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Cleveland Cavaliers Partner With Cryptocurrency Firm UnitedCoin

The Cleveland Cavaliers and the team’s affiliate gaming partner, Cavs Legion GC, have partnered with UnitedCoin.

Ohio-based professional basketball team the Cleveland Cavaliers (The Cavs), along with its associated esports club Cavs Legion GC, have partnered with the cryptocurrency firm UnitedCoin. The National Basketball Association (NBA) announced the new partnership in a press release on July 15.

The partnership will reportedly be used to advertise UnitedCoin and provide the Cavs with an inroad to the fintech sector via cryptocurrency.

For the Cavs, one aspect of this partnership will reportedly be LED signage inside Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse during Cavs games.

The Cavs Legion will reportedly advertise UnitedCoin as its “Official Cryptocurrency Partner.” Within NBA 2K, this means that UnitedCoin will be displayed on the team’s in-game home court. The Cavs Legion will also put UnitedCoin’s brand on social media, as per the announcement.

According to the press release, UnitedCoin includes a service to transact with both fiat money and cryptocurrencies via phone or email. The company has also issued a Mastercard debit card, which likewise has both fiat and crypto functionality.

As per its website, UnitedCoin is registered with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission and is still in an early-access phase. According to its whitepaper, UnitedCoin employs a new type of consensus algorithm and chain structure that purportedly solves some problems with traditional blockchains.

As previously reported by Cointelegraph, the Miami Dolphins announced on July 11 that Litecoin is the team’s “official cryptocurrency.” The team will set up home stadium kiosks to let fans participate in their 50/50 raffle with cryptocurrencies.

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Props Announces First SEC-Approved Consumer-Facing Blockchain Token

Props announces that its token has been approved by the SEC, claiming it is the first consumer-facing token to receive the U.S. watchdog’s blessing.

Delaware-based blockchain organization Props PBC has released a token approved by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission under Regulation A+, according to a press release on June 11.

According to the company, this is “the first consumer facing crypto token qualified by the SEC” via Reg A+. As previously reported, Reg A+ is an alternative to conducting an IPO that is intended to accommodate startup businesses seeking initial funding.

This token has been issued on the Ethereum blockchain. According to the announcement, the Props platform is capable of abstracting a blockchain infrastructure for applications, providing a plug-and-play solution for apps to integrate Props tokens.

Props is reportedly is a rewards token that can be used within apps to bolster user engagement, such as within the streaming platforms YouNow and XSplit — a gaming-focused streaming service.

As previously reported by Cointelegraph, Ubisoft’s Entrepreneurs Lab has also been researching the use of blockchain-based incentive tokens and activities to boost user engagement. The company has been researching Smart Challenge, Azure’s gaming rewards platform, and has tentatively found — via pilot tests — that it boosts streamer viewership and gameplay numbers for the game being streamed.

The Props token is also supposed to provide a new financial vehicle for content creators to secure a steady stream of income. Prominent YouTube content creator and Props investor Casey Neistat said:

“Online video content made by independent creators has become massively popular, but still lacks diverse ways for creators to turn their content to a meaningful source of ongoing income.”

On July 10 Blockstack announced that it was the first organization to receive the SEC’s blessing to run a public token offering via Regulation A+.  Blockstack founders Muneeb Ali and Ryan Shea said it took $2 million and 10 months in order for them to secure the SEC’s go-ahead.

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Bitfinex to Use 27% of Tokinex Revenue to Burn LEO Tokens

Bitfinex has committed to using 27% of Tokinex’s past and future revenue for burning the LEO utility tokens.

Bitfinex cryptocurrency exchange announced that it will spend 27% of past and future Tokinex revenue on burning LEO tokens, according to an official blog post on July 8.

Bitfinex unveiled LEO in May as the native utility token for its initial exchange offering (IEO) platform Tokinex. Parent company iFinex committed to burning LEO tokens, until commercial circulation runs dry, in the LEO token whitepaper:

“On a monthly basis, iFinex and its affiliates will buy back LEO from the market equal to a minimum of 27% of the consolidated gross revenues of iFinex (exclusive of Ethfinex) from the previous month, until no tokens are in commercial circulation. Repurchases will be made at then-prevailing market rates. LEO tokens used to pay fees may also be used to satisfy this repurchase commitment.”

The recent, official blog post stressed that the 27% figure applies to “past and future” revenues. 

Bitfinex said that it has now used revenue generated by the first IEO on Tokinex, Ampleforth, to buy up outstanding LEO tokens. Ampleforth’s IEO raised $5 million on the platform within 11 seconds, selling 10% of its token supply.

Bitfinex additionally announced the “LEO Transparency Dashboard” in June, which purportedly shows how much LEO has been burned, along with a list of the burn transactions. 

The post notes that Tokinex’s next IEO is scheduled for July 16. It will run the IEO for Ultra, a blockchain-based PC gaming platform. 

As previously reported by Cointelegraph, Bitfinex said it repaid $100 million of outstanding loan facility to stablecoin operator Tether. The repayment came months after New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a complaint alleging that Bitfinex had lost $850 million and used funds from Tether to hide the losses.

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Time to Chain Up: Is Blockchain About to Change the Gaming Industry?

Ubisoft is exploring the possibility of integrating blockchain into its games — is this the future of gaming?

The gaming industry has grown dramatically in recent years, partially because the world of video games is keeping up with the latest technological advances and even tries to get ahead of them. As such, it couldn’t bypass the blockchain. It’s not surprising that, from time to time, gaming companies announce the development of games based on this technology. So, the French gaming giant Ubisoft, known for the Assassin’s Creed and Far Cry franchises, has announced that a blockchain will be integrated into its games. So, what can a blockchain give to the world of games and does it even need to be included at all?

Game monetization

The video game industry is currently alluring for any entrepreneur. So, it is no wonder that initial coin offerings (ICOs) are very popular among video games developers. But why exactly is the blockchain so useful that it is now becoming so attractive to the gaming industry?

Gaming apps that use blockchain began to emerge back in 2014, when players started to earn money with HunterCoin or CryptoKitties, the latter of which managed to become extremely popular in its first year. Their popularity was due to the main component of blockchain: the immutable ledger, in which players are unable to change the data. This means there is an established trust between all industry participants, from developers to players.

In addition, this trust has also been monetized. Using a blockchain in a video game implies issuing and supporting cryptocurrencies. A game token is a single currency used to express the value of all items traded within the game and smoothes out the problems of transaction systems with multiple currencies. The purchase and sale of in-game items in cryptocurrencies is secured by a smart contract, which significantly increases its transaction reliability and security.

On the back of the success of such minigames, developers and companies that develop bigger games began to pay attention to the new technology. In early 2017, online store Gameflip launched a platform on which anyone could buy and sell digital goods. This platform gives players true ownership and flexibility to trade their goods in the ecosystem without any fraud.

At the end of October 2017, OPSkins, which developed the world’s largest centralized marketplace of virtual goods for computer games, announced the creation of a decentralized platform called WAX for exchanging in-game items. The platform is a repository of virtual values ​​containing a catalog of all items available for sale that is updated in real time. It is based on a blockchain protocol that allows the use of an unlimited number of scalable trading platforms.

And in the end of October, Brian Fargo, the CEO of inXile Entertainment — one of the creators of Fallout, Wasteland and Baldur’s Gate — announced the launch of Robot Cache, a platform for video game distribution. The platform uses its own cryptocurrency, called IRON, which is based on the ERC-20 standard. IRON can be directly issued, bought or sold on the Robot Cache platform. Users can spend the cryptocurrency on games or exchange them for fiat money.

Related: Cash, Coins and Casinos: Japan Struggles to Regulate Online Gambling

Some companies that offer not only an in-game exchange but also a separate intra-game cryptocurrency have begun to make use of the blockchain as well. In October 2018, the gaming platform MobileGO, in collaboration with Xsolla, presented its own altcoin that is available to all players on the platform. According to the company, it intends to increase the level of honesty so that players at esports competitions are guaranteed to receive their prize money.

Global alliance

The giants of the gaming industry are not standing on the sidelines but neither are they rushing in to launch blockchain-based projects, as they continue studying the possibility of using the technology in their development.

In 2018, there was news that Ubisoft, one of the world’s largest game developers, had been considering ways to use blockchain technology in its gaming strategy. In February 2018, Blockchain Initiative Manager Nicolas Pouard and Senior R&D Programmer Robert Falce at Ubisoft announced that they were working on a blockchain-based game called HashCraft in the company’s Strategic Innovation Lab and even explained what it means for Ubisoft:

“The mission of the lab is to explore social, technical and business trends that will shape the future of entertainment. On this basis, we are trying to help Ubisoft to be prepared to these changes. We strongly believe that blockchain is a huge thing, something that will change the gaming industry.”

The game will allow players to develop quests and tasks, the details of which are to be stored in a public blockchain. HashCraft will be built on the private blockchain MultiChain. Each player will fulfill the role of a miner in the network — all the player’s actions will be visually represented as an island. This island is generated by the player’s computer and, after its creation, the island is stored in the blockchain. The island will be represented as a property that the player owns and can change or reshape by their own will. With the help of blockchain, each player will acquire the true ownership of the characters. But Ubisoft has not yet announced the release date of the game.

In the fall of 2018, Ubisoft took another step closer to the blockchain industry by becoming a member of the Blockchain Game Alliance, which promotes a universal standard in the blockchain gaming space. Among the participants of the alliance are such major industry players as Fig, the company that created the platform for players and has launched its own cryptocurrency Enjin; Alto, the developer of tools for integrating blockchain into games based on Ultra blockchain platform; and EverdreamSoft, the developer of one of the earliest blockchain-based games called Spells of Genesis.

Nothing is perfect

There are a few reasons why some might be sceptical about utilizing blockchains, such as slow processes and long verification times — claims that are often made by those against the use of blockchain technology — and not to mention the complicated keys for cryptocurrency wallets that can easily be lost.

The next arguable weakness of blockchain is that, in the scenarios in which it is used to establish a marketplace, it has to rely on a cryptocurrency, which may be highly volatile. Periods of unbridled price growth are replaced by the same sharp falls,which results in investors showing great restraint from investing in crypto assets.

Related: Gaming Firm Unitopia Raises $5 Million to Create Blockchain Equivalent of Steam

In addition, the leading providers of fiat payments — such as PayPal and Apple Pay — are strong in the gaming industry. Whether it is a big game or a low-budget phone app, the payment methods that exist today, in many ways, are focused on impulsive shopping and small transactions that characterize modern players. And of course, no one in gaming is completely protected from hacking attacks, but blockchain can help to solve this problem.

Also, according to the CEO and game producer of Blockchain Cuties, Vladimir Tomko, the lack of regulation in this sphere and the risk to image are the main barriers for companies such as Ubisoft:

“Cryptocurrencies are not fully regulated, there is a lot of ‘unofficial’ cryptocurrencies and this simultaneously carries strong reputational and legal risks. For big companies like Ubisoft, these are serious limiting factors. If they make a mistake somewhere or they are accused of accepting money that was later turned out unofficial, it will affect their PR position and the price of their shares.”

But Vladimir is optimistic about the joint future of blockchain and gaming:

“The fact that large companies are on blockchain market and participate in everything, communicate with everyone, gives them an important strategic position. They know the actual ins and outs of the market, and if necessary, will be able to react faster than competitors. Moreover, the ‘react’ means not only developing their own titles — Ubisoft will be able to become one of the first big companies to start making M&A deals as soon as they realize that the market has become interesting enough to enter it seriously. I expect the first deals at the end of this — the middle of next year.”

Thus, if developers manage to find a way around the weak points of blockchain technology, then gamers all over the world will likely soon receive a completely unique gaming product.

The founder of the Crypto Games Conference, Andriy Sharanevyc, believes that big gaming companies think, first of all, about monetizing blockchain:

“Speaking of big developers and publishers, it all depends on money that can be earned from using blockchain. Now everyone is in the process of experimenting and trying to figure out what to do with it and how. Just like in 2008 when everybody was sceptical about iOS platform. So small developers are checking this path.The big ones stand by and watch. As soon as they see the worthiness of blockchain and understand how to make money on it, they will immediately break in and start dividing the market.”

A discussion worthy of the worldwide stage?

The increasing tendency to use blockchain in gaming is becoming apparent, regardless of whether it is a way to promote a game developer’s own content or a desire to protect the rights of consumers. More and more, makers of big-title games are thinking about integrating this technology, and this interest is not only coming from game developers, but also global brands such as Sony, which patented a digital gaming access system in the spring of 2018. Sony’s blockchain platform will allow users to monitor their digital rights and reduce the amount of “pirated” content.

Will blockchain bring big gaming companies the opportunity to develop their capabilities or set up a whole new direction in the gaming industry? The answer could come in the nearest future. But the fact is that this technology has already been applicable in gaming and is encouraging for the blockchain industry. The other issue is, will it be applicable just for facilitating currency transfers or will it add to the gameplay experience?

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Europol Reveals Gamified Coin Tracing Training for Law Enforcement at Crypto Conference

Europol is hosting its 6th cryptocurrency conference with over 300 crypto experts from law enforcement and the private sector.

Europol — the law enforcement agency of the European Union — is hosting its sixth cryptocurrency conference, with over 300 crypto experts from law enforcement and the private sector reportedly in attendance. The news was revealed in a Europol press release published on June 14.

The conference — organized by Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) and hosted June 12-14 at the Europol headquarters in the Hague, Netherlands — is allegedly the largest law enforcement crypto event in Europe.

Per the press release, the conference focused on opportunities to strengthen cooperation between law enforcement agencies and the private sector in a bid to better prevent and detect cryptocurrency-enabled crime, and aid asset recovery.

Experts in attendance reportedly shared their investigative experience and techniques to combat phishing, thefts of funds and distributed denial-of-service extortion.

In addition, Europol revealed its current development of a a cryptocurrency-tracing game — co-developed with CENTRIC (Centre of Excellence in Terrorism, Resilience, Intelligence and Organised Crime Research).

The game, slated for launch in October at the Europol-INTERPOL Cybercrime Conference, purports to be the first ever gamified law enforcement training opportunity for officials to acquire hands-on guidance for tracing cryptocurrencies with a criminal investigation context.

The conference is also reported to have covered the May 2019 take down of major crypto tumbler Bestmixer.io, effected through a joint effort by Dutch, Luxembourg authorities and Europol.

Private sector participants reportedly included an extensive array of cryptocurrency firms — among them wallet providers, exchanges and payment processors. Some of the major names listed in the press release are Binance, BitPay, Bitfinex, Bitstamp, Coinbase, Ledger, OKCoin, Shapeshift, LocalBitcoins and Tether.

Aside from its focus on crypto-enabled crime, the conference ostensibly engaged with legitimate applications of blockchain technology — including crypto trading, investments and payments.

As the press release notes, Europol’s last crypto conference had issued participants with blockchain-validated certificates to demonstrate the utility of the technology.

As recently reported  — shortly after Europol’s take down of Bestimixer.io —  crypto mixing service Bitcoin Blender voluntarily shut itself down. Following the news, ethereum (ETH) co-founder Vitalik Buterin ventured the possibility of creating an on-chain smart contract-based ether mixer.

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Report: French Gaming Giant Ubisoft Considering Potential Blockchain Applications

Ubisoft is allegedly exploring potential blockchain applications in gaming as a strategy to gain a more competitive edge in the industry.

French video gaming giant Ubisoft is allegedly exploring potential blockchain applications in gaming as a strategy to gain a more competitive edge in the industry. The news was reported by daily French financial newspaper Les Échos on June 11.

Per Les Échos, Ubisoft has been quietly exploring blockchain applications for several months, and has allegedly already identified one in particular for implementation. The paper write that Ubisoft reportedly plans to put intra-game virtual objects or accessories onto the blockchain and monetize them.

As the report notes, the model bears some similarity to that of the overwhelmingly successful video game Fortnite — published by Epic Games — which is free in itself to purchase, but allows gamers to buy virtual content that equips their game character.

The virtues of a blockchain-powered ecosystem for virtual accessories would be that it preserves gamers’ digital property rights. Citing an unnamed industry specialist, Les Échos notes:

“When you buy a costume on Fortnite, your investment is lost, the accessory is locked in the game. If we use the blockchain, we give a physical existence to a digital element.”

An anonymous source allegedly close to Ubisoft’s blockchain explorations told Les Échos that the firm would consider using the Ethereum blockchain for its application, and claimed that work on the initiative was already at an advanced stage.

It has not been disclosed whether Ubisoft would launch blockchain-based virtual content within one of its existing franchises or a brand new game, although Les Échos notes that the second option could ostensibly carry lower risks.

For the time being, no timetable is reported to have been set and the firm ostensibly continues to explore possibilities — meanwhile anticipating that French legislation on blockchain will be further clarified.

Ubisoft is a publicly traded company, as Les Échos notes, and claims that the markets could react in an unpredictable manner to the launch of a project using such an uncharted and innovative technology.

As reported this spring, blockchain startup Animoca Brands announced it had signed a global licensing agreement with Formula 1 to publish a blockchain game based on the world-renowned racing series. Animoca had also previously entered a licensing agreement with Atari — famous for being the developer of iconic video games such as Tetris and Pac Man.

In February 2018, Atari saw its share price skyrocket by over 60 percent after announcing that it would be investing in cryptocurrency.

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Galaxy Digital Fund Leads Funding Round for Blockchain-Based Game Platform

A Galaxy Digital fund led a $1.8 million seed funding round for a blockchain-based gaming rewards program, which uses blockchain-based quizzes to engage players.

A fund of cryptocurrency investment bank Galaxy Digital led a $1.8 million seed funding round for Azure’s blockchain-based gaming rewards platform, VentureBeat reports on June 5.

Smart Challenge, Azure’s gaming rewards platform, reportedly allows users to create and compete in challenges on the EOSIO blockchain protocol. By using blockchain technology, the challenges are said to be verifiably fair, since participants can see all the challenge rules and how they are implemented.

Galaxy Digital reportedly invested to the project through its Galaxy EOS VC Fund, which is an investment organization that funds products built on EOSIO.

Users can participate in the challenges to earn “AZA credits” which are used to buy in-game benefits, such as virtual items or currency. One type of challenge users can reportedly participate in are streaming questions, which reference activity in esports streams; answering correctly rewards successful participants with AZA credits.

Smart Challenge was first launched in 2018, and is designed to increase player engagement with their preferred games and esports, via both spectating and playing.

The Azure platform has reportedly been undergoing pilot tests in Ubisoft’s Entrepreneurs Lab, a branch of Ubisoft that is an incubator for tech startups within the gaming and entertainment sectors. The research purportedly showed that spectator streams with Smart Challenge outperformed traditional streams, in terms of bolstering viewership and gameplay numbers.

As previously reported by Cointelegraph, game developer Lucid Sight raised $6 million in April for its blockchain-based game engine “Scarcity Engine.” The Scarcity Engine is intended to support the company’s blockchain-based games on traditional platforms, including PCs, gaming consoles, and mobile devices. The new engine is purportedly coming out in 2019, and will feature its blockchain-based games Major League Baseball and Crypto Space Commander.

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Company Behind Fortnite Epic Games Partners With Blockchain Gaming Platform The Abyss

Epic Games, the company that developed successful video game Fortnite, partnered with blockchain gaming platform The Abyss.

Epic Games, the company that developed successful videogame Fortnite, announced that it has partnered with blockchain game distribution platform The Abyss in a press release shared with Cointelegraph on May 23.

The press release notes that the partnership will allow developers on the platform access to the Unreal Developers Network. Epic’s Unreal Engine requires developers to make quarterly payments equivalent to 5% of their returns, once they earned over $3,000.

The engine is often employed by so-called triple-A or blockbuster games, and is known for being one of the engines capable of providing the most advanced graphics. An Epic Games spokesperson commented on the partnership in an email sent to Cointelegraph:

“The program is aimed at attracting more gaming studios and titles to The Abyss platform, as well as supporting Unreal Engine developers in cryptocurrency adoption. More specifically, they will be able to accept ABYSS tokens both for game and in-game purchases in legal and easy-to-use way.”

While the details of the partnership are unclear, an Epic Games spokesperson reportedly said in an email to cryptocurrency news outlet Coindesk that developers using Epic’s game engine won’t need to sign a separate agreement.

As Cointelegraph reported in April, blockchain-powered gaming platform Unitopia has received $5 million in funding from a group of investment and financial services companies.

In March, blockchain startup Animoca Brands announced it had signed a global licensing agreement with Formula 1® to publish a blockchain game based on the world-renowned racing series.