Upland Co-Founder Idan Zuckerman explains how Upland, a blockchain collectible game, allows players to truly own virtual objects that are linked to the real world, and how this could disrupt the casual gaming industry.
Can you introduce Upland for us?
Upland is a fun, blockchain-powered, property collectibles game that blurs the boundaries between the real and virtual world. We believe Upland has the ability to spearhead a new type of movement; we call it the Ownership Revolution. People who play Upland can experience true ownership of the digital assets they collect in the game, with provable scarcity and ownership supported by blockchain technology.
Where did the initial idea for Upland come from?
As friends combining decades of experience in both the casual gaming and decentralized economies industries, we were looking at the different ways blockchain technology can disrupt a $50B casual games industry.
One game night, after playing Monopoly and watching the Netflix series “Stranger Things,” we got thinking about a property game in a parallel universe.
We believe properties that are based on real-world addresses are the ideal collectible NFT, and can serve as the foundation for a phenomenal location-based game. We knew we’d need to make the game super easy and accessible to play in order to be successful with mainstream audiences, which is why we’ve opted for a unique approach to blockchain gaming by reducing the traditional technical barriers to entry.
Can you introduce the team behind Upland, and tell us what makes it special?
We have a very diverse team and our founders are serial entrepreneurs from various business and technology backgrounds.
My own background is in heading up product and engineering organizations. I started my career in a special tech unit in the IDF (Israel Defense Force) where I led the developer and IT teams. After shifting to Consumer Internet, I also served as the VP of Engineering for Israel’s largest sports-news website, prior to joining the founding team of RocketPlay. I went on to serve as VP of Interactive Product at AGS for 3 additional years.
Dirk Lueth co-founded European and US-based companies in the FinTech and digital media spaces, including the Financial Times Deutschland and Forbatec which has been acquired by SunGard (today NYSE:FIS). Dirk has also mentored over 30 startups through his work at the German and Swiss startup accelerators in Silicon Valley and is a frequent speaker/panelist about blockchain and platform economics. He has studied Business Administration in Frankfurt and Paris and received a Ph.D. from the European Business School in Germany, where he wrote his doctoral thesis about private and state-controlled currencies.
Mani Honigstein studied at the University of London and Harvard University before starting his tech career in Tel Aviv, Israel where he spent over 10 years. Mani was a Principal at Pitango Venture Capital, Israel’s largest VC before founding and serving as the CEO of RocketPlay. RocketPlay became a leading mobile gaming company before its acquisition by AGS (NYSE: AGS). While serving as the GM of Interactive at AGS, Mani also became a co-founder of Maxwell Financial Labs, a leader in mortgage software. After leaving AGS, Mani started NeueCapital, a venture fund which focuses on investing in European and Israeli B2B software companies.
We also have an experienced team of developers in Ukraine, who are dedicated to making the Upland experience exciting, memorable, and addictively-fun for all players.
What stage is Upland at currently, and what are your plans for scaling?
Upland is currently in the beta phase and we are inviting a limited number of users to test our pre-launch version. San Francisco will be the first city in the game and we plan to expand to other cities and urban areas globally using a franchise system, where local operators can launch Upland in their part of the world. In the future, we also plan to invite third-party developers to build exciting new features and expand on our current foundations.
Why did you decide to use blockchain technology, and specifically EOSIO?
We decided to use blockchain technology because it allows us to create a real and open economy for our users. Thanks to blockchain technology, players can collect digital properties (NFTs) and virtual currency in the game and truly own them. The in-game currency, UPX, works as a vessel for a trustless exchange of value among our players.
We chose to build on EOSIO because we believe it’s the fastest and most scalable blockchain to build Upland on. Our end users don’t have to pay fees to interact with the game and EOSIO has a vibrant and growing community which we are proud to be a part of.
How has the EOSIO Community responded to your project?
We’ve had some incredible feedback so far from the pool of testers who’ve tried the pre-launch version. The community is very excited to see our finished product, and we have received a lot of interest both in the US and overseas in Asia, so we are optimistic that Upland will be incredibly popular leading up to our full launch later this year.
We have opened our waitlist at https://upland.me/ and are inviting limited amounts of users to test and purchase virtual properties in San Francisco.
What features of Upland do you think are the most compelling for users?
Firstly, we believe Upland’s fun game loops will be a key element for our users. Discovery and interaction is at the core of the game, and the ability to roam the neighbourhood while building a real digital property portfolio is an enticing prospect.
Secondly, we have an awesome game hero, The Llama, who helps our players to navigate the new world and truly embodies Upland’s quirky essence.
Finally, the core element of Upland is the level of true ownership that blockchain gaming offers. You can purchase, trade, and win items within a game. Blockchain backed assets allow you to truly own and keep your hard earned rewards instead of leaving them in the hands of a gaming company.
We also have lots of exciting location-based features planned for the future, one of which is an AR roaming feature, allowing Uplanders to find properties and UPX coins using their mobile phone camera.
What makes Upland different from other mobile games out there?
Upland is different to other mobile games because it has a natural scarcity of available properties, as they are all based on real-world addresses. We really liked the idea that players can buy a virtual property based on the real world because it’s something people can relate to, either because they want to own what they possess or aspire to in real life, or they simply want to enjoy playing the game.
We have also worked hard to make the complex technicalities of the underlying blockchain technology invisible to the player, and to make the game accessible to play using fiat currency for both acquiring and selling assets.
We are eliminating the traditional barriers which typically stop people entering the blockchain space, like setting up a crypto wallet. We have simplified our sign-up process, so players only need their email address to get started and there is no complicated key handling when they join.
What is the vision for Upland going forward?
Our ultimate mission is to bring the benefits of blockchain technology to the mass market, and we aim to do that through the casual gamified experience which Upland offers. We hope one day to see Upland in every city of the world, and to be recognized as a mainstream movement which empowering digital ownership.
The Ownership Revolution is coming…
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