Blockchain changes the world step by step, and the gaming industry definitely stands in the line. Opportunities, presented by the distributed ledger to both gamers and developers, seem to be truly amazing: from new open source development tools and responsible crowdfunding models to a global in-game items market with its own cryptocurrency and secured trading conditions. That means vast possibilities for developers, improved experience for gamers, and new sources of income for both of them.
What’s even more exciting, we’re not talking about a distant prospect. A set of projects, leveraging blockchain technology to revolutionize the gaming industry in different ways, is already here. The Game Protocol and Game Machine projects are creating platforms enabling developers to fund their games via cryptocurrency contributions from gamers and other investors who will get certain rewards from developers in exchange. The PlayKey team held an ICO to decentralize their cloud gaming service and thus bring it to a whole new level. But the most exciting projects probably are the ones like WAX, Enjin, and DMarket that aim to create nothing less than a new economy cluster by turning in-game items into securely tradable assets. Each of the projects has an experienced team behind, while DMarket has already launched the Alpha/DEMO version of the marketplace and plans to release a full-fledged product in Q1 2018.
Sounds great, doesn’t it? For gamers who spend hundreds of hours in virtual worlds, it’s like a dream come true. Creation of a blockchain-based marketplace of this kind will allow them to monetize their gaming time by trading hard-earned virtual weapons, armors, and artifacts like real-world goods. But it’s not the same for mainstream developers and publishers. To get the benefits, they have to take the risks.
Many of modern games have their own economies with soft and hard in-game currencies. Soft currency can be earned through gameplay, while the hard one can only be purchased with real money, and that’s the main source of income for free-to-play titles. Both of the currency types obviously affect the gameplay, and the task to create and support a perfectly balanced in-game economy isn’t an easy one. By decentralizing and liberalizing that economy, game developers and publishers risk to lose control over the situation. That’s why, for them, a blockchain-based in-game items marketplace is not only an opportunity, but a challenge as well.
Existing collaboration between some of the mentioned platforms and such gaming studios as 4A Games or GSC Game World is a promising sign. Still, it’s not clear if the projects are able to get enough AAA and other mainstream developers on board to create a cross-game marketplace for millions of gamers with different preferences.
Indie game developers may be more open to the idea of decentralized in-game items market, but there is another issue. Even with the most advanced API, the integration of a game into one of the blockchain-based platforms takes a lot of time and effort. Many of indie developers just don’t have enough resources to do that. It’s also impossible for the mentioned project teams to integrate thousands of games through their own efforts. The solution is there, but it requires negotiations and collaboration with corporate giants in the first place.
The point is that most of the games are based on third-party game engines like Unity or Unreal. It seems that partnership with the leading game engines is the only way to make the connection of different games to a blockchain-based marketplace technically and legally seamless and fast. In this case developers can easily integrate their games into DMarket, WAX, Enjin or other platforms. The blockchain projects will, in turn, get an instant access to a vast gaming audience. In the case of Unity, we can talk about up to 800 million players worldwide.
The question is whether the engine developers consider the blockchain-based gaming projects promising and profitable enough to get in. It’s quite possible given that Unity has already shown their interest in the blockchain technology. Last fall, they signed a deal with GameCredits “to bring blockchain to game developers and gamers.” But the GameCredits team focuses mainly on game distribution, which is obviously less challenging for developers than a decentralized gaming marketplace. We’ll have to wait and see whether Unity and Unreal are ready to join the revolution started by the above-mentioned projects.
This article was written by Alex Miller for Daily eSports.