While most blockchain projects are about digital assets, US startup Blok.Party is using the blockchain in a much more tactile manner.
It’s currently working on its large touchscreen tabletop gaming platform PlayTable, which will link bespoke digital games with physical toys using its Ethereum-based Play Network blockchain and RFID tags.
Blockchain brings uniqueness to each toy, and that’s what toys-to-life lacked
“I’ve always been a video gamer and a board gamer so was really interested in the toys-to-life phenomenon a couple of years ago,” explains CEO Jimmy Chen, from the showfloor at Boston PAX where Blok.Party is demoing PlayTable.
“But those toys were just toys. The gameplay they enabled wasn’t good enough and there was no context.”
In contrast, with PlayTable and its use of RFID tags, any toy can become an in-game item and, more significantly, all its experiences – levelling up, gear, history etc – will be recorded on the blockchain.
“Blockchain brings uniqueness to each toy, and that’s what toys-to-life lacked,” Chen enthuses.
“It’s another layer of complexity both for developers and players.”
Cards on the PlayTable
So far, so good but one interesting question is whether the project will be accelerated or slowed by the PlayTable’s $599 price point (currently $349).
It goes without saying Chen doesn’t think it will be a problem.
“The feedback has been amazing from players,” he says, adding 120 developers are also interested in integrating their games.
Indeed, while the blockchain aspects of the project may be irrelevant to many PlayTable owners, he says the physicality of having a touchscreen up to eight people can use together will be vital in encouraging the social aspects of gaming that inspired him in the first place.
Of course, if PlayTable does gain a decent audience, the fact the physical toys used in its games will become tradable objects with secure and transparent ownership will demonstrate the value of its blockchain features to all owners in a very tangible manner.
Rolling out a platform
This aspect will be encouraged as PlayTable will have its own marketplace.
With PlayTable it will be possible for a $10 toy to generate $40 of additional revenue for the license holder.
“We’re facilitating a platform because it will enable us to work with IP owners,” Chen says.
“One of the big issues with the physical toy industry is the lack of digital add-ons, but with PlayTable it would be possible for a $10 toy to generate $40 of additional revenue for the license holder.”
Similarly, as with any proposed blockchain platforms, these IP holders could also get their cut of the resale market thanks to the use of smart contracts.
Chen says he’s been talking to the “usual suspects” about such deals but PAX aside, his current focus is ensuring PlayTable’s hardware and software are fully built out. The company is also actively talking to its audience about how the UI should work.
It hopes to have everything in place to begin shipping its first PlayTables and supporting games including self-developed title Battlegrid in late 2018, with a full commercial scaling in 2019.
You can find out more and reserve your PlayTable via the website.