Robot Cache isn’t an ordinary games retailer. You can buy games on the platform — but you can also sell them, or use mined cryptocurrency instead of cash.
As a competitor to Steam, the platform is hoping to provide a new way for both developers and players to enjoy games in a way that everyone wins.
“We had two major initiatives when we launched Robot Cache, we wanted to make it so that a gamer could resell their games when they were done playing and we felt that the 30% distribution fees from digital platforms were higher than was necessary,” Lee Jacobson, Robot Cache CEO told Kotaku Australia via email.
“Platform holders were often making more profit than the developer who took 100% of the financial risk and that never felt fair.”
According to Jacobson, the team behind Robot Cache knew they could make a difference by reducing infrastructure costs to the point where distribution fees on the platform are just 5 percent. It’s an attractive fee, and one that’s drawn several major publishers to the retailer including Paradox Interactive, THQ Nordic, Deep Silver, Atari, Daedalic Entertainment and Devolver Digital.
But it’s not just publishers Robot Cache is hoping to appeal to — reselling is an important focus too.
“Unlike physical sales, there was no secondary market or way to sell a game when you’re done playing,” Jacobson said of the website’s creation process. “We’d constantly hear from people that they wished they could sell games from their catalog to purchase new games but there was no mechanism or margin to allow this.”
That’s where the idea of using the blockchain to sell games came in. According to Jacobson, shifting to an on-blockchain model for Robot Cache meant digital resale was not only possible, it was safe, secure and low-fee.
“We decided on using the blockchain because it gave the developers and publishers confidence that the technology would protect their digital games and it alleviated any concerns about its ability to prevent their games from being illegally copied and sold,” Jacobson said. “Since we are only making 5 per cent on a game sale, we have margin available to give back to the gamer and still have developers earn better than the standard 70% royalty.”
Here’s how the process works: once you finish a game, you’re then able to list the game for sale on Robot Cache.
Your copy will go in an alternating queue that rotates with each copy of a game sold. Games sold for the first time give 95 per cent to the publisher and 5 per cent to Robot Cache. Games sold for the second time (by a customer) give 70 per cent of the resale value to the publisher, 25 per cent to the gamer, and 5 per cent to Robot Cache.
This process continues, with buyers and sellers recycling games as they play them or when no longer want them in their library.
The only caveat is the website depends on the blockchain to function.
Blockchain technologies have been the subject of frequent, passionate debate over the last few years, largely due to environmental concerns. Bitcoin currently consumes around 110 terawatt hours per year, according to the Cambridge Center for Alternative Finance. That’s about equivalent to the energy output of a single, small country. But as Jacobson explains, Robot Cache users won’t be contributing to this steep environmental toll.
This is because the website is in negotiations to move to a ‘proof of stake’ blockchain model which “will eliminate the need for [it] to use the Ethereum blockchain to prove ownership.” According to Jacobson, ‘proof of stake’ will also help Robot Cache become more efficient.
‘Proof of stake’ differs from standard ‘proof of work’ blockchain systems because rather than requiring significant computational power for mining, the system chooses miners via a random election process. Instead of having a high-powered machine backing an individual’s mining capabilities, their output is determined by their ability to “lock a certain amount of coins into the network as their stake“. Individual ‘nodes’ chosen to mine the next ‘block’ of data will receive a transaction fee for their service, and will only create new ‘blocks’ when chosen — meaning miners won’t constantly be wasting power.
It’s this model that Robot Cache will be using to reduce the environmental impact of the service. The move will also circumvent Nvidia’s efforts to reduce cryptocurrency mining on its hardware, which currently only targets the energy-intensive ‘proof of work’ blockchain model.
“We recognise this is a grand experiment,” Jacobson told Kotaku Australia.
After two years in alpha and another in beta, Robot Cache is ramping up for a global launch “soon”. Visual changes and new features are expected ahead of Robot Cache’s official release, as is a shift towards proof-of-stake (Jacobson expects this change to take place before the platform is officially launched). There’s plenty in the works, and it’s likely the platform will change further before it’s ready for a widespread rollout.
If you’re the kind of person who laments the state of your Steam library and wishes there was another option to buy and sell on your games, it’s certainly an intriguing new platform. Those still wary of crypto and blockchain mining should be aware of the platform’s potential impact, but it’s an experiment worth following.
Robot Cache does not have an ‘official’ launch window, but as of writing the website is now live and functional.