May 23, 2024
Inco and Privy partner to enable safe gaming on Telegram Messenger

Inco, the developer of a universal confidentiality layer for Ethereum and other networks, has announced its partnership with Privy to enable games on Telegram that preserve user privacy.

Inco is trying to make it easy for crypto app developers to onboard their users and get them to securely build on-chain products as Telegram Mini Apps (and games on top of them). Telegram is one of the most used social media platforms worldwide with 900 million monthly active users. It’s particularly popular in countries such as Russia and India, and among cryptocurrency users for its privacy features.

Telegram Mini Apps (TMAs) are web apps that run inside Telegram Messenger and are accessible via individual or group chats. From there, users can launch an embedded web interface with an experience similar to other popular in-app browsers — and launching a TMA is as simple as starting a chat conversation with an app’s Telegram handle. Remi Gai, CEO of Inco, said in an interview with GamesBeat that this could be a viable social gaming platform in the future, running browser-based games.

“We at Inco believe that building decentralized apps directly within Telegram will become the next trend, further boosting the development of the Web3 industry,” said Gai. “Easy-to-access, share and scalable apps represent a new wave of dApps. We see the huge potential in supercharging more fun to on-chain games with confidentiality and randomness and bringing this to the masses with Privy.”

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Games on top of Telegram don’t sound too exciting. But games have a habit of making it onto every platform. It’s like the line from Jurassic Park, “Life finds a way.” Games find a way onto every platform, including even LinkedIn recently.

Telegram Mini Apps can be built using popular web development standards like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript / React. Besides easy user access, building a Web3 product as a Telegram Mini App provides several advantages like automation with bots. Most Telegram apps utilize Telegram bots, which are automated text-based prompts for users, to facilitate in-app actions and receive notifications.

Inco has 10 people. While Gai is in New York, the company is spread out. The firm raised $4.5 million last year. The company can enable games, but it doesn’t have the budgets to make its own ambitious games.

A slot machine on Telegram.

“We’re not planning to build a game ourselves and try to monetize it. That’s not our business. Our business is more as a infrastructure, making games more fun in crypto,” he said.

However, the company could show how it’s done and then generate more interest among game developers.

Gai also foresees seamless games. Many game developers opt to develop their mobile games as TMAs. TMAs eliminate the need for app downloads and can be swiftly shared via a copy/paste link.

He also sees TMAs can offer opportunities for monetization through in-app purchases, subscriptions, and more, particularly leveraging TON. And he believes developers can easily synchronize session history across web and mobile app deployments. For instance, users can initiate an activity in a TMA and seamlessly continue it on the desktop web.

Inco is a confidentiality-focused EVM powered by Fully Homomorphic Encryption (FHE). Using Inco, developers can build decentralized apps and mini-games (slot machines, card games, guessing games, predictions market, and more) that work with your wallet provider and leverage FHE technology, thus enabling new forms of gameplay with confidential elements.

Today, many TMAs provide their own custodial wallets, which are prone to hacks, and centralized risks. However, this changes with the fact that developers can now integrate Privy SDK to provision self-custodial wallets for users to securely power on-chain experiences from Telegram.

What began as a fun exploration has evolved into a pioneering initiative by the Inco team, in collaboration with Privy, to develop non-custodial, on-chain games on Telegram. The team’s efforts have led to the creation of toy applications such as Slot Machine (@inco_slots_demo_bot) and Hangman (@IncoHangmanGameBot). Both games leverage FHE to provide on-chain confidentiality and randomness. Inco also invites developers to access its open-source repo to easily start building similar dApp experiences within Telegram.

Gai sent me a link to a game over Telegram and I played it. I tried out a simple slots game and a Hangman game. There was a lot of latency. But it’s a young platform and I expect it will become faster.

“With this partnership, we help developers meet their users where they are. For many of our customers, this means Telegram, and we are happy to provide them with the opportunity to build their web3 products on-chain as Telegram Mini Apps,” said Max Segall, COO at Privy, in a statement.

Gai said the company’s long-term plan isn’t to make its own games. It may make some games to prove the point that it can be done, but Gai hopes that other game developers will be the ones who do the work of creating hit games.

Games for a privacy era

This is an old Flappy Bird game. Someone created a version running on Telegram Messenger.

Gai has been a “builder” in blockchain technology since 2017. When he learned about zero knowledge proofs and what it could enable, he “went down the rabbit hole”

“I just saw how transformative this technology was. Back then, there wasn’t that much interest in this specific technology,” he said.

Then he came upon fully homomorphic encryption (FHE), which offers a potential solution to many things by enabling the processing of encrypted data without needing to decrypt it first, thereby preserving confidentiality.

“The idea is that you can encrypt data, but you can still do mathematical operations on top of it. If you have a cat picture, you can encrypt this data and send it to me. I can still manipulate the RGB values without having to see what your data is; when I send it back to you, you can decrypt it. I think this is magical cryptography that allows you to do additions, divisions, multiplications, and comparisons, without having to see the data.”

This is transformative for machine learning where machine learning can run on top of your encrypted data without knowing what your data or request is. Inferencing, or machine learning, is just mathematical operations on top of the models. So FHE is known as the holy grail of cryptography.”

It provides for increased security and, as a result, better privacy for users because it is an end-to-end encrypted data solution, he said.

Why is this important for the blockchain? The public blockchain is transparent and you don’t want to put private data on it because everyone will see it. As a company, Inco implements the FHE on the web. Inco provides confidential computing, enabling games that couldn’t be done before. You could be a doctor, killer or detective in a Mafia game. That role is fully hidden on the blockchain using FHE.

It’s pretty complicated, but this means that Inco can add a confidentiality layer to games on top of Telegram that allows you to play games like Hangman, where there are hidden letters, without discovering the things that are hidden as you’re playing.

A wave of new onchain Telegram mini apps is coming.

“What we discovered here is you can create a Telegram group with all this centralized custody,” he said.

Gai showed me a demo running JavaScript HTML with a wallet on top. He showed me a slot machine game and other minigames running on the web. One of the hassles was that I had to log in again every time he sent me a new game. It becomes very easy to share a game with someone.

“Here’s my philosophy on crypto gaming as a whole. People who play a lot of casual games have a centralized private key,” Gai said. “They’re always worried about losing their money. But with this methodology, they can have the same experience without worrying. And Telegram is the No. 1 social hub for crypto users. A lot of people are going to find this interesting.”

Gai thinks we’re at the beginning of a new kind of game.

“As a company, we care a lot about enabling that new use cases. And I think gaming for us is a very important industry. I grew up playing games. And without any confidentiality, most games don’t make sense, right? You don’t want to know someone’s moves ahead of time,” he said.

In simple Telegram Messenger games, Gai said Inco can enable new game mechanics like concealing information, resources, strategy, and other things like in Mafia games. The requirement of logging in is a point of friction, but it prevents someone from stealing your private key.

“They cannot hack you through this mini sandbox,” Gai said.

As for the HTML game, it’s not running on a complex 3D engine. It’s running in the browser, and so it has to be a kind of simple web game. Gai saw a version of Flappy Bird created on top of Telegram. Gai foresees a lot of other casual games being successful on the platform, and he likes that it is a decentralized platform that can be more secure.

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