Contributed by Kel The Observer.
Here, we discuss a unique way of applying NFTs and blockchain technology to games. And some alpha.
Something is missing
The last time I used the Steam marketplace was when purchasing Civilisation IV some years ago. I spent hours upon hours of my spare time on that game. The soundtrack was heavenly, even though player-versus-player (PvP) or player-versus-everyone (PvE) required a torturous learning curve. I remember playing Street Fighter EX Plus Alpha on late sunny afternoons instead of doing my math homework. Nothing beats the nostalgia of retro console gaming. Though a contentious issue, modern triple-A titles don’t inspire that feeling anymore. Even as an adult, I still play the odd hour of Call of Duty online or Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. But there was something magical about the first Playstation console. You could feel this magic and excitement from developers through their games as if there was some magical energy imbued on the very game discs themselves. Perhaps it was simply the magic of a paradigm shift — a new era of gaming.
Shouldn’t we feel similar magic in this era of blockchain gaming? Something new, exciting, and unknown about how this technology will shape the gaming landscape? Surprisingly, this feeling is lacking. And I doubt it’s because I’m now an adult. Let’s be honest, a good number of the blockchain games we’ve seen so far are pretty bad. Yet, their tokens appreciate because of high speculation.
The play-to-earn (P2E) model has fuelled significant speculation in the blockchain gaming sector, hyping up terrible games made by blockchain devs instead of game devs. Speculation was so high in this sector that playing the game became a source of income for some in emerging markets.
But one must always ask where the value accruing to full-time players come from. An obvious answer is the emissions from the token supply. Another incentive stream is trading in-game items earned through achieving tasks, winning tournaments, leveling-up playable characters, etc. But, overall, the model relies on current marketing and business models unrelated to blockchain or gaming. For instance, the model is similar to that of a shoe company that obtains cheap raw materials and labor from emerging countries and sells the finished products for exorbitant prices in developed economies. This is an oversimplification of the P2E model, but you get the gist of things.
Axie Infinity was one of the successful P2E blockchain games, prompting the launch of many equally successful blockchain games like Aavegotchi, Aurory, Defi Kingdoms, etc.
Axie Infinity was so successful that it garnered partnerships from Samsung, HTC and Ubisoft. The price of the project’s token, AXIE, went on to do a whopping 1,300x since its launch to its all-time high (ATH).
This is all well and good for games that are actually good and enjoyable. But, to most console and mobile gamers, whether a game is blockchain-based or not doesn’t matter. What matters is that the blockchain mechanics is abstracted away enough for them to enjoy the game without even knowing it has anything to do with a blockchain. Hence, game developers should look towards incorporating blockchain technology rather than blockchain developers straining to shoehorn a game into blockchain technology; this is the industry’s current state.
We’ll briefly talk about NFTs before shedding light on how both aspects of blockchain technology can come together in a radical way to change traditional gaming. How both technologies, in combination, can empower game developers and give back to the gamers some of the freedom that’s been lost in recent years. But first, NFTs.
What about NFTs?
As a child, buying bubblegum and finding a unique football (soccer), racing car or computer game collectible card felt like heaven. The nostalgia of such times past is palpable. So, wanting an NFT is understandable, even as countless ‘normies’ scream “but it’s just a jpeg of a squiggle”. Yes, we know. It brings back that feeling of collecting a unique sports card or even a unique piece of art. Perhaps further in the future, digital art will be a preferred store of value over physical art. But, like any new technology that can be commercialized, there’s a lot of froth at the beginning. A good example is the dot com bubble. Any company with a ‘dotcom’ affixed to its name instantly received insane valuations.
With froth comes significant opportunities. Sometimes, using NFT marketplaces or owning some NFTs can net you a five-figure airdrop. For instance, users of the LooksRare NFT marketplace received airdrops of the $LOOKS token. Some received five figures worth of airdrops. More recently, holders of the Bored Ape Yacht Club and Mutant Ape Yacht Club NFTs received airdrops of the ApeCoin token. Some holders even received more than $100,000 worth of tokens.
It’s all well and good receiving airdrops for owning NFTs or using NFT marketplaces; it can be life-changing in some cases. But it’s a mere distraction from the long-term use case for NFTs, for copyright and intellectual property purposes, sans the middleman.
Kevin is the straw that broke the camel’s back.
A very notable and oddly successful NFT launch was Pixelmon’s Kevin NFT, which was so bad it became the community’s mascot. It became a cultural phenomenon and, in some ways, became quite successful because of how bad it was. Kevin features in this article for no other reason than ‘the culture’. However, it illustrates the ‘bubble’ nature of the current NFT market.
Kevin from Pixelmon: Credit to 0x_Doug for this.
The evolution of NFTs & blockchain gaming
The hardcore gaming community negatively reacted to publishers and developers integrating blockchain features and NFTs into games. Some funnier reactions included memes of Microsoft Excel integration into Call of Duty games on the news that Microsoft was to purchase Activision at about $70 billion. This meme was a neutral sentiment about the current state of the industry.
Game developers will eventually embrace and integrate blockchain technology into their products, blockchain developers will focus on blockchain, and everyone will be happy. Speculating on the industry, NFT projects with in-game utility within virtual worlds created by big game devs will escape the 99% drawdown of crypto winters. Think EA sports, Rockstar Games, and Ubisoft. It won’t matter if the games are P2E; they’ll be better than what we have now. For instance, though the jury is still out on Rebel Bots, they claim Animoca Brands and Ubisoft as investors, so there may be a fire in the smoke. At least for this particular project. Decentraland and The Sandbox are metaverse, NFT and blockchain projects with staying power. HSBC, PwC and Atari are now participating in The Sandbox metaverse, which is a sign of things to come.
Ladies and Gentlemen, The Sandbox Metaverse.
A different perspective
What if there’s another way to leverage blockchain technology and NFTs for gaming?
The gaming community has largely forgotten the uproar when some game studios chose to go all-digital. There are even solely digital versions of the Xbox and PS5 consoles today. The main gripe when this paradigm began included gamers losing the ability to resell games. What if we could bring this ability back using the blockchain and NFTs as facilitators? Hear me out here before reaching for the pitchforks and torches.
An indy game developer could create a game and then issue an NFT that entitles the holder to own a copy of the game. An NFT holder can download the game freely available on the developer’s website. The game will prompt the player to connect their crypto wallet at the main menu, allowing them access to the game. The gamer can simply list the NFT for sale on an NFT marketplace if they wish to resell the game. Once sold, a small royalty fee accrues to the game developer. This idea could present some security issues, so it’s probably best for the gamer to use a burner wallet or one specifically allocated for gaming NFTs. Notwithstanding, this technique can help indy game developers, help fight piracy, and give back some rights to the gamer. Plus, what developer wouldn’t want perpetually accruing royalties?
There are so many ways to make the above idea appeal to collectors. Perhaps the game’s ‘first mint’ could be a limited edition NFT, which could accrue significant market value. Think this isn’t possible? Look at how much Crypto Punks cost.
Finally, some more alpha:
- EA Games, Ubisoft and Bigtime Studios are game companies to watch out for in the blockchain gaming and NFT space (more examples TBC). Their projects will have the power of a thousand suns.
- Don’t fade Animoca Brands; they’ve supported successful gaming and NFT projects.
- Rebel Bots lists Ubisoft as an investor; this one may have legs, and its legs could have gains from all the leg days we missed.
- Watch out for any indy game studios that adopt the NFT/blockchain idea above.
- The Solana ecosystem is extra frothy at the moment, but its current transaction speed suits gaming.
This article was probably too long, but it let me reminisce about the good old days of gaming (just a couple of years ago, LOL). I firmly believe that you will eventually see the idea in this article implemented. And when you see it, be prepared to take the opportunity to make bank.