Gaming in the Blockchain Era
With a lifelong love of gaming flowing through his veins, David Hanson as Co-CEO of Ultra has no problem declaring his company’s ambitions to ‘one-up’ the existing industry standard platform, Steam, and seeing gaming as we know it today reach the next level. By seeking to use cryptocurrency and blockchain to provide for the sale of games, David is not only seeking to deliver a new platform to the gaming arena but also to grow a new conversation about what it means to be a gamer in the blockchain era.
Originally from Belgium, and now working out of Shanghai, China, we got in touch with David for an interview about Ultra’s plans for the world of blockchain and beyond.
Ed Kennedy (EK): Given your work in gaming today, let’s start with an easy question: what game impacted you most in childhood?
David Hanson (DH): You know I think it was actually a couple, and each impacted me in their own way. My first ever was Roger Rabbit, good but also a standard point and click. Then I spent some time in Wolfenstein 3D which was really incredible, and a step up.
Ultimately though, it was Doom that I think defined my childhood, as I know it did for so many gamers. I was only 8 years old at the time — so I had to be discrete playing it around adults! — but it was mind-blowing.
I always believed video games had the power to transform the world, even at a young age. But playing Doom and seeing it offer a fully realized 3D experience just like our own was the first time I not only believed but saw it could be done. It really was a defining moment that set me down the path to where I am today.
EK: What lead you to the work of Ultra?
DH: Well it’s a mix of a few things. I know what it is to make games, I know what it is to love video games. And I’ve even worked on a video game console targeting the market. I also brought my first bitcoins at $8. I’ve followed the blockchain for many years now and seen the transformation that started.
So I’m really positive about the future of gaming generally, but that’s definitely informed by my past, and real experience in this space. Ultra is not just something to put on my resume — or even just an economic opportunity for me! — this is about a passion. It’s about bringing together blockchain and gaming and realizing their potential together.
EK: How would you describe Ultra in an elevator pitch?
DH: Ultra is building a first-class PC game publishing platform and marketplace that puts an end to the current distribution monopoly by being fairer to developers, providing effective marketing tools, introducing new revenue streams, and establishing a rich token-based economy. Ultra’s vision is to provide developers with the flexibility of a custom-built platform while bringing exciting innovations and financial incentives to players, making the development of a new breakthrough game distribution platform possible.
EK: Ultra has a global team. What’s the workflow in terms of managing that day by day?
DH: Our team has found the experience of working for Ultra has not only been inspiring because of what blockchain offers as a decentralized form but also because our business is a decentralized form.
We’re headquartered in Estonia, and of course, Estonia is very pro-blockchain, so Ultra was founded there in early 2017. So that’s where we are registered, and then, of course, I reside in Shanghai, and my co-CEO Nicolas Gilot is based in Belgium.
I’ve been living in China for 8 years now. So I feel very comfortable and at home here, but also always aware that even if it’s the end of the day here the wheels never stop spinning for Ultra elsewhere! So alongside the Estonia location and the Shanghai operations, we have a development team in France, business development going on in the U.S., and great staff that criss-cross back and forth.
It’s certainly busy but it’s also fantastic. We like to say we’re doing decentralizing not just with blockchain but with business totally’.
EK: What’s something you feel most people may not know about/or something that you feel people know about but it doesn’t get enough attention when it comes to the mission of Ultra?
DH: I believe what people don’t fully realize that around such a platform we’re going to be a job creator. Really trying to grow a culture of opportunity and self-employment. In the era of digital disruption, I think that’s really an important point.
Because let’s face it, while many new jobs are arising in this economy, old ones are also disappearing. And we feel it’s important to not just provide a platform, but a pathway to people looking for something new.
What we’ve done with ultra is improve on the pioneering work of Steam as a platform. By no means do we want to be a steam ++ – we are Ultra and want to be Ultra! – but we do want to redefine what a platform is. We look forward to building bigger and better, and I can say we’ve got a lot of exciting announcements and other good things coming up shortly.
Lastly, I’d say that our strong engagement with Asia really sets us apart. I’m not looking to condemn how other businesses go about their operations, but often a global business that has a location in Asia will really just operate in that city alone.
That can be OK if just one city suits their needs – but even if you’re in a really big one – Asia has over 4.5 billion people! Put simply, you need to engage not just in one city, but around the region. That’s what we are really committed to doing.
EK: Let’s conclude with something fun. We started off talking about the first games you played, What games are you playing right now?
DH: I’ve been playing No Man’s Sky again, and also Star Wars Battlefront II. And surprisingly it’s a small stupid game called Slime Ranch.
Whether it’s the latest 4K HD blockbuster or a simple handheld, I find myself able to fall in love with a new game very easily. It’s my hope people have the same experience with Ultra!
The future of Ultra is ultimately in the hands of David and his team. But the future of cryptocurrencies and blockchain as new gaming landscapes is in the hands of all gaming fans.
Those of us who create games, those who play games, and yes, those of us who seek to report and review on progress, as we see the growing convergence and fusion of a much beloved pastime in gaming with a cutting-edge technology.
Though there shall surely be many voices in this new arena, undoubtedly David Hanson’s will be one to pay special attention, as he seeks to advance Ultra and be a leader in the industry.
David Hanson is Co-CEO of Ultra. For further information see https://ultra.io/