Gaming on Blockchain

Exploring blockchain applications in the multi-billion dollar gaming industry

Gaming on blockchain is attracting a lot of hype these days. Indeed, the relationship between video games and new technologies is a very close one.

Through the rise of personal computers and console systems, better computer graphics and visuals, and the spread of broadband internet, tech and game development have always gone hand-in-hand. These connections are becoming more evident as we see games drive the development of technologies like virtual reality (VR).

Beyond the obvious payment solutions, the disruption blockchain may cause to the gaming industry is not all that evident. Still, the crossovers between both worlds are there, and that is what we are looking to explore – the decentralization, security, and power that blockchain is offering the world of gaming.

As Steam, one of the largest gaming platforms, removes the option to buy games with Bitcoin, we want to look at all the ways blockchain could impact the industry.[1] The potential the technology has to change the gamer’s experience and the lives we lead in these digital realms, how it can empower the indie developer and refine the distribution of new games.

A gamer’s loot and achievements

Gamers can be rewarded for their achievements, or purchase in-game items using real currency. By 2020, consumers are expected to purchase over 32 billion USD worldwide in in-game items to aid them in their quests.[2] In many cases, these items are highly sought after. Just like in the real world, the world of gaming is plagued with scams and lax security.

Gamers demand and fight to keep their items safe, and in doing so, they face cyber attacks, theft, and fraud. In the past, Steam accounts have been hacked,[3] and World of Warcraft players have been forced to give up their in-game gold through a malicious code, for example.[4]

A market platform built on blockchain technology could guarantee transparency among its users. Establishing a reliable place where players can safeguard their in-game assets and trade directly with other users, without the interference of a third party – who would usually set the rules and take a fee.

Blockchain would diminish the risk of hacked game accounts, stolen game licenses, or score cheating. All critical data, i.e., a player’s account info and their details, as well as their owned items, like characters, inventory, currency, and licenses could be unified in one place and made transparent to players, developers, and studios.

This would include their statistics, scores, and leaderboard rankings, guaranteeing security, reliability, and transparency with data and interactions.

With all transactions immutably recorded, players can be confident that the seller of a unique skin, for example, owns it and has received it in a legal way. Furthermore, with assets recorded on a blockchain, the possibility for players to exchange goods belonging to one game for those of another game becomes a possibility.

Powering up the developers

Blockchain won’t only benefit gamers. It will give more power to developers as well through greater creative command and more control over distribution and earnings. The independent game movement (similar to the indie movement in movies) has gained a lot of traction in recent years by creating games that tell deeper and more diverse stories.

Stardew Valley, an indie game made by a single developer made over 30 million USD when released in 2016.[5] Though competition from ‘AAA’ developers (the game blockbusters) is intense, blockchain will deliver indie game developers more power than ever before.

Using blockchain technology, developers have the opportunity to create worlds that are richer, more immersive, and technically more advanced. They can build any number of settings and experiences, and constantly improve through apps built on the blockchain. These apps could handle capabilities such as textures, objects, sounds, physics, and interactions as well as agency.

This is achieved by capitalizing on the network of chained computers, which provide extra bandwidth and CPU resources to improve both the development processes and performance of games. As an added bonus, competition could also improve as studios race to create the most interesting, captivating worlds and adventures.

Game developers would also face fewer problems receiving regular payments for their products. A decentralized market eliminates the middlemen who may delay or deprive these developers of their entitlements. It would also help resolve issues such as distribution and publishing fees, arbitrary selection, and restrictions.

Blockchain has the potential to strengthen the link between gamer and developer, giving the latter full ownership of their products and their revenues, while securing each transaction. Games that engineers, designers, and developers create could be shared and changed by others in the network as well.

A look to the future

Perhaps in the future blockchain will become the foundation for a whole range of virtual worlds, providing a system of currency, assets, identity, and governance both inside and outside the digital realms. For now, it is still a relatively new solution, and it will take time for the gaming industry to adopt the technology.

Information about blockchain is slowly increasing in availability, but it mostly revolves around cryptocurrencies. For blockchain to evolve and reach mass adoption across this industry, more developers and companies need to get behind the technology in a mutual effort.

We can already see blockchain creeping into segments such as eSports, online gaming, community development, and the interactions between brands and consumers through better customer experiences.

Ideally, blockchain technology will reduce gaming industry controversies such as the EA Star Wars: Battlefront II debacle [6], empower smaller studios, and deliver gamers better interactions, stories, and adventures.

Francisco is a content creator, marketing strategist, and burger blogger. Throughout his career he’s positioned himself at the synthesis of creative content and technology, working with big and small companies, from a whole range of industries, to develop sound digital strategies and create interesting narratives and experience. Video games and immersive storytelling are just two if his many passions.