In my circles the word “blockchain” is most frequently associated with mining and cryptocurrency, but it has enormous potential across multiple industries. Case in point: a San Francisco-based company called Blok.Party is using the blockchain to elevate tabletop gaming in a way I’ve dreamed about since the Kinect launched and subsequently failed to deliver on one of its promises: teleporting any physical object into a game world.
PlayTable is a fascinating hybrid between the toys-to-life video game genre (think Skylanders and Disney Infinity) and tabletop games like Settlers of Catan or Magic the Gathering. Think about how Skylanders toys or Nintendo’s amiibo work. NFC chips allow you to store stats inside the figure, and scan them into your console to activate new in-game abilities or perks. But first you need to buy that toy.
What if you could apply that same concept to any physical object you already own? What if you could just 3D print the character or weapon of your dreams and transport it inside the game? That’s the initial promise Blok.Party is bringing to the…erm…table.
The PlayTable itself is an Android tabletop console supporting 1 to 8 players with a large touchscreen in the center, with the operating system powered by the Ethereum blockchain. Because of its unique abilities, gameplay can utilize a combination of smartphone control, touch and interaction with physical objects.
Where blockchain technology enters the fold is giving these physical objects an identity, customization options and secure ownership. Ok, that sounds boring but imagine being able to 3D print your own character, transport it into the game world, max out its stats, and then play with that character (or object) outside of your own PlayTable. Or being able to trade or sell that character to anyone across the globe securely and privately.
It’s all a bit vague at the moment, and I have to imagine that we’re basically on the ground floor here and that it will take time for game creators to tap into the full potential. Is PlayTable open source? Will other Android-based tabletop gaming consoles like it be compatible? Can anyone create their own games for it? Can players buy objects for each game or do they have to use their own? These are questions I’ll have for Blok.Party once the product launches.
Speaking of the company, there’s some talent behind the scenes. CEO Jimmy Chen hand-picked people like Jason Ge, ex-Huawei VP of R&D, and Sam Lee, VP of Hardware, whose past experience includes working on the Amazon Echo and iPhone.
“I grew up on and love tabletop gaming. An unfortunate part of my adulthood has been an increased difficulty in getting together with friends in real life to laugh, scheme and have fun together,” says Jimmy Chen, CEO and co-founder of Blok.Party. “We made PlayTable to bring people together and rediscover the magic of the communal gaming experience.”
PlayTable’s debut title is BattleGrid, a multiplayer card-driven fantasy game. The system will launch with an introductory pre-order price of $349, and includes other games like Catan, Codenames, Ticket to Ride and others that will be announced at a later date.