Sui Gaming Handheld Targets Steam Deck, Runs PC and Crypto Games

By Decrypt April 10, 2024 In Gaming, Solana

Gaming startup Playtron is trying to challenge the dominance of handhelds from existing giants like Steam and Nintendo with the launch of a low-cost, flexible operating system that can run on all kinds of devices—and it’s teaming with Mysten Labs to launch a Sui-branded model.

On Wednesday, Playtron and Mysten Labs revealed the SuiPlay0x1 at the Sui Basecamp event in Paris—it’s a handheld gaming device that runs the Linux-based Playtron OS.

Expected to launch in 2025, the portable console will be able to run games built on Sui, but also blockchain games on other networks, as well as PC games from Steam, Epic Games Store, and beyond—so long as it has enough power (those details have not been announced yet).

Mysten and Playtron are promising deep, native integration for the Sui blockchain. Sui assets owned by users will be linked to their Playtron account, letting them access them from any such device. The devices will tap Sui’s zkLogin feature for Web2-like logins. It will also let users pay for traditional games using the Sui wallet via Playtron’s own storefront.

SuiPlay0x1. Image: Mysten Labs/Playtron

Playtron recently came out of stealth, announcing $10 million in funding with backers including Mysten Labs along with Samsung Next and other crypto firms like Polychain and Circle Ventures. Co-founder and CEO Kirt McMaster was previously CEO at mobile OS startup Cyanogen, while co-founder and Chairman John Lagerling helped scale Android at Google.

McMaster shared pointed criticism of Steam, the dominant PC gaming marketplace that he calls a “monopoly.” Steam doesn’t allow blockchain games, so studios building with the tech have had to create non-crypto versions or find workarounds to hit the biggest storefront. The popular Steam Deck handheld leads the charge for portable PC gaming devices.

Crypto games are “second-class citizens” with such a model, he said, which is why many of them launch independently or via blockchain-centric launchers. The Epic Games Store has been friendly to such games, but Steam commands a much larger audience. The Playtron launcher will be able to accommodate these games and more, he said.

“We want to build an operating system that lets people play absolutely everything,” McMaster told Decrypt’s GG.

SuiPlay0x1. Image: Mysten Labs/Playtron

While Sui integration will be native and baked into the operating system, McMaster and Mysten Labs co-founder and Chief Product Officer Adeniyi Abiodun confirmed to Decrypt’s GG that devices running the OS can also play crypto games built on other networks. But of course, Mysten hopes that the native integration pushes more devs to build on Sui.

Crypto incentives

The SuiPlay0x1 is sure to draw comparisons to the Solana Saga smartphone. Given the clumsiness of interacting with decentralized apps (dapps) with typical mobile devices from major companies, Solana Labs opted to build its own flagship-quality Android phone with native Solana integrations and hardware wallet functionality.

The Saga proved to be a niche device at first with limited demand—but the realization that it could be used to effectively create a cohort of die-hard users, rewarded with token airdrops and other incentives along the way, helped give it a second wind. Now Solana Labs is building a cheaper “Chapter 2” successor around that kind of mentality.

SuiPlay0x1. Image: Mysten Labs/Playtron

No doubt, the SuiPlay0x1 will draw comparisons to what Solana Labs did with the Saga. Playtron and Mysten acknowledged that, but also said that everyone already has a phone—and many people don’t want to give up theirs for a model with better crypto hooks. They’re more bullish on the idea of a crypto-infused gaming handheld that can play just about anything.

But they do see a similar benefit to SuiPlay0x1 ownership, much like the Saga before it: exclusive benefits for users. Think free tokens and assets to lure players to try out a new game, possibly on-chain rewards, and even discounts and incentives for Sui users. They’re also planning to subsidize the device in some way to bring down the price and get players in.

“Imagine now being able to airdrop assets to people with a device ahead of time to get them to onboard into the game. Now your cost of user acquisition is significantly lower,” said Abiodun. “Imagine being able to entice them with reward/loyalty schemes that allow them to play the game over time and really garner more value over the long term.”

He added that the device will let people “make payments that aren’t encumbered with traditional payment rails,” including with USDC and other stablecoins. And users’ owned NFTs could work like an “engagement pass” to award them exclusive benefits.

And much like many late Solana Saga buyers snatched up the last remaining phones to claim a share of BONK meme coins that were worth more than the price of the actual phone at the time, Abiodun said that Mysten Labs plans on “subsidizing” the cost of the handheld system with tokens to get people to buy into the Sui gaming ecosystem.

SuiPlay0x1. Image: Mysten Labs/Playtron

“We absolutely will give token incentives for people to buy the device,” he said. “We think ultimately the ecosystem of these players will become super valuable long-term, so that investment is a no-brainer from our perspective.”

Mysten Labs and Playtron have yet to announce a potential price point for the SuiPlay0x1, or specifics on how they plan to incentivize purchases with token rewards. But McMaster thinks it’ll ultimately be affordable and appealing enough to potentially onboard new users into the crypto world—and perhaps break the anti-crypto mentality from many gamers.

“This is potentially an opportunity to open the gates to folks that might not have really engaged with crypto before,” he told Decrypt’s GG. “But it’s the first time to get this class of device, and for an incredibly good price.”

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