The link between gaming and crypto is so strong, that were it not for Vitalik Buterin’s encounter with World of Warcraft, the Ethereum creator would never have founded the most well-known alternative to Bitcoin.
That’s a link in a chain that has already looped back on itself; more millennials now say they’d invest in cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum before they would traditional stocks. The demographic crossover between crypto and gaming is one that’s not hard to miss - young men; largely millennials, but by no means exclusively.
When the World of Warcraft creators released an update that modified the young Vitalik’s cherished warlock’s Siphon Life spell in 2010, it kickstarted his quest to find (or create) a decentralized framework which would make a repeat of such a catastrophe impossible.
Ethereum never began with a focus on gaming, but that focus emerged nonetheless - and has already spread to other platforms. Now, there are multiple blockchain projects working on gamifying cryptocurrency and bringing games to the blockchain.
Revenging Vitalik: Blockchain Ownership of Virtual Items
All the best aspects of blockchain which stand to clean up the financial system can be applied to gaming. Ownership of in-game items can be made immutable by the strictures of blockchain consensus - eliminating the prospect of another young Vitalik having his character suddenly messed with.
And believe it or not, this matters. After all, people are already willing to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on virtual in-game items. It has become normal for video games to have digital currencies (not cryptocurrencies) integrated as a matter of course.
All those in-game transactions go through typical payment processors like Paypal and Visa, and run through central servers. Several blockchain alternatives have popped up in the last couple of years, including WAX (WAX).
A blockchain creation by the team behind OPSkins for Counter-Strike, WAX regularly processes close to $1 million in daily traded game items. Check out the blockchain explorer to see transactions fly by endlessly for in-game items, gift cards, and even real-world items which have been logged on the blockchain.
Bringing 3D Gaming Engines to the Bitcoin Blockchain
The term “blockchain gaming” immediately summons unwanted visions of Cryptokitties - a simplistic cat trading ‘game’. Such has been the extent of blockchain gaming until now; but that could change soon depending on the fate of Komodore64.
A Netherlands based company, Komodore64 is working on bringing 3D gaming to the blockchain. Specifically, the Komodo (KMD) blockchain - a Zcash (ZEC) fork which is backed up on Bitcoin every ten minutes for added security (Ed note: K64 runs on its own sovereign blockchain called Komodo Smart Chain, leveraging Komodo tech).
The Komodore64 (K64) virtual console promises to bring software development kits (SDK) for major gaming engines like Unity, and the Unreal Engine. This would merge modern day graphical fidelity with the security and sovereignty of operating on a blockchain. The Dutch company recently acquired backing worth $78 million to fund their operations for the coming year.
Screenshots are hard to come by, but early glimpses look promising.
Playing For Keeps In The Gaming Multiverse
So the tools exist, and an industry plagued by scammers and cheats is ripe for disruption. But are people going to abandon their PCs and consoles and run towards blockchain gaming just because it exists?
Probably not. But as with all things Bitcoin and cryptocurrency related, incentivization is key. Several games in the Enjin Coin (ENJ) “Gaming Multiverse” are being made with incentives in mind - naturally, the opportunity to earn cryptocurrency by playing.
Enjin Coin made news in early March when the coin price pumped 93% on news of its inclusion in the Samsung S10 crypto wallet. The gaming-focused altcoin currently has 14 games in its “multiverse” under development, encompassing a wide range of styles and genres. The days of Cryptokitties trading games seem a thing of the past in the face of upcoming RPGs and world-builders.
Promises are cheap in the blockchain space, but with games lined up for release on Steam; support for Oculus Rift and HTC Vive; and crossover releases on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, something appears to be in the process of creation.
Enjin made an SDK available for Unity developers back in March. With an estimated 4.5 million developers, and 28 billion game-installs across multiple operating systems, Unity could help bridge the gap between blockchain and AAA, top-tier gaming.
The Endgame Is Just The Beginning
This revealing Reddit thread conveys a first-time crypto user’s experience buying games on Steam using Bitcoin. According to the writer, because they were below the legal age, and had no access to credit cards, they managed to procure some BTC to pay for in-game items in Dota 2.
As noted in the post, they didn’t know or care what cryptocurrency was - they simply wanted a way to purchase their in-game items. This aligns with the thoughts of Ethereum developer, Austin Thomas Griffith, who said the user only cares about what’s important to them.
“Users don’t care about decentralization or private keys; they care about using your Dapp to do something important to them… users shouldn’t be bothered with downloading a wallet up front. First, they need to use the product and provide value within the Dapp.”
If Griffith’s proposed meta-transactions prove successful, it would see users interact with Ethereum applications without first having to buy the currency. A pre-loaded wallet would be included in the background, with enough gas to pay for the first transaction.
Bitcoin and Crypto
Most blockchain gaming development is being carried out on or around Ethereum, not Bitcoin. But if we imitate the naive mainstream mindset and use the word 'Bitcoin' to refer to cryptocurrency as a whole, then the future of blockchain gaming could prove pivotal to bitcoin/crypto adoption overall.