Blockchain in the gaming industry is one of the space’s hot topics of 2019. This year is catching the interest of both young independent developers and large corporations. Conferences and hackathons are periodically held around the world for developers to search for new ideas for integrating blockchain into games.
The main advantages of blockchain are its decentralization and open-source nature, which can significantly change the gaming market. The technology is taking trust between developers and players to a new level, and users can now own and freely exchange in-game assets without intermediaries and even between different games.
This is also beneficial for game publishers, as they can earn extra revenue by selling game tokens and items. Of course, the launch of AAA title games using blockchain is still a long way off, and gamers will not be playing World of Warcraft or Counter Strike on Ethereum anytime soon, but blockchain games that allow gamers to earn tokens are becoming more numerous as well as an attractive way to spend one’s time.
Of course, the growing interest in games that use blockchain could not be split away from the development of the blockchain itself, or rather the appearance of various types of tokens. Almost all such games use nonfungible tokens, which record unique features of an in-game item in token metadata and allow the transfer of items from one game to another.
Today, one of the most popular tokens is the ERC-1155 multi token standard, developed by the Enjin project. It can be simultaneously issued and sent in large quantities. Its popularity is explained by the BlockPegnio team, developers of the The Six Dragons game:
“We have built all our tools on the Ethereum network, using the ERC-1155 standard and tools of the Enjin Platform. Our decision was driven by the security of the Ethereum ecosystem, the simplicity of Enjin blockchain tools and the excellent blockchain wallet of Enjin, that can be easily used not only from crypto-experienced users but newcomers as well.”
Moreover, NFTs and the games that use them are supported by large investors. The Winklevoss twins in November 2019 acquired the Nifty platform, positioning itself as the first centralized U.S. dollar-based NFT exchange. The platform allows users from the United States to withdraw fiat and plans to implement funds withdrawal for international users soon.
What to play in 2020
Since 2019, the interest in blockchain-based games has been on the rise, helping some projects such as Gods Unchained to generate significant revenue. This year promises to be even more exciting for the industry. The biggest change is likely to be seen primarily in the development of various game genres, which was confirmed by the BlockPegnio team:
“In terms of popularity, we have to recognise that last year Gods Unchained was the most popular title. [...] We expect game developers to start focusing on creating real gaming experiences that can reach people beyond the blockchain niche market. That means, to move from gamified concepts (such as CryptoKitties, Axie Infinity, and Trading card Games) to real 3D experiences like fantasy RPGs, first-person shooters, and the likes.”
Besides the biggest existing projects like the Sandbox, Decentraland and Gods Unchained, the market will see a number of newcomers in 2020 claiming to change the state of gaming itself, and these projects aren’t only card games.
Card games still leading the pack
The card game genre is booming. SkyWeaver, a free Ethereum blockchain-based card game akin to Blizzard’s super-popular Hearthstone, is one of the favourites.
SkyWeaver players collect decks of unique cards and battle it with other players. In Hearthstone, users cannot freely exchange cards, nor can they sell or give their cards away. Contrastingly, blockchain allows players a host of options: buying, selling, giving away to friends or even destroying cards.
The project is handled by Horizon Blockchain Games, a development company that is also a platform for distributing blockchain games. On March 21, Horizon announced the start of SkyWeaver 0 season, which will run until the launch of the open beta version of SkyWeaver later this year. The game is in private beta right now and already available on mobile and PC. Chief storyteller of Horizon, Michael Sanders, explained to Cointelegraph how players can receive in-game tokens:
“We co-authored the ERC-1155 multi token standard. SkyWeaver cards are ERC-1155’s. We’ll also have a crypto-token called Weave (ERC-1155), which players can win by ranking highly on the SkyWeaver leaderboards. Weave can be used to craft rare Gold cards (ERC-1155’s) in SkyWeaver. And, there will be an ERC-20 stablecoin for players to use for buying and trading cards in the marketplace.”
Another interesting project to emerge soon is Emergents. In March 2020, co-founder of Tezos (XTZ) Kathleen Breitman announced the launch of a new game that can potentially be built on the basis of the Tezos blockchain. This game will use NFTs, over which players have full ownership. The company will also act as a buyer and seller for NFTs.
The game is be similar to Blizzard’s Hearthstone, but will use a variety of blockchain-based features. Although the development company behind the game, Coase, will sell and deal cards, players will be able to exchange cards without restrictions.
Coase will also give Emergents cards “memory,” which means that the activity of each card will be recorded on the blockchain. For example, data on Emergents cards that were used to win a tournament match will be recorded on the chain, thereby increasing their value.
The year 2020 will not be complete without a game close to the real world, especially if it’s possible to buy and sell “real” objects, like in Upland. This game is based on the EOS blockchain that offers trading of virtual real estate in real cities such as San Francisco.
The game will be available later in 2020 both on mobile and the web, but for now it can only be played on smartphones. So far, registration is limited to a beta of San Francisco. Other cities will gradually appear.
Upland is similar to Pokemon Go, but instead of Pokemon, players accumulate buildings and local attractions. On a map similar to Google’s, players can buy and trade digital real estate on the EOS platform. Players can hold entire collections of buildings, for example, by type or location, assign unique properties that their real prototypes do not possess, make a profit, and display the value in fiat currency, like in Monopoly.
The developers promise that after launch in 2020, they will add the ability to exchange in-game tokens for real fiat money. Dirk Lueth, the co-founder of Upland, told Cointelegraph:
“We have an in-game cryptocurrency called UPX. It is in-game for regulatory reasons and for reasons to have a stable exchange rate to the dollars. Our players however can use their crypto to purchase UPX. Soon we will be allowing players to sell their NFTs of our game for FIAT and Crypto on our marketplace to other players.”
The Six Dragons
The Six Dragons is an RPG developed by BlockPegnio Ltd. for PC. An early alpha version of the fantasy game is currently available and boasts a massive open world for players to freely explore, fight, farm, harvest and create more than 300 unique blockchain items.
Players can also pave their own path by creating unique classes of characters with unique combinations of abilities based on wizards, warriors and clerics.
Although the game is single-player, gamers can assemble a group of five companions and embark on quests. BlockPegnio also plans to release PvP battles, an esports mode with standard equipment, and a joint game for two to four players.
As with other blockchain games, item creation will drive the game’s internal economy. Six Dragons has its own token (TSDT), tied 1:1 to Enjin’s coin to facilitate free transactions for various gaming mechanisms such as crafting.
Neon District is a cyberpunk RPG adventure and the flagship of the blockchain game development studio, Blockade Games. The plot is simple, taking place in a city called Unity, in which there are neighborhoods of rich people and a quarter of outcasts in the “Neon District.”
The rebels are fighting against an oppressive government. Players level up their characters, collect NFT equipment, develop a strategy, fight it out in story missions and among themselves. As the level of characters and equipment increase, players can choose new abilities and properties. All equipment can be freely sold or exchanged on the Ethereum network.
In October 2019, the Neon District developers announced that the game will soon be available, but the release of Neon District was postponed for six months, taking the launch date to summer of 2020. Game studio Blockade Games cited “unforeseen circumstances” and individual misfortunes as the main causes of the delay.
For now, players are waiting for a full version of the game to use their earned items as well as team up with friends and complete joint missions. The game will be available on Windows, Mac and mobile devices.
In the last couple of years, the professional sports industry has shown great interest in cryptocurrency, with numerous teams participating. The collaboration of blockchain and sports organizations is mainly aimed at tokenization — a hobby that reaches back to the baseball-and-bubblegum summers of the 20th century.
For example, in F1 Delta Time, players can assemble virtual Formula One cars, pick their drivers and participate in races. Competitive racing will be a key element of F1 Delta Time.
When the racing game comes out this summer of 2020, players will first gain access to qualifications. This qualification consists of three laps, with the first lap being the starting one. The fastest lap will be used to match other players for the actual race.
Another project is NBA Top Shot. In December 2019, Dapper Labs and NBA announced the collectible game Blockchain NBA Top Shot, for which Dapper Labs managed to obtain a patent for digital collectible tokens for NBA in Brazil.
NBA fans can buy, sell and trade collectible digital units during the season. Digital collectible units could be used for network games or tournaments.
On the way to real money
Blockchain-based games are not just created for entertainment but they fulfill an important mission: To introduce blockchains to an interactive environment and attract people who are unfamiliar with the crypto world — an important step toward mass adoption of the technology.
Even though these games are at an early stage of development, in just over two years, the blockchain gaming industry went through impressive diversification. President of Blockchain Game Alliance, Sebastien Borget, believes that NFT games, whatever genres they are, will provide not only a unique gaming experience but will also help players to earn real money:
“The main benefits of NFTs being true digital ownership and permission less transfers, allowing users to trade and monetise their game assets was primarily captured by Digital Collectibles games. [...] Play-to-earn has been emerging as well and I do think it is the future of gaming, offering a great added value to gamers and enabling deeper engagement within blockchain-based games.”