A four-part review of Ultra, a Next-Generation Blockchain Powered PC Game Distribution Platform.
Despite being pronounced dead multiple times in the last 20 years, the PC gaming market is stronger today than ever before, and it’s growing. By 2021 there will be an estimated 1.4 billion people playing games on PC, an increase of 40% from 2014.
With annual sales in the billions of dollars, Steam has enjoyed dominance in the PC game distribution market for well over a decade now. However, rising developer discontent with the platform and the advent of a disruptive new technology in blockchain has created a unique opportunity for a new challenger to not only compete with Steam, but offer powerful new solutions for both developers and gamers.
Ultra is a next-generation blockchain powered PC game distribution platform that is aiming to break the market monopoly held by Steam. Ultra is leveraging blockchain technology to create a robust gaming ecosystem that aims to put power back in the hands of developers, connect developers and influencers to their communities, give rights back to gamers and reward them for their active participation on the platform.
I have been in the crypto space for several years now and have researched dozens of projects in that time. Nothing has come close to exciting me the way Ultra has. In this series of articles i’ll provide 12 reasons why Ultra is ideally placed to succeed as a platform, and in doing so take a significant percentage of market share away from current incumbent, Steam.
If you’re new to Ultra, I recommend before anything that you check out the video demos of the platform below!
And now without further ado, here are the first 4 reasons why Ultra is set to disrupt the gaming sector:
On the 21st of November 2019, Ultra announced a partnership with gaming industry behemoth, Ubisoft. One of the five largest gaming companies in the world, Ubisoft has exhibited a keen interest in how blockchain technology can improve the user experience of its games as well as become the foundation for all new types of gaming experiences.
Ubisoft has signed on to be Ultra’s first “Corporate Block Producer” (more on Ultra’s BP’s later). This means they will help secure the Ultra blockchain by validating transactions. As a well established and global company, Ubisoft certainly doesn’t need to take any risks. The fact that they’ve publicly partnered with Ultra, a cryptocurrency start-up, is a testament to both the power of what Ultra is building, as well as Ultra’s deep connections in the gaming industry. When it comes to convincing other large gaming developers to jump on board as BP’s, the importance of Ultra having a trusted industry player like Ubisoft putting their reputation on the line to secure the network cannot be overstated.
In an AMA with Ubisoft following the announcement, Nicolas Pouard — Blockchain Initiative Director at Ubisoft, said this about the Ultra Platform:
And here’s what David Hanson (co-CEO of Ultra) said after the partnership announcement:
What Ubisoft and Ultra are working on together is under wraps since it’s still in a developmental or even experimental phase. What we do know is that there will be exclusive games launching on Ultra as part of their user acquisition strategy — and it’s entirely possible that one of those will be an Ubisoft title. It’s also been hinted that Ubisoft is developing at least one third party application for the Ultra platform.
From a gamer’s perspective it’s going to be very interesting to see what emerges from this partnership and how Ubisoft plans to utilise Ultra’s NFT technology in it’s upcoming releases.
On December 13th, less than a month after the Ubisoft announcement, Ultra announced their strategic partnership with chip making giant AMD.
The press release stated Ultra and AMD will cooperate on co-marketing activities to promote the Ultra Platform and that AMD will distribute games to their customers to redeem on Ultra.
It was later revealed by the Ultra team that part of the co-marketing agreement will offer players the ability to install the Ultra platform directly from their AMD drivers. According to data from AMD themselves and based on past marketing activities, this will add between 1 million and 1.5 million users to the Ultra platform per month:
In addition to that, AMD will be evangelising Ultra at developer events all over the world in the months leading up to the launch of the platform.
AMD and Ultra are also cooperating on the optimisation of GPUs for mining, as well as the development of new technologies, some with the potential to revolutionise the blockchain industry and pave the way for mass adoption. Ultra co-CEO David Hanson teased months back that Ultra was working with fortune 500 companies to develop a new technology solution for the long-standing dilemma of private key custody.
David recently provided new details on this solution.
Ultra’s partnership with AMD is undeniably one of the most significant partnerships that any cryptocurrency project has revealed to date. AMD has hundreds of millions of users and is massively influential in the gaming sector, with its GPU’s powering both the Playstation 5 and the New Xbox, both of which will launch later this year. While Ultra is a PC “first” platform, it is platform agnostic, and with the recent rumor that the new Xbox will feature a “Windows Mode”, there is some (a lot) speculation we may see Ultra on a console sooner rather than later.
Much of Ultra’s vision beyond Ultra Games (The “first application” on the Ultra blockchain) is yet to be revealed, so it’s difficult at this stage to even speculate on just how significant this partnership will be for Ultra and for the blockchain industry at large. Suffice to say, this is a deep cooperation that dates back to the very inception of Ultra. If the Ubisoft partnership is a sign that Ultra means business, their partnership with AMD is that and more, a major validation of Ultra’s technology.
China has the largest PC gaming market in the world. In 2018 there were over 300 Million PC gamers playing online games in China, which makes it an extremely attractive market for game devs and game platforms. Unfortunately, for most western companies it is extremely difficult to access this market due to the challenges of navigating the complex customs and ever-changing regulatory environment.
Ultra has a unique advantage when it comes to tapping in to this enormous market. David and Nicolas, the co-CEO’s of Ultra (And Edward, the CSO), have a long working history in China having run several companies in the country for almost a decade. Not only do they have an understanding of how to do business in China, they have strong connections with large gaming companies there.
The team announced early on that they have a signed partnership with one such organisation to be the “Operator” of Ultra in China. An Operator is essentially a local company that runs the Ultra platform for their geographical region, and will be responsible for all regulatory compliance matters, marketing efforts, as well as signing up local game developers. Ultra’s Operators will be experts in the regulatory frameworks in which they already operate, have well established networks of local partners, and large existing user bases they can promote the platform to directly.
The name of the partner in China has not been released yet, but according to the team they are one of the largest gaming companies in China and have a monthly active user base of 70 million PC gamers, meaning this partner alone could bring tens of millions of users to the platform that were previously inaccessible to western developers.
Regional “Operators” are central to Ultra’s plans when it comes to creating a global platform, and the team has confirmed they are in talks with potential operators in other regions such as South Korea, Japan, and South East Asia. Each Operator Ultra signs up will unlock a new region and millions of new users, acting as a powerful lure for developers and other third parties to join the platform.
At a time when many teams in the crypto space are downsizing or disappearing altogether, Ultra has been actively hiring. As of February 2020 the team consists of around 70 people, making it one of the largest teams in crypto. Although they missed their somewhat lofty target for the end of 2019 of 100 people, they are continuing to ramp up in the personnel department ahead of the 2020 launch. While size is of course not the only important thing, it gives a good indication of the scale of what they are building and how polished the product will be:
Ultra certainly has the numbers, but it’s the executive team’s deep connections in the gaming and tech industries that is most important when it comes to the potential success of the Ultra platform. The team itself has stated: “the quantity and the quality of games available on Ultra will define the pace at which the platform will grow”.
Edward Moalem, Chief Strategy Officer and Melissa Brown, Senior Director Developer Relations have been credited with signing up over 150 developers to publish their games on the Ultra platform, including many of biggest in the world.
This means that far from having a shortage of quality titles at launch, Ultra will be in the enviable position of being able to curate an initial library of launch titles from a catalogue of thousands.
The Co-CEO’s of course bring their own connections, including AMD who they’ve worked closely with for many years, signing a contract with them while working in China worth tens of millions of dollars. It’s from their many years of work in China that they have secured one of their biggest partnerships — the yet to be announced Chinese operator.
David, the visionary behind Ultra’s tech deserves a special mention for the great deal of transparency he has shown the community. I encourage anyone that’s interested in Ultra to set an evening aside (or longer) and go through his message history in the Ultra telegram group where he’s spoken at length about his vision for Ultra Games and beyond: https://t.me/ultra_io.
By successfully pitching their platform to over 150 developers as well as securing go-to-market partners like Ubisoft, AMD, and their unnamed Chinese partner, the Ultra team has laid a strong foundation for a successful launch of the platform later this year. It will be interesting to see what other partners are announced in the months leading up to launch as well as the names of developers that will be publishing on the Ultra platform.
That concludes Part 1. Part 2 focuses on Ultra’s unique approach to block producers as well as their strategies for achieving network effects for the platform. We’ll also look at why developers and gamers are ready for an alternative to Steam. Part 2 can be found here.
Meanwhile, come join the conversation in the Ultra telegram. https://t.me/ultra_io
Or check out some of Ultra’s other resources:
Thanks for reading!!
Investment Disclosure: I own some UOS tokens.