Innovative young companies are improving gaming concepts with the help of blockchain, ensuring that this epic clash creates a better reality for future gamers.
Industries central to our entertainment end up being the most highly valued. Hollywood and the US film industry pull in billions, and though it’s traditionally been difficult to compete with the silver screen, video games have already surpassed movie revenues for several years now. The global games market in 2018 is worth almost $138 billion, up 13.3% from the prior measurement and only going in one direction: up.
However, the gaming industry may soon find out (if it hasn’t already) that plateauing technology and changing customer preferences are a “perfect storm” of sorts. In the same way that the box office was usurped by on-demand subscription TV models—with last year’s turnout at theatres the worst in 25 years—global video game markets are susceptible to evolving trends as well.
Blockchain represents an enormous threat for the towering, stratified video game industry, but a bigger opportunity for gamers on the receiving end of decentralized models. Before blockchain, there were few tools available to independent firms and enthusiast gamers to step out from the long shadow cast by AAA game producers. Thankfully, there are already several companies that have improved gaming concepts with the help of blockchain, ensuring that this epic clash plays out and creates a better reality for future gamers and publishers alike.
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WHERE THE BATTLE IS FOUGHT AND WON
It’s no secret that the gaming industry is ruled by the inordinate influence of its largest game publishers: companies like Activision Blizzard, Electronic Arts, and Ubisoft. The industry is one of the most centralized, with the path from development to launch a nearly straight line. Triple-A publishers thrive in this environment, because they can buy out small developers who don’t have the capital or means to launch on their own, spend mountains of money building hype for their knockoff titles, release the game on their own vertically integrated store, and then under-deliver. Gamers fall for it every time, but it doesn’t stop them from realizing the (cyclical) mistake, and doing what they can to voice their displeasure.
Blockchain infrastructure can help small publishers raise the funds they need to hire developers, establish distribution channels, and boost marketing efforts. This idea was popularized for blockchain startups initially, yet the ICO (initial coin offering) model is infinitely flexible to suit different ideas. Instead of requiring individual game developers to create unique ICOs for single games, however, a more elegant solution is in place thanks to GameProtocol.
The company’s smart contract-based GameStarter ecosystem allows developers to launch their own GSCs (called Game-Specific Chips). These are purchasable using the platform’s own GPT tokens—themselves exchangeable for more liquid cryptocurrencies and even fiat money via an exchange. By exploring this path, developers already have a shared, equitable ecosystem in which they can attract investors, engage in targeted marketing efforts, and host their own games without money leaking out into the pockets of intermediaries.
Blockchain also makes it easy to create marketplaces for in-game items—a feature that’s in high demand for its ability to increase player retention, monetize player skill, and improve game interoperability. The blockchain helps power companies like DMarket, a young marketplace service that bridges the gap between game universes using its plug-in developer API, and tools for tracking cross-game item ownership via the decentralized ledger. DMarket hopes to give gamers the much-anticipated ability to earn from their hours logged in gaming environments, creating robust economies using virtual items alone.
FOCUSING ON FRAUD AND THEFT
Fraud is another pertinent issue for the gaming world. Because so much of the value that gamers purchase (and generate) is virtual, battling fraud is next to impossible. Visa, for example, is presented with a real conundrum when a gamer can show that they’ve paid for a virtual item or game license but never received it. Without a way to physically track or prove to the bank that a virtual item exists, how could one ever expect to be reimbursed for its theft?
This is another mission for the blockchain ledger, and it isn’t unique to any one company. The universal transparency of the ledger is a natural fraud deterrent because all data recorded is permanent and constantly available. The ledger prevents item duplication (due to a cryptographic signature system), and indicates the status of all high scores, item owners, and gaming licenses in real-time. Stealing and duping are virtually impossible given this underlying system.
Preventing fraud and being reimbursed for it are two different issues, presenting a unique opportunity for GameCredits to help overcome both challenges simultaneously. The aptly named company puts less emphasis on games themselves and more on creating a universal currency for the industry itself. Instead of developers creating their own currencies and tying them together using peripheral technology, gamers can buy all games and operate within (and across) them using one coin. This will also be a medium for returns, reimbursements, and other transactions that once struggled to navigate the gap between physical fiat and the digital world.
THE CUTTING EDGE HAS NEVER BEEN SHARPER
While blockchain is excellent at stirring imaginations, it’s still largely untested and running on hype alone. We’re at the stage where tangible progress excites cryptocurrency investors more than it does gamers (though these labels often overlap), and blockchain innovators have a lot of work to accomplish before delivering a measurable impact. At our present moment, halfway through 2018, those who believed that this year would see the first wave of blockchain-based gaming platforms were wrong.
Until blockchain influencers can convincingly show game developers, the merits of decentralized hosting, there will be no progress forward. Even then, developers will need to create enticing games that work as reliably as their centralized counterparts, or risk gamers—a notoriously selective bunch—simply walking away. It’s too early to determine the outcome for decentralized gaming, but few will argue that the collision of worlds isn’t fun to watch. For blockchain in gaming, the game’s just getting started.