Why do games need a blockchain?
One of the biggest questions we have gotten from our community is why do games need a blockchain? This is a question we also asked ourselves before building Cocos-BCX (an end to end blockchain game development platform) and we wanted to share some of our thinking with the community.
The short answer is while end-users (players) of games do not necessarily care about the underlying technology of the games they play, the economic system underpinning the game is of great importance to game players, developers and the overall gaming ecosystem.
The technology of blockchains allows developers & players the ability to validate scarcity of virtual items within the games they are playing, prove ownership of digital items, transfer game assets across games, and create on-chain trustable randomness.
These factors and more will both enhance the game experience, open up the design space to create more interesting forms of games, and achieve our larger goal of moving the business-model of gaming from a fee-based to asset-based business model.
Deeper dive into why games need a blockchain
To dive a little further into this question our friend and partner Vincent Niu of DappReview wrote this fantastic article on “The Evolution of Blockchain Games and a Peek at What’s to Come”.
In his post are a few sections which pertain to how blockchains will help games, developers, players, and eventually the whole ecosystem. Here are a few specific factors on how blockchains can improve games:
Ownership of Game Assets
Game assets (points, items, weapons, characters, karma, etc) play a crucial role within games, and using blockchain technologies players can now for the first time retain ownership of their in-game assets. Historically these game assets have all been owned by the game developers themselves (i.e. the companies) and these centralized authorities have the power to make drastic changes to the assets or even get rid of them entirely.
Traditional in-game assets are also limited to the built-in economies of a single game. These assets have no value outside of the specifically game it’s built for and it’s difficult to build anything interesting from these accumulated assets. Players spend money, time and behavioral data in exchange of one-time services within limited domains.
However in the blockchain world once in-game assets are put on the blockchain, they can all be attributed to the player’s public key; giving the play themselves true ownership of the assets earned in the game through ownership of the address. Players will finally be able to own the digital assets in which they pay (or earn) within the games they play.
Liquidity of Game Assets
Once players have ownership of the assets they earned in a game you can start to do much more interesting things on top of this core primitive. For example any game developer can now enable trading of in-game digital items via exchanges. Even further trading is not confined to a single game anymore and you can use “Thor’s Hammer” from Game A to trade “Harry Potter’s Wand” from Game B, as long as we have consensus on the value of the items.
Reuse of Game Assets
Because in-game assets are now owned under each player’s public key, developers can now reuse game assets from other games in their own games, and create new modification layers on top of these original assets.
For example: Crypto Cuddles is a cat battle game that’s based on CryptoKitties. After a player logs in with their Ethereum addresses, the game will automatically import all of the CryptoKitties characters from that addresses. Only the battle logic is created by Crypto Cuddles’ developers.
New methods of customer acquisition
In the traditional gaming world world, new games often need to re-acquire users or use old games to divert traffic to their new game. The blockchain technology came make this process of re-acquisition much cheaper and easier via a similar method to the CryptoCuddles example above.
In this way any new game can take full use of popular games to bootstrap adoption to their own new game. In the crypto world this already happens via “Forking” or “Airdrops”, and now this can be applied to games which will drive down the user-acquisition cost for new games.
DAppReview accumulates more than 100,000 users’ information from more than 200 game DApps. If a new game needs to do a promotion, then the most efficient way would be to airdrop in-game assets to all of these addresses.
Transparency of game mechanics
As blockchains become more developed eventually we will see games put their core-mechanics on chain as well. Once this happens players can now view (and verify) the rules of the games to ensure the game is behaving fairly. This will help build a stronger bond between developers and the players & the players amongst each other.
Players will now be able to verify things such as: reward rates from treasure box, true rareness of weapons, verifiable randomness, etc.
Since traditional video games hide their source code, they can arbitrarily modify them without the players’ consent. This is more common than most people thing, but in the world of blockchain games this will become much more transparent.
Games as communities
From a broader perspective many times the players and developers of games sit on opposite sides. One side wants to enjoy the game and the other wants to modify all of the mechanisms to earn as much revenue as possible.
The blockchain has the potential to break this cycle by changing the relationship between the developers and players themselves. A blockchain game would be run across multiple nodes, have open source code, and be verifiable by the community of players.
These nodes could be influential players of the games, developers, and loyal players. All of these parties would need to work together to maintain consensus of the game. The community as a whole would help shape the rules of the game and maintain updates to the game. Also in this world even if the game developers “shut down” the game would live on through the community itself.
The “killer app” blockchain game
The “killer app” has not been discovered yet. Developers are just starting to experiment with thee new mechanism blockchains enable and creating new experience which have not been seen before.
We highly recommend reading all of Vincent’s post here: https://medium.com/loom-network/the-evolution-of-blockchain-games-and-a-peek-at-whats-to-come-fed884b75b3d where he also gives an overview of how some of these games are applying these new mechanisms.
We are still in the very early stages of blockchain gaming and we here at Cocos-BCX are excited to see what is to come.
To keep up with our progress: