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What gamers need to learn about blockchain gaming


Video games powered by blockchain technology is something that many traditional gamers haven’t embraced yet. The technology is still too niche and blockchain games aren’t advanced enough for traditional gamers. However, it’s coming, and it will happen. Aside from the technical developments and changes, the mentality of gamers needs to change or order to fully embrace blockchain technology and its benefits.

It’s nothing new for society to change in order to embrace new technology. Cars weren’t useful according to people using horse and carriage. In the late eighties and early nineties the internet was a technology that would never be able to become mainstream. When the internet was just having its first wave of consumer users, early cellphones were only for self-absorbed people. Nowadays the internet and smartphones are basic needs for people to communicate, take care of their finances or entertain themselves.

Blockchain will bring a new wave of innovation to the games industry. This will require changes from a development perspective, while marketing collaborations are also increasingly important. On top of that gamers need to get used to some fundamental changes in the way they interact with their blockchain-powered video games.

Gamers used to digital value

For many people blockchain technology still seems irrelevant. However, the concept of participating in an online always-connected player-driven economy isn’t that hard to understand for those who grew up playing video games. Players govern the universe of EVE Online in a special council. At the same time games like World of Warcraft, EverQuest and RuneScape have boosted an entire subculture with people making money by selling in-game items and gold.

On top of that gamers have been paying for digital items for years. Free-to-play games make up for the biggest part of the total revenue of the games industry. In addition very popular premium games extend their life cycle by offering paid downloads, like in-game cosmetics, card packs and or a so-called season pass.

  • The FIFA Ultimate Team game mode in the FIFA game series allows players to buy packages of cards that can be used in their game. This mode generated $1.38 billion in the financial year of 2019. While the first two quarters of FY2020 already generated 716 million dollars. (EA financial report, Nov 2019)
  • The free-to-play online shooter Fortnite generated over 1.8 billion dollars in 2019 alone. (SuperData, 2019 Review)
  • Free games generated 87.1 billion dollars in 2019, compared with 19 billion dollars for premium priced games. (SuperData)

Three things gamers need to learn about blockchain

You would expect gamers to be ready to embrace a blockchain powered video game with ease. However, the biggest gaming brands are not involved yet. On top of that the user experience of blockchain games is very poor compared to traditional games. These two problems aside, blockchain games also require a different state of mind from gamers:

  1. Digital Scarcity – Where everybody has a chance to win and get a certain item in classic online role playing games, those powered by blockchain technology often have limited availability of digital items. Digital scarcity is one of the elements that creates value. This is something that’s completely new to gamers, but not to collectors of physical products. In certain blockchain games there will be only a handful of players with a certain item, and thus this item can have great value.
  2. Multi-game usage – In addition these player-owned digital items aren’t limited to just the game world. A sword in World of Warcraft or a cosmetic hat in Team Fortress 2 will never leave their individual game worlds. However, gamers can use tokenized items on the blockchain in multiple games. As a result one player-owned digital asset can be a weapon in one game and a cosmetic item for a car in the other. This is how blockchain can create value for both players and developers. Gaming blockchain startup Enjin is building its Multiverse on the Ethereum blockchain, using the ERC-721 and ERC-1155 protocols.
  3. Blockchain knowledge – Because everything is working on blockchain technology, it’s important for players to get used to the concept of a cryptocurrency wallet. Even when games only use this wallet for storing digital items, transaction fees are (for now) still something that exists. This might change in the future. Even if every game creates an easy on-boarding process, players will still be using different wallet addresses. Finding an easy way to combine these, is a challenge.
  4. Not your Nigerian prince – Finally. I need to add this. Don’t expect to make fortunes playing blockchain-powered games. As always: Do Your Own Research, DYOR!

FIFA Ultimate Team on the blockchain

At this very moment every gaming company is investing in research in the blockchain space. We can be sure about that. Firstly Square Enix once again expressed their interest in the blockchain space this January. Secondly Ubisoft is actively working together with blockchain game developers like Nine Chronicles Inc. and Sorare. At the same time Animoca Brands is working with Atari. They are making blockchain-powered versions of the mobile games Goon Squad and Rollercoaster Tycoon Touch. Animoca Brands expects both these games somewhere in the second half of 2020.

The big question is when companies like Ubisoft, Electronic Arts and Activision Blizzard will publish an AAA quality blockchain game. Ubisoft has been quite vocal about their presence in the blockchain industry. Yet, they haven’t produced much more than a prototype for a game called Hashcraft. Considering the Square Enix and Ubisoft have been researching blockchain for at least one year, the first AAA blockchain game can’t be far.

“In the future, client-based games integrating blockchain will be the general trend, and within a few years, we are likely to witness the first AAA blockchain game.”

Vincent Niu – DappReview, 2019 Dapp Market Report

In general a high quality game takes at least four years to develop. In addition there’s the problem that blockchain technology is continuously changing. As a result developers can only implement the blockchain elements in perhaps the last year of production. This is challenging. However, keeping those four years of development in mind, this should mean that the first AAA blockchain game will be released in 2022-2023. Would a company like EA decide to move their existing FIFA Ultimate Team gameplay to the blockchain, then that could speed up the process. That means we have two more years to convince gamers and show them the way.

Also published on Medium.

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