Is Blockchain Gaming the Future?

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Issue 6, Volume 112

By Alex Cho 

Due to the extreme success of Bitcoin, blockchain, once only for a niche crowd, has reached the ears of more people than ever. Though popularized as a secure method for making transactions, blockchain technology has gone well beyond this initial purpose to become the future of entertainment. A form of gaming accelerating in popularity called non-fungible token (NFT) gaming uses blockchain by creating entities that are unique from each other and establishes a market for users to buy, sell, and interact with them.

How does it work? Consider CryptoKitties, one of the first well-known NFT games. You start off by purchasing a virtual cat guaranteed to be unique and indestructible because it’s in the blockchain—a virtual ledger whose consistency is guaranteed by a network of computers. Therefore, your digital cats are non-copyable and owned by you without the need for a middleman like a bank or company. If you have two different cats, you can breed them to get an offspring that shares some of their parents’ attributes and some that are unique to themselves. Similar to Pokémon cards, the appeal of CryptoKitties is in their rarity and collectibility. Since there is only one of each cat, more appealing cats go for higher prices. Though this may sound niche, some CryptoKitties have sold for over $100,000.

A more recent example of NFT games is ZED RUN, a virtual horse racing game that recently received a large amount of investment from the famous Venture Capital (VC) firm Andreessen Horowitz. It has a similar premise though the incentive to buy and sell isn’t entirely cosmetic—each horse has its own statistics, and horse races are hosted with prize pools. If you manage to breed a horse with incredible stats, they sell for more on the market, allowing you to profit from breeding and the buyer to do the same from future races.

Zed Run, though flush with Andreessen Horowitz VC cash, is a fairly static site, with little more to do than scroll through a list of horses, buy them on the marketplace, and breed them with other horses. However, the competitiveness of the game increases its appeal; the same drive that encourages people to play League of Legends to rank up or pick a fantasy baseball team can be applied to stockpiling horses with better winning records than their friends. Finally, there is an addictive element of financial capitalism. Zed Run steeds are traded on NFT exchange sites like OpenSea, and similar to Robinhood or Coinbase, you can browse around to find out trading stats like floor price, volume traded, and price fluctuations over time.

Many of the current young tech-savvy generations seem to be taking NFT gaming the way earlier cohorts took to Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat. Digital collectibles have had a rocky history, but with blockchain, the technology seems to have caught up to the concept; virtual animals are now networked together, racking up stats, and have the potential to make you rich one day.

What does this future hold? There are already some potential uses for NFTs, especially in the realm of game cosmetics. So many games nowadays require players to open loot crates to unlock cosmetics, often disappointing them with “common” items that they’ve received dozens of times already. Only once every couple of weeks does something remotely interesting drop. Even then, that one skin gets boring after some time. NFTs, however, would allow each and every cosmetic to become unique, so that regardless, you are guaranteed to receive something different.

Another application for NFTs is for Massively Multiplayer Online RPG (MMORPG) games. Many MMORPG games start you off with a specific class that has an optimal way to level up quickly; many newcomers are forced to watch YouTube guides on how to do so and spend hours repeating the same task as everybody else. It can lose its charm quickly and force many MMORPG players to drop off, leaving only the hardcore players who are willing to invest a lot of time into the game. However, what if each character generated were to have a unique trait that separated it from others? What if its character stats differed so that there was no defined meta and the player could explore the best way to play the game for themselves? NFTs could play a major part in MMORPGs, and while they may not be for everyone, the uniqueness they add could greatly increase the approachability for casual players.

These are just a few applications. The possibilities are limitless. Many times, the lack of content becomes an issue for games designed to be played for hours on end, but NFT gaming may help resolve this issue. The future of NFT gaming seems to be an exciting one where it may soon assert itself as a core part of major games. Bitcoins may have been the blockchain craze, but it may only be a matter of time it plays a larger part in the gaming industry.