Atari. Arcade games. Consoles. Multi-player. Mobile. Free to play and digital goods. After a decade in gaming, I can attest to how adeptly this industry adopts new technology. But as we all know, new technology never stays “new” for long, especially in Silicon Valley, where Gameflip is headquartered. The gaming industry is now on the cusp of being disrupted again—this time, via blockchain and cryptocurrency.
Every day, I see new examples of Silicon Valley embracing the gaming crypto revolution. To be fair, Silicon Valfley has never been the epicenter for gaming. But it is an undeniable hotbed for blockchain technology. More Silicon Valley-based crypto startups appear on AngelList every day, and it’s even rumored that season 4 of HBO’s Silicon Valley is about Ethereum. Because gaming has shown itself to be an early adopter for blockchain technology, Silicon Valley is now embracing gaming in entirely new ways.
Gamers and Cryptocurrency
Before we get to the investors, let’s talk about the players—because gamers have been one of the most eager groups to use cryptocurrency. Valve spotted this early on, launching Bitcoin payments on Steam in 2016. On our digital goods platform, Gameflip, many of our 2 million gamers make regular transactions with Bitcoin. The same can be said for the other major digital goods marketplaces, and Silicon Valley-based Big Fish, which began accepting Bitcoin payments way back in 2014.
Unikrn, an esports betting platform, launched its first digital coin two years ago—well before the current crypto craze took off. Due to the success of UniCoin in its gaming community, the VC-backed company is now holding an Initial Coin Offering (ICO) for another digital currency that it says will become the sole currency accepted on its new betting platform. A key benefit of the blockchain, according to Unirkn’s leadership team, is its ability to connect gamers from around the world.
One of the first games to feature the blockchain, both in functionality and story, was Spells of Genesis. The blockchain-based card game features tokenized trading cards, and essentially allows gamers to store these cards on the blockchain. Gamers in Silicon Valley and beyond were quick to flock to this innovative game and adapt to its blockchain system.
Blockchain and Gaming Investment
If there’s one thing that Silicon Valley is known for, it’s a community of investors who know how to spot what’s next. And the valley’s investors are betting big on gaming and the blockchain.
ICOs are on their way to overtaking all-time venture capital investments. In gaming, the esports segment has been a favorite of blockchain investors. Venture Capitalists like Mark Cuban and Valley heavy-hitter 500 Startups are among the prominent investors who have invested in Unikrn, with Cuban joined Ethereum’s founder in purchasing tokens during the platform’s current coin sale.
Although not in the gaming industry, the recent ICO of Filecoin further illustrates the willingness of prominent VCs to back ICOs. Sequoia Capital joined more than 100 Silicon Valley investors in purchasing tokens during Filecoin’s coin sale.
At Gameflip, we’ve raised $10 million from top Silicon Valley gaming investors, including GoAhead Ventures, Bullpen Capital and Lightbank. We recently launched our pre-ICO for FLIP, a digital coin and decentralized ecosystem that allows gamers to trade their digital goods. Through FLIP, gamers will be able to unlock value for their hard-earned digital goods in a transparent, fraud-free platform. Each time gamers make a transaction using its blockchain smart contract, game publishers will receive a commission—representing a new, lucrative revenue stream.
In discussions with other gaming industry veterans, both in Silicon Valley and around the world, the excitement about blockchain is palpable. I see a distinct parallel between the digital gaming and blockchain movements, both of which give players more access, and ownership, of their gaming experience.
JT Nguyen, CEO and Co-Founder of Gameflip, is a successful serial entrepreneur with a proven track record. He has over 15 years of experience building and managing complex businesses, including 10 years in the gaming industry. Prior to Gameflip, JT served as COO of Aeria Games, a global publisher and developer of free-to-play games, growing the company from 10 employees to over 300 worldwide, overseeing operations in the U.S., Germany, and Brazil. Under JT’s leadership, Aeria Games’ annual revenue run rate reached $110 million, and the company was ultimately sold to ProSiebenSat.1, a German media conglomerate.
Prior to Aeria Games, JT’s other experiences cut across multiple industries. Among other things, he has served as operations strategy consultant in the finance industry at HSBC, software engineer in the retail industry at an early stage eCommerce startup, and RF hardware engineer in the mobile industry at Motorola.
JT obtained his MBA from the UCLA Anderson School of Management and his MS in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University. He obtained his BS in Electrical Engineering from the University Illinois at Urbana Champaign where he graduated first in his class.