The GameCredits / MobileGO / GNation situation as observed by a 3rd party

As some of you may know, I recently made a trip out to Belgrade to visit the GameCredits & GNation office. I am truly grateful for meeting several folks out there that I feel are dedicated to GameCredits and want to see things go well. I am also very concerned about things relating to GNation and MGO. Below are my observations as a third party — I am not employed by GameCredits, GNation, or anyone else involved in the matter.

Background

GameCredits started and is still an open source cryptocurrency. The goal of GameCredits ($GAME) is to become a universal currency for gamers. Whether that is to be accepted in an already established platform like Steam or some other platform still in development doesn’t matter. The goal is to be widely used and adopted.

In late 2016, a company called Datcroft (run by Sergey and Maxim Sholom) approached the GAME team and provided their support in the mission. They promised great things — usage of GameCredits in thousands of games, an online store where you can purchase games and in-game items using GAME, and hundreds of thousands of users using the platform within a year.

Today we are in July 2018, and none of these promises have been fulfilled.

In 2017, during the ICO boom, the owners of Datcroft decided to launch their own ICO called MobileGO ($MGO). The purpose of this token was to be a complimentary token to the GameCredits coin — where GAME is a gamer’s currency, and MGO is a token to wager in eSports tournaments and such. The promises made above were outlined in the MGO whitepaper, which has seen several revisions since its original publication (without informing investors that new changes were made! That’s a red flag.) yet still shows the original vision intact on the document.

Over the course of the last year since the ICO raised $53 million USD (worth of crypto, when BTC was $2k — that means the same stash is worth >$200 million USD right now), things were supposedly progressing. As an outsider investing my hard earned money into one of the two coins operated by this joint venture, I was pretty optimistic about what they were doing.

Since June of 2017, both currencies have been in a free-fall. At first I took this to mean that it was simply a shift in sentiment and the mini-crypto bubble had popped — after all, several currencies were down 60–80%. GAME and MGO dropped a bit more… and that’s when I started to ask more questions.

In February 2018, I built and provided an update to the GAME network to bring it up to date — the codebase was based on a 4 year old bitcoin release. I spent a good chunk of time learning the ins and outs of the bitcoin code and updated the GameCredits network to the 0.15 branch of bitcoin code. It took 2 months for the company to release my update, in which there were a variety of attacks. The largest of these attacks is outlined here — the open source developer referenced is me, feel free to verify against the project’s github commits. I saved GameCredits from total annihilation as the bug was very severe.

The impact of this bug was severe on the company — several members of upper management were forced out and new management was put into play. Alex Migitko was COO previously, Nikola Djokic was CTO previously… both had been removed from their positions and were on their way out. Sergey was CEO at the time (and still is), and Maxim was VP of something. I still don’t know what.

I again brought them a new update in May of 2018. I won’t go into details of this update as I’ve already covered it in another blog post.

To wrap up this section, the main point I’m trying to make is that I’ve been around GameCredits & the community for a while and really didn’t suspect anything was wrong until I visited them in Belgrade earlier this month.

For the lawyers

Section 2.4 of the NDA I signed with “Game Soft Lab doo” aka “GNation” mentions this:

The Recipient may, provided that the Recipient has reasonable grounds to believe that the Disclosing Party is involved in activity that may constitute a criminal offence or other anti-corruption legislation or regulation applicable to any Party, disclose the Confidential information to the relevant authority without first notifying the Disclosing Party of such disclosure.

Recipient: Me
Disclosing Party: Game Soft Lab doo
Relevant Authority: NONE. This is crypto. The MobileGO token sits on the Ethereum blockchain, a decentralized ledger with no one person or authority in control of it. Users/investors/holders of the token are the sole authority of their investments. The GameCredits coin sits on its own blockchain, a decentralized ledger with no one person or authority in control of it. Users/investors/holders of the coin are the sole authority of their investments.

With that out of the way, it’s time to share.

My Visit and Observations

There’s not really a good way to summarize everything I saw and experienced. But I will do my best to do that on a day to day basis, highlighting the important things.

July 9th: I land in Belgrade and get picked up by an operations manager at the joint venture. He is a very kind person and takes me straight to my apartment, giving me some detail about Serbia and very good conversation. I met him several times over my trip and am thankful that such type of people exist in the world. After getting freshed up at the apartment, I head to the GNation office, which is in walking distance from the apartment, to meet several folks. I met the entire cryptocurrency team. People working on the network, the block explorer, wallets (like GC Lite), graphics designers, and even some admin folks. I also met with the acting COO and new CTO of the organization. I will not give names because I have not asked for their permission to do so, but if they want their names published I will gladly edit this article to post them.

The crypto team consists of 2 or 3 long time GameCredits employees, and several new hires (less than 4 months on the job).

I also met Maxim Sholom. Sergey was in San Francisco during the entire course of my trip, so I did not meet him.

I sit with the crypto developers the rest of the day, and they take me to lunch and we discuss various things. Basically outlining what was going to happen during the course of the rest of the trip. The crypto developers sit in their own room compared to the GNation folks, which gives me a hint that something rotten is up.

July 10th: A big meeting is announced in the organization for the blockchain/cryptocurrency team. The meeting is announced by Maxim Sholom and posted in front of the crypto team’s door. I’m forced to sign an NDA before I can attend the meeting, which I do so reluctantly. I miss the first half of the meeting because of the delays in paperwork.

As soon as I enter the meeting room, Maxim looks at me and asks “Did you sign the NDA?” — that already makes me feel uncomfortable for what’s going on there. I answer yes and sit down. My role is to be a community representative. I have no idea what’s going on inside the company at this point, only the outside perspective I’ve been fed by the company.

As I suspected, it was bad.

Maxim is standing up on his soap box and blaming everyone except himself and Sergey about the failures of the cryptocurrency. Failures of transparency. He blames Jack Kuveke, the volunteer communications specialist for GameCredits, for not sharing all the different things they’re working on — Hyperledger, Xsolla… stuff that was already shared months before in public by Jack. Maxim also stands there and proclaims that previous COO and CTO (Alex M. and Nikola D.) are responsible for the situation they’re in. He then asks point blank to each person in the room, “will you work on MGO? if you won’t I have no reason to pay you.” He demands wallets and “technical support” for the MobileGO blockchain, which proves he is truly incompetent about it. MGO is on the Ethereum platform. Ethereum is the blockchain. There’s no need to do anything for that blockchain to ensure MGO transactions go through, except making sure that there’s enough ETH available in the company’s funds to provide gas for transactions originating from inside the company. There’s also no need for a dedicated MGO wallet — MyEtherWallet, Metamask, Exodus, etc all support it. Now I’m mixing my own personal opinions so I’ll stop that… but it’s actually quite amusing how little he understands about the token he and his brother created.

The developers respond back and state “We were hired to work on GameCredits. That is what our interview consisted of, that is what the job description consisted of, and that is what we will do. We will work on MGO if you provide clear requirements of what you want and not fluffy shit.” Paraphrased a little bit, but you get the point.

Maxim also states that he and Sergey are ready for the developers to go build a foundation and their own company, but that they will not fund it. They might contract it for building MGO products and services but have concerns about the team delivering anything, based on the performance of the team since April.

It is crystal clear what I noticed the day before is exactly what is occurring — The Sholoms are looking to fire all the developers and use them as a scapegoat for the failure of MGO and GAME to sustain price levels.

After the meeting and after Maxim leaves the room, we go to lunch and discuss what happened and I get more detail about the organizational structure. I also briefly met the original founder of the GameCredits cryptocurrency.

Negotiations for the establishment of the GC Foundation have been ongoing a while at this point. I don’t know exactly how long, but I’d estimate 2 months.

July 11th & July 12th: I work with the crypto developers to outline what is needed to establish a good ecosystem for GameCredits. From integration libraries, to updated paper wallets, to new services accepting GAME. Things that are outlined are those that can be done on an open source side for anyone to integrate GameCredits. While there’s still tension in the office from the past day’s meeting, people get on with their work.

Evening of the 12th, much of the team and I met Jack Kuveke. For most, it was a going away thing — Jack was leaving and heading back to the states on Saturday. For me, it was the first time meeting him, so we talked a lot. After seeing some of the cool stuff Belgrade had in downtown, like the fortress which is now Kalemegdan park, some of us went to dinner and another ex-GameCredits/GNation employee who met us up. It was a great evening, I think both Jack and the ex-employee got a good chance to vent and fill me in on some of the intricacies of the terrible management policy the Sholom brothers had.

July 13th: On my way to the office, I see some folks I recognize sitting at a nearby coffee shop and wave hi. There are 3 people there, two of which I recognize one that I don’t. It’s clear that they’re in the middle of something important so I don’t stop by, just wave from a-far. I get to the office, and within 1 hour developers started leaving one by one. I ask one of the guys what is going on. He told me that Maxim & Sergey sent an ultimatum. While I don’t remember the ultimatum itself, it was basically “if your guys want to be in the Foundation so badly, leave your equipment and get out.” The developers, being as smart as they are, decide to go work from home before something crazy happens (like everyone getting fired). So that’s why everyone left one by one, and we all agreed to have a meeting at the end of the day, away from the office.

I drop my things off at the nearby apartment and head to lunch. On my way back to the apartment, I message one of the guys at the coffee place and ask him if he’s still there — no response. Since it’s closeby, I decide to just walk up there and see if they are still there. And they are. We start talking and they tell me more about the situation. I got a chance to meet with the guy that I didn’t recognize, and it just so happens I’ve been talking to him for a while now. And he’s a fellow vaper like myself. Cheers Mr. Vaper! :)

Earlier in the day, Sergey made a childish threat to kill GameCredits. How childish? It had a timer. And Sergey kept reminding the Foundation’s side of the table how much time was left. 2 hours.. 1 hour… 45 minutes… 30 minutes… 15 minutes.. 10 minutes.. 5 minutes.. etc down to 30 seconds. And then, when time was up, nothing happened. This is who the community trusted with >$53 million USD?

We work together a while longer before heading out for coffee, then we met up the developers to inform them what occurred. Most of it was in Serbian, and I don’t speak that, but just from body language I caught the drift of the message. I gave my inputs there as well and got a ride back from one of the guys to my apartment.

July 14th & 15th: The weekend. Saturday, the operations manager that picked me up from the airport gave me a tour of the city. I also got a chance to meet his immediate and some extended family that was in town from Slovenia. Wonderful people — every single one of them. If you guys are reading this, thank you for a wonderful lunch and conversation and I sincerely hope we meet again soon!

Sunday, I’m mostly at the apartment collecting my thoughts, but I meet up friends and we discuss next course of action.

July 16th: Another meeting is scheduled. This time, with GNation paid mediators (bias, anyone?). These guys operate a company called “Easygoing”: http://easygoing.company/team.php

Apparently this company has been acquired by GNation, I just found this out prior to publishing this article.

The three mediators are: Ivan Dimov (founder and CEO), Ivan Slovic (founder and COO), and Goran Timotic (CTO)

The first half of the meeting is in Serbian. One of the guys translates the general message for me as it’s being shared. I am grateful for that. Luckily, the second half of the meeting was in English so that I could participate. I mention that what Sergey and Maxim are doing, by not fulfilling the white paper, is equivalent to ICO Fraud and opens the door for things like class action lawsuits and the SEC investigating. Ivan (CEO) dismisses the class action lawsuit, basically saying “good luck with the court system”, and expresses that crypto is completely a scam and there’s no way anyone can be profitable with it. I laugh a bit inside, stick to my ground, and the team sticks to their ground. The panel says they need 48 hours to decide how to best handle the situation and they leave.

Rumor: Easygoing’s workforce is a bunch of junior devs and they don’t like the way management treats them. Sounds pretty similar to GNation, except GNation finds and employs senior devs.

July 17th: Early in the day is pretty normal, by what passes for normal in this organization. Later in the day, we get word that Easygoing wants the team to report to them directly rather than to GNation. The team isn’t stupid, they know that’s just a way for Maxim and Sergey to fire everyone without having to say it to their face. So they decline the ‘offer.’

During the day, I meet with Maxim for about 45 minutes over a cup of coffee. I explain as a third party what I believe is the best route forward, and try to get his current perspective on the situation as well. I ask him to show me GPlay and other GNation developments, as I’ve been here for over a week and no one has shown me anything except what the crypto team is building, but this never occurs.

As it’s my last full day in Belgrade, I make it a point to meet everyone and get a picture with those that I could. I also have a dinner meeting planned with a couple guys pushing for the GC Foundation.

I fly back the next day.

My Thoughts

Sergey and Maxim Sholom are scared of cryptocurrencies. They want to have nothing to do with them. They don’t understand them. They still believe there’s no way to profit off them and that everything should be “invisible” to the user. GPlay has ‘plans’ to create an in-platform currency called “GNation Tokens” — equivalent to gems in Clash of Clans or Gold in Candy Crush. You buy that using crypto. Xsolla is the main payment provider for their platform, and Xsolla accepts 700+ currencies — including other cryptos. There’s no existing revenue in GNation, there’s no plans for revenue in GNation, and they’re simply expecting that the Xsolla integration would have GAME & MGO listed as the first currencies just above Visa and Mastercard. What stops user behavior from simply skipping the first two lines and jumping straight to Visa & MC?

GNation, Sergey Sholom, and Maxim Sholom promised thousands of games integrated with GameCredits back in 2016 — where are they? Why is there not even 1 game (aside from Fragoria) that integrates them? What happened with the Unity partnership, why were they dropped? Why the lack of transparency?

A team of developers decided to split off and form their own company to take care of GAME, purely from their own desire to build what they were originally hired to build. GNation pivoted so much within the last year that all the developers are exhausted and aren’t working on the stuff that they were promised to be working on at the time of hire. While it’s fine in a normal organization that not everyone works on the same thing they were hired for, absolutely no one in the team is working on what they were hired for. Because upper management doesn’t give them a clear direction — they change directions every 3 weeks. Which has basically led these guys to decide to split off and do what they were hired to do — build the GameCredits ecosystem — under a new entity.

The GameCredits Foundation is a non-profit venture looking to deliver on the original vision of GameCredits — a universal currency for gamers. The team wants to build integration layers for different games and languages so that developers can easily integrate it. They want to integrate eSports and all the fun stuff associated with gaming. They want to see the currency grow in adoption and usage. They have no funding from GNation, their former employer, because Sergey alone controls the keys to funds. Even without that funding and no income stream for the forseeable future, they are willing to put their blood sweat and tears into the platform to make it grow.

A message to the Serbians I met

Thank you ALL for the wonderful experience. I have never felt so welcome inside a country as I did in yours, and I truly hope that we remain friends regardless of what happens in the future with this GNation stuff. I am so thankful to have met you. If you don’t have me on Telegram already, please get in touch with one of the developers that has left GNation and that individual will share my contact info with you — just send me a message and we can keep the friendship alive. I already have several of you on there, but I know for sure I missed a few.

For the developers: you guys are brilliant at what you do and are good people. I sincerely look forward to the cool stuff you guys build for the GameCredits Foundation and you have my full support. Keep fighting the good fight.

A message to the Sholom’s and GNation/Game Soft Lab doo

What you are doing is equivalent to fraud. You promised the community and the investors that you will build what is in the whitepaper, and you are shifting that entirely to charity and humanitarian ventures. While I have no problem with you focusing SOME energy on those efforts, the majority of it should be fulfilling what was outlined in the MobileGO whitepaper to the fullest extent. Stop trying to push crypto away — crypto is what raised you $53 million USD+, you owe it to the investors and the community to build what you promised or fund a competent development team with the majority of raised funds to do it for you. You had the most competent developer team and you threw them away like yesterday’s newspaper. I can pretty much guarantee that you will be hearing from the SEC. Do the right thing — fund the GameCredits Foundation to build the original vision and get out of their way, because clearly you two do not have any management experience running a venture like this. I’m surprised at how Datcroft even survived this long.

Summary

Sergey and Maxim Sholom, with their pivot to humanitarian and charity ventures as the primary goal for their company, have no plans for revenue in GNation and don’t understand nor have the drive to keep working with crypto. They’re giving up on MobileGO, essentially separating investors who gave them $53 million USD with any chance at recovering those funds.

A team of ex-GNation employees is starting a non-profit to deliver the original promised vision of GameCredits to the public. And they have no funding from GNation, because the Sholom’s control all the funds. The team can do it and make GameCredits a widely used and adopted crypto, but without funding it’s nearly impossible to get on new exchanges or support marketing initiatives. That won’t stop them from building the ecosystem though.

It’s sad to see a company that raised so much and made such glorious promises hit the dirt like this, but at least there’s still a slim chance of recovery for investors to get funds back through the proper channels. While I’m not a lawyer, it does seem like there’s a pretty solid case here against GNation, Sergey Sholom, and Maxim Sholom.

For more information and another person’s perspective, you can read this AMA on Reddit by Jack Kuveke.

Other

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