AMA Questions and Answers with Blok Party CEO Joe Scott - 4.22.2021

AMA Questions and Answers with Blok Party CEO Joe Scott - 4.22.2021

Q: What’s the total user base at this time?

A:  We’ve got a little over 3,000 users now, around 800 on the original devices, and the rest on the new TapTops.


Q: Will users of older devices have an option to upgrade to the newer device or get a refund?

A: We aren’t currently in a position to refund or upgrade devices for individuals who had received their original TapTops back in 2019 or 2020.  It was never our original intention to ship multiple generations of devices with different hardware specs and features, but when we had to change manufacturers and seek out new sources of funding last spring, moving forward with different hardware was our only option.  We understand that for some who received their TapTop last year, there may now be a fear of being “left behind” with an outdated model.  Please know that, while we can’t change the original hardware, we will still do our best to support the older models with the same game updates and new releases, and if we’re able to do more in the future we will. 


Q: Will older devices be updated to the new OS?

A: Unfortunately, this is not possible. Due to the manufacturing partner changes we had to make last year, the main chipset for the main board of the old device is entirely different from the new one. Each chipset only supports versions of Android up to a certain spec. Our previous build of the device was on Android 6 and was an unsupported customization since our supplier for those chips didn’t give us root AOSP access. This current version is a soup to nuts implementation of AOSP all the way to the core on a base of Android 9.  So while we can still run most of the same games on both devices, we cannot update the OS on the older models.


Q: What sort of support will be available for the older devices (2019 and 2020)?

A: We plan to release all original games that we license and port to the TapTop to the older devices as well.  We may occasionally run into hardware constraints that prevent us from releasing a game on an older device, and we will address those on a case by case basis.  As far as support for bugs and issues goes, you can and should still report them to support and we’ll do our best to resolve them, but since we’re still a very small team (only 15 people total across all departments) at the moment, we only have the bandwidth to push major system (as opposed to game) updates to the newer devices at this time.


Q:  I have an "old" unit with browsing and side-loading capabilities. I don't want to lose those abilities through an update. Is there a chance they will be taken away with any future updates to the old unit?

A:  Side-loading was never meant to be a feature, it just turned out that way on the OG devices.  For now, we don’t intend to allow side-loading on the newer TapTops, but we have no intention to take it (or any games) away from the old ones.  


Q: Are you bringing Kidomi back?  Puzzingo?  Other fully developed software libraries?

A: These libraries require meticulous and copious amounts of work by the publishers and that only after securing licensing and distribution rights.  We’re working on it, but unfortunately we just aren’t quite there yet with many of these partners.  In some cases, our publishing partners are allowing us to keep games on the older devices for now but have requested changes before we can release them to the newer models.   


Q: Are there "bigger" named games coming to TapTop?  Pandemic?  Ticket to Ride? Maybe Risk?  

A: We can’t announce any games specifically just yet, but we can tell you that we’ve partnered with Asmodee to bring many of their games to TapTop.  Risk is unlikely in the near future, since it’s owned by Hasbro, and we currently don’t have any licensing agreements in place with them.  This would be true for other Hasbro games like Monopoly or Clue as well.


Q:  Is there any plan to include AI play in some of the games that don't have it like Splodey? What about better instructions? In many cases we had to find external videos to understand what is going on.

A:  Yes and yes.  We’re working on more AI and adding better instructions (in the form of built-in tutorials and/or videos), but those take time, and we wanted to make as many games available to play as we could first.  


Q: Are any of the old companion phone apps usable?  Will they become unusable for OG devices when games update? 

A: We have made the conscious decision to make sure families can enjoy all of our games directly on the TapTop first and foremost, regardless of whether or not everyone has their own smartphone.  In addition, we found that building different phone apps for each game that were supported on all the different kinds of smartphones and tablets that are out there in the world required a much larger developer team than we have at the moment.  All games that previously used a companion phone app have now been updated to play totally on TapTop using a peek function.  Eventually, we plan to release a single TapTop companion app for your smartphone that would work for every game that needs it, but this is still in development. 


Q: What’s the timeframe for smartpieces and games that use them?

A:  This is TBD. We’re working through a few different games right now and expect to have details soon.  The tech is there in your TapTops (both OG and new devices) already, but we want to ensure we deliver a game and figurines that take full advantage of this unique feature and deliver outstanding gameplay.


Q:  Can I use Amiibos, Skylander, or other RFID toys on the TapTop?

A:  This all comes down to your definition of use or works with. The system can read your Amiibo, Skylander, and even Infinity figures just like if you were to scan them with an NFT Tools app on your phone, but we do not support gameplay with them. In order to do that we would need the licenses and even though we have tried numerous times they do not want to work with us at this point in time.  That’s not to say that it will never happen, though!  The more we can show how passionate users are about TapTop and using their RFID toys on it, the better our argument for getting those companies to work with us.


Q:  What is the timeframe for Smart Dice?

A:  Most likely the end of the year.  Hardware takes time and this was a hardware fix.  We found the dice were creating errors around 5% of the time, and we weren’t happy with those numbers, so we’ve had to do a little re-engineering.


Q:  What’s the plan for ToyBox Stadium and Battlegrid?

A:  Both of these games were used more as concepts or tech demos than fully fleshed out games, and we have no current plans to work on them in the near future.  That said, we’re definitely committed to bringing games that make the most of TapTop’s RFID-tech to the platform as soon as possible, and we hope to make some more announcements on that count very soon.

 

Q: Are you going to make it possible to cast from the TapTop?

A: We’re currently exploring this capability and if we can implement it, we will.


Q: Is it still going to be possible to play remotely with other TapTops (or remotely with someone on a smartphone or tablet?)

A:  Not yet. We aren’t currently equipped to handle networking on our team but this is something very high on our wishlist.


Q:  Are you going to add a browser? Other apps?  Any chance of getting a subscription/purchase option to Chrome/Firefox and/or Google Play?

A:  We’re working on adding a browser (there are some security and parental control issues to address but we hope to have an option available soon). Other apps are subject to the rights and trademarks of their respective companies and we unfortunately do not have the business development team to pursue everything at this time.  We cannot simply take apps and redistribute them without their permission.  That said, please still feel free to let us know which games and apps you would like to see in the future, as that will help us focus our biz-dev efforts towards the things the community shows the most interest in. 


Q:  Will TapTop still have sandbox abilities?  Roll20 or something similar for RPG games? How about releasing an SDK for game development on TapTop?  What’s the timeframe for that?

A:  We’re working on a no-code required sandbox type app to allow users to create and add their own games to TapTop and will have more announcements about it later this year.  We also plan to release a product in the future for prospective board game designers and developers, but our first priority at this point in time is to develop and release more game titles for everyone to play, rather than just the segment of people who want to build in dev mode.  It’s still part of the vision and plan, but it’ll take a little longer to realize.  


Q:  What can those of us wanting to develop games for TapTop do today?
A:  If you’re a Unity Game Dev, you can always reach out to see if we’re looking to add more people to the team!  If not, you’ll have to be patient for a little while longer while we get things set up for users to be able to develop and add their own games.


Q:  What’s the plan for subscriptions vs. pay-per-game?

A:  Everyone is currently on a free trial of our subscription.  In August, we will be rolling out both subscription and pay-per-game models, and everyone will have a choice as to which they use.  We expect subscriptions will be month-to-month only to start, and will likely cost between $5-$10 per month, depending on how robust the game library is by then.  The expected cost per game for individual purchases is more difficult to predict, since it will be dependent upon the game, the licensor, the cost to develop, and our expectations for individual unit sales.


Q: Can OG TapTop users still play Alexa games on their devices?  

A: Alexa is one of the things about the new TapTops that can’t be added to the OG devices due to hardware limitations.  As a result, we won’t be adding any Alexa skills or purely Alexa voice-enabled games (like Jeopardy) to the OG devices.  However, where we can, we’ll still offer Alexa-enabled boardgames such as Dead Giveaway.  That way, if you have another Alexa device or the Alexa app on your phone (free with an Amazon account), you can still use your TapTop as the board/cards/pieces and use another device for the Alexa parts.  


Q:  What happened with VimWorld and 8HF?

A:  Unfortunately the timing of the TapTop development with the manufacturer took longer than expected. VIMworld and 8 Hours wanted to forge ahead on the token without our input on timing and rollout, so it was decided they would formally split from Blok Party and that partnership was ended.


Q: Will blockchain and NFTs still be a part of TapTop?

A: Blockchain will have a future in what we plan to build as a company but we will not be a blockchain game console per se. Given that VIMworld and 8Hours split from us, anything we do in the space will be built entirely from scratch.


Q:  What is the status of the crypto-currency promised?

A:  Blok Party has no token and never has.  Any crypto promises will have to be addressed with the VIMworld and 8HF teams, whom we’re no longer affiliated with.


Q:  Is John Dempsey still the CEO?

A:  John stepped down from CEO of Blok Party in January and is no longer part of the team, but his vision for TapTop and the company is still very much alive in what we’re making today.  Joe Scott has been with Blok Party since 2019 and took over the reins as CEO when John left.


Q:  What are the plans for getting the devices in retail? How long are we from that?  What happened with selling through GameStop?

A:  We have no immediate plans to sell in retail, but that’s not off the table for the future.  GameStop was something we were exploring last year, but ultimately, we decided not to move forward with them and instead focus on just our original preorder customers and building up the game library as much as possible first.


Q: I put a deposit down but haven’t had a chance to finish paying yet.  What do I need to do to finalize my order and how much will it cost?

A: With this last batch of TapTops we were finally able to ship out devices to every fully paid and finalized order; however, in the past 6 months, there have been widespread parts shortages and price fluctuations in the consumer electronics industry, which means that if we were to produce and ship more units now, we would have to charge significantly more per device than what it was originally sold for.  As a result, we’ve decided to pause production on additional units for now and instead focus primarily on game development.  That means that we won’t be taking any additional payments until we have a clear timeline for starting up production again.  In the meantime, we are looking into offering refunds for those people who put down a $99 deposit.  We should have more information about this in the coming weeks.


Q: I know there is a pause in production of new devices, so what would you like us to tell people who see the TapTop and want to purchase one?

A:  You can tell them to enter their email address on our website to subscribe to our newsletter and get a notification as soon as TapTops go on sale again.  And then, invite them over to your place to play some games! :)


Q: What’s the refund policy?

A: The original quoted refund policy from our predecessor company was that once devices were delivered there would be no option for a refund, only repairs and replacement in the case of manufacturing defects within the warranty period.  With that being said, we understand that there may be extenuating circumstances (umm, global pandemic and recessions anyone?) and would like to address any issues on a case by case basis.  If you just received your TapTop and feel you would like a refund please contact our customer support directly.


Thanks Everyone for joining!
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