Upland - A road to crypto mass adoption
I have been into the game Upland for a little while now and only just recently started to blog about it. I originally was checking it out as a distraction or just something to have a little fun, then after a bit realized I was onto something really amazing, but wasn't sure how to put it into words. After a few discussions with some other players on the Upland discord it really clicked for me.
Fair warning, this post is aimed a little more at the crypto guys then at the games guys. But I do think there are good take-aways regardless of which of those categories you more comfortably feel applies to you. I am going to get a little techy and it's going to be long. I really think it's going to be worth your time to read it if you are interested in understanding the gamification to crypto world parallels. Go grab a coffee, or a beer, or whatever suits you and settle in for a couple minutes.
So being a bit of a cryptophile the last few years what always seems to be a hot topic of discussion is mass adoption. Crypto was in the early years very technical and this was a barrier to entry for the average person that didn't have a technical background. As time went on, and as we went into the 2017 boom it started to become more mainstream, but there was still a steep learning curve. Over the last 3+ years there have been many products and attempts to simplify the onboarding and bring crypto to the mainstream. A very often thread of conversation basically boiled down to, crypto will go mainstream when it's so easy to use you don't even know you are using crypto. You don't absolutely have to know about address strings, and seed phrases, and wallets, and all the other things that are important. When that becomes seamless and you still have the on-chain security and immutability in an approachable package you will be onto something.
That's what Upland has done. Now, don't get me wrong, Upland right now might not immediately scream that to you. But I have been doing a lot of talking with a lot of people on the social media platforms and it's clear that there are at least as many, if not more, people who aren't crypto people into a game but instead are gaming people that have somehow found their way into crypto. Not even just hardcore gaming people, they are just... everyday people who wear maybe looking for a little distraction, or a game, or just some way to kill some time.
Upland is in open beta and as such it doesn't have the full game play fleshed out as of yet, but even what's there already is an immersive second reality game focused around NFTs and real estate speculation. There are also treasure hunts and community events and other items to keep it from being one dimensional. Right around the corner is the property development update and this has people in the game excited because it will open up the game immensely for a multi-dimensional second world experience. On the Upland about us page they have a tag line that says "Rebuild the world".
This, at it's core, is what crypto is all about. Granted, this is a little more literal interpretation, but that's crypto in a nutshell. The founding principals if you go back to the days of Satoshi Nakamoto and the Cyperpunks was to rebuild how finance and currency exchange is done. There was an idea to bank the unbanked. To decouple people from central authorities. This quote from the Wiki on Cyperpunks really breaks it down.
A cypherpunk is any activist advocating widespread use of strong cryptography and privacy-enhancing technologies as a route to social and political change. Originally communicating through the Cypherpunks electronic mailing list, informal groups aimed to achieve privacy and security through proactive use of cryptography. Cypherpunks have been engaged in an active movement since the late 1980s.
The thing about Upland is all the critical parts of it are on the EOS blockchain. All the digital ownership, the NFTs, all the things that matter exist on a public ledger. Right now people are building out explorers to walk through all the property details and ownership items. As time progresses there will be wallets with all the functionality needed to move NFTs outside of the game. The underlying blockchain will allow you to meet the crypto creedo of "Not your keys, not your coins". You will have the keys and will control what's there.
But, here's the thing, if you aren't a crypto person you can manage it all in game. You can get started with nothing more than an email address. There is no KYC or personal data required. The game is equipped with 2FA if you choose to use it, but it's not compulsory. Then you go in and you start your gameplay and poke at properties and buy them. Once you reach a fairly low threshold you become an official Uplander and things go on chain. Without knowing a single thing about crypto you have done a whole a whole lot of crypto. You have created a wallet, purchased an NFT and stored it all in the wallet on chain.
You can go on these treasure hunts and earn UPX by completing a chase of a treasure around the board. There you go, your first crypto airdrop. You didn't have to register for a telegram group, or follow and retweet, or anything else. It's gamified, you just have to exist in the game and use it. You can trade properties with other players, buy and sell directly from them, and interact with each other on multiple levels. This is peer-to-peer currency and property trading. You have performed what would actually be a few semi-complete trades and transactions if it was all happening on chain with a wallet and long hex string addresses. You don't know you did it, but you did. There are "fees" which go to the community fund and are redistributed.
Once you own these NFTs you start to instantly earn an income from them. This income is funded by the community fund I just mentioned. What you have done here is locked some crypto (UPX) into a crypto asset NFT (properties) and are staking that asset for income. Again, no wallet, no searching for a staking protocol or wallet, and no sending your crypto off to a pool. You own the NFT keys and you are getting a staking reward for it. FYI, the base reward is 17% annually. Not too shabby. Just like in the crypto world, the more you stake, the more you earn. If you collect multiple properties and put them into collections in the game, you get a higher multiplier. Sound familiar, yup you got it, those are staking tiers. Higher amount staked (via more expensive property) higher returns. The largest multiplier is a 3.0 which gives you a 51% annual return. Fair warning, those collections are very expensive to come by, so it won't be cheap or easy to get them.
Here's the thing, this already sounds like people are doing a lot of complex crypto operations. It would take a very steep learning curve to figure out how to do all of this in the technical cryptosphere. But it's all done easily and with basic real world knowledge, the game specifics of which can be learned in a few hours just playing the game. Now....not to sound too cheesy right here......But wait, there's more!
All you need to do next is look at the property and business development roadmap. The article goes on to talk about all the businesses that you can make in the game. This update is just around the corner and they have already teased it and shown some 3D renders of city hall. Once you have this in place you can actually construct items on your now empty lots and increase the value of the NFT. Also you can open business that will be doled out over time. They will issue businesses with in game licenses that can operate in game.
But here's the thing, those businesses can be banks, nurseries, pet stores, realty agencies, arcades, merchandise stores, and whatever else can be come up with between the players and the team. This is where the world really expands. Banks will be able to give out loans and presumably take deposits(details still being developed). This is the DeFi movement that's going nuts in crypto right now gamified and accessible. Anyone in the Upland world has easy access to crypto loans without even knowing what DeFi means.
There will be ways to lease your land to other players. You can earn more income from loaning out your property essentially. All done trustlessly on chain. You can build NFTs and sell them in the game, pets, trees, cars, any number of things. You can sell real world items and those items can be held by the Upland team in a physical and legal escrow by either the team issuing it, or you working with them to send the physical item to be tokenized. You can also buy real world items in the merch shops. If you want an Upland tee shirt, use your income to go to the merch shop and buy it, they will send it out to your physical address and you can wear it out in the world.
But wait you say, what about fiat onramps? That's already solved. The game is on both mobile apps and on desktop browsers. You can use your in app purchase mechanism to buy UPX at a pegged price, or you can go to the browser and buy in with credit cards or paypal. You can even buy in with crypto already.
Fiat offramps have also been addressed. The team has announced that the partnership is in place with a provider to allow for fiat sales of in game NFTs. This allows someone to take what they have earned in game and sell it to get it back out of the Upland world and into the real world.
The team has made sure that legalities are not an issue. They progressed the design of the world with a compliance first approach. They have said that the game has been designed to be 50 state legal in the US without exception. They only release portions of the game AFTER securing the necessary compliance structures and or licenses. They have stated this is one of the main reasons that the UPX tokens themselves will not be trade-able on 3rd party exchanges, or available for price speculation. It's a pegged in game token to provide utility to buy, sell and trade the NFTs, which are the actual store of value.
Now, I know what you are thinking. This sounds like a taxes nightmare for those unlucky enough to have to track crypto and report it. I know it's not everyone's cup of tea to mix the crypto world with the real world, but some people do and also report crypto for taxes. The team has also said that this was part of their design and compliance path. You have the option at the end of the year to run a tax report that has tracked all your in game actions that may have tax implications in the US. Wow, just....wow. Having been through the nightmare of tracking every transfer, transaction, trade, etc through the year this is huge. For those that do report, taxes are the most tedious part of the crypto world.
So to sum this all up, they have found a way to essentially take the entire cryptosphere and everything it's trying to do, and build a second world with it. Though much of it is in place, there is still more being developed as I type. You soon can have immediate access to all things crypto and not know the first thing about crypto. Isn't this the mantra of widespread real world adoption? It sure seems that way to me.
Now, I am not saying that this is the only path to adoption, far from it. A whole lot of people won't care for the gamification aspect, or won't be able to see the power that it gives them. That's ok. There doesn't need to be only one way the real world adopts crypto. People will come to it through other channels for sure. That's a good thing, the more ways crypto is easy for the world, the better. But you cannot discount that this is a really great way. Based on the discussions I have had, it's already happening. I for one embrace it.
I hope you find my posts informative, helpful, or amusing. Whatever the case thanks for your time.
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