How can gamification on blockchains be used for charity? Read the in-depth case study.
Charity has been one of the growing use cases of blockchains explained by the ability to transfer funds worldwide at a low cost with fast transaction finality (often less than a few minutes). The recent collectible campaign organized by UNICEF and Ubisoft illustrates a new trend toward the gamification of charity through the use of blockchain technology.
Gamification is the application of elements of games (e.g., point scoring, competition with others, rules of play) to other areas of activity.
Gamification can encapsulate multiple industries but traditionally has been primarily used as an online marketing technique to foster a higher engagement rate with services and products.
This case study discusses how blockchains and gamification were used in a charity operation co-jointly run by UNICEF and Ubisoft, an in-depth technical explanation of the blockchain & its underlying standard used, the direct outcomes from this charity campaign, and the indirect benefits from the perspective of multiple stakeholders.
Finally, this case study closes on a discussion regarding whether gamification through the use of distributed ledger technology could become a new standard for global charity and our recommendations for future charity campaigns on blockchain networks.
UNICEF ("United Nations Children's Fund") is one of the world's largest supranational organizations globally. Its mission is to “advocate for the protection of children's rights, to help meet their basic needs and to expand their opportunities to reach their full potential”.
Since 2019, UNICEF has been pioneering blockchain use cases by accepting donations in a wide range of cryptocurrencies, such as bitcoin, ether, and a variety of ERC-20s (stablecoins or not). Ubisoft, one of the highest revenue European video game companies, has recently set up a blockchain division within its dedicated innovation labs ("Ubisoft Strategic Innovation Lab").
In June 2020, UNICEF and Ubisoft made the news when they co-launched a charity campaign centered around the theme of Rabbids, which are known to be popular characters appearing in video game series like Rayman (Ubisoft) and some Mario games (Nintendo).
For this charity operation, (some) Rabbids have been tokenized as collectible items that can be received to raise money for UNICEF's set of charity initiatives. To do so, they deployed two contracts on the Ethereum public blockchain.
Regarding the technical implementation, multiple functional elements must be considered: the blockchain used, the underlying set of contracts, the restrictions and limitations, and the properties of the items.
As a start, Ubisoft deployed the first contract on the Ethereum public blockchain on April 10th, 2020. This created a token named "ERR" with 5 units being minted. Following this, a second contract was deployed an hour after. However, this charity campaign was officially kickstarted as of June 17th, 2020, following a set of tests, as illustrated by on-chain transactions taking place between the two dates.
There are two ERC-721 tokens used for this charity campaign:
Figure 1 - Examples of illustrations of the campaign from the website and matching on-chain elements
Figure 2 - Required functions for the ECR-721 interface
- balanceOf(address owner) → uint256 balance - ownerOf(uint256 tokenId) → address owner - safeTransferFrom(address from, address to, uint256 tokenId) - transferFrom(address from, address to, uint256 tokenId) - approve(address to, uint256 tokenId) - getApproved(uint256 tokenId) → address operator - setApprovalForAll(address operator, bool _approved) - isApprovedForAll(address owner, address operator) → bool
Yet, despite the widely reported coverage by media that the collectibles were using the traditional set of ERC-721 token standards, the contract does operate quite differently than conventional ERC-721 tokens.
As of writing, the set of contracts had not been verified by the developers, who had not provided the collection of ABIs and the source code in a high-level language like Solidity, making it less straightforward to analyze from an external standpoint.
According to Ubisoft's official documentation, the following set of characteristics was integrated into the set of smart contracts:
Figure 3 - Relationships between storage on Ethereum and token characteristics on the front-end interface
Visuals are imported from the InterPlanetary File System ("IPFS").
Each of the on-chain token links to the storage link on an IPFS address. For instance, the below figure represents the associated storage link on IPFS and how it reflects on the front-end source code.
Figure 4 - Screenshots of IPFS integration on Ethereum and in the front-end source code
This integration with IPFS is tied to both Rabbids and POPO tokens, with their respective designs referenced and hosted on IPFS. This effectively allows immutability for the visuals, making them not dependent on any central storage system (e.g., AWS, DigitalOcean).
Ubisoft used a dedicated subdomain called “ubipfs.ubisoft.com” to retrieve information about each of the visuals displayed on the website along with other relevant characteristics of the tokens (e.g., “level”).
However, since Ubisoft engineering teams did not publicly verify the contract, it turned out impossible to display NFTs on most blockchain explorers like Etherscan or other competing Ethereum explorers. Hence, the visualization of the collectibles (i.e., cartoon images) remains primarily available on Ubisoft’s self-hosted front-end.
Interactions between end-users and Ethereum are conducted on the Ubisoft’s dedicated subdomain for this event, through the use of the Web3 set of libraries. In this case, Ubisoft has set some connectivity by running a client(“gethclient”) with a WebSocket hosted under “wss://mainnet.geth.ubisoft.com”.
Figure 5 - Screenshots of the Web3 integration on the front-end through a geth client Users can interact with the page using a wallet like MetaMask or other similar crypto wallets directly in their browser.
To evaluate the direct impact of this charity campaign, co-jointly run by UNICEF and Ubisoft, three core areas are assessed: the total funds being collected, the number of participants (and the number of “POPO” tokens), and other on-chain metrics resulting from this operations.
A mere 35.83 ETH had been raised as of August 1st, 2020. At the current rate of ETH/USD (~ $345), it represents roughly $12,360 collected. Regarding the breakdown per token, there are some disparities, but overall, each of the Rabbids tokens raised at least 6 ETH.
Figure 6 - Amount raised for each of the Rabbids tokens as of August 1st, 2020 (in ETH) Source: Etherscan.
The median transaction fee to acquire a Rabbids token (excluding gas fee) was 0.1 ETH, while the average was 0.105 ETH.
Figure 7 - Distribution of the purchased Rabbids token prices (in ETH) Source: Etherscan.
Most of the tokens have been purchased for 0.06 ETH. Some were even bought for 0.2 ETH, outside of the initial price range provided on the website (i.e., between 0.05 and 0.15 ether per token).
As of August 1st, 2020, 343 POPO have been minted, and the total number of unique addresses of participants was 154 unique addresses.
There have been 421 transactions involved (as of August 1st, 2020), including the operation to deploy the contract. On average, the median gas fee was 0.01 ETH and the maximum gas fee per operation was 0.03 ETH (or more than 10 USD at the ether price of that day).
A transaction would trigger a set of 5 distinct events on Ethereum within the same block, explaining relatively these high gas fees for the operation to acquire a Rabbids and send funds to charity. Yet, these costs also tie to the increasing gas costs (on Ethereum) in the second quarter of 2020.
Figure 8 - Total gas fee paid in ETH relative to donation amounts Source: Etherscan. It includes data before the event was publicly announced (June 17th).
Interestingly, a large number of transactions seems to have failed, either with an “out of gas error” or “reverted” (discussed in later sections).
Figure 9 - Breakdown of transactions per final state Source: Etherscan. Data as of August 1st, 2020.
Figure 10 - Breakdown of timezones for Ethereum transactions Source: Etherscan. Data as of August 1st, 2020.
Finally, most transactions have taken place in UTC afternoon timezones (UTC 12:00 to UTC 23:59:59), typically indicating a bias toward Western hours. Since this charity game was only available in English and created by a video game company based in France (and with significant operations in North America), these numbers seem coherent.
This campaign does not have a definite end date, all these numbers are still expected to evolve over time. For instance, the upcoming unique "Moon Campaign" (August 3rd) might entail new participants.
The combination of charity and blockchains incorporated with a gamification reward process is an example of incremental innovation powered by public distributed ledger usage. It combines some primary characteristics of blockchains, such as immutability and transaction finality, while being public for anyone across the globe.
This gamified charity example is centered around the following benefits from each of the parties involved. We can observe these from four different stakeholder perspectives: UNICEF, Ubisoft, donators, and other participants in the crypto & digital asset industry.
From UNICEF's perspective, the use of the underlying technology powering blockchains relies upon three critical benefits:
Furthermore, this operation explicitly allowed the UNICEF:
It is worth noting that the use of blockchains in charity might also conflict with existing benefits (of charity) such as tax-exemption for charity donators. Similarly, transparency could conflict with requirements for charitable organizations to analyze the source of funds since transactions are made pseudo-anonymously (the only identifier being the on-chain address used to trigger the contract and pay the associated fees).
From the perspective of an international video game company like Ubisoft, such a campaign provides two core benefits:
Yet, the complex implementation led to high gas fees from the perspective of users owing to multiple changes in storage and other additional elements in the contract. Ubisoft not only integrated with the Ethereum blockchain but also has stored the visuals for its set of Rabbids collectibles in IPFS. This could potentially signify the first step into a structural change in how video game items could become independent from a centralized infrastructure.
This unique operation has allowed donators to:
Yet, these NFTs are not sellable on secondary markets, nor are the proof of past ownerships. Hence, it is quite unlikely that participants' interest would have been emanating from any financial reward standpoint. Also, only ethers are usable for this campaign. A vast range of supported currencies could likely be used in further implementations of such a charity operation, hence fostering greater participation from the crypto community.
However, one might argue that the opportunity to sell these financial collectibles would draw a much larger crowd of participants. Despite the extensive media coverage for this promotional/charity campaign, the total funds collected remain relatively low with a mere 35 ether (i.e., worth around $10,000) collected in roughly two months (as of August 1st, 2020).
The perspective of other crypto stakeholders must also be incorporated into this analysis.
This experiment, conducted by UNICEF and Ubisoft, has likely paved the way for the following:
Despite this operation not being a financial success, it highlighted exciting features regarding how blockchains can be used for charity through a gamification process. Gamification is a growing trend in the numeric age, where the span of attention dedicated to a single topic is reportedly lower than ever before.
Blockchains offer transparency, speed, and cost benefits for charitable organizations. This case study illustrates that gamification could lead to new growth areas for charity through public distributed ledgers. To some extent, it represents the virtual version of collecting stickers for donating to a charitable action in the real world. Yet, gamification of charity through the use of blockchain-based collectibles could raise a broader debate whether the incentives would be assigned adequately if these collectibles had being tradable on the secondary markets.
Whether the use of collectibles as a reward for participating could disturb the incentives related to why individuals decide to contribute financially to charitable organizations, collectibles for blockchain charity are more likely to become the immutable versions of a proof of participation. Hence, these initiatives are expected to foster greater blockchain adoption while leveraging public blockchain benefits to transfer units of value in the globe with a fast finality.
The team from Flying Block has compiled a few suggestions that could be incorporated for future charity campaigns. They are summarized below.
This section briefly discusses each of these suggestions at the concept level and the technical implementation.
From a conceptual perspective, we recommend:
From a more technical fundamental perspective, we also recommend:
To participate in this campaign and support UNICEF, please visit https://rabbidstoken.ubisoft.com/
Read more about similar topics