If you are anything like me, you hear words like cryptocurrency and blockchain and your eyes glaze over with a technophobe’s haze that I once thought was reserved solely for my grandfather when broadband was introduced. For years I have sat and watched the growth of digital currency and how it has shaped multiple industries. We know that every so often in the games industry, some technology comes along that opens so many possibilities we all foam at the mouth like no other industry, especially hearing people speak about new tech at events. Trust me, as a former real estate professional, those events have a whole different kind of ‘excitement’.
A technology that has me most interested of late is blockchain technology. For those unaware what blockchain technology is, in its simplest form, it’s the idea of a digital ledger where information flows but cannot be duplicated or changed because it is decentralized. This means that multiple users at any one time are essentially verifying the information on it. People much smarter than me will tell you that was a terrible way to explain it, but you get the general idea.
‘What does this have to do with games?’ you may ask. Well, everything. Blockchain technology opens up all kinds of potential when it comes to the games industry. Take Brian Fargo’s recent announcement that he’ll be setting up Robot Cache, a new digital distribution platform to rival Steam that will be based on blockchain technology. It will have its own digital currency and allow users to sell their used games while developers will be able to set the price of the second-hand games market and earn money from used games. A literally age-old conflict potentially resolved just like that.
Games themselves are beginning to be ‘blockchainized’ such as EverdreamSoft’s mobile CCG Spells of Genesis, whereby players can turn their in-game cards into a blockchain asset that will retain real world cash value and can be traded or sold at their leisure. That isn’t even to mention blockchain specific games themselves like CryptoKitties that allows users to breed cats that hold cryptocurrency values depending on the rarity of the breed.
Blockchain technology could potentially change the way players interact with their games and had an influence on how they are designed in the first place. Imagine a player in an MMORPG obtaining an ultra-rare one-handed drop from a raid boss and then being able to sell that to another player for real cash directly in the game itself. Perhaps a CCG with a self-sustaining economy that allows players to earn digital currency and then spend that in-game, allowing developers to monetize the transaction process. This allows developers to potentially monetize free-to-play players via cryptocurrency.
Needless to say, the technologies applications could be huge for the industry in the coming years. However, it’s not all dollar signs and million-dollar dreams. We have yet to see large-scale implementation of the technology in the core gaming market. We don’t yet know how secure the technology is, how it will affect the hundreds of variables of game development, the potential legal implications and many, many, other factors that will quickly become involved.
The implementation of blockchain technology into games will be interesting to watch. The technology, like many before it, could be a great force for change and open many interesting avenues for developers and players. But, also like many technologies before it, many things need to fit into place before widespread adoption of the tech by the market. That’s hoping it doesn’t have a public relations nightmare in the meantime too. Bitcoin, as a perfect example, still struggles with its public/mainstream image , which causes it to lack the consumer confidence it actively seeks out. I for one am certainly looking forward to the innovative and bold ideas that will no doubt descend upon us in the coming years.