Being able to sell used copies of digital games is an idea that gets kicked around every so often, and now it's back with a web 3.0 digital cyberpyramid blockchain cryptocurrency twist. New digital store Robot Cache will let people resell games and receive 25% of the cash back - in cryptocurrency. Yes, of course it's built on cryptocurrency, because everything is now. "Quick, get in on Muttoncoin while you can!" they tell me. "Clarksoncoin is going nuclear," I'm warned. It does sound like Robot Cache are running screaming after the latest Silicon Valley fad but: 1) used digital game sales is still an interesting idea; 2) the company is co-founded by Brian Fargo, the founder of Torment: Tides of Nuemenera devs inXile Entertainment.
So! Let's skip over the technical guts for now. Robot Cache is due to launch later this year, some time from April to June, and sell games in that digital games store way. People will be able to sell games they own, though they'll only receive 25% of the sale back--and only in the store's own cryptocurrency, not real money--as the rest will go to the developers and the store. They'll then be able to spend this cybercash on other games from the store.
Robot Cache don't name a lineup of devs whose games they will sell and that does seem a fairly vital part of whether this store is interesting or not. If no games you want are on it, who cares what you can get back for a game? Robot Cache are trying to woo devs with solid-sounding terms, letting them set their own sale and resale prices then receiving 95% of proceeds from new game sales, which is far more than most stores, and 70% on used sales.
The idea of using a blockchain to track copies of games changing hands (I assume tied to some form of DRM from the store? dunno) is an interesting one.
Let's get very slightly technical: a blockchain is sort of a publicly-shared digital ledger which tracks ownership as cyberthings change hands. You might have heard of the tech as the foundation of digital currencies such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, Dogecoin, Ethereum Classic, Burstcoin, BlackCoin, Vertcoin, Zcash, Electroneum, Titcoin, PotCoin ZetaCoin, Coinye West, Catcoin, Feathercoin, Primecoin, Gridcoin, Emercoin, Peercoin, and Swiftcoin. This cybercash is earned essentially by spending money on your electricity bill, 'mined' by running intense calculations on a computer. We can now add Robot Cache's own Iron to the ever-growing list of cryptocurrencies.
If you resell a game on Robot Cache, you'll be paid in Iron, which can be spent on more games on Robot Cache. Or you can mine for more Iron through the client, slowly buying it with electricity.
Actually, if you want to know more about cryptocurrencies, The Guardian have a primer and they're hardly the most intimidating technoheads.
I am pulling dismissive faces and making "Pssh!" noises because whacking cybercash on an existing idea is a hot and wholly ludicrous trend these days. Everything is Bitcoins and blockchains, even though half the people urging people to invest can't explain what any of it is or what you can even spend it on. Bitcoin has become mired in damn nonsense and hype which mostly serves to make investors wealthier. The fad is daft enough that a drinks company saw its share prices quadruple after announcing plans to rename itself from Long Island Iced Tea Corp to Long Blockchain Corp.
Blockchain and cryptocurrency tech can be genuinely useful but it's such early days and there's so much nonsense that I'm wary of any company shouting "We have a cryptocurrency too!" It seems especially irresponsible considering that the Bitcoin network alone reportedly uses as much electricity as all Denmark. But I'm happy for Robot Cache to prove me wrong.
Either way, Robot Cache is still worth pointing out. The idea of digital used game sales drifts around but rarely seems to get anywhere, so here's your update on the latest crack at it. Digital store Green Man Gaming hardheartedly tried trade-ins a few years back, before switching mostly to selling Steam keys, but Robot Cache are certainly going for it.