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Portland, Oregon-based Polycade is creating a cultural crossover collaboration between video games and art, orchestrated by Web3. The collaboration will have prominent contemporary artists reskin original Atari games, which will be released as limited editions of “digital cartridges,” available for purchase on the blockchain. The official launch will be celebrated at ComplexCon (November 19 to November 20) with a tournament.
There is a sweet symmetry to this deal, as Polycade was started by CEO Tyler Bushnell, son of Atari cofounder Nolan Bushnell, oft-called the father of video games.
“Atari is obviously very close to our hearts. And so it felt like a natural choice for the launch of our greater platform here,” said Tyler Bushnell, in an interview with GamesBeat. “We’re basically launching a series of collaborations pairing classic Atari Games with modern contemporary artists. And so what this will do is take classics games like Asteroids and see all of the artwork reskinned by the artist.”
Polycade Limiteds will feature 12 artist collaborations, where each artist will redesign a classic Atari game, such as Asteroids, Pong, Centipede, Missile Command and Breakout.
“It’s bringing the artist’s vision for the game to life, but also, you know, honoring the original with the same gameplay,” Tyler Bushnell said. “The games will be playable through our website, on any of our machines as well, and then also through our downloadable desktop software.”
Each reskinned game will be fully playable and reimagined with the artist’s vision — redesigning all graphics and backgrounds. Polycade Limiteds will kick off its first limited title with contemporary artist Shantell Martin reskinning the classic Atari game Asteroids.
The Digital Cartridge will include three editions with the minting date set for November 19, timed to ComplexCon. The sale of the Artist Edition will be located on nft.coinbase.com and the auction for the Gold Edition will begin on November 19. Digital Cartridges will be stored on the Ethereum Blockchain and a pre-buy and auction accept list to purchase will also be found on Polycade’s website.
“Shantell Martin’s black and white line art really embodies the kinetic energy of Asteroids,” said Tyler Bushnell. “Video games have influenced many traditional artists over the years, but the ability for them to put their mark on games and monetize their artistic creation has been extremely difficult and expensive. Blockchain technology has made it possible for digital goods to behave like the physical collectibles commonly produced by artists.”
Bushnell added, “Whether you’re a nostalgia gamer, collector, or art fan, we’re excited to bring to market a new type of interactive, playable art that honors fantastic video games and incredible artists by bringing them together, providing transparent ownership via our Digital Cartridges, and gamifying the experience through tournaments and achievements.”
Owners can play on the Polycade website, Polycade downloadable software, and on any physical Polycade arcade machine, including those in public places like bars. Tyler Bushnell said he likes the utility that non-fungible tokens (NFTs) can offer in enabling that to happen.
Video games today have a physical cartridge or physical media, which is paired with a specific piece of hardware to run it. Or digital media like on Steam. Both of these models have their own flaws and their own sort of like bonuses, Tyler Bushnell said. You can resell the physical cartridge. He said that with digital goods, you can can access them from anywhere, they can’t be damaged, and they can be updated.
“We wanted to kind of take both of these media and create a new one that sort of represents the positives from both sides. So what we’re doing could not be possible it wouldn’t be possible without blockchain technology,” Tyler Bushnell said. “The digital cartridge is an ERC-721 contract.”
If you own that digital cartridge and log into the web site, you can have access to the game, log in on any of the arcade machines, and have access to the game.
“So it’s essentially your digital cartridge or deed to the game,” Tyler Bushnell said.
The digital cartridge’s will use a regular blockchain wallet, which will hold that digital cartridge. While some hardcore gamers don’t like non-fungible tokens (NFTs), Tyler Bushnell said the project wouldn’t be possible without them. Polycade worked with AtariX, the blockchain division of Atari.
Each redesign will be available in three editions — Artist, Silver and Gold — with unique variations in each design. Artist editions will be limited to 1,000 digital copies, Silver editions 10 digital copies, and the Gold edition will be limited to one digital copy which includes a physical Polycade machine designed by the artist.
“Polycade Limiteds is embracing the spirit of ‘what is old is new again’ through the experience of playing Atari games reimagined by top artists. We are excited to see these games played in the traditional format with a new Web3 twist”, said Tyler Drewitz, head of strategy and growth at Atari, in a statement.
Martin is a visual artist, intuitive philosopher, cultural facilitator, teacher, choreographer, songwriter, and performer, is the first artist to kick-off the collaboration. She will be bringing her large-scale, black-and-white line drawings, to the classic game Asteroids.
“Never could I have ever imagined that the hours and hours I spent as a child playing Asteroids would one day lead to me being able to play my own version as an adult,” said Martin, in a statement.
“We’re culture lovers, collectors, gamers. I think when you look at industries fashion, music, art, there is a lot of crossover and collaborations between all of those media. But video games typically exist outside of that, or the collaborations are very surface level, like events and that kind of thing,” he said. “You rarely see these collaborations that dig deeply into the game. And then on the other side, visual artists have never really been able to use video games as a medium for expression. So this enables artists to put their mark on a game that they loved while also showing fans of the game the title in a new light.”
In addition, New York street artist Buff Monster will be the second artist collab. The game he will be reskinning has not been announced yet. Buff Monster’s art exudes pop art using bright colors and bold lines, which is seen mostly in large-scale murals and paintings.
“If you own one of these new titles, you’ll be able to access it from any of our arcade machines, including the ones that are in bars and restaurants,” Tyler Bushnell said. “The arcade machines are essentially modern consoles. They can be placed in commercial environments or residential environments. You have a player account, you can log into the machines, wherever they may be, and your games go with you.”
Polycade, founded in 2015, is on a mission to build community through gaming by combining the social arcade experience with modern games and technology. Users can experience Polycade through the Polycade Arcade Cabinet and the downloadable Polycade software. Polycade allows users to play games from any generation and use one interface to combine all of their favorite platforms.
Polycade has about 1,000 machines in the market, including a few at Two-Bit Circus, a big arcade and entertainment center owned by Tyler’s brother Brent Bushnell. Investors include Founders Fund, Wavemaker Partners, Gaingels, and MVP All-Star Fund. It has six people.
Tyler Bushnell said part of the inspiration dates back to an event that his sister, Alyssa Bushnell, was part of at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. It was about video games and art, and it stuck with the younger brother over time.
“Video games are very much art,” he said.
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Author: Dean Takahashi