|Industry||Video game industry|
|Founded||January 16, 2018|
Robot Cache, S.L. is a video game company established to allow for digital buying and selling of video games. It was founded in January 2018 by Brian Fargo, and expected to start business in the second quarter of 2018.
Aimed to be a direct competitor to Steam, the digital storefront from Valve Corporation, Robot Cache differs itself by allowing users to sell games through the service, using encrypted blockchains in its distributed structure to track transactions rather than set by centralized servers. This reduces the cost of operating the storefront, and allows for a greater percentage of the game's price and of its resale to go back to the developer and publisher. The service will be backed by a new cryptocurrency, IRON, which sellers will receive and can use to purchase games alongside real-world funds.
Video games sold at retail are typically subject to the first-sale doctrine, giving the consumer the right to sell the game at any price and without the publisher/distributor seeing any part of that price. On the other hand, digital games are generally sold as a license to the game; players generally cannot transfer that license by resale, though some digital storefronts like Steam enable the user to transfer that license into a closed-system currency; publishers/distributors do not see any return from that. For these reasons, publishers and distributors have been wary of resale systems in video game marketplaces since they do not see any further revenue after the point of first sale, and have had to turn to means to monetize video games from post-sale activities.
Robot Cache is designed as a decentralized storefront for users to buy and sell digitally-distributed video games. Like other storefronts, players can purchase games using real-world funds through credit cards. They later can then sell that game back onto the market. The pricing for reselling is set by the game's publisher/distributor. The decentralized system uses encrypted blockchains to maintain a secure transaction history through sales, which enables rapid turnaround of any such transaction, and can catch malicious use of the system such as a user trying to sell the same game twice.
Users obtain some monetary value for the games they sell. This is provided in a new form of cryptocurrency developed for Robot Cache called IRON. Players will be able to use IRON to purchase games alongside real-world funds, and can gain more IRON by opting in for mining of the currency, and participate in community events for rewards in IRON. While Fargo seeks to have a means to transfer IRON back into real-world funds, they currently have no backing institution to support this route yet.
With these various safeguards in place, Robot Cache is able to offer publishers/distributors of video games up to 95% of the revenue from sales to customers, and up to 70% of resales. Sellers obtain up to 25% of the set resale price of a game. Robot Cache takes 5% of either initial sales or resales for managing the service; this is in contrast to other digital storefronts, such as Steam which takes 30% of each sale for management. Fargo specifically identified the ability to decentralize the storefront as a means to reduce the costs of operating Robot Cache, making the platform more attractive for publishers and distributors.
Once launched, Robot Cache is expected to include a web-based storefront, and a client that users download to their computer to manage their purchases, play games through, and interact with the service's community.
Fargo had previously announced his planned departure from InXile following the release of Wasteland in 2019, but wanted a new challenge, seeing Robot Cache as possibly his greatest impact on the industry. Fargo had been challenged by potential investors who were already funding cryptocurrency ventures, as to find some use of cryptocurrency in the video game space as to gain their investment dollars. In studying how cryptocurrency worked, he researched the use of blockchains and focused on the fact blockchains eliminate the need for a middleman in the retail chain. Within the personal computer video game industry, Valve Corporation's Steam is the dominant digital storefront, but often criticized due to the large 30% cut of revenue that Valve takes as part of an sale; Fargo saw the potential to bypass this middleman as to maximize the revenue going directly back to the game developers, publishers, and distributors. Additionally, Fargo saw the ability for blockchains to catch malicious duplication of transactions as a means to replace traditional digital rights management (DRM) systems.
To support the IRON cryptocurrency infrastructure behind Robot Cache, Fargo is seeking a US$15 million initial coin offering (ICO) through institutional and accredited investors. Fargo noted that Robot Cache is founded in the Canary Islands, which is often considered a tax haven, which can create some concern for the venture in addition to the unstable nature of cryptocurrency. Fargo stated that this founding was only by happenstance as the software team developing the service is based in Canary Islands, making the most sense to base the company there and moving it later once it is further established. In September 2018, Robot Cache had gained about US$3 million in IRON from Millennium BlockChain, an investment firm, with the option to obtain up to US$7 million if desired.
Fargo anticipated that the service will have about 1,000 games available at launch; having publishers and distributors back the system will strengthen the ICO. As of the service's announcement, Fargo said that he has commitment from Studio Wildcard, the developers of Ark: Survival Evolved.
- Takahashi, Dean (January 16, 2018). "Brian Fargo will launch blockchain currency for alternative digital game store". Venture Beat. Retrieved January 16, 2018.
- Sinclair, Brendan (January 16, 2018). "Brian Fargo creating blockchain-powered PC game storefront". GamesIndustry.biz. Retrieved January 17, 2018.
- Kerr, Chris (January 16, 2018). "Steam competitor Robot Cache hopes to woo devs by slashing platform fees". Gamasutra. Retrieved January 17, 2018.
- Calvin, Alex (January 19, 2018). "The argument for blockchain tech in digital retail - Brian Fargo talks Robot Cache". PC Games Insider. Retrieved January 19, 2018.
- Bachtelor, James (September 6, 2018). "Robot Cache secures $3m funding from Millennium BlockChain". GamesIndustry.biz. Retrieved September 6, 2018.