This article is written by one of our contributor Chloe Diamond.
The introduction of crypto tokens in gaming is sure to be revolutionary. Smart contracts will ensure faster, safer, more transparent transactions of in-game purchases like items and upgrades, and will also allow for a secure and decentralized database of payer records (levels, experience points, player identities), true ownership of digital items, and ways for players to better connect with one another and even earn value from their gameplay.
The gaming industry is currently worth $116 billion US dollars and is expected to rise to $143 billion USD by 2020, more than half of which belongs to mobile gaming. Unlike more traditional games, the majority of these are free-to-play models, where the installation of the game itself is free and so is playing it.
However, to make real progress in the game and reach other top players, users will either need to spend real money or a vast amount of time trying to level up the old-fashioned way. Because of this, $82 billion was spent on in-app purchases in 2017 alone.
Many game publishers, including Ubisoft and EA, have adjusted the core of their business to focus on in-game purchases, realising they can generate higher revenue than the initial cost of the game itself.
Crypto for In-Game Purchases
Introducing cryptocurrencies as a method of payment for in-game purchases will make gaming more accessible for international audiences, many of whom are unable to make payments in foreign currencies. It will also eliminate the costs of fluctuating exchange rates and intermediaries when making micro-transactions, providing a huge benefit to players who are currently footing the bill for extra costs that add up quickly during gameplay.
There are already a few games on the market that will allow for cryptocurrency transactions. Live but still in beta, Pixel Wars is a mobile MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Player Game) that will allow players to use the tokens of its game publisher, GNation, to trade items with one-another.
As in-game purchases continue to increase in popularity, so does the intervention of cryptocurrency to make these purchases faster and more secure than existing methods.
Interaction Without Intermediaries
Blockchain will provide the means for players to buy, sell, and trade in-game assets with one another directly, cutting out middlemen such as game developers and allowing for player-run marketplaces. The use of crypto will make these processes smoother and cheaper for players, give them more control over their items, and will ultimately encourage more people to immerse themselves in the world of gaming.
As freemium games are built around the purchase of commodities during gameplay, it makes sense that this should be as effortless as possible for the user.
DMarket is a platform that makes it easier, cheaper, and more secure for players to buy, sell, exchange and collect in-game items on the blockchain. Their distributed ledger is used to ensure security and transparency, eliminating the need for third-party intermediaries and the costs associated with them. It also stores immutable records of item ownership, updated when they are bought, sold, or exchanged.
True Ownership of Digital Assets
The blockchain will ensure that a players’ game assets truly belong to them rather than a centralised authority (the game publishers).
One example of this is Bitguild, which aims to improve the way players interact with games by ensuring true item ownership with the use of smart contracts, meaning all information and transactions are publicly auditable.
The blockchain brings trust back to the industry, as players know that their game status and assets are protected.
Collectables in Blockchain Games
Cryptokitties, probably the most well-known game that utilises blockchain technology, allows players to collect cartoon cats, all of which are unique due to DNA-like breeding. There are 1.5 million users at the time of writing.
Cryptokitties utilises Ethereum smart contracts and has had a significant impact on the popularity of Ethereum, as it revealed how accessible cryptocurrency is, as well as innovative use cases for blockchain beyond just digital cash transactions.
The notion of collectables in the gaming industry is somewhat obscure, as all purchases are for virtual assets. For those of us who are not avid gamers, this concept may be easier to grasp as applied to digital art ownership, as seen with the likes of Artified.
Artified Trivia Game
Artified is developing a free-to-play iOS game featuring trivia for rare coin and art enthusiasts and collectors. Users will be able to play independently or tournament-style against their friends, earning token rewards that can be spent in the Artified marketplace or staked in auctions or trades.
The team behind Artified has pedigree records for over 120,000 rare coins, each of which will be tokenised as ERC721 non-fungible tokens, with detailed attributes and history of ownership. As the history of each coin is recorded on the transparent blockchain ledger, users will be aware of all information that could affect the value of an item or just interesting details about its origin.
In a unique twist on collectibles in gaming, each of these ERC721 tokens will represent a unique item both virtually and in the real world. The digital version of each coin or piece of art can be owned and collected by Artified game players, and ownership of the real-world asset will also be recorded on the blockchain (represented by a wallet ID to protect the identity of the owner).
Buying and selling virtual items has been present in the gaming industry since the early 2000s, which makes it the perfect use case for cryptocurrency adoption as users are already comfortable with the structure. With the addition of blockchain we will be able to improve how records are kept — who owns what asset and everything the object experiences, how often it is sold or exchanged, its value, and provenance.
Enhancing Player Experiences
Blockchain technology and cryptocurrency can also be used as a way to enhance player experiences, foster a greater sense of community, and even as a way for gamers to generate income.
Plair is an example of this, having created a blockchain-based gaming ecosystem that better connects players with a like-minded community. They are bringing streaming and gameplay together on one decentralised platform that will reward streamers and viewers alike for their participation. This will allow players to earn additional value for time and efforts already spent on other platforms, with the potential to make steady income from the gaming industry.
Game Developer Tools
Targeting game developers, MagnaChain is a solution that offers developers the best tools (SDKs) to create games and tokenised ecosystems on the MagnaChain platform. They aim to support developers who are not fluent in blockchain-specific coding languages, allowing even more people to enter the blockchain gaming space.
For those who may want to create their own blockchain-based games from scratch, the likes of EnjinCoin and CryptoZombies offer ways for game publishers to explore potential use cases for blockchain in gaming and begin to code their own or integrate the blockchain into their existing games.
The integration of blockchain in gaming has enormous potential to disrupt the industry and bring agency back to players. Not only is the application of cryptocurrencies capable of making game assets more secure and payment transactions faster and cheaper, it can also bring crypto into the mainstream, used on a mass scale with no barriers to entry. In turn, this will increase the popularity and value of said currencies and encourage more people to embrace blockchain technology as a means to improve game experience and other opportunities.