Feb 20, 2023
Do you remember the holo chess scene onboard the Millennium Falcon in Star Wars Episode IV and again in Solo forty years later? Now, Gameboard is not quite there yet, but it gets pretty close.
But let's rewind.
Hardware is hard. And developing a new electronic device during the Covid pandemic with its travel restrictions has brought many manufacturing managers working with East-Asian manufacturers to tears.
But that's precisely what Gameboard's CEO Shail Metha and her team accomplished. When they started with a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter in 2019, it only took them 20 hours to reach the funding goal of USD 100k. That's when they knew that they were on to something.
Three years ago, the team began developing early prototypes of a digital board game console. These prototypes introduced hardware and software features that hadn't been possible before. Primarily, the key technology, sensescreen enables the next generation of touch interactions.
Much of the electronic gaming industry is about shooting aliens or other villains, driving around in fast cars, or hopping from one level to another.
Tabletop gaming has been largely unaffected by digital technology. Board games consist of wood or plastic and are played on a 17x17-inch gameboard.
The gaming industry is booming. In 2021, social gamers spent a whopping $27 billion. Parlor games are more popular than ever, with record engagement numbers.
These games range from classic, household favorites like Chess and Backgammon to Dungeons & Dragons, which fans watched for 20 million hours on Twitch last year.
Game consoles such as Xbox have made it possible to download and play games on your TV. Parlor games, however, cannot be experienced in the same way. For example, playing chess on a computer screen is much different from in a three-dimensional environment.
Gameboard is the first social gaming system to let you play with anyone from anywhere using any game pieces. Minis can now interact with battle maps and board games in a whole new way!
You can play chess against someone a thousand miles away. Both players will use authentic chess pieces, and the digital board will update in real-time so that you can see your opponent's moves.
You can also download hundreds of games and use your Gameboard as flexibly as you use games on your Xbox. In addition, it offers a real-life haptic experience, bringing the social aspect of gaming back, as Gameboard puts it.
Besides the soft- and hardware, we liked many aspects of the work the team had done.
Building the software and hardware was challenging enough, but the team also needed to figure out distribution. So, without revealing names, Gameboard partnered with a prominent US games distributor to deploy the first thousand devices in 2023.
The hardware is patent-protected and boasts a next-generation interface far superior to any current touchscreen. Their second patent focuses on the machine-learning algorithm that powers object, gesture, and physical piece detection and identification.
Features such as 150 frames per second touch technology, object touch, hover touch, and 3D touch will make playing on this digital Gameboard incredibly immersive and realistic, appealing to gamers of all ages.
During our due diligence, our colleague Ben drove all night from Berlin to Belgium to meet with a Gameboard software developer who was in possession of the only available device in Europe to test drive the unit.
Here is where we think the real magic of Gameboard will unfold:
Game inventors usually grant major publishers such as WotC, Asmodee, Hasbro, and Ravensburger exclusive rights to manufacture, distribute, and sell their games for approximately five years.
In return for this exclusivity, game inventors receive an advance and a percentage of royalties for each copy sold. Royalties range from 2-10% or more.
The traditional publishing system for board games resembles that of books or record labels. However, crowdfunding platforms and technological progress in the last decade have fueled the rise of self-publishing board games.
Self-published game designers often sell their products directly to customers via their website, online store, or a network of retailers. This gives them a larger share of the sale price than if they had licensed the game to a publisher, with royalties ranging from 20-30%.
We believe that with the emergence of tabletop gaming consoles like the Gameboard, the traditional publishing model for tabletop games is shifting towards digitization which will decrease the reliance on traditional intermediary services.
Lower entry barriers for game development will lead to higher revenue for content creators and a wider variety of games for gamers.
And where does blockchain come in? In many ways.
Starting from a potentially wallet-based loyalty program for hard-core gamers to the protection of digital property rights of creators using NFTs.
Gaming may very well become the use case that will bring blockchain technology to mass adoption. But it will have to be done carefully in a way that puts the pleasure of gaming first and removes the complexity of the underlying technology into the background.