March 16, 2018
by Sharon Moran
The blockchain technology that underpins the ecosystem of bitcoin (and other cryptocurrencies) has the potential to transform virtually every industry imaginable. How quickly that transformation will occur is a matter of debate. One thing is certain; in a decade the crypto space will look very different than it does today.
The game industry is already in the early stages of transitioning, and a blockchain-based evolution has begun. In a decade, if not sooner, blockchain will be to games what the App store was to mobile games in 2008-2012.
Below we’ve included recent developments in gaming related to blockchain infrastructure. Also, read on to learn about the emerging category of cryptoassets or cryptocollectibles consisting of in-game items that are decentralized and no longer game-specific as typical digital goods usually are. Empowering players by enabling them to own in-game assets that they purchased is achieved by application of blockchain technology to the rapidly-growing game industry.
Nine Lives on the Blockchain
Cryptokitties is one of the first blockchain games worldwide. Cryptokitties are the cryptoassets issued to players in this Ethereum-based game. Players own their Cryptokitties; these cryptocollectibles can’t be replicated, taken away, or destroyed. (Schrodinger’s cat uttered a meow of relief!)
Is Being the First to Bring Chess to the Blockchain a Strategic Move?
Based on the cost of executing smart contracts, a chess game on the Ethereum blockchain is not completely practical at present. So, it was refreshing to discover that the millennia-old strategy game of Chess has been making its way onto the blockchain, due in part to the world of academia.
Two years ago, a group of students at the Technical University of Berlin completed a project consisting of building a chess game on the Ethereum platform. Lending a bit of further legitimacy to the students’ work, Dr. Christian Reitwiessner, from the Ethereum Foundation, oversaw the project.
The students discovered that the blockchain is a reliable platform to conduct a complete game of chess (hello, US Postal Service, move over correspondence chess). They also determined that the most complicated and technically costly part was to verify the end of the game (Checkmate or Stalemate), so we’re still probably a few years (or more) away from the first blockchain-based chess tournament!
Blockchain Technology Has Multi-Layered Benefits for Game Industry
Games based on blockchain technology do not just eliminate the need for a middleman related to servers and hosting. Every intermediary in the gaming ecosystem has the potential to be eliminated through the decentralized nature of the blockchain, including marketing and advertising intermediaries. And San Francisco-based Refereum has already begun tackling the centralized nature of marketing related to mobile games. Refereum is a game distribution platform which boasts Twitch and Unity integration. Refereum eliminates the marketing middleman and rewards both influencers and gamers directly. Refereum’s currency is RFR, an ERC-20 token.
Sports on the Blockchain: No Augmented-Reality Required
An injury-free version football game (soccer to those of us in the U.S.) is available on the blockchain, created by football enthusiasts with a technical background in blockchain technology and former game industry experience. Sports enthusiasts can go to Rabona.me to build teams and eventually scout talent (their roadmap adds this feature beginning in June of this year) A Metamask plugin is required since Rabona is an Ethereum-based game.
Blockchain Tutorials and BitDegree
Lituania-based, educational startup BitDegree has the potential to disrupt the higher education system. (In future articles I plan to cover the transformative power that blockchain technology has to revamp higher education including the format by which courses are accessed and the way in which the associated credentials are confirmed, accessed, and retrieved.) With respect to gaming, though, BitDegree has launched their first gamified Solidity course, teaching students how to build a game on Ethereum. While it might be easier for game-industry veterans to transition to building games for the blockchain, guided resources and tutorials that are easily accessible and instruct game industry newcomers have a definite place in the ecosystem.
I plan to cover more blockchain-based game industry developments in the coming months. The intersection of blockchain technology and gaming is a specific interest of mine having created a chess variant, Mezzo Chess.
The current disadvantage of games that run on Ethereum is that players have to pay to run games. This will likely remain a limiting factor for some time until smart contracts can be executed on Ethererum at a lower cost or until a new blockchain or a new platform on an existing blockchain enables more economical game development. But I predict this will happen a lot sooner than we’re expecting.