The rapid pace of change in the car industry is reflected in the market cap of traditional car companies versus their competitors. At the time of writing, Tesla’s market cap sits at $44.26 billion. Uber’s market cap is $57.80 billion. Compare this to Ford and BMW, whose market caps are $37.47 and $41.02 billion, respectively.
Ford and BMW, founded in 1903 and 1916, grew to this size over the course of a hundred years. It took Tesla less than fifteen years and Uber less than a decade to eclipse them, as both companies were only founded in 2003 and 2009. If that doesn’t put pressure on traditional car manufacturers to innovate, then I don’t know what does.
You might wonder what this has to do with blockchain technology or with decentralized gaming, but many innovative technologies are interconnected, part of a broader trend that gives us a glimpse into the future. It’s the reason why companies who are experimenting with VR and AR are often thinking about blockchain as well (examples: Decentraland, Chainbreakers) or why you can play several games in a Tesla car. New technologies are frequently linked together.
DGaming spoke to Leandro Bellone, the co-founder and CEO of CryptoMotors, a digital automaker on the Ethereum blockchain that wants to revolutionize the car modeling and designing process. We spoke about Leandro’s work experience in the car industry, why he started CryptoMotors, and how that all led to decentralized gaming.
The Idea Behind CryptoMotors
Leandro has over a decade of experience as an Alias modeler, which means that he uses the Autodesk Alias software to model and design cars. The software isn’t easy to learn. It’s complex, technical, and requires some artistic flair too. But it’s a staple in the car industry: nearly every car you see driving around has been made with Alias.
Leandro has been an Alias modeler for big car manufacturers, including Citroën, Kia, BMW, and Rolls Royce, among others. He started his career inArgentina first, where he’s originally from, but he moved to Germany five years ago, as the country’s car industry is widely considered the most competitive and innovative in the world.
Given his experience, he learned the ins and outs of the industry. He realized that the car industry is extremely secretive when it comes to designing a car. You need to sign many non-disclosure agreements (NDA) and can’t tell anyone anything. Very few people are allowed to be part of the car designing process and hardly anyone can use the digital assets that are created to ultimately manufacture a car.
To Leandro, this felt like a waste. He was producing high-quality digital assets in Alias that would only ever be used and seen by a handful of people. At the same time, he noticed the rise of CryptoKitties at the end of 2017. He saw that blockchain technology was giving people the possibility to live in a virtual world, where they’d participate in a virtual economy and buy virtual assets.
He realized that he was creating high-quality assets in Alias that people might want to own. Additionally, he wanted to open the doors of the car designing process. He wanted the community to have a say in how a car should look, to bring feedback into what he called “the beautiful process that is designing a car.”
It was the beginning of CryptoMotors.
Opening Up the Designing Process
CryptoMotors created a platform, which you can access by registering on their website, that’s intended to make designing a car a community effort. Here’s how it works: every so often, the CryptoMotors team comes up with a design challenge based on a specific design brief. They invite designers around the world to submit their best car designs (i.e. sketches of the car they have in mind).
Users of the platform can then vote on the car designs they prefer most. The design with the most votes wins, after which the CryptoMotors team will model the car in Alias, visualize the car, and tokenize the car on the Ethereum blockchain. They do this all for free, which is a wonderful experience for any designer (particularly young designers fresh from university).
But that’s not all. The designer will also receive a NFT based on their design and fair share of the revenue that the car generates. It’s how CryptoMotors incentivizes designers to submit their best work and it’s the main reason why every new design challenge gets them many new platform users and new followers on social media channels such as Instagram and Twitter.
The benefits of opening up the designing process are two-fold. Firstly, designing a car through a community of designers goes much faster than designing a car the traditional way. Given that everything is done online, CryptoMotors can have the final design of a car in months where it would take a traditional car manufacturer at least a year to come up with a final model that is publicly shown.
Secondly, it’s very hard for anyone in the process, from designers to modelers, to know what the customer actually wants. By letting users vote on their favorite designs, CryptoMotors understands exactly what customers want most. They have a pulse on the market that traditional car manufacturers don’t have.
The Step to Decentralized Gaming
CryptoMotors have tokenized their cars on the Ethereum blockchain and put them up for sale on OpenSea. It gave me a good idea what Leandro meant when he said “high-quality assets” because these cars look amazing. They’re some of the best-looking blockchain assets I’ve seen so far.
But CryptoMotors’ vision is broader. After all, the blockchain industry and the DGaming market has moved beyond simple collectibles. DGamers want to be able to use their collectibles. As such, this July, CryptoMotors partnered up with NeoWorld, an online virtual world on a blockchain, to sell 22 of their sport coupes. They sold like hotcakes and the company earned close to €6,000 in the span of three days.
All that CryptoMotors needed to do was tessellate the cars down to the game’s graphical requirements to give 22 NeoWorldians the chance to own and drive in a professionally designed and modeled car. But 22 cars isn’t that many. CryptoMotors wants all their cars to have a use. So they’ve been working on something new...
People who own a CryptoMotors car will soon (in approximately two to three weeks) be able to race it in CryptoMotors’ own browser-based game. Each car will have randomly created stats in a range, depending on the type of car you own (a sports coupe, a sedan, or an SUV) that will determine how well you’ll do in a race.
Eventually, the game will have a parts market where people will be able to buy tokenized wheels, engines, brakes, etc… to improve the racing performance of their cars. The CryptoMotors team also wants to add weather conditions, different tracks, and many other features, to create a compelling racing game that gives people another reason to buy a CryptoMotors car (beyond the fact that they look amazing).
CryptoMotors team is also working in 3D racing tracks to allow users to fully experience their digital beasts.
The Audacious Vision
But using tokenized cars in a game is only one step toward the real vision. Currently, CryptoMotors comes up with their own design challenges. Eventually, they want traditional car companies to give them design challenges that they can give to their community. This is something they’re actively engaging car companies about, and the responses have been positive.
Imagine a car company opens a design challenge on the CryptoMotors platform. Many people submit their designs, but your car design gets the most votes from the users on the platform. The CryptoMotors team models, visualizes, and tokenizes it on the blockchain. The car company, satisfied with your design, decides to manufacture the car. You, as the designer, will receive a certain percentage of both the sales of the digital, tokenized car, but of the physical car sales too.
If you think that could be big money, you’d be correct. This could be tens of thousands of dollars, if not more. It would be the ultimate incentive for any designer, part of a positive, reinforcing cycle. More designers would flock to the CryptoMotors platform, more designs would be submitted, and the client would end up with a better end result.
That’s the ultimate vision of Leandro and that’s what his team is working towards. It’ll take time, as traditional car manufacturers are notoriously slow to change, but it’s a way for them to innovate a part of the car creation process that’s otherwise quite slow and secretive.
CryptoMotors has an audacious vision, but Leandro wants to make sure they do things correctly and grow sustainably. This is, in part, because they still do traditional automotive modeling work for car companies. It’s what they’re good at and what provides the funding for their blockchain platform and their ultimate vision.
This is the reason why they decided to tokenize their cars as ERC-721 tokens and not as ERC-1155 tokens. ERC-1155 tokens are a combination of ERC-721 tokens (which are non-fungible tokens) and ERC-20 tokens (which are cryptocurrencies). Given the combination, the German government could consider ERC-1155 tokens as financial instruments and classify any company selling those as a financial institution.
This is a situation that CryptoMotors wanted to avoid. They are creating digital assets, not financial instruments. It’s also the reason why they didn’t do an ICO, as ICOs have (justifiably) been scrutinized by the government. CryptoMotors funds itself through the excellent work they provide for car companies in order to achieve their blockchain vision.
Regardless, it’s not an easy journey. When I asked Leandro how he gets it all done, he laughed and said that “he works all day.” CryptoMotors’ biggest challenge is the lack of time. They work as fast as they can while maintaining a high level of quality in their work.
Their other big challenge, something that I’ve noticed is a recurring theme with DGame founders, is marketing. CryptoMotors’ best marketing channels are Twitter, which is where most of their NFT buyers are, as well as Instagram. Instagram surprised me at first, until I realized that they’re selling a very visually appealing product. It makes sense that Instagram works well for them.
CryptoMotors is a project that shows how interconnected innovation can be. Here’s a company that does traditional car modeling work for car companies, but that also offers a platform that open-sources the designing process of a car, that also tokenizes cars on the Ethereum blockchain, that also creates a game to put those tokenized cars to good use.
It’s a fascinating trend. Eventually, any physical car you buy will have its own, tokenized version that you’re the unique owner of. This digital twin will reflect the performance, the issues, and the general health of your physical car, but you could also use it in the virtual worlds that you enjoy exploring. And it might have been designed by CryptoMotors. It’s wild, but not implausible.