Since ‘Pong’ reached our TV screens in 1975, the gaming industry has never stopped growing. From that inauspicious start, with two paddles and a pixel ball, the market has seen gamers around the world spend around $138 billion on gaming in 2018.
It is a vast market and a lucrative one for those looking to push the envelope on what can be done with high-end software and hardware. But, there is a new technology that is looking to break into this huge industry - Blockchain.
Blockchain games had their ‘Pong moment’ when Cryptokitties burst on the Ethereum blockchain drawing enough excitement to almost bringing the second-biggest blockchain by market cap to a grinding halt.
Now, the blockchain gaming space is growing at an exceptional rate to be more than just cute digital representations of cats; there is an emerging side market in the gaming space that could well be looking to boost, or even stake a claim, within the ever-expanding industry.
The state of play
Blockchain gaming, like most blockchain solutions, needs to be examined on its merits and picked apart on its flaws before it can be decided if it is the future for the space. The growth of the blockchain gaming market also needs to be weighed up on its potential to integrate, as well as overcome traditional hurdles.
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The blockchain itself is already seen a potentially valuable tool in today’s gaming world as it can provide a decentralized asset exchange, verifiable scarcity of virtual objects and collectables, fast and secure payment networks, and an ability for developers to monetize their creations properly.
Because gaming assets are almost as important and valuable as tangible assets, the blockchain offers discernible proof of provenance of specific virtual items. Moreover, the digital tokens from blockchains adds huge payment benefits, especially useful for eSports, creating native in-game tokens, and driving seamless transactions on decentralized exchanges.
But, blockchain is no longer just a tool for the gaming industry to utilize and incorporate, it has also become a market unto itself with several companies actively pursuing the creation of high-end gaming experiences based on a blockchain backbone.
Advancing the blockchain gaming sector
The first tastes of blockchain gaming involved either card games, breeding digital cats, or digital casinos with games of chance benefiting from a lack of centralized control. But game producers are now taking big and ambitious steps into the realms of multiverses and MMOs. The advantages of decentralisation and asset provenance start to become key when one starts expanding the gaming sector into world creation where no one actor can shape the rules.
As games have become more multiplayer and co-operative in the internet age, there has been a significant focus on fairness and trust. It is a familiar narrative where when there is a large assembly of different players from a broad spectrum of the global society, centralised control is often shunned as it is easy to become discriminatory.
This is the same for games, especially those that enter into the genre of MMO (massively multiplayer online game) where character’s avatars become extensions of themselves and demand fairness and inclusivity.
It is this sticking point of centralised control in games, where those in charge and running the servers are omnipotent and irrefutable, and so, the decentralized nature of blockchain becomes enticing in this space once again.
Examples of blockchain benefits
While the blockchain gaming space has been evolving rapidly, there have only been a few pioneering examples of how the technology can change the face of gaming with companies looking to showcase the blockchain as the game's backbone.
A lot was made of Huntercoin as far back as 2014 when it became the first real blockchain and decentralized strategy MMO game. It was a fork of Namecoin, a famous altcoin predecessor, and was mainly an experiment to see if a blockchain network could handle 10s of thousands of players moving around a map in a decentralized blockchain world.
It turned out to be quite a success as players flocked to it with the added incentive being the ability to make money off the game through its mining algorithm. You could click on the screen to nearby or far away locations and collect all the Huntercoins you’d like.
This pioneering game has now set the platform the next stage of MMO blockchain gaming, Taurion. The upgrade from Huntercoin to Taurion is massive with the former being 8-bit and Taurion looking like a graphic-heavy modern game.
Taurion is also the creation of Xaya, a company whose members were part of Namecoin and the creation of Huntercoin; explaining the pedigree behind this latest blockchain, decentralized MMO release.
Xaya claims Taurion: ‘Is the most sophisticated blockchain MMO game developed to date, [and] will set new standards for blockchain games which typically revolved around mostly the financial parts of blockchain.’
How this game makes use of the blockchain is to offer players a world with no central servers and no central authority. Players are in charge of everything, and the open source blockchain system provides a fair environment which prevents any cheating.
The mining process is unique too; it's based on how the players play the game and progressively gets more complicated, as the players get better. The map spawns an area of 8000x8000 blocks, where players can explore, build, train, trade or combat.
Additionally, there is an alternate economy, where players earn coins based on their gaming skills. This goes beyond item ownership; alliances can be formed, or people can be hired for specific tasks, such as escorting a cargo.
Taurion looks to be a rather significant step forward in the blockchain gaming sphere as the gameplay itself does not appear to be hampered by its blockchain backbone, and instead, the technology is being used as a useful tool to bolster previous pain points seen in other MMOs.
More to it
It remains to be seen whether Taurion, as a pioneering MMO, has what it takes to dislodge something as big and popular as World of Warcraft, but what is clear is that the game has at least entered the same playing field as that popular MMO.
This level of sophisticated gaming experience, with a blockchain backbone, will start to push the boundaries of gaming a lot further as the decentralized aspect will provide many players with the level of fairness and inclusivity they crave. The added incentives of mining and cryptocurrency can also play a significant role.
However, while MMOs are a good fit for blockchain gaming and their added advantages over traditional servers, there seems to be envelope-pushing in many directions within the gaming space.
Xaya appears to be trying to extend the potential uses of blockchain and crypto further by covering different sectors of the gaming market, with another game they are announcing soon - Soccer Manager Elite.
Football manager games have long been popular, but Xaya seems to believe that the added blockchain bonus of incentivised cryptocurrency earning based on performance can take this facet of the gaming world to a different level.
Gimmick or necessary next step?
Whenever blockchain technology is applied to a new sector or industry, the question needs to be asked if it is a gimmicky use of the technology or an essential step in the right direction. Predominantly, in the gaming space, it is the decentralisation and crypto Incentivisation that is currently leading the way as an argument for its advancement.
One could then argue that, because it is all just a game, the need for decentralisation is not that key as centralised control of a game makes it easier to run and control. However, with how the gaming ecosystem is heading, as a serious sport, past time, and source of entertainment, the idea that people should bow to the whims of game creators is fleeting.
People are now more serious about their games and gaming life than ever, and the fact that the industry makes over $100 billion in a year indicates the importance of the ecosystem. It would be dismissive to say that blockchain is wasted on the gaming space, and it would be foolhardy not to pursue growing the industry with this burgeoning technology.