Across the world, some 1.2 billion people play video games – 700 million of them online games. That’s a massive market that generates billions in revenue, yet gamers typically aren’t rewarded for spending their time playing a given game, and if they are, it’s usually with a game-specific currency that can’t be used anywhere else.
But that’s not the way it works in other industries. Airlines, for example, have alliances that all accept the same rewards, and your points can be used at a variety of retailers, hotel chains, car rental chains, etc. as well.
Wouldn’t it be better – and more fun – if gamers could play the games they liked and get rewarded with a universal, decentralized cryptocurrency that had utility across multiple games and could be traded between players?
That’s the idea behind BUFF. They want to be the “Star Alliance” for gamers, powered by the blockchain.
The Core Concept
The basic idea of BUFF is that it will be a decentralized rewards and loyalty platform for online gamers. Like typical rewards programs, gamers will be able to sign up for BUFF for free, and their onboarding process will provide the BUFF system access to measurements of their progress in partnered games.
That means that once a player has been onboarded, every time they log in and spend a few hours killing creeps (or whatever), the BUFF system can track their progress and reward them with an appropriate sum of the BUFF cryptocurrency. And because it’s blockchain-based, those rewards will be secure, transparent, and based on real-world economics rather than set by the BUFF team.
Once a player has earned some BUFF coins, they’ll be able to hop on the BUFF marketplace and use those coins to purchase in-game items across a variety of games, with prices set by user demand within the BUFF ecosystem.
Of course, without powerful game partners, a system like that would fall flat on its face. But BUFF is partnered with Overwolf, an existing gaming brand that already has integrations and apps for many of the world’s most popular games – particularly eSports titles like League of Legends, Overwatch, Dota 2, etc. That means that BUFF should have an easy road to integrating some of the world’s top titles (and unsurprisingly, BUFF says it plans to focus primary on major eSports titles to start.)
This system should have some appeal to game publishers, too, as rewards programs help reduce user churn, and BUFF’s blockchain-backed system will also prevent fraud, abuse, and other attempts at gaming the system, since gamers’ progress will be automatically tracked and logged on the chain.
BUFF itself will generate revenue by taking a small fraction of each transaction.
BUFF’s platform is still in the early stages, but it will require thousands of transactions per second and support for smart contracts. Because of its widespread support and large, active development community, the BUFF team has identified the Ethereum network as, at the very least, a good starting point for its public chain, and BUFF will be issued as an ERC-20 token.
But it won’t all be based on Ethereum. Because of the high transaction requirements (which the Ethereum network can’t currently support), rewards allocations will be processed by a separate, custom-made BUFF blockchain, which more general transactions like marketplace purchases will happen using the Ethereum network and the BUFF token. The BUFF blockchain will handle the heavy-lifting of day-to-day game process tracking and analysis, as well as using AI to sniff out fraud and abuse attempts.
On the gaming side, BUFF will integrate with Overworf’s existing game tech, which is capable of reading player progress and understanding in-game events like “kills” or “assists” for accurate rewards tracking. In-game events will then be processed using BUFF’s rewards protocol, which uses an algorithm that factors in details like time spent playing, the complexity of the game, the number of matches played, etc.
BUFF is an ERC-20 token that BUFF is offering in a public ICO sale that will begin in Q3 2018. BUFF is pre-mined and a total of 300,000,000 BUFF coins will be issued. 20% of those coins will be sold during the ICO, another 20% will be held in reserve for gamer rewards, and the remaining 60% go to the team – 25% as a “company reserve”, 20% set aside for network growth, and 15% as a reward to team members and advisors.
The coin’s price has yet to be set, but it will be pegged to Ether, and the token sale will have a hard cap of $30 million and a soft cap of $6 million. Buyers will be able to purchase BUFF with ETH, BTC, or fiat currencies GBP and Euro.
Since it’s very early days for BUFF, there’s really no way of assessing the company based on its core tech, which mostly doesn’t exist yet. But the idea behind the project makes sense, and the core BUFF team ticks all the right boxes: execs with extensive prior C-suite and senior management experience, tech team members with prior experience developing blockchain solutions, and a pretty sizable contingent dedicated to communications and marketing to help build the brand.
And of course, while BUFF’s project isn’t off the runway yet, it’s integrated and partnered with the Overwolf team, who do have commercially successful and fully functional mass-user gaming products out in the world already. Key members of the Overwolf team are also listed along with BUFF’s team in the whitepaper, so you can rest assured that folks with experience shipping game-related software products are behind the wheel on BUFF, too.
The project also features some impressive and well-connected advisors, including advisors with connections to Twitch, Disney, Activision, Blizzard, Ubisoft, and more.
Finally, it’s a good sign – at least in my opinion – that BUFF’s whitepaper is up-front about the challenges the project faces, both in terms of similar, competing projects and the general hazards associated with trying to build this kind of blockchain startup.
If you’re considering investing, you should read those sections carefully. But you should also be heartened by the fact that the company’s being transparent about the challenges rather than trying to pull the wool over your eyes. It’s tough to judge any project this early in the process, but honesty is always a good sign.