This gaming startup is trying to show that “AI + crypto” is not a fad

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Before the world became obsessed with artificial intelligence, thanks to advances in generative AI, cryptocurrency was the darling of many investors. So when some venture capital firms began pivoting rapidly between AI and crypto, industry observers scorned their opportunism. Meanwhile, a wave of entrepreneurs has emerged as strong advocates for the convergence of AI and crypto. Vitalik Buterin, the principal founder of the Ethereum blockchain network, published an article last month reflecting on the four possible applications of “AI + crypto“, arousing enthusiasm among his Twitter followers. The use cases still need to be proven at scale.

A Singapore-based startup is trying to show that combining AI and crypto isn’t just a fad. Ulverse, which claims to be an “AI-powered” platform for producing and publishing crypto games, has gained support from some high-profile investors. It recently raised $4 million in a strategic funding round led by IDG Capital, a venture capital firm known for its investments in Chinese tech titans Tencent, Baidu, Xiaomi as well as upstarts in crypto Coinbase and Circle, among others.

Other investors who participated in the round include Animoca BrandsPolygon Ventures, MorningStar Ventures, Taiko, Zeta Channel, Manta Network, DWF Venture and Jacob KO. This new investment brought Ulverse’s valuation to $150 million.

How exactly is Ulverse using AI in its cryptoverse? In an interview with TechCrunch, company co-founder Jimmy Liu, who previously ran his family’s private equity firm, suggested that AI could be used to “accelerate production and adoption by the users “.

Rather than building AI models from scratch, Ultiverse uses existing large language models, such as GPT-4, Llama and Stable Diffusion, to train its non-player characters in the game so that each player experiences a different experience depending on one’s interaction with it. NPCs. Players can also create their own AI agents to act on their behalf.

“In the past, this type of production process could take days or even weeks. We needed more than one person committed to doing this. But now, thanks to the integration of AI, we have reduced the time and cost required to produce the same amount of content as before,” Liu said.

Adapting AI into the game design process may not be a startup’s ultimate competitive advantage. After all, other studios can easily use LLMs in the same way. There are many examples of how gaming companies have adopted generative AI in create artistic assets, building level segmentsand even design game models for other developers.

And then there is the perennial plant debate surrounding crypto games, which revolves around the question of whether they actually generate tangible value for the industry by allowing users ownership and liquidity of assets, or whether they exist primarily to profit from players like a jackpot . Overall, the industry’s reputation has been damaged by “play to win” titles like Axie Infinite which have been compared to pyramid schemes.

Ulverse has released three games so far, including a mobile cricket game with 200,000 unique active wallet addresses, most of which come from India and Pakistan, where the sport is extremely popular. The startup had 7.3 million registered users across all of its games as of December, with an average monthly active user of 830,000.

Use an increasingly common crypto wallet feature called “account abstraction”, which removes much of the technical intricacies of self-custodial wallets, the cricket game has managed to attract primarily non-crypto users who did not previously own a wallet, according to Liu.

“It’s pretty smooth until they have to remove the reward after a while when they notice that, okay, it’s not just a game,” the founder said. “This approach helps us grow and convert what we call Web2 players who have never experienced Web3 before, to become part of our ecosystem.”

“Ultiverse presents itself as a unique, AI-powered solution for Web3 game production and publishing, poised to revolutionize the industry,” said an IDG Capital spokesperson in an upbeat statement . The company has also invested in other major crypto projects including Ripple, ImToken, and KuCoin. “This investment demonstrates our confidence in their potential to not only lead, but transform the way games are developed and experienced on a global scale.”



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