,” he said. “Now it’s like everybody is talking about it.”

Above: John Linden is the CEO of Mythical Games.

Image Credit: Mythical

Now Linden is happy to say the acronym NFTs, as he believes Blankos Beach Party has a chance of taking them to the mainstream. He has a headstart, as Mythical has a few hundred thousand users, more than most blockchain game companies.

In the past few months, NFTs have exploded in other applications such as art, sports collectibles, and music. NBA Top Shot (a digital take on collectible basketball cards) is one example. Published by Animoca Brands and built by Dapper Labs, NBA Top Shot has surpassed $100 million in sales, five months after going public to a worldwide audience. And an NFT digital collage by the artist Beeple sold at Christie’s for $69.3 million. Investors are pouring money into NFTs, and some of those investors are game fans. But many of these items are being purchased by crypto enthusiasts with a lot of money and tech savvy.

The question is whether the mainstream will use them.

Taking MFTs to the mainstream

“We’re really excited about how we’re doing something different with the market than some of these other NFC markets out there,” Linden said. “It’s really focused around these concepts of utility, getting characters you can play with leveling them up, and being able to resell them.”

That’s why Mythical has made it easier to use NFTs via its cute characters and simple market, Linden said. Mythical’s Marketplace will facilitate peer-to-peer sales of playable NFTs from Blankos Block Party, an open-world multiplayer party game with an emphasis on player-designed levels.

“It’s easy for players to find what they’re looking for,” he said. “You can buy an NFT character and it’s already minted for you. We’re trying to take away all of that complexity. You can pull it up, open the box, see what number you have, and go into the marketplace. With Mythical, we set out to bring it to the common player.”

Blankos Block Party

Above: Blankos Block Party is a blockchain game.

Image Credit: Mythical

Blankos Block Party offers NFTs with utility in a triple-A game experience, Linden said. Collectors take an active role in increasing the value of their digital vinyl toys by leveling them up, competing in special events, and more.

Players have invested billions of dollars into digital items in other online games without a tangible way to benefit from it beyond occasional gameplay advantages. Content remains locked behind in-game accounts because the typical “purchase” is really just a lease or licensing agreement, with no capability to transfer or sell. (I think of game companies as the lords of a manor, and gamers as peasants renting the land that they work, to use a class warfare analogy).

And while other secondary marketplaces have existed in the form of gray and black markets (think gold farmers in World of Warcraft from years ago), players who participate are exposed to unsafe transactions, scams and even the threat of losing their accounts for Terms of Service violations, Linden said. But Linden wants Blankos Block Party to be a fun game first, where gameplay and blockchain make sense.

“The theme we’ve been talking about is how does gameplay change scarcity and rarity, which then can be reflected immediately in that marketplace,” he said. “We’re really excited because it’s going to start really start unlocking that investment that players are buying these items for that they actually own. Now they have buyer or seller options.”

Through the proprietary Mythical Marketplace, players can unlock the value of monetary, rarity and time-based investments by selling their Blankos to other players for real money (like U.S. dollars) or cryptocurrency in safe and secure transactions, with proof of authenticity, he said.

“The first step is going to get the marketplace out. And so people can start interacting with that,” he said.

Right now, players start with a Blankos character that they use to play, but it’s not an NFT. Over time, they could use such a character to earn rewards and eventually earn money.

“We can actually have a path to where a player could come in and grind the game, get a Blanko, and level up and exchange that,” he said. “It becomes your Leisure Economy. We’ll see how they play out. Maybe they’ll turn into Pokémon cards in 10 years.”

Building on the blockchain

With Blankos Block Party and its marketplace, Mythical aims to drive mass adoption of ownership in games through NFTs and Proof of Stake (PoS) blockchain technology, opening the door to a new kind of global game economy where creators are owners and players are investors.

I should pause and explain this. Blockchain verifies the authenticity of something — a digital item — by storing it in a decentralized way on a bunch of computers and then checking those computers to see if the thing that is stored matches. If one of those computers is hacked, it’s no big deal because all of the other computers have matching data of what is stored on the blockchain. Data entered on the blockchain is immutable, and anyone can see transactions that are recorded on the blockchain.

If somebody hacked 51% of all the computers that recorded the data, then the hacker could succeed in hacking the blockchain and stealing money recorded on it. But it takes an enormous amount of computing power to do that, and so hacking becomes impractical. To motivate parties to lend their computers to the blockchain, the creators of various cryptocurrencies have enabled mining. That is, the computers can solve complex mathematical puzzles and are rewarded with cryptocurrency. But mining consumes a lot of energy, and that’s why this type of cryptocurrency tech, dubbed Proof of Work, is considered wasteful. On top of that, it’s slow. And fees, known as gas fees, are high on the blockchains that are extremely popular.

Running a race in Blankos Block Party.

Above: Running a race in Blankos Block Party.

Image Credit: Mythical

So Mythical Games is working with an alternative game-friendly blockchain, dubbed EOSIO, that is fast and uses Proof of Stake, which focuses on trusted parties to do record the blockchain transactions and maintain the network. Mythical uses EOSIO to handle minting, or creating, its NFTs, which are one-of-a-kind digital items that can be verified on the blockchain. And EOSIO doesn’t use as much energy, Linden said. And Mythical does not require crypto mining to participate.

EOSIO might be slightly easier to crack than a high energy-consuming alternative like Bitcoin or Ethereum, and so there’s a tradeoff for Mythical.

“We have rewritten a good portion of stuff that we didn’t find necessary for us,” he said. “It uses proof of authority versus proof of work. Ours is environmentally friendly, and it’s fast and efficient.”

But so far the community of 300,000 registered players has shown its enthusiasm. Those players have bought more than 60,000 NFTs based on the 35 Blankos characters. Each character has 5,000 or fewer copies, enhancing the collectibility.

As the game’s audience continues to grow, earlier assets and specialized releases will become more scarce and likely more valuable in the secondary market, creating rarity on a mass market scale.

The company will later add some ways for players to take the NFTs to the public blockchains such as Ethereum or Bitcoin, or to fiat currencies like the U.S. dollar. So in the future, players will be able to sell their Blankos for real money.

“Some will be happy to have that liquidity,” Linden said.

Since players can cash out their items, Mythical has had to comply with regulations so that it can prevent money laundering through its game. And it has had to work with a lot of countries around the world to make sure it can legally function in those places. But all of this complexity will be masked from users, Linden said.

“Most people are never going to know about that. And that’s the way we want it,” he said. “We don’t want people having to think about this stuff.”

Staffing up

Flying with a jet pack in Blankos Block Party.

Above: Flying with a jet pack in Blankos Block Party.

Image Credit: Mythical

To facilitate its Marketplace, Mythical recently hired new executives focused on developing large-scale systems. Stoyan Stoyanov, vice president of the marketplace, joined Mythical from StubHub, the ticket resale company. Stoyanov has experience in marketplace management, e-commerce, inventory strategy and related areas.

And Matt Nutt has joined Mythical as vice president of NFT Engine, working with Stoyanov and the marketplace team to empower other games and interactive media companies to build their own economy engines leveraging Mythical’s proprietary platform. That means that Mythical plans to license its NFT tech to other game companies. Nutt was previously group general manager for EA Mobile.

And Cristina Lee has joined the company as vice president of finance, following nearly a decade at Warner Bros. Entertainment and more than six years at Fox Filmed Entertainment. Overall, Mythical has more than 100 people and it is hiring.

In the future, Linden believes that Mythical can license its tech to others.

“We’re in talks with quite a few other games right now, which is really exciting,” he said.

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Nintendo has some intriguing indie games to fill out the Switch’s future lineup

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Nintendo has some intriguing indie games to fill out the Switch's future lineup

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OK, I admit that I’m a little bummed that we didn’t see an update on Hollow Knight: Silksong during today’s Nintendo Indie World event. But we got enough other cool looking games that I’m not too upset.

Nintendo has done a great job showcasing indies on Switch during the console’s first four years. Along with those awesome Nintendo first-party games, it has really been these smaller digital titles that have kept the Switch’s library looking so attractive. And today, we saw some that I imagine many of us are going to want to download.

Play them soon

A few of them are even coming out later today. The Longing jumped out at me with its moody, hand-drawn art. It also looks like an adventure game of sorts, which sings to this old LucasArts fan. There Is No Game: Wrong Dimension is also coming out later today, somehow looking even weirder than The Longing. It gives me some WarioWare vibes. It looks like you’re playing snippets of minigames.

Above: There Is No Game.

Image Credit: Nintendo

Fez is also heading to Switch later today. This is a classic indie game that should appeal to anyone who enjoys 2D platformers with a heavy emphasis on puzzle-solving. As the Switch continues to become such an indie-focused machine, it’s important to get classics like Fez on the console.

Look at all these games

I also saw a few action games that look intriguing. Skul: The Hero Slayer is a 2D roguelite that gives me a bit of a Dead Cells impression, both because of its pixel art and its fast-paced 2D fighting. Then there’s Aztech: Forgotten Gods, a 3D action game! You don’t often see the indies take on that genre, and its Mesoamerican aesthetic helps it stand out from all the fantasy and sci-fi stuff that we usually see.

aztech

Above: Aztech: Forgotten Gods.

Image Credit: Nintendo

Nintendo also showed off some neat games that focus on story, like Road 96. This one is about a teenager going on a road trip, and its procedural story should make for a lot of replayability. Nintendo closed the show with Oxenfree II: Lost Signals, a sequel to one of the better-liked indie games ever. I was also impressed by Aerial_Knight’s Never Yield, an auto-runner set in a Tokyo-Detroit mashup.

It was an impressive showcase. I know that some Nintendo fans have been worried that 2021 would be a quiet year for the Switch. That may be true when it comes to Nintendo first-party games, but these indies should help keep the system relevant for a lot of players while they wait Breath of the Wild 2.

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USC Games Expo will highlight 70 student games on May 15

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Danny Bilson is head of USC Gam,es.

Join GamesBeat Summit 2021 this April 28-29. Register for a free or VIP pass today.


The USC Games Expo will debut more than 70 student-made games at noon Pacific on May 15 in a livestreamed online-only event.

The event for the University of Southern California’s video game program will feature returning host Geoff Keighley, creator of The Game Awards. Long-term partner Jam City returns as well. The USC Games program is rated as the top undergraduate game school in the country by The Princeton Review.

The event will be the second time it has been held in an online-only format because of the pandemic. The 70 games are up from 50 a year ago. They’re from students teams who worked remotely and were distributed across the globe.

Continuing the “global” theme, an additional live encore of the expo will stream that evening Pacific time to coincide with daytime in Asia. All interested attendees can register on uscgamesexpo.com for event updates, with North America attendees who RSVP eligible to win prizes, including game codes, during the stream itself.

Above: Danny Bilson is head of USC Games.

Image Credit: USC

This is the fifth year USC Games has held an expo, which covers the video game development programs offered by USC’s Viterbi School of Engineering and the USC School of Cinematic Arts. The Expo will also feature the first hands-on for the 10 projects being developed in its capstone course, the Advanced Games Program (AGP).

The 10 games from the AGP class are:

  • Beat the Beat Up (Oculus VR) — A VR action/rhythm game where you fight to the beat as the star of your own Bollywood blockbuster. The neighborhood Don has sent out his goons to terrorize the locals, and you are the only one that can stop them. You have to impress the critics, including one voiced by Bollywood star Abhay Deol (Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, Dev.D, Happy Bhag Jayegi). If you rack up your score and clear the streets, you can save the village.
  • Corporate Clash (Mobile IOS/Android) — You can become the richest CEO of 2250. Corporate Clash is a casual mobile strategy game where players are the CEO of a futuristic company that makes widgets for robot consumers. You have to deal with the twists and turns thrown at you by your factory, employees, investors and other demanding groups. Pollute to cut costs but irk environmentalists, or raise prices and upset your customers?
  • Crescendo (PC) — Crescendo is a 2D combat action game where you conduct a musical world through your actions. Travel through an eerie fairy tale setting with music and battle the monstrous personifications of an orchestra.
  • Detour Bus (SteamVR, Oculus Rift/Link) — Detour Bus is a VR construction-comedy game where players build winding highways around themselves to take the Flowers family on a psychedelic road trip across post-infrastructure America. Snap together random road pieces to traverse groovy landscapes, avoid hazardous obstacles, and prevent corrupt Senator Joseph McCarthief from turning all freeways into pay-to-drive tunnels.
  • Larger Than Light (PC) — Traverse shadows by manipulating light in the 2.5D puzzle platform game, Larger Than Light. Escape a haunted school as the sibling duo: Skia the shadow, who can move across other shadows on the wall, and Lux the lightbulb, who can manipulate the size and placement of shadows for his younger sister to platform across. A single player will control both characters, getting them to work together to break away from the otherworldly force trapping them in their school while overcoming their bitter sibling rivalry.
  • Leechbug (PC) — Leechbug is a real-time strategy combat game where players take on the role of the Leechbug, a robotic symbiotic parasite who exists in an alien seascape. Your home is under threat from a polluting force that’s also sapping the will of your fellow undersea denizens. You have to use your powers of possession to free your friends, control their unique abilities synergistically to engage in combat, and reach the surface of the ocean to rescue your underwater world.
  • Pelota (PC) — Pelota is an action-packed online sports game for 2-to-4 players that brings an ancient sport into the interactive medium. Players will be immersed in a Mesoamerican setting as they master the game’s novel physics-based mechanics to get the game ball through a vertical hoop, using everything they have — except their hands — in order to win the favor of the gods.
  • Snowshoe Thompson (PC) — Explore the snowy Sierra Nevada mountains in The Trials of Snowshoe Thompson, a skiing expedition game set in the 19th century about an immigrant traversing the elements and laying the groundwork for what would become the U.S. Postal Service. During 1856, Snowshoe Thompson sets out to aid his new community as a mailman cross-country skiing across the Sierra Nevada mountain range, connecting the wild west with the wider world.
  • Sweeping the Ruins (PC) — Sweeping the Ruins is a two-player co-op strategy and combat game that let’s players engage in asymmetrical combat with an overpowered behemoth inside a dark and deep dungeon. Armed with no weaponry, two players will rely on their wits and use environmental traps to work in tandem to take down the beast. Players will need strategic coordination, situational awareness and teamwork to defeat the massive enemy and prevent the destruction of their nearby homeland.
  • Wheelin’ & Mealin’ (PC) — Wheelin’ and Mealin’ is a two-player co-op driving-and-cooking game that blends tooling around a bright, colorful cityscape and cooking fantastical dishes. Players can maneuver a souped-up race car and immerse themselves around a fantastical city to create crazy dishes that satisfy their customers in order to rise to the top of the restaurant world.

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Nvidia forms Inception VC Alliance to connect AI startups with venture capital

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Nvidia forms Inception VC Alliance to connect AI startups with venture capital

Join Transform 2021 this July 12-16. Register for the AI event of the year.


Nvidia has formed its Inception VC Alliance to connect AI startups with venture capital. The move will help connect more than 7,500 startups in the company’s Inception program for AI tech with venture capital firms.

Jeff Herbst, vice president of business development and head of Inception at Nvidia, unveiled the alliance today at the AI Day for VCs event during Nvidia’s annual GTC 21 conference. Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang unveiled the company’s latest products on Monday in a keynote speech where he talked about the company’s new Grace central processing unit (CPU).

“We always felt a very strong connection to the ecosystem. We give them technology, we introduce them to our 150 different software development kits, we give them joint marketing, we introduce them to investors,” Herbst said in an interview with VentureBeat. “We give them Cloud Credits. We give them discounts for GPUs.”

Above: Nvidia’s Jeff Herbst (top left) leads a panel on AI startups at GTC 21.

Image Credit: Nvidia

AI adoption is growing across industries, and startup funding has been booming. Investment in AI companies increased 52% last year to $52.1 billion, according to PitchBook. The Inception AI startups are up 9 times from 2016, Herbst said.

The alliance aims to help investment firms identify and support leading AI startups early, as part of their effort to realize meaningful returns down the line. The goal is to educate VCs about AI opportunities and nurture startups, Herbst said.

inception 2

Above: Inception has more than 7,500 AI startups.

Image Credit: Nvidia

“AI is growing like a weed. We’re over 7500 companies, and it’s not going to be long before we’ve doubled that,” he said. “The ecosystem is clearly exploding. And VCs are a super important part of it. Startups need VCs, and VCs need startups. It’s just that simple fuel for startups to grow. We have thousands of VCs that are already part of our ecosystem, but we’ve never formalized the partnership with them until now.”

Founding members of the alliance include venture firms NEA, Acrew, Mayfield, Madrona Venture Group, In-Q-Tel, Pitango, Vanedge Capital, and Our Crowd. More VCs can apply here.

nvidia panel 2

Above: Nvidia’s Inception AI startups by industry.

Image Credit: Nvidia

The Nvidia Inception VC Alliance is part of the Nvidia Inception program, an acceleration platform for startups working in AI, data science, and HPC. These startups represent every major industry and are located in more than 90 countries.

Among its benefits, the alliance offers VCs exclusive access to high-profile events, visibility into top startups actively raising funds, and access to growth resources for portfolio companies.

“It’s both a corporate goal and a personal goal to extend this ecosystem around the world,” Herbst said.

nvidia panel 3

Above: Nvidia’s Inception AI startups are from the green countries.

Image Credit: Nvidia

Nvidia currently counts about 40 companies it has invested in directly. Around 300 Inception companies are making presentations at the GTC 21 event, which is expected to have an online audience of about 150,000. And around 35 of the startups are in emerging markets, Herbst said.

“Is there parity in the world with AI startups? No,” Lopez Research analyst Maribel Lopez said on the panel. “Do we have a long way to go? Yes. But I’m seeing exciting things like Cuda, a fintech startup in microfinance in Africa.”

These startups are using AI for a wide range of tasks, like figuring out what percentage of fisheries in the world are operating illegally.

“Now that Jensen has shown the roadmap, people know that Nvidia is a complete platform, with CPUs, GPUs, DPUs, and everything that enables these startups to do their life’s work.”

nvidia panel 4

Above: Nvidia’s Inception AI startups over the years.

Image Credit: Nvidia

On Monday, Herbst moderated a panel on investing in startups around the globe and the need to create a more diverse ecosystem for entrepreneurs. He estimated there are 12,000 to 15,000 AI startups around the world and said Nvidia is only in touch with about half of them through Inception.

“It’s an open invitation to join our ecosystem,” Herbst said. “Nvidia loves startups.”

Herbst said about 16% of Inception members are part of the health care industry. Growth areas include robotics, self-driving cars and trucks, and data science.

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