How NFTs could change the landscape for mainstream video games3rd September 2019
The video games market is one that never ceases to grow, having eclipsed the video and music industry combined and here we look into how NFTs could grow this industry further.
Despite the impressive growth of the industry, there has been a significant lack of innovation in terms of improving the overall gaming experience.
While each generation of console and PC hardware offers far superior graphical performance, often this appears to be the limit of innovation.
On a smaller scale, and in an incredibly infantile sector of gaming, lies blockchain technology and the concept of non-fungible tokens (NFTs).
What is blockchain?
A blockchain is a type of distributed ledger technology (DLT) and is fundamentally nothing more than a ledger that records data.
In the context of video games and NFTs, a blockchain will record all in-going and out-going NFT transactions. This is because they can be monetised and sold like any asset.
A blockchain will also record all important information tied to the NFT such as its certificate of authenticity, unique meta-data, origin and time of creation among other aspects.
This is an extremely important aspect of NFTs because without a blockchain, the true owner of an item cannot be identified nor can the authenticity be verified.
Without scarcity and authenticity, an NFT has significantly less value because it is could be common and fake.
Blockchain is often described as a piece of technology that will disrupt many industries, and gaming is no different.
What are NFTs?
A non-fungible token is a special type of asset that in the context of video gaming is nothing more than an in-game virtual asset.
An asset having fungibility means it can be converted into another asset. A non-fungible token is precisely the opposite.
As a product of being non-fungible, an NFT cannot be converted into a different asset which means it has some degree of scarcity because it is unique and cannot be interchanged.
One company in particular that is pushing for mainstream adoption is Enjin.
Enjin recently integrated blockchain to the massively popular Minecraft game. At the same time, Enjin created two NFTs for Minecraft the ‘wooden sword’ and ‘wooden shield.’
This means players of Minecraft who have used Enjin’s integration will be able to obtain the wooden sword and use it in other games.
This is because the wooden sword has ‘interoperability’ and can be taken into a different game in the Enjin Multiverse.
The Enjin Multiverse is host to a wide array of games made by different developers who adopted Enjin’s technology.
Any game in the Multiverse is able to feature the wooden sword from Minecraft, meaning players can use it in multiple games, not just one.
Disrupting the norm
Historically, there are only a handful of times that in-game items have been used in different games.
Fable II once allowed its players to use the legendary assault rifle from the Halo series in the game.
This was exciting for gamers because it is extremely uncommon for assets from one game to be used in another game.
With NFTs this could become the norm for mainstream gaming.
Enjin is not the only blockchain gaming-focused company to be exploring the idea of using in-game items between different games.
8 Circuit Studios is creating its very own Metaverse in which its players can take in-game assets from Project Genesis, for example, to other games in the Metaverse.
The concept of NFTs is still young and the true potential of them has yet to be fully grasped but with more and more developers adopting the concept it could soon perpetuate itself into mainstream gaming.
Mainstream game developers are hesitant to embrace the concept because it puts power back into the hands of gamers.
It is becoming increasingly common for developers to implement micro transactions for ‘packs’ which have a chance of unlocking the high-tier loot.
Though, once the player owns the loot there is nothing more to do with it except use it in that specific game.
An NFT is an asset, meaning the player can own it and monetise it – two concepts inextricably tied and reinforced by blockchain technology.
Mainstream developers embracing this naturally would give them less control over their assets, but it would encourage more players to want the assets because they would actually own them and feel more invested into the game.
Implementing NFTs adds extra incentive for players to continue using the game because their progress is no longer rooted in the game, it can extend into other games and never disappear.
The technology won’t be adopted overnight
Blockchain gaming is incredibly new and will not take the mainstream world by storm overnight – it will be a gradual process.
There are still obvious limitations that exist within the concept.
It won’t be possible to take the portal gun from ‘Portal 2’ and begin teleporting yourself in obscure ways in ‘The Witcher 3’ but it could be possible to have the portal gun as a skin in ‘Call of Duty’.
On a base level, the concept of NFTs will likely be cosmetic – at least when considering taking weapons from one game to another.
This does not mean there aren’t benefits to embracing the technology. For example, you could segment progress in side-quests so that items from different games are required to proceed.
This could encompass completing a puzzle in one game to earn a special gem that unlocks a door in another world that is host to a secret boss that grants a special reward.
Once again, this could be problematic if not executed correctly. Segmenting progress between games could rile up gamers if they had to purchase multiple games.
One solution could be to have a type of subscription, similar to Netflix where, once purchased, the player has access to all of the games that boast interoperability with other games.
Enjin co-founder and CTO, Witek Radomski, has previously outlined how in the future we could have fully autonomous non-player characters (NPCs).
He said: “…when games get more complicated and the stakes get high and these items are very sought after, you may actually have NPCs that control their own blockchain accounts that are running on their own servers, and these now actually real entities that you have to solve the puzzle with.”
The biggest barrier that will prevent adoption for these concepts is undoubtedly cryptocurrency.
Until cryptocurrency is made easy to use and understand, or blockchain gaming developers determine a viable solution that does not require cryptocurrency it is unlikely NFTs will become the norm.
Likewise, until many players are actively using NFTs and demanding more use from them, mainstream game developers are not likely to implement them into their games.
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