Blockchain technologies and cryptocurrencies are the latest technological innovations that threaten to disrupt the gaming status quo.
Some hope that blockchain will prevent debacles such as the launch of EA’s Star Wars: Battlefront II, which wiped more than $3 billion from the company’s stock value and infuriated gamers.
Others are much more sceptical.
But with French gaming giant Ubisoft the latest to explore the potential applications of blockchain tech what can gamers expect?
What is Blockchain?
Essentially, blockchain is the technology which underpins all cryptocurrencies.
It is the digital ledger which records and verifies all transactions of a cryptocurrency. Each record is encrypted, to allow for secure transactions.
In contrast to traditional currencies, cryptocurrencies are decentralised. Instead, cryptocurrencies are monitored by peer-to-peer computer servers distributed around the globe.
With no third-party interference in the transaction, cryptocurrencies are not subject to interest rates and other fees.
The decentralisation of the system also makes it impervious to cyber-attacks and remarkably transparent.
The utopian ideal of blockchain and cryptocurrencies was to free the global economy from the corruption of banking groups and to make international trade easier.
Although this ambition has not yet materialised, the success of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin has shown the potential of blockchain technology. Japan and Germany have even made Bitcoin legal tender.
Gaming on Blockchain
The most apparent way to integrate blockchain technology into gaming is to use cryptocurrencies to reward in-game achievements.
This could then be used to purchase upgrades or unlock new features. Obscuring the definition between game-commerce and real-commerce offers new freedom and opportunities to avid gamers.
With blockchain, gamers can transform their investment of time and skill into real financial profit.
Avid gamers accumulate a lot of in-game rewards. These rewards are often useless outside of the game. However, with blockchain gamers could transform their rewards into cryptocurrency.
Potentially, proficient gamers could accumulate enough in-game rewards to make a living from gaming. Combined with the rise of eSports, blockchain could contribute to the increasing professionalisation of gaming.
Yet, the potential of blockchain is not limited to the financial sphere. Blockchain could also empower the independent game movement to challenge the established AAA developers.
Using blockchain, indie developers can create more immersive worlds, which can handle greater technical capabilities.
This is because the extra bandwidth and CPU resources created by the decentralised network of chained computers improves the processes of development and the performance of games.
Although the integration of blockchain into gaming is still in its infancy, the decentralised platform also has the potential to fuel the transition towards cloud gaming.
Countless gamers are unable to play some of the industry’s leading titles because they do not have powerful enough hardware to run them.
Again, the network of chained computers could allow users to share their processing power.
Owners of high-end gaming PCs and GPUs could rent their servers through the cloud to other gamers to allow them to play the latest games.
Decentralisation will also provide gamers with improved security. Hacking is still a common occurrence in the gaming industry. This is often because of the use of centralised networks, which give hackers a single point of access to an entire system.
What Blockchain Games are Out There?
Ubisoft is not the first developer to explore the applications of blockchain technology in gaming. There has always been interaction between cryptocurrency communities and online gaming communities.
According to WAX, 55 per cent of millennial online gamers also hold cryptocurrencies. It should, therefore, come as no surprise that there are several blockchain games already out there.
Arguably the most popular blockchain game of the moment is CryptoKitties, which runs on the Ethereum blockchain.
CryptoKitties uses blockchain’s ability to facilitate unique digital content to create a unique cat images, which can then be bred with other cats to create another unique cat image.
Because of the decentralisation of the CryptoKitties application it is impossible create fake cats and each cat has a digital scarcity which makes it valuable. Users collect and trade the cats, with some being sold for over $100,000.
However, CryptoKitties was not the first blockchain game. Online gambling games such as EtherRoll and Edgeless were developed for Ethereum users before the cat-based game.
Another Ethereum-based game that managed to gain gamers’ consideration was EtherPlay. EtherPlay is currently undergoing a revamp, but in 2017 it paid out 70 ETH to its users, which is worth approximately £18,400.
What’s next for the technology?
Although blockchain is not yet integral to gaming the decentralised approach, which means that third parties cannot interfere with in-game content after it has been coded into existence, is very attractive to gamers.
A decentralised platform allows gamers to take true ownership of their gaming experience and has the potential to revolutionise the future of gaming.