Game developers get an AI/blockchain payment platform

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The video game industry serves a decidedly digital, tech-savvy audience with a propensity toward digital payments, but it has been plagued by inconsistencies in payments to developers and a lack of a consistent rewards program for loyal players.

The nonprofit Playgroundz Foundation seeks to correct both of those shortcomings in establishing a video game database and research platform for gamers and developers in addition to creating its own currency with IOG (internet of games) tokens.

Playgroundz, which is based in Singapore, uses blockchain and artificial intelligence to provide a place for gamers to earn IOG tokens for providing feedback through game reviews, ratings or "likes."

As those reviews are compiled, game developers can access the open-format database and buy back tokens to obtain valuable information about how their games are faring in the marketplace. In addition, it allows them to compare that database against those being provided by platforms like Microsoft Xbox and Sony Playstation, citing how many games were sold.
"Everything is about big data these days, and we collect the gamers comments about the video games they are playing and reward them for doing so with the tokens," said Michael Yum, CEO of PM Studios and co-founder of Playgroundz.

PM Studios began operation in 2007 as a gaming platform. The Playgroundz Foundation was created this year and established through blockchain investor Jonathan Chiang of Taiwan.

"It's basically a monetary exchange in which gamers and developers can cash out the tokens," Yum said. "We are doing the same thing as publishers like Google Ads and Facebook Ads, in which they can monetize data by letting other services use it."

In the Playgroundz ecosystem, gamers contribute data and get tokens in return and anyone who uses the data has to buy back tokens, making it another form of compensation for the gamers.

Tokens can be used to purchase new digital and physical games through the Playgroundz shop, or to crowdfund new games through a system called Mineral on the Playgroundz platform. Other incentives for having a certain number of tokens includes meeting developers, earning bonus tokens or getting discounts on games.

This week, an IOG token was worth about $3.06, but like any cryptocurrency, it can fluctuate greatly in value. Because of that, Playgroundz remains in a testing pattern with about 1,000 users, Yum said, and the foundation is considering ways to stabilize payments on the platform. Whether that would be other rewards or different currency forms is not clear at this time.

In a similar scenario, Valve's gaming and entertainment platform Steam dropped its acceptance of bitcoin a year ago, citing its volatility and the radical shift — from 20 cents to $20 per transaction — in fees it was paying to accept the currency.

Still, Playgroundz is in line with internet of things discussions that increasingly hint of establishing the use of data as a form of currency to exchange for products or services. It is viewed as a piece to the "smart cities" puzzle of the future, in which machine-to-machine advancements will rely heavily on valuable data collection, and stricter security laws will give consumers ownership of their data.

"Data has value and the question is how do you extract that value?" said Tim Sloane, director of emerging technologies advisory services for Boston-based Mercator Advisory Group. "What we are seeing is that monetization is often done through some new currency that is specific to the marketplace where the data is transacted."

It is not too much unlike a traditional card network seeking ways to use new technology that could expand the use of rewards points for cardholders, Sloane said.

American Express intends to deploy blockchain technology to support its rewards programs to, in effect, make the points earned by cardholders operate more fully as its own currency.

"I would put it in the same realm as what Amex did with blockchain for earning points," Sloane added. "The points have value to the Amex customers and Amex has to make that value more easily accepted at different merchants, so they created a blockchain that allows merchants to participate."

Playgroundz simply has earmarked consumer feedback as the key asset for developers on its platform.

"The experts who comment on games on Playgroundz provide value to the game companies because they have so many followers," Sloane said. "So how do you monetize that? You create a currency."

Playgroundz provides a portal for developers and publishers to own the data, after undergoing a verification process to confirm identities. If others try to generate revenue or curate ads through a specific game, the developer would then get a portion of the revenue.

"We don't make money at Playgroundz, as it is just open for the developers and gamers to control the ecosystem," Yum said. "When it is fully built out and open source, it will out there for the public to maintain."

At that point, Playgroundz would only provide "super nodes" which verify and authorize developers on the site. The nodes essentially establish how many tokens a person must have to get into the system. As such, nodes would be issued to gaming groups or financial groups as well.

Currently, developers get paid by self-publishing games or if they go to Steam or PlayStation or other platforms to view data and try to determine how much their games are earning.

"Many times, there is no way to check and verify that," Yum said. "Plus, there is a publisher between the developer and the platform. The developer makes the game, but the publisher receives the money and may spend it for marketing."

In essence, it's a loose setup in which a publisher could say a certain amount of money came in and a certain amount was spent to support it, but lacks the details to make a proper payment. "I don't think the publishers lie about things, but in a lot of instances, the information is not available and the developer just doesn't get paid," Yum said.

A developer can log into PlayStation, Xbox or Steam platforms and see how many games were sold, but on Playgroundz they can see that data, plus the data provided by gamers.

"It allows them to see the other areas in which the game was being monetized, if someone was streaming it on other platforms, then they can connect with those gamers through the platform," Yum said.

In another example, the concept of providing tokens as an incentive to look at advertising on the web is also coming into play through the Brave browser, which restricts advertising, cookies and trackers to provide better security. Users can opt-in to certain advertising and earn tokens to do so.

"We’re starting to see lots of crypto/blockchain use cases related to this type of value-added use case," said Richard Oglesby, president of AZ Payments Group and a senior analyst at Double Diamond Payments Research.

Instead of simply replacing payment processes where markets are well developed and hard to displace, crypto tokens are starting to find some headway for value exchanges in emerging areas like loyalty, or compensation for giving up data and/or privacy, Oglesby added.

"We’re likely to see progress here before significant progress is made in traditional payments plays," he said.

Playgroundz is listed on the KuCoin trading platform as Playgroundz (IOG).

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