Journal du Coin
English translation provided by
ᕫ Ganja Dada ᕫ
Journal du Coin (JDC): We’re very happy to have you!
Nicolas: Yes! Thanks for having us!
JDC: You must be super busy with the mainnet’s launch…
David: We have quite the load, with all the folks currently reaching out and being like “oh so you’re ready now, we want to do this with you and also that…”. So yeah, we have a lot of meetings right now, a lot of things are happening. Also, this is basically just a step in the development of the platform. We are actually working on 4 projects at the same time: the blockchain is a project in itself, and we’re pushing the limits here. We want this technology to be accessible to the masses, and to succeed it must be easy to use. Right now, I don’t think there is any blockchain designed for the end user like ours, it’s always a little too complicated, with things like “What’s a blockchain? What about the keys? How do you secure them?” etc, so we’re working on solving those issues. We also have a games distribution platform and an application ecosystem. So here we have completed the biggest part, and the rest is almost done, however it’s not because we’re releasing the mainnet now that we are done just yet!
JDC: Launching a mainnet must be a stressful event…
David: Yeah... but we’ve already launched testnets before that and done some testing, with the transactions, the block producers already learned how to use the technology, so we’re pretty confident. Issues might still happen but all in all, on a personal level, I am more excited than stressed by this launch, like common guys we’re live!
JDC: Can you give an introduction of the project for newcomers?
David: Sure! First, We can start with Ultra the ecosystem. So Ultra is a Windows app which will soon be available on Linux and Mac as well. So in there, we have an application ecosystem, pretty much like Android or iOS, and one of the first available apps is Ultra Games, a gaming distribution platform similar to Steam. There also is a Wallet app, for cryptocurrencies obviously, an NFT inventory and we also have Ultra’s Marketplace where you’ll be able to buy, sell and bid on new and secondhand NFTs … Then we have third party apps, since the ecosystem is also made for that, and one of the first like that is Theta, a gaming centric live streaming app with which streamers and viewers can communicate with each other. So there you have it, a high level overview of the platform.
Then, one of the unique concepts of Ultra Games is that every game is an NFT, meaning the game license is an NFT, and when you’re done with it you could give it away to someone for instance, but then you wouldn’t be able to play it anymore. Developers that will publish their games will use an application called the Ultra Games Dev Center, in which they will be able to create the game’s homepage, send images, videos, upload DLCs, but also tokenize their games in multiple versions (standard, premium edition etc…) and basically make different products. Then they will be able to choose if the NFTs of those games are tradable, sellable and when, directly from our interface. They can also set parameters so their games can only be resold after a 6 months period, at a certain price, with a 20% commission for them for instance. Devs really have the freedom to set these parameters as they want, and gamers will be able to see them when hovering over specific versions of a game, prior to choosing if they want to buy it.
JDC: Sounds really good, can’t wait to see all that!
David: Even people in the industry don’t really see how this tool will be a fantastic for marketing campaigns, you could make exclusive content or super rare items and give them away to promote your twitter or Facebook… but maybe this NFT will be worth $10,000 because it has a huge in game utility or maybe just because it has a sentimental value, like a collectible. So you could easily mint those NFTs and give them away to streamers, influencers and make huge marketing campaigns. This will be very useful to promote your products. Devs are like “hallelujah” when we demo those things, because what typically happens now is that they give away Steam keys to the press, only to find them later being sold on marketplaces… so this is all over with our technology, there is full traceability and transparency, and blockchain will help devs to solve these issues.
JDC: If you really bring all this to devs in the coming weeks and months, all these features and added value, why in the world would they continue publishing on Steam? There is no reason for them to do that anymore really… What kind of value will Steam retain after this?
Nicolas: Steam was a really interesting product when it launched, it was the beginning of fully digital games, their huge commission wasn’t shocking anyone at the time, but truth be told, today Steam is quite obsolete. They don’t have unique features that make them truly stand out. They don’t innovate much, probably because they don’t have any competition. So ok, there is Epic, but they manage their store by themselves, they get to decide who publishes on it and who doesn’t, you have to make a deal with them and they will publish your game their way. This is no self-service like Steam. Devs go on Steam because they don’t really have a choice. So when a nice alternative becomes available, they might keep going on Steam for some time, because of the user base. They probably won’t move away from it so quickly; Steam is too big. That said, at the end of the day, what devs truly want is making the most money. Will they keep sending their customers, who already decided to buy their games by the way, will they keep sending them to Steam that charges a 30% commission, or will they redirect their customers to Ultra where the commission is only 15%? So this is pretty simple in the end. Right now, Steam is still interesting, but with time, we will be able to get a nice market share as what we propose is simply more interesting. On top of that, devs will also make money when the users they send to Ultra purchase anything on the platform, so when indie devs send their users to Ultra, they will also make money when those customers buy a game from another company. Indies will be happy with that! There will be a race to direct customers on to Ultra, also for influencers, there will be a rush, and when all the features like Ultra Games, the NFT Marketplace, the Wallet and other things will be available on our platform, it will be hard to compete.
JDC: Could Steam try to keep their advantage by signing exclusive games and content?
Nicolas: No (laughs).
David: That would be a huge scandal in the video game industry.
Nicolas: First, they didn’t do it so far, even to compete with Epic, GOG and the others, besides with their own games that is. Then, their guidelines is to actually not have exclusive content on the platform.
David: In any case, they would face huge antitrust issues the minute they would try to do something like that. European commission would knock at their door right away, this could be an abuse of monopoly power. So no, we don’t think this will happen. Plus, Ultra Games, which is like a better Steam indeed, is not the only thing we have. You see, that wasn’t enough for us when we started working on the project. We wanted to build something that could truly disrupt the video game industry. This is why we have the whole application ecosystem. This is truly unique, no one has such a thing. So here, everyone, even students that know how to code, could develop an app, like an auction house for instance, using our blockchain layer as we really facilitate all the work for you, and publish it on our platform. That would allow them to access our user base and at the same time increase Ultra’s value. So not only our own services and apps will be on the platform, easy to use, but a whole lot of third-party apps will benefit from our technology too. Think about DeFi, lending and all these things… We’re sure this will happen, and it will give Ultra a different position in the space, as we will not only be a Steam competitor, but a complete application ecosystem focused on entertainment, with video games at its core, but it could also be with video streaming and potentially other things too.
JDC: You guys will clearly give devs and publishers tools to make marketing campaigns that are tailored to their needs…
David: Absolutely, that’s our goal. We are nearing completion of the first phase, which basically includes the client, Ultra Games, the Marketplace, the blockchain, NFTs … all this in a nice package, but we will eventually propose an advertisement platform too. You could make a tournament app, proposing NFTs as prizes but also monetizing it with ads. This will be available to everyone. You could add a banner using our platform for instance. This will create a circular economy where current users will make ads for their own NFTs, apps, communities, will be able to target their audience and the gains made here will be re-injected in the ecosystem. All of this will be powered by our own cryptocurrency, you’ll buy advertising credit with it, the banner you’ll display will yield you gains in it, so influencers will earn UOS by promoting games, and will be able to re-use them to advertise their own content. This will create a lot of interesting dynamics. And all this will be done instantaneously, with no transaction’s fees, even for nano transactions, and with free account creation. This is made possible by our blockchain.
JDC: I’d like to take a step back and hear about your own careers and how this project was born. Can you detail that a little bit?
Nicolas: David and I have known each other for 20-25 years, we played Counter Strike together in the past. We participated in tournaments, big ones like the CPA, we were gamers: we played video games a lot. So we kinda started managing projects like that, by creating and managing teams, then we made an IT company and quickly moved to the video game industry. Then we decided to go to China, as it was easier and cheaper to develop games there. We started a mobile gaming company, then a PC gaming studio, making FPS games on Unreal Engine. This company was bought by a big Chinese group called Kingsoft, whose CEO also was CEO of Xiaomi. Then we made a video game monetization strategy company. That was a very interesting project. We worked on the gamer side, on the developer side, on how to ensure users stay interested in a product and keep on using it and buying content. Then we started another project, a video game console with AMD. It was huge, we raised more or less 120M from the Chinese government, that was quite fun! We actually collaborated with AMD on the chip design and architecture, the console was as powerful as a PS4 Pro and there was the hardware, and the software part. The software was like a distribution platform, pretty much like if Steam was integrated in the console if you will. So yes, we have this kind of experience now. And when it comes to Crypto… we started around 2011.
David: BTC was worth $8 at the time (laughs)!
Nicolas: We actually started with mining, earning a BTC per day and spending it on graphic cards!
David: I first bought BTC at around $8 but even before that I remember when it was worth like $0.00 something… and when Ethereum arrived it was the trigger for me, I thought “ok so now there is something to be done”… then after the console project in China we came back to EU and we thought that the blockchain tech and video game industry put together could be something crazy, especially on PC where there are quite some issues that we know very well. We saw how blockchain could solve these issues and that’s how it all started. That was in 2017 and since then we had quite a journey, we talked to thousands of companies, had thousands of meetings, we worked a lot (smiles).
JDC: So it's an annoying question but please tell me, where’s the console?
David: So the console exists lol. I can’t go too much into details here, but Nico and I were founders of that company, but it was backed by a big Chinese group and government money so we cannot say we really owned it. What happened was out of our control, we started noticing some money was missing... So we decided that we could not stay there, things were happening… but we really did our part of the job. So well that AMD that was our partner at the time, immediately said yes when we told them we were starting a new project and would love to have them back us. So we started this new partnership even well before having the Ultra platform.
JDC: Crazy story of entrepreneurship in China, you probably learned a lot here… now, about the importance of the UOS token and Ultra’s business model. Can you tell us more?
Nicolas: So when it comes to raising money for Ultra, David and I were experienced, we were able to bootstrap Ultra without too much problems, then we did an ICO but had already worked with partners like Bitfinex that are with us for a long time, they knew we were working well and they knew we already had partners like AMD. Actually, AMD folks took a flight to Paris and stayed with us in a property we rented for a few days to discuss how we will launch this project etc… We have been talking about Ultra with them for 4 or 5 years now. Our partners have known us and our previous companies for a long time and are trusting us, we have a lot of support. I can’t give all the details about who financed what or why, but we always had serious people working with us. So, we also did an IEO, which involved Bitfinex. When users will buy things on UItra with FIAT money, we will buy UOS in the backend, primarily with Bitfinex as everything is working well with them. The token really powers the platform as you can buy anything with it, although developers can choose to be paid out in 40%UOS/60%FIAT. To this date, we have more than 150 devs that signed a contract with us, and we already have some saying they want to be paid in UOS only, as they believe in the project and have enough resources to manage their business, so they are betting on the future of Ultra. That said, each dev is different, some of the biggest devs are like “ok we’re not sure we can accept payments in crypto right now, we might need more time to see what’s possible”. When it comes to the utility of UOS, referrals can only be paid out in UOS for instance. Also, devs, publishers and content creator can set what we call a promoter fee, so let’s say Ubisoft decides to give 15% of its Assassin’s Creed sales to anyone selling the game for them, as an influencer or a specialized website, if my audience is buying the game using my link, I’ll get a 15% cut on the price, and that will be paid out in UOS. This will all be handled by our blockchain. So even though most users will be using FIAT to buy the game with a credit card, without even knowing anything about crypto, that money will automatically be sent to an exchange to buy UOS in order to pay the promoter out. UOS token really is the main currency of the platform without being an issue as people can still use FIAT money to purchase what they want, the same way they do on Steam. They can also top up UOS if they want.
JDC: Are there any features or products that can only be bought with UOS, and not with FIAT?
David: Yes, the second-hand market. Anything that is “new” can be purchased with a credit card, and anything second-hand can only be purchased in UOS.
Nicolas: By second-hand, we are still talking about NFTs here. But hey no worries they haven’t been damaged 😊
JDC: So, the main advantage here is that we can now easily re-sell stuff on the second-hand market, and that was not possible before. Actually, even things that are worth hundreds of thousands or even millions can be easily sold without any risk, something that would be extremely hard to do on eBay… do you guys have any examples of NFTs that have seen their price go crazy?
David: Yeah, I have a very simple example. So, let’s take Ubisoft for instance, they have already released 5 Assassin’s Creed games, and there are hardcore fans out there that bought them all. Say Ubisoft decides to make a single NFT that is signed by the producer of the most appreciated version of the game, and you know this game really made his mark on video game history, if you were to buy this unique NFT, it would basically be like owning a piece of this history. There are some very wealthy fans of Assassin’s Creed that could bid on this item, so there really isn’t any limit here.
Nicolas: There are absolute fans that spent 6M on some similar items; this already happened!
JDC: So how did this transaction happen? For such huge amounts, I wouldn’t buy anything on eBay, but with UOS…
David: Our NFT marketplace is decentralized and non-custodial. This means that, unlike NFTs on Ethereum, you don’t have to send your NFT onto a platform that will hold it until it is sold. Here, your NFT stays in your inventory, and our technology will allow you to show everyone it is on sale. When someone decides to buy it, our mechanism will take the item from you only when payment is made. This is happening at the same exact time. It basically removes the risk of a hack of the marketplace that holds your NFT, or the risk of seeing the marketplace raising its commission etc. You and only you keep custody of your item until it is sold. This works with normal sales but also with auctions, you are keeping total control of your NFT. Not only this is decentralized but the marketplace is built in a way you don’t even have to trust Ultra to sell your stuff with an auction. In fact, the auction feature is built directly in the NFT. Ultra’s platform will only be used as an interface here.
JDC: Is there a lot of competition in this space, things like Enjin or Wax maybe?
David: So yes, there is some competition indeed, but only projects that do one thing at a time right now, like a blockchain with NFTs... There is no all-in-one solution just yet, and this is where it becomes complicated, users have to jump through hoops to do what they want to do, as none of these projects were designed from the ground up to make all the features work together seamlessly. So, this is what we bring on the table, everything has been thought of from A to Z to make it easy for everyone, our job is to bring a solution that works and that doesn’t feel any different than a non-blockchain mainstream platform. So that’s our first advantage. The second thing is that no one has a games distribution platform at the moment, and this is super important for NFTs. In fact, devs that want to publish their games don’t like when they need to work with a new SDK, because it comes with new documentation, they have to trust another company, there are extra fees etc… What we have is an SDK for the distribution platform, like Steam, but that includes all the NFT features as well, so devs don’t have double work, they can publish their game and use NFTs at the same time. We are the only company in the space that can provide that, and it will take a lot of time before someone else can do anything similar. We know how much work it takes to build such a thing, and I’m not sure it is a good idea for anyone to do it all over again when there is a solution already available.
Nicolas: Yeah good luck with that! To be honest, there is a reason why Steam is pretty much the only company with a self-publishing platform right now: it is a huge project that takes years to build, you need a ton of experience in the field. We did it as we were lucky enough having gained experience with our previous companies, in every aspect of the business, so we were able to build the complete solution as we already faced each and every problem before, we already knew which partners to work with and how to combine all the efforts together to make things work. Our solution comes complete and ready to use for every actor in the space, whether we’re talking about devs, players, publishers, people that will do some marketing for a specific game etc... We basically went through all this before and now have an all-in-one solution, so when we engage with a big company, say Microsoft or whatever, and they have specific needs like region locking their games, or tax related concerns, well we can handle that because we anticipated it.
JDC: We have you two with us now, but there are other big guns in your team right?
Nicolas: We have the biggest! (laughs)
David: ...and Nicolas and I are actually the smallest here! (laughs again)
Nicolas: Our CTO for instance… it’s quite something when you meet him, you’re like “alright… Sir! yes Sir!” (laughs)… so he is our CTO for 3 years now, he joined us early. When we pitched him our vision, he was directly like “ok I’m in! I’m quitting all I’m doing now and I will work with you! Give me your conditions, won’t be a problem, we’ll make it work!”. So he is the former CTO of Dell, Time Warner, Hearst, you know… juggernaut kind of companies. He used to manage thousands of devs like a boss… he really is a big fish who understood the long term vision of Ultra and how our platform would disrupt the industry. Actually, this is all part of something we didn’t disclose publicly just yet, that will come later…
JDC: Common! We know each other well, spill the beans already!
Nicolas: Alright alright, so here you go, it’s about… nah I’m just kidding (laughs). In all seriousness though, you have the Ultra ecosystem, the distribution platform, the blockchain, the framework, the SDK, NFTs and all these things are included in… something even bigger. Our solution will eventually be even more powerful than what we publicly talked about to this day. When we presented it to our CTO, it was a done deal and he joined the company!
JDC: You always had an extremely ambitious vision that you are revealing bits after bits… you basically are professional teasers aren’t you? (laughs)
David: You’re right 😊 This thing that we call the secret sauce is like the final touch. It’s really something completely nuts, and I really am looking forward to it. By the way, you guys as influencers will benefit from it like crazy, this is for certain, guaranteed!
Nicolas: When we are talking about it with partners like AMD, who have been with us since the genesis of this project, they’re like “ok so we will move on to this right away. We’ll go for it as soon as it’s ready, no questions!”
David: In fact, when you look at the contract we signed with them right at the beginning, there already are terms in relation to these things… that we don’t even have yet! (BIG smile on David and Nicola’s faces)
JDC: So the plan is already laid out, you guys are shrewd strategists.
David: To finish on this, what we are currently doing here is laying the foundation for that next, ultimate step that will come next year. We could have done some of these things faster, but we decided to do them right, and this really is the foundation of what will come next year.
JDC: This is probably already known, but can you tell how much money you have raised for Ultra?
Nicolas: We publicly raised 11.7 Millions, about 6 Millions private funds and about 5 Millions with the IEO.
JDC: But wait, you must have much more expenses than that, you have a lot of devs, an expensive workforce, you’re here for quite some time already … Do you plan on raising more money to make sure you can achieve your goal, your vision?
(Nicolas smiles and cracks a hard-to-understand joke involving fishing … everyone laughs)
Nicolas: We can’t talk about this just yet, but you know, all is well, everything goes in the right direction…
JDC: When did you raise the money exactly?
Nicolas: The private sale went from 2017/2018 till 2019 and the IEO happened in July 2019 on Bitfinex, it lasted like 30 seconds, it was a real rush! And now we are recruiting 25 extra people… because we have a very broad vision and the team is currently made of 90% devs. They are all senior devs… no mid, junior or intern devs here, only seniors! (laughs)
JDC: That's actually a good point, what roles are you currently looking for?
David: Right now, we’re looking for a bit of everything, from back end to front end devs, data, Blockchain devs… but we also start looking for marketing professionals as we are growing our marketing team, and business development too. If anyone is listening, just reach out, we have just opened an office in Estonia, we have jobs available in France but you can also work remotely.
JDC: I have a pretty indiscreet question, how did you manage the cryptocurrency you raised, did you sell or convert some? How does one manage all that? In fact, the years 2018/2019 weren’t that easy right? 2018 was what we call in Latin “annus horribilis” … (everyone laughs)
David: Look, I can say this one thing, no one from the executive level did sell any of their own coin.
Nicolas: That wasn’t the question (laughs)
JDC: But that’s alright! I like what I’m hearing right now! (laughs again)
Nicolas: If you want to know, we ran other companies in the past so we already knew how funding works, how uncool it is when you’re lacking money and need to go find some, so our policy when we did our private sale was to convert everything to FIAT directly, so we didn’t take any risks with our finances. We knew exactly what we would do with the amount we raised, our Excel spreadsheet had every expense detailed to the cent, we really figured everything, every expense, even the number of chairs was planned, everything was anticipated. We knew we should not speculate with our finances, only to find ourselves missing money later.
David: We were one of the only companies that made such a decision at the time, and we saw everyone getting hit really hard by the BTC price drop. We survived because we knew it was all but the moment to “play” with the company’s blood. We just didn’t do that.
JDC: This is good, you really didn’t take any risks, quite impressive, bravo!
JDC: Developing a games distribution platform must be quite something and you guys are working on it for 3 years now. We know you raised about 13 Millions and you’ll have to generate profit at some point. When do you expect Ultra to be profitable enough to ensure sustainable growth of the platform?
Nicolas: Next year 😊
JDC: Wow, that’s awesome!
Nicolas: Cool huh? We have a well thought of plan. We already know where revenues will come from, how much we need to secure an exclusive game, how many new users it will bring to the platform, what is the lifetime value of those users and what they’ll spend their money on etc… We know how all of this is working thanks to our past experience in monetization strategy. We have some data. Things like the typical budget of a gamer, how much they spend, why and when, are not new to us.
JDC: You’ll have a better customer lifetime value than the competition, with the second-hand market, the NFTs….
David: We’ll destroy the customer lifetime value of Steam. Our revenue sources will not stop at the initial game sale… it will go much farther than that.
JDC: …and your users will not even have to spend more than anywhere else, it’s just that they will have access to more features, and simply put, they will have more bang for their buck on Ultra … this is really interesting! So, in one year from now, we’re more or less guaranteed to see on Ultra most AAA games that are on Steam or Uplay…
Nicolas: Well… not exactly in one year but by the end of next year, yes… give us one and a half years… Can you see the nuance? (laughs) But hey, we have some AAA in the pipeline for sure. We haven’t announced anything yet because no one besides beta testers can access the platform right now, but there will be more users with the Wave 2 coming soon, and with it more games that we will add for everyone to see. No devs announced doesn’t mean we don’t have anything in stock though, it’s actually the opposite, we have already onboarded 150 of them.
David: we will start making announcements at some point, about the partners, the developers, the games… There will be exclusive games announced too.
JDC: Ubisoft is one of your main partners but they also have their own platform, Uplay. And frankly, Uplay doesn’t really stand a chance when compared to Ultra. So, Ubisoft will have to get rid of it, right? (smiles)
David: I don’t think they’ll really toss Uplay… that said, it is maybe possible to do a few things together…
JDC: What is the partnership you’re the proudest of?
Nicolas: To be honest, we have been talking to most companies you can think of in the video game industry, whether it is EA, Microsoft, Intel, Nvidia, Razer… you name them. We spoke to all of them. There are some we are working with or will be working with, and there is a lot that is not public just yet. We already have ongoing partnerships but some companies are waiting for the NFT marketplace to be available before they announce what they’ll do with us. Although there are a lot of super interesting things happening currently, things that we would love to talk about, it would not make too much sense for us and for our partners to make any announcement today. It’s not really our style to be like “hey look, this is awesome! We will do this… in 6 months”. It just has to be the right moment for everyone.
David: It’s been 3 years that we have a Business Development Team, and it’s been 3 years that we discuss with everyone. Our partners have seen the company growing from the get go, with time, we shared the demos with them, and we included them in the development process. They are interested in this new technology and the new possibilities it offers. They made feature requests that we ended up adding to our roadmap, we really have included them in our discussions since the beginning. We had the opportunity to start working with some of these companies immediately, and there are some that are on the sideline, waiting for the Marketplace to be launched. We are talking about thousands of companies here. Some have already signed something with us, and some will, when the platform will be live.
Nicolas: A few years ago, when we presented things like NFTs, it didn’t catch any attention really, but then years later, people were like “but hey you never told us about that”… uh uh, yes, we did! Look at this email and PowerPoint from 3 years ago!
David: When they saw NFTs selling for millions they suddenly got interested (laughs)
JDC: Although it is sometimes hard to comprehend why the value of some NFTs is rising so much, one thing is clear: it is a huge market.
Nicolas: What is really different with the NFTs on Ultra is that they are not just a piece of art. Using a single SDK, a developer could create NFTs that could basically be used everywhere on Ultra. A super rare in-game item for example, could be used on a tournament platform as a cash prize. NFTs could also be used on a livestream platform as giveaways, to reward viewers that watch some specific content. Rare NFTs could also be coming in a bundle with a game on the distribution platform and they could even be used as an entry ticket to an elite tournament, and be distributed during a live stream prior to the event. This entry ticket could in turn simply be sold by an end user on the NFT marketplace. All these use cases are interconnected and all these different NFTs have a real utility.
JDC: It’s like back in the days when we used to make a clear distinction between a coin and a utility token. What you are talking about here could simply be called utility NFTs…
Nicolas: This is it. This is the philosophy of Ultra.
David: It will actually go much further than this. Our NFT technology is quite different from what already exists, which is very basic. When you’ll compare the source code of current NFTs with ours… it will just blow your mind. What we have done is crazy. It’ll be very interesting to see many issues solved with our technology. Things like pricing: today your NFT could be set to be worth 1 ETH, but when ETH’s price drastically changes next week, you’ll have to adjust the price, pay transactions… managing pricing today is a mess. Our NFTs can have a set price in dollars, although you could buy them in UOS. What’s also possible would be to create NFTs that can only be owned by members of a specific community or club. These NFTs could not be bought, traded or even just dropped in the inventory of persons who are not part of that club. Can you imagine the possibilities it will offer to influencers? They can be like “ok, I’ll give you this NFT if you’re in my group of followers' '. Followers would be able to receive it, and once they own it they could stop following the influencer and keep it, but they really have to be originally part of the group to get it.
JDC: You revolutionize how one can grow their community by using NFTs. There are so many use cases … one thing that we would love to do, that would be really awesome, would be to be able to set prize pools in private parties only, so me and my friends who have a rookie level at Fifa could just decide to bet what we want, and say the winner takes all. Would that be possible in game, in a private way?
David: This feature will be included in our SDK, devs can integrate that and you’ll be able to invite who you want in a private party, players will decide what’s the prize pool, and set the distribution rules themselves. We even have a drag and drop feature in Ultra. You’ll be able to drag your NFT, drop it into the tournament app for example, and send invites using our lobby making feature.
JDC: So I don’t have to compete against elite players and lose all my NFTs, I could chose to only play with friends that are as lame as me, and have all my chances in a private party... (laughs)
David: In the application ecosystem, you could use a rock paper scissor app developed and published on Ultra by a student, drag and drop NFTs in it, invite someone for a duel, win or lose NFTs, without even needing to launch a full-on game. This will happen directly in the ecosystem. This is just an example, but there will be many interesting things like that that will be created, things that we can’t even imagine right now. It will be very exciting to see what will happen.
JDC: What about predictive markets, could we see that happening or are there regulation issues? Could the Ultra SDK be used together with an Oracle? Say, one that would collect the result of an online game match and allow everyone to place a bet on that?
David: Results can be posted on-chain, without an Oracle. Devs can decide to use our SDK to publish the result of a match on the chain, with a match ID. Then people can do what they want with it…
Nicolas: What we do is to provide the technical solution to do something like that, so we don’t have to comply with regulations ourselves. We just provide the tools. Betting on yourself like what you were describing earlier with the private Fifa party is not regulated, it is called skill based, and we could develop something in house for that. However, there are regulations and licenses that are needed when you are placing actual bets on third parties or allowing people to do that. We are not subject to that as technology providers, unlike companies that would use our tools to develop a betting app, whether this app is integrated into the Ultra platform or only using our blockchain data.
David: This is what commonly happens right now: a match is being played and people are responsible for taking the score to a betting platform. With our technology, it’s the game server itself that is posting the results on the blockchain, using a signed transaction, so you could know exactly which server has done that. Talk about trustless technology huh?
JDC: This is great! But hey do you have something to showcase maybe?
(Nicolas shares his screen and shows the Ultra platform, the Wallet, how you can buy UOS from it and briefly mentions the referral link)
David: We have a bi-directional swap ETH-Ultra.
Nicolas: And this swap should be extended…
(Nicolas shows how to buy a game and explains there is an on-chain Oracle that calculates the price in UOS live if users want to pay with UOS. He explains how paying in multiple currencies will also be possible on the platform. Finally, Nicolas shows the Advanced View which allows users to see the exact content of the transaction in a few lines of codes)
David: We have a user interface that easily interprets the code behind a transaction and shows it in a readable and user-friendly way. You can easily switch from the base interface to the Advanced View mode if you really want to look into the details of your transaction.
JDC: So, the transactions are free… but can you create as many wallets as you want?
David: No. We do verify your phone number when creating an account and a wallet. You basically can have as many wallets as you have valid phone numbers at hand.
(Nicolas continues showcasing the Ultra interface. He shows how games NFTs are displayed on the Library and explains that they get updated automatically)
JDC: Can users launch a game before it has finished downloading?
David: We have this feature, yes. That said, devs need to do some upfront work to make it possible.
(Nicolas shows the Game Dev Center)
Nicolas: Devs can configure everything from this page, all the information like the genre of the game, date, multiplayer compatibility, PEGI age rating. Devs can then upload all games files in their Files Repository. Every time they put new files, the difference between old and new versions is taken into account and a patch will automatically be created and applied to local user files.
(Nicolas moves on to the next feature and shows the Token Factories).
Nicolas: Once devs have uploaded all their files and set different versions of a game, they will create a token which basically is the NFT of their game, or a specific version of it. They could use that factory to make sure that a specific build is only available in China for instance.
JDC: How do you know which region a user is in? Via the registered phone number?
David: Yes, the phone number and their credit card details.
Nicolas: We also check the IP address and other details that have been previously entered. We have multiple verification methods to ensure we’re dealing with the right person, in the right country.
David: As an example, if devs wanted, they could set the price of their games based on the region it is sold in.
Nicolas: Although there probably will be ways to work around that, it won’t be that easy. Say, if you manage to buy a game in a different region than you’re physically in, you’ll struggle re-selling it to folks that, like you, aren’t in the region the game was supposed to be bought in in the first place.
David: We want to offer the possibility for devs to publish their games the way they want, sometimes with region specific pricing. We will of course do our due diligence to ensure the exact location of the users on the platform but there are limits, and some will probably find ways to do what they want. We’ll just make sure we prevent that from happening in the majority of cases.
JDC: Could you ban cheaters or users with questionable behaviors like other platforms are doing?
David: It is the responsibility of the developers to do that. We cannot know if someone is actually cheating in a game.
JDC: What are the conditions for someone to upload files and publish games on the platform? Can everyone do that?
David: No, you need to register first, we’ll make all sorts of verifications on the company, tax number, country you are operating in… there are regulations and we will not cut any corners.
Nicolas: We are working with a French company called Synapse for the Know Your Business (KYB) verifications (hello Florian)
JDC: What are the different protagonists on the Ultra platform? I can think of the games, devs and influencers…
Nicolas: So, there are the gamers, the developers, the service providers that could offer a tournament or streaming app like Theta and the influencers.
(Nicolas briefly showcases the Theta app in Ultra)
Nicolas: Influencers have a very central role on Ultra. In fact, we always try to see how every actor on the platform will benefit from a new feature when we develop it. Think of the NFT features, the referral program, bringing entire communities on Ultra, all these things will be super interesting for influencers. They could give away NFTs created by devs that want to promote their games, and grow their communities with that. Followers would then know the game while getting free stuff. There is a lot of interoperability possible between all these actors.
JDC: The platform looks really good, we like how things flow between commercial activity and pure entertainment with the mix of NFTs and games, there are clear and unique monetization opportunities that really cannot be found anywhere else... So the real key here seems to be the adoption rate?
David: It’s a bit of a chicken and egg problem. You need the content to get the users but without users there is no content. We are solving these issues with our partnerships, either announced or unannounced. We can say we already have the users thanks to a partnership we already talked about, with the biggest Chinese gaming media group. This group will operate Ultra in China and they have 75 million monthly active PC users, which is exactly what we need. So yes, we will have users on the platform, this is guaranteed. This partnership should show you a bit what we have in the pipeline. In fact, we are using our existing partnerships to promote our project and get even more companies to sign up with us. This is the result of 3 years of hard work in business development and the process of finding new partners is actually becoming easier for us now. This year, people start to really understand the interest and value of NFTs and we can see something has changed with our partners… it’s them who reach out to us now, they’re like “hey guys when is this ready already?”. We have a lot of collaborators that are standing by and that are really impatiently waiting to get going now.
JDC: What are we waiting for then? Let’s bring it on! (laughs)
Nicolas: We didn’t mention Ed when we discussed our team earlier. Ed has been in the video game industry for 35 years, it is pretty cool working with him. He is former head of Apple Games, Google Games Unit, he launched World of Tanks in a lot of countries. He has done a lot of great things and is really well connected. So when we need to get in touch with a company, he is our man. An example: when we wanted to reach out to Dell, it’s not even our CTO who is the former CTO of Dell who did it, it’s Ed! Ed sent a message directly to Michael Dell and was like “hey what’s up? Let’s do something together”. He really knows all the CTOs of every company in the gaming industry! When we want to work with a big company in Korea, Japan or anywhere really, it goes super smoothly: Ed just directly sends an email to the CTO of that company who will go down the hierarchy and ask someone to look into what we’re doing. That person can only really say “yes sir, of course sir” and the ball gets rolling (laughs). This is how we get to partner with big players of the industry. AMD for one, will help us grow our user base. They’ll include Ultra in their drivers so that when someone installs them or buys an AMD graphic card, they’ll have the option to install our client as well. Same with the games they typically offer with their graphic cards: instead of going on Steam to redeem them, you’ll do that on Ultra now.
David: There will be an NFT redeem code (Nicolas and David smile).
JDC: This is huge! AMD sells millions of graphic cards!
David: This code will basically bring a new user to Ultra every time… Cha-Ching! This is pretty cool.
JDC: I hope Ultra won’t become bloatware, stuff that comes pre-installed on new machines is horrible (laughs). Plus, you are connected to Dell… please guys, don’t make it like Norton Antivirus or McAfee that launch on startup, this makes me lose it (laughs again).
David: well… we’re kinda trying though (laughs) There are discussions going on… not sure if you will keep on liking us after all (laughs). But hey, we are obviously trying everything we can, right?
Nicolas: What it is, there is a referral program. Say you are a company like Dell, if your customer has Ultra pre-installed on their machine… Dell will be the referrer (smiles).
JDC: Ooow damn! They’ll make a killing with that! (laughs)
David: The user will launch Ultra and get registered and it is a jackpot for Dell.
Nicolas: This will make everyone happy (smiles)
JDC: This is a well thought mechanism, also for manufacturers. Here is a question from the livestream viewers now: will you be at the Paris Games Week coming up in 2022? I guess you’ll be present at many events like that… anything planned on this side?
Nicolas: We’re systematically present at every event since we launched Ultra. Things like E3, DICE, Pax, Paris Games Week, GDC, Gamescom, Tokyo Games Show, ChinaJoy, G-Star… we’re going to them all really. This is how we meet our partners, have a drink with them, discuss, and plan what we’ll do together. This is what we really do in a games conference. Then you could be public facing, have big shows with fireworks and what not, but that’s not what brings a lot of value compared to the business meetings. That’s not to say we won’t do anything like that in a trade show. In short, we’re already going to all these events, but for business discussions that happen behind closed doors.
JDC: This is efficient (smiles). About the token, we can buy it on the platform, it is used to buy games when users pay with Fiat etc. but it won’t be limited to the Ultra platform right? I have seen UOS listed on Kucoin, Bitfinex… will there be other exchanges too?
Nicolas: Right now there is Bitfinex, KuCoin, Bitmax, AscenDex, Bithumb for Korea…
JDC: is it compatible with DEXes?
David: For now UOS is an ERC-20 token. We will soon give users access to the wallet app and with it will come a bi-directional swap. You will be able to swap the ERC20 to the native UOS, and also send the native UOS to Uniswap if you want to. This feature is part of our Wallet and it will be extended to other blockchains too, like Binance smartchain, EOS, Telos … There are interesting blockchains out there that are compatible with our technology and that we will end up adding. Exchanges will also support the native token to allow instant transactions. It’s up to them really to choose if they want to support the ERC20 token or the native one, or both.
Nicolas: We’re already in discussions with many exchanges and they will rather move to the mainnet, some are actually already working on porting the token. On our side, we will keep the bridge available for folks that want access to DeFi, Uniswap and send UOS or Ultra’s NFTs to Ethereum, or Binance smartchain…
JDC: Is it possible to wrap UOS NFTs and transform them to ERC1155?
Nicolas: We can even say we have BTC on our main net. This is done. This wrapping solution will be universal. You’ll be able to send any ER20 to our blockchain, it will show in your wallet and you’ll be able to use it in our ecosystem like you use UOS. You’ll basically be able to purchase your games using any cryptocurrency you have at hand, we will take care of the conversion to UOS in the background.
JDC: This is crazy… but you won’t wrap your NFTs to put them on OpenSea, right?
David: No, we won’t but we’ll do it the other way around. You’ll be able to send your Ethereum NFTs to Ultra and get to pay no transaction fees, have instant transfer etc…
JDC: Crypto Punks too?
Nicolas: Yes! Crypto Punks too!
JDC: And we’ll be able to use them in a prize pool too?
Nicolas: Absolutely! And you’ll be able to use them with all the features of our ecosystem once they will be in there. Whether you want to use them in tournaments, games, in our auction house, in the live streams etc… In short, you’ll get access to the entire ecosystem once your NFTs have been converted to our blockchain standard. This will be a lot of fun (smiles).
JDC: Ok so when is this all opening to the public?
Nicolas: So, we’re in closed beta right now, there are 3 different Waves, then we open the platform to the public. Wave 1 started 31 December last year, Wave 2 is about to start, Wave 3 will quickly follow. There will be much less time between 2 and 3 than between 1 and 2. Less than 6 months basically. Ultimately, the platform will open to the public before year end. Next step for us and all the users that have won or will win access to it, is Wave 2. At the same time, everyone will be able to download the client but features like Ultra Games and the Marketplace won’t be active just yet. One of the features that will be available from the start is the Wallet app. It will allow users to swap their tokens, invite friends with their referral link and buy UOS directly within the platform. The idea is that we make the client available to everyone and it will auto update and add features and apps over time.
David: If you’re part of Wave 2 or 3 you’ll have access to more features than people that aren’t.
JDC: How can people participate? Do you have things like bug bounty for instance? How can we try to get early access to Ultra?
Nicolas: You can follow our Twitter ultra_io for instance, we’ll organize contests to give you a chance to win Wave 2 early access, or you can join us on Telegram at ultra_io. There also is Ultra Community that is managed by community members who organize different activities, and they’ll give away early access to Wave 2 as well. We have a big French speaking community, probably bigger than English one, with 12k or 13k members… You could also sign up on our website to have a chance to be picked up for Wave 3. In any case, we’ll make the client available to everyone somewhere in July so you’ll be able to get involved and invite your friends. Influencers will be able to invite their community on the platform via the referral program. You’ll gain 2% of every purchase the person you referred to will make. And you’ll gain 1% of every purchase made by the persons they will invite. It’s a two layer program.
JDC: I see questions about staking on the live chat... is it like on EOS where you have to launch a node, or is it working differently?
Nicolas: We get to decide who will run a node, who we put our trust in, like with Ubisoft and many other partners that will join us. We’ll also work with EOS top block producers (BPs). We have a different approach with nearly 0% inflation. At this moment, the inflation level is at 0.1% per year or something…
JDC: I see, this is a different model, Ultra is pretty much a consortium blockchain.
David: What you must know is that once we have selected BPs, we don’t get to decide what they’ll sign or not. We are fully decentralized in that way. We noticed that the election mechanism on EOS is affected by politics, corruption (David makes an into brackets hand gesture), money… What we want on Ultra is to have BPs that are efficient, focused on development, work well and provide updates quickly… so we select them accordingly. That said, once we have signed the transaction that gives them the power to produce blocks, it’s over for us. We cannot decide to update the blockchain by ourselves for instance, there must be a consensus with every BP. If BPs decide one of them must leave, then there must be a vote. This aspect of Ultra is working like EOSIO, EOS, Wax etc…
JDC: This is probably better than the classical EOS mechanism as you get to decide who gets involved first, knowing that your partners are well trusted actors of the industry. Participants can see who is running nodes, they can see Ultra is no plutocracy…
Nicolas: The reputation is also something that comes at play. Say you have Microsoft as a BP, will you trust them, as a big company, not to steal your money? Most certainly, right? There should be no scandals with such actors. It’s not like Ubisoft will steal your NFT or something…
JDC: All BPs are public now that the main net is launched right? How many are there?
Nicolas: Yes, they’re all public, we have 7 of them for now.
David: EOS Nation, Ubisoft, EOS Sweden, EOS RIO… they often are folks that are original block producers on EOS.
JDC: Pretty interesting. Ok so, before we wrap this up, we usually like to ask this question: what are the projects that you get excited about in the crypto space? Besides your own, what are the things that make you enthusiastic?
(Nicolas and David take a few seconds to think about the question)
Nicolas: For me personally, there is Theta obviously. They do some great work and have a livestream feature, so there is a lot of compatibility with Ultra. We looked into what they do and it is really interesting. Other than that, everything that is related to the Metaverse.
JDC: Ok so let me stop you right here. You need to educate me on that, I see this Metaverse term used everywhere, but what are we exactly talking about here?
Nicolas: There are different interpretations of the Metaverse, it depends a little bit on who you ask. What people generally refer to and what we envision are not the exact same things. In the grand scheme of things, the Metaverse represents different things that interact with each other without necessarily having any link between them. It could be like a central world where different activities take place. You could have a marketplace where you can sell some stuff and at the same time something football related, completely different but connected to the same universe… It’s like having multiple universes colliding in the same place.
David: It’s like you and your assets' presence are permanent and you could move from one game to another, all the while keeping your single virtual character. This character might be represented realistically here and be very cartoonish there, but in the end, it would keep a resemblance. This should give you a bit of an idea of what the Metaverse could be… Another example: if I was to have 50 UOS in my pocket at some point, I would keep them anywhere in that place. It really comes down to having your assets permanently present and usable in that universe.
JDC: So, do you have a Metaverse project in the works?
David: It’s not a project per se but in this day and age, The Metaverse is something that is becoming more and more doable. Actually, Epic is working on it as we speak. I believe only big names with a lot of resources like them could achieve it. In theory, The Metaverse is pretty much like a blockchain, once it is up and running, a lot of different actors could come and contribute to it.
JDC: So, is Ultra a Metaverse then?
Nicolas: We are a Multiverse (laughs)
JDC: Oh no you’re losing me now! Please stop that! (laughs again)
David: Going back to what Epic is doing, they are investing billions into that thing.
Nicolas: Yes, billions. They are putting billions into development... What we could do with Ultra is contributing with our blockchain technology, bringing NFTs so that everyone could use them… Pretty much anyone can contribute with something… like, you could come with a racing game and add it to The Metaverse. In the end, no one really knows how this thing will evolve, but we hope we will be able to bring our blockchain to it. There could be Ultra credit cards that one could use in stores created by anybody, anywhere in The Metaverse for instance … and we could become virtual sales reps, trying to promote our virtual credit cards, and get them adopted as a method of payment by virtual stores … a bit like we’re doing in the real life now (smile). This is the main interest of the Metaverse, it is a second world.
JDC: This is very interesting. It seems that The Metaverse is really catching your attention…
David: Inevitably, yes. Even more if it involves Epic, I am a great fan of their work. We’ve been using their Unreal engine in the past, I know what they are capable of in terms of 3D technology etc… These guys are killers. If there was one company I would bet on, one company that truly has a shot at creating a Metaverse, it would be Epic. Not to say it will work, I don’t know that, but if Google was like “we’re gonna make a Metaverse” I would not give them a chance to succeed. That simply won’t happen.
JDC: I just googled it, “Epic raises 1 billion dollars from Sony to create a Metaverse”… I don’t think my mom could fully comprehend what’s happening here, but it seems something is happening indeed (laughs)
David: Yes, and that is only the money they have raised… but they also have funds themselves. You see what I mean? (smiles) These guys are loaded.
JDC: This Metaverse thing is crazy, we really need to dig into it…
David: Other than that, there is a project called NOIA (Syntropy) that I find interesting. I don’t have much time to really get into it but I found it cool when I read about it. In fact, we could even make use of it for our BPs.
JDC: Can you describe it in a few words?
David: In short, the Internet is a network made of nodes, but the protocol it is based on wasn’t made for something that dense. Today, when a connection is established between 2 actors, like for this call, it goes through multiple nodes, although it doesn’t really make sense when you look at where these actors are localized. What NOIA does is optimize how the connection is made and reduce communication latency. It could improve trading, gaming, and many types of online services. It’s a modern way of managing networks.
JDC: Guys this was an extraordinary meeting, we’ve learned a lot and we really can’t wait to try out Ultra. We used to spend quite some time on Steam but if the same games are available on Ultra now… We will definitely be early adopters. This thing simply looks incredible on paper, really looking forward to it, even if we start to get a bit old for gaming (laughs)
David: No way, there is no such thing as too old for gaming. Actually, looking at the demographics, the average age of gamers in the USA is 47 years old, or something like that. Truly incredible! If you look at specific game genres, it’s kinda crazy.
Nicolas: The hardcore gamers are usually between 30 and 40 years old. There also are the older ones that play Backgammon and what not on web players…They kinda skew the balance (laughs) Truth be told, older folks really love gambling, if they can make a buck while playing simple games in their retirement home… I mean, I guess there is a market there too (laughs).
David: To finish, we must say that from everything we explained today, a whole lot is already here, ready, but we’re not done just yet. We have these advantages of having a crazy good team, a lot of experience from past companies we made, and we do not have financial difficulties, so things that aren’t ready yet will eventually come out. This is for certain. The complexity of the project is already figured out, this is behind us. We keep on recruiting and will have more or less 90 employees by the end of year. Ultra is like a machine now, it just delivers one thing after another. We also get better at predicting timelines and getting organized. Ultra is like a war machine. It is equally hard to get it to accelerate than to slow it down. In short, please keep in mind that while not everything is ready, things will be delivered eventually, one after the other.
JDC: This is amazing. We’re gonna keep a very close eye on this. Once again the scope of this project, the ambition… we look forward to the launch!