The Future of Blockchain Gaming

Token Valley
Dec 12, 2018 · 10 min read
EOS Knights, a game built on top of EOS

It’s no secret that gaming and gambling dApps can be found everywhere on popular smart contract platforms such as EOS and Ethereum.

Fun games are a natural way to get new users engaged with your project in the short term, and the games being developed right now can be produced with more ease and at a faster pace than some of the more ambitious projects such as crypto-based social media sites. Currently however, many of the games being produced on blockchains are very simplistic, and are largely dominated by simplistic gambling games such as Dice, FOMO games, and idle games like EOS Knights. Mythic Games, a company comprised of employees from major game development studios, has announced that it will be releasing a fully fledged game known as Blankos Block Party in 2019, and Ethereum also has its very own, professionally produced card game known as Gods Unchained. While major projects like these are still in the minority, let’s explore what the currently existing blockchain-based games say about the potential future blockchain has in gaming.

How does Blockchain fit in?

If we’re not taking that approach of recording every action on a blockchain, then the next question is to consider what the benefits of utilizing blockchain technology in a game might be. If blockchains are too slow, then they could risk making the game more tedious due to load times and transaction times, and as a result, that might make the games less enjoyable. They also can’t improve the processing power of the engine to allow for higher resolutions and FPS, they can’t improve the graphics, the music, the game-play, the writing, or anything else that tangibly makes a game better. So, what’s the point? For certain types of games, namely single player experiences, blockchain won’t be necessary. Even some multiplayer games will likely still continue to choose traditional methods, especially in the near future. However, blockchain’s benefit to gaming becomes quite clear when you consider why Bitcoin was created to begin with- to allow the general population to claim true control over their digital assets.

In-Game Economies: Open vs Closed

Let’s discuss the shortcomings of current economies in major games, starting with closed economies. Examples of games with closed economies include Hearthstone and Fortnite. In games like these any purchased items such as cards, cosmetics, etc. are essentially wasted investments that players buy purely for the enjoyment of the game. This is because if the game eventually shuts down, the items you purchased will be deleted along with the servers. The items will not be able to be used in servers made by fans using new accounts which would need to be created to play on such unofficial servers. To further rub salt in the wound, the original company has every legal right and incentive to shut down fan-made servers, thereby preventing the game from ever being easily played again. This makes items purchased on closed economies into ticking time bombs, where the items are not only valueless outside the game, but will potentially be forever lost one day. The whims of the company owning the servers can also cause items in individual player’s accounts to disappear or be altered. Examples of this include cosmetics being altered or removed, or the attributes of a card being changed. Thus even though a game may have an open player-driven economy and items may have real value, that value is entirely at the mercy of the company who distributed them. The items you own can still be altered without your consent, or the supply of your item can be increased; in both cases potentially lowering their value. Since the only way to trade your items is through the company’s own in-game marketplace, the ability will also disappear forever if the servers Mever shut down. All these facts inevitably encourage selling items once an individual has had their fun with the game.

Re-defining Digital Ownership

Blockchain is a way to merge the convenience of digital assets with all of the benefits of physical assets.

Games using blockchain will all be a part of player driven economies. This is because it is fundamentally impossible to create a closed gaming economy using a blockchain. The items you purchase will belong to you, with the items able to be verified on your EOS account or Ethereum address, or whatever blockchain the game is using. These accounts aren’t tied to the company, but they are a singular account tied to the blockchain that you use for all dApps on that blockchain. You will be able to send these items to other accounts on that same blockchain (with possible cross-blockchain communication in the future as well) without having to use the middleman that is the in-game marketplace set up by the company that created the game. The marketplace will still exist for the sake of convenience, but it won’t be the only option for trading items. When the developer deploys the smart contract, assuming the contract is open source and secure so that it cannot be tampered with by the developers nor hacked by a third party, then the smart contract will be immutable. This means that in-game items and currencies will not be able to have their attributes modified or their supplies increased or decreased. This will give these items predictable scarcity and attributes that the owner can be confident will always remain the same. The value of the item will fluctuate up and down relative to its perceived value in the community and the market, but that value will not be at the whims of the company that produced the item. Even if the centralized servers and marketplace is shut down, those items will still exist on your blockchain account. This means that they can potentially be used for other purposes in the future. Fans looking to revive the game on unofficial servers will still have a difficult time avoiding takedowns, but using decentralised peer-to-peer servers or other solutions will make it much harder to shut down copyright infringing fan projects. Assuming the unofficial server somehow survives, your progress and the value of your items can be carried over from the official servers to the unofficial servers because your items, currencies, and progress will be recorded on your blockchain account. These items could also be used for entirely new purposes, such as for different games by the same companies, reminiscent of Nintendo’s Amiibo figures, or even re-purposed for fan projects. For the first time ever, your digital blockchain assets will have most of the properties of physical media.

This is all well and good, and of course highly idealistic. There will be issues both foreseeable and unforeseeable, and it will remain to be seen if currently existing blockchains will be able to handle economies at the same scope of currently existing and popular titles. It may be that many more years of development are ahead of us before blockchain games of this scope are achievable. Still for all we know, it could be much sooner than we think. However, the Mythical Games announcement does prove that there are major industry leaders willing to give blockchain a try.

Enabling Diverse Interactions

Transparency and Collaboration

There will be many hurdles along the way, but there can be no doubt in my mind that blockchain will be able to make multiplayer games appealing to more people, more consumer friendly, and, ultimately, more enjoyable for all involved.

Author: Alex from Token Valley

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the particular author. Token Valley is a dApp discovery platform seeking to bring together the dApp community in a transparent manner that encourages further growth in the space.

Token Valley

Token Valley — dApp/DeFi/DAO/NFT newsletter (link in bio) + investment portfolio

Token Valley

Token Valley is a boutique research and consulting firm that launches crypto products to make the crypto industry accessible to anyone.

Token Valley

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Token Valley is a boutique research and consulting firm that launches crypto products to make the crypto industry accessible to anyone.

Token Valley

Token Valley is a boutique research and consulting firm that launches crypto products to make the crypto industry accessible to anyone.