The future of the gambling industry – a glitzy virtual casino city on the blockchain – is being built in CryptoMeca’s utilitarian office in southern Seoul, two floors up from a neighborhood grocery store.
“We’re moving to a much nicer office next week, you should come visit again,” CryptoMeca’s CSO Sebastian Ryu assured me straight away. Ryu, like the rest of the C-suite team, has a long history in online and mobile gaming, with Blizzard, Rovio and App Annie on his resume.
From left to right: Mike Andrews (Business Development Manager), Sebastian Ryu (CSO) and Alan Cho (Senior Marketing Manager)
Democratization of the Gambling Industry
The company is on a mission to fundamentally change online gambling. “Trust is a major issue with casinos, both online and offline. How do you know the results are genuine?” business development manager and long-time blockchain investor, Mike Andrews, said. “Recording the game results to the [block]chain is key. You can verify that our three-layer random number generators are working properly and weren’t tampered with.”
CryptoMeca shares their mission with a number of other companies. In fact, on Ethereum, four of the top ten DAPPs, in terms of transactions over 24 hours, are related to gambling, according to DappRadar.
Most frequently, CryptoMeca is compared to FunFair, a creator of blockchain-based games for casino operators. “We’re very different from FunFair and don’t see them as a direct competitor. We are building a virtual casino city; where all games and casinos are accessible in one place,” Ryu said.
Launching in September 2019, CryptoMeca’s virtual Casino City will be reminiscent of The Sims or Second Life, and will feature between 50 and 100 casinos operated by individual “masters”. These masters will all operate on the CryptoMeca platform, rather than having to apply for their own gambling licenses. Cryptomeca plans to split proceeds with them 60:40.
The company is in the process of applying for a gambling license in its domicile country, the Isle of Man. This will allow it to operate legally across Europe and many other countries around the world.
Another important difference worth noting is CryptoMeca’s choice to build on ICON, rather than Ethereum, “ICON provides excellent speed and reliability, but what ultimately sold us on the platform was how open ICON and theloop (now ICONLOOP) were to collaborating with us. It also doesn’t hurt that they can speak to our engineers in Korean,” Ryu said. “ICON has a good track record in the financial industry, but we could be their first success story with gaming.”
CryptoMeca seems to have the right resources in place to make Ryu’s assertion true. They are co-developing their product with Me2On, a KOSDAQ traded company that has been making virtual casino and social casino games since 2010. Their mobile Solitaire and Slots – Classic Vegas Casino games are both in the top 50 on iTunes in the Casino category. The company claims to have 100 million downloads overall and 10 million monthly active users across all of their games.
They also have World Poker Tour and World Series of Poker tour champion Kevin Song, on board as an advisor. Song, according to Wikipedia, “has cashed 39 times at the World Series of Poker (WSOP), making twelve final tables” and won more than $4 million in prize money since 1994.
A Virtual Vegas without the Shows and Strip Clubs
Attention to detail is clearly an advantage for CryptoMeca, based on the early prototypes that developers showed me but would not allow me to photograph. Players can explore a darkened city reminiscent of the Las Vegas Strip, but paired down to its essential element: Casinos. (All manner of other Vegas style entertainment may come later, but the company will stay focused on gambling at first.)
At street level and inside of casinos it’s possible to interact with other players through their avatars. The examples of table games I saw were also quite realistic, represented in 3D from the player’s point of view.
The company has already developed seven games and is aiming to have around 20 ready by the time the casino opens its virtual doors. Eventually Ryu would like to see the platform host games created by third-party developers as well.
Slide from MecaCoin’s investor pitch deck showing quality of 3D gaming environment.
Don’t Trust the Dealer, Trust the Blockchain
Many times throughout our conversation, Ryu and Andrews mentioned the need to create trust for gamblers. To foster this trust, the company has implemented a random number generator that operates on three levels – Master, User and Game Server.
Games still happen off chain to keep gameplay quick and fees reasonable, but the result of every hand of cards or roll of the dice is recorded immutably to the blockchain so it can be verified later.
Another important factor in trust is ensuring that the house edge is fair. While some games like roulette and baccarat have a house edge built into their design, with games like slots, it’s entirely up to the logic coded into the machine. “We’re targeting the lowest house edge (advantage) in the industry. It will be about 10% that of other casinos,” Ryu said. “Our goal is for people to be able to enjoy the games for longer and immerse themselves in the experience.”
“We’re quite confident trust is a selling point for players,” Andrews said. “Most of the time when you see reviews of online casinos, people are questioning if they are trustworthy. With CryptoMeca we want the answer to be ‘Yes, without a doubt.’ It’s also important to note that everything is built on smart contracts, so you know payouts will happen. People can just get down to playing.”
A Chain of Chips
Through October, CryptoMeca is conducting the private sale for their MecaCoin, which will fuel their dionysian dreams. Ryu assured me that it’s going well and they have confirmation from top tier investors. They are taking all of their contributions in the form of ICX.
Players will not use MecaCoin directly in games, but rather trade it for the MecaChip. (The company will take a small fee when players buy chips or cash out for tokens.) Eventually the company may provide a gateway for players to purchase tokens using fiat or other cryptocurrencies inside of the virtual environment.
Fully cashing out into fiat currency, however, will require a visit to an exchange. The team is already in talks with several major exchanges, but this still represents an important barrier to entry – or exit perhaps. In fairness, casinos have always found ways to discourage people from cashing out too easily: “You’re up by so much. Just one more hand, sir?” Further to the point, as acceptance of blockchain technology improves, barriers will fall.
Keeping tokens in the ecosystem creates significant opportunities for MecaCoin to appreciate in value. Rather than burning tokens, the strategy is to make ‘land’ for virtual casinos scarce, meaning that as demand goes up, so will sales prices. Future land purchase will help to lock up ever more tokens.
Upping the Ante
The CryptoMeca C-suite. From left to right Benjamin You (CEO), Sehoon Kim (Chief Product Officer), Myoungkyun Kim (COO), Sebastian Ryu (CSO)
Ultimately MecaCoin and CryptoMeca’s success will depend on their ability to attract gamblers to their uniquely ambitious take on the online casino. Competitors have shown that people are willing to trade away their dollars, euros and rubles to gamble in Ether. Over the next year, it’s up to CryptoMeca to prove that people will find a highly realistic virtual casino experience at least as compelling.