The virtuous circle of blockchain gaming
Entertainment is a huge part of our lives and unsurprisingly a big factor behind technological progress. Video games are easily the most popular pastime of the century for many young people and the trend is growing steadily.
For a while video games have been pushing the computer technology in terms of computing power. Today the time has come for infrastructural shift. And when it comes to infrastructure, blockchain is definitely the technology gaming industry can benefit from.
It all started in 2014 with HunterCoin. This simple online multiplayer game with painfully 90s sprite graphics was more of a Proof-of-Concept than a genuine MMO. Gameplay in HunterCoin actually revolved around gamified mining in a competitive environment proving that mining was not only a way to secure the network, it also could be fun. HunterCoin’s lesson was that it is not an easy task to create an absolutely decentralized game because once someone finds a way to break the game balance there’s no way to restore it other than a hardfork.
Another big hit arrived in 2015. It was of course Spells of Genesis, a trading card game with a subtly blockchain-related name. Blizzard’s Hearthstone was in its prime at the time, with lesser competitors popping up in droves. The genre was lucrative but also highly competitive. Spells of Genesis bursted into the untapped crypto-market and gathered a whopping 933 BTC in just one round of crowdsale.
Once the way was charted, simple and addictive gambling games started popping up on the market. vDice gambling platform and Firstblood betting service were introduced to the public last year and were met with a lot of excitement.
It was only a question of time until mainstream video game genres made their way into crypto-scene.
Beyond the Void, the designated next big thing in the industry, is the first RTS game with MOBA elements to adopt blockchain as part of its infrastructure. The story of this game begins with two brothers. One an avid gamer, coder and professional concept artist and the other, a blockchain enthusiast. Together they started this project in early 2016, eventually drawing in the kids which really makes it a family business.
The game is easy on the eyes and really takes the old-school gamers back, being conceptually somewhat close to the old classic Homeworld. It is of course better tailored for modern gamers, being strictly online multiplayer, highly competitive, randomized and fast paced.
Nexiums, the in-game currency, is actually a standard ERC20 token, which was used to fuel the game’s recent ICO. Every card, skin or other item in the game is also stored on the blockchain which allows all the player-owned assets to be given or exchanged freely even outside the game’s context.
This game might be an eye-opener for both gamers and blockchain enthusiasts. Once you start to realize how video games can benefit from blockchain you have to wonder why the adoption is so slow.
Turns out there are numerous issues plaguing gaming industry that blockchain can solve just by virtue of its architecture.
For example, in modern online games when you buy an item you basically pay for the temporary right to use it. You do not truly own it.
“Video game assets you buy to enhance your experience (such as skins, weapons, gems) are usually stored on the game’s servers. If you stop playing, lose your account, or experience technical issues, you lose those digital goods. You’re at the mercy of the game team to decide what to do in each situation. This is a trust problem. This possibility of losing your digital goods in the short term, and the high probability of losing them within a few years, makes digital assets ephemeral and limits their value. Blockchain technology allows us to create unique assets that players truly own.” – Manon Burgel, CMO of Beyond the Void
The concept of true ownership is indeed quite essential, seeing how modern MMO shops are tightly intertwined with real markets. Today buying an item in an online game is not much different from any other purchase and like all property these items have to be protected. Blockchain can give players full control over their assets and peace of mind. They will not only own their game assets, but will also be able to exchange them easily retaining their full market value.
Copy protection issues is another instantly solved problem. Digital content is easy to duplicate and to tackle this issue game developers invented many DRM (Digital Rights Management) systems over time all of which costed a fortune, hampered user experience and were not very effective anyway. Blockchain offers a foolproof solution which does not come with an additional cost. All assets are unique and stored on blockchain, hence can not be duplicated or replicated with hacks.
Perhaps the most stunning features blockchain brings to the table are endless possibilities for integration coupled with decentralized market fueled by smart contracts. This allows for creation of almost seamless ecosystem which can potentially encompass every online game.
“This allows us to think bigger than just our own game. It allows cross-gaming. We can imagine an entire blockchain gaming ecosystem where several games can use the same blockchain assets and use Nexiums to exchange them. We are currently testing game assets that will be usable both in Beyond the Void and Spells of Genesis (Aline the Red and Crystalibur) and this is only the beginning. In the future, we hope that other games accept Beyond the Void assets and that players could use their assets from other games in Beyond the Void too. This would be great for players and generate a lot of interactions between the games too like a virtuous circle.” – Manon Burgel, CMO of Beyond the Void
Transferring value between different games instantly and without third party involvement or even using the same asset in various different games does sound like a revolutionary concept. Now imagine this is implemented on global scale and behold the future of online gaming.
Hall of Fame
So what’s the forecast? Should we expect the new trend to catch on? To make an educated guess let us take a look back at the very recent past of gaming scene.
Remember the time when all big titles were developed by large established studios with maybe a few marginalized indie developers living off donation buttons on their sites? Then Kickstarter happened.
On a smaller scale Kickstarter was used by indie game developers for a while but, as many gamers remember, Wasteland 2 was the first triple A game that was funded via Kickstarter back in 2012 which basically opened the floodgates for the entire industry. In 2012 Kickstarter reported that more dollars have been pledged to games projects than to any other category.
Perhaps the very same thing is happening today as gamers are starting to realize that ICO is just a new and more effective form of crowdfunding, while blockchain tech is a huge added bonus.
The one big issue hindering blockchain gaming is the lack of crypto-lore among gamers. Now the onus is on the industry to educate and proselytize.
“There are lots of gamers in the crypto world, but overall most of the players aren’t really aware yet of blockchain technology. That’s why it is so exciting for us. We are at the very beginning of what we hope will be a new trend in video games. We make it our job to draw players to our game thus to the blockchain system. “ – Manon Burgel, CMO of Beyond the Void
February 22 Beyond the Void is entering closed beta stage. Here’s hoping Beyond the Void becomes the long-awaited locomotive that brings gamer money into blockchain and changes the way gamers and people in the industry think about in-game economy, account management, copy protection, funding and even gaming ecosystem in its entirety.
Clearly it works better with blockchain.