Upland is a blockchain-based property game that has been compared to digital monopoly. I have selected it as my entry for the publish0x Best Dapp Contest and before going into the finer details of the game itself, here are the reasons that it made my pick:
- Promotes blockchain: a quick glance at the whitepaper will show you that the company behind the game, Uplandme Inc., is all about promoting blockchain for public adoption. One of the ways they do this is by keeping the use of blockchain behind the scenes, as it should be. The fact that the game runs on a blockchain shouldn't matter at the moment to the common user in the same way that it shouldn't matter what type of servers Amazon uses when they place an order there. Blockchain just happened to be the best technology and methodology for a game like this, and while the benefits are explained in detail for those who are interested, it's not in the spotlight - a smart decision. Get people to use blockchain, bring it to their attention later.
Therefore, as you'll soon see in the current beta, there is no mention of opening a wallet or managing one. It is all done automatically behind the scenes - and purchase of the in-game token, UPX, is made through FIAT with your credit card, directly in the game interface.
- Promotes EOSIO: EOSIO is a blockchain that for some reason not many people support or utilize. This is despite the ability to stake EOS, the blockchain's native coin, in exchange for resources on the chain and therefore avoiding the need for paying transaction fees. It's also a very durable and scalable chain, which means you can use it to grow fast. That's how the game keeps the transactions free and relatively speaking - quick. Two fewer things to explain to a lay player, which further enables adoption.
- Promotes digital assets as valuables: more people playing the game and collecting means more mass-adoption of digital assets as legitimate collectibles with legitimate value, meaning that they aren't less worthy of enjoying just because you can't physically touch them. Similar to a website, game skins and other digital IP.
- Promotes curiosity and potentially personal financial management: the point of the game, explained below, is to buy properties. Certain properties complete collections, for example in a particular neighborhood, so you find yourself researching the neighborhood and its borders outside of the game. Future features of the game, not currently available, will include a "block explorer" (an avatar that walks around the map) and market fluctations and forces derived from the real world. All of these and more encourage an individual to learn about his or her surroundings and I think that has massive potential for greatness. At the same time, depending on how you choose to play the game, it can teach you something about financial management and negotiations, in your personal life and in business. It's true that most will choose to view the game as an asset portfolio and will therefore buy-buy-buy, but I will go into a different way to play below.
First things first, it's important to mention that the game is currently in beta and is therefore in its simplest form. The only features available are: the ability to buy the in-game coin (UPX) with your credit card, the ability to buy/sell/trade properties and the ability to complete collections with those properties. That's it. Most of the players are early adopters or digital asset investors looking to hodl in hopes of big returns in the future. That hasn't stopped the game from developing a very active Telegram channel and community.
San Francisco is currently the only available city and that's where the game is presently focused. The properties are based on real world bounderies. In the game, real-world 3 meter X 3 meter blocks are represented as one game pixel, called a UP Square (UP^2). When you click on properties to view them, it will tell you how many UP^2 the property covers as well as the base monthly UPX it will produce. The relative amount of UPX on your properties can be collected every 3 hours (derivative of the monthly amount). There are a variety of "Collections" in the game, which are kind of like albums/portfolios to which you add specific properties you own, and which give you certain rewards. For example, a collection called "Sunset" requires owning three properties in the Sunset Neighborhood of San Francisco.
Above: Collections Menu
These borders exist in the game and adhere to real-world borders, but they are not displayed for you. If you want to know where Sunset begins and ends you have to research that for yourself, which goes back to part of the reasons I chose this game above. Completing the collection will earn you a one-time reward of 900 UPX and will boost the monthly earning rate of the properties you added to that collection by 1.3X. All transactions and properties, which are themselves non-fungible tokens (NFTs), are performed on the EOS blockchain, and clicking on a property you own will allow you to view its property deed, a neat little graphic that also offers you a link to view your asset on bloks.io.
The UPX token is the in-game coin and here is where this dapp differs, for example, from CryptoKitties (CK) and many others. With CK, all of your purchases and transaction fees are paid in ETH, which is essentially digital cash. The reason ETH is considered digital cash is because it is liquid - you can use it to buy other things, including other currencies (such as FIAT on an exchange if you want to "cash out" into the real world). However UPX, at least for now, is strictly a utility token, meaning its only use is in the game itself. You can view the difference between CryptoKitties and Upland as the difference between going to two different old-school arcades: the first one allows you to use your actual quarters for the machines/games while the second's machines/games only operate on that specific arcade's tokens.
I made a small initial investment in the game because I personally enjoy collecting digital assets and collectibles of all sorts, plus I want to see where this game goes. You can therefore categorize me as the "Play-to-Own" type of player. My initial investment was $100 USD, which at the rate of $1USD / 1000UPX (at present time unchangeable), garnered me with 100,000 UPX. Instead of dumping money endlessly, or buying and forgetting, I decided to see how far I can stretch my investment and how it might be possible to turn money into more money (which goes back to what I initially said about financial management).
Therefore my first step was to view and study all of the collections. After that, I browsed the map a bit. For me personally it helped that I have been to San Francisco in the past, but that of course only helps you with areas you are familiar with. These are the first four collections of the game:
- Newbie: own any 1 property in Upland
- San Franciscan: own 3 properties in San Francisco
- Sunset: own 3 properties in the Sunset Neighborhood of San Francisco
- King of the Street: own 3 properites on the same street
You can't have a property in more than one collection at a time, but you CAN switch them between collections to collect the one-time rewards. So essentially, when you start the game, if you can find 3 properties on the same street in the same neighborhood, you can collect on all four initial collections right at the start. When I started, I couldn't find 3 properties that answered all those criteria in one neighborhood (not in my price range at least), but I did find 3 on the same street. And I could tell it could be attractive for the future dynamics of the game, because they were all adjacent to one another. Cost? Just under 100,000 UPX.
I bought the 3 and using the difference plus the rewards from the three collections I completed added a 4th tiny property. Immediately put them up for sale on the internal market. Listing for sale doesn't cost anything and I laughed that maybe with all the FOMO someone will buy these 3 properties under the same auspices that I did. I listed them each at a humble markup, because I didn't really believe that someone would buy them for outrageous prices yet, especially with other properties still available for first-time purchase in the beta... but lo and behold, after a few days, someone bought all three.
Using the profits, I decided to aim for the Mission District collection. I bought one very nicely sized property there with a huge monthly return compared to other properties in the game for the price I paid. Then I bought another medium sized property. After connecting with a few players in the community, I negotiated trading my final property for another player's property in the game, and insodoing completed the Mission District collection, got the reward and also a nice 1.4X boost for those three properties. After about a week, I had enough UPX to purchase a 4th unrelated property which I returned to the Newbie collection and is alone receiving a 1.1X boost.
Final results after 35 days of "play":
Initial Investment: $100 USD = 100,000 UPX
# of Properties: 4
Total Portfolio Value: 113,313 UPX
Monthly Earnings (w/o rewards): 2,229 UPX/month
Total ROI after 35 days: 13.3%
Pretty good considering the ANNUAL rate of return on a property is 17.3%. That means my gameplay made my portfolio a little less in a month than it would have otherwise made in an entire year!
Future of the Game
The whitepaper is chock-full-of details RE features that are yet to come. I feel that it is pointless to speculate over them until they are here, but I look forward to their arrival. In the meantime, one thing that is important to consider is why people do anything: Why do they play games? Why do they invest in properites, digital or real? The answer is that it brings them some sort of value.
For games, sometimes the enjoyment itself is the value. I enjoyed the gameplay strategy I utilized above, but I doubt many people in the crypto world are like me. Instead, they will look at it as a means of real value, meaning that eventually they must be able to liquidate their assets (convert it to digital or FIAT cash). It will be interesting to see how the gamemakers will answer this need. Will Upland properties be available on third party markets like OpenSea? Will it be possibly to sell UPX back to the game pool for FIAT? Anything can happen.
For the time being, after just over 12 months of development, I think the game is looking sharp, doing well, and has potential for massive adoption by both crypto investors and lay players alike. That's why it's my BestDApp selection.