The new frontier of blockchain gaming | VentureBeat
Presented by Lucid Sight
Over the past few years, blockchain has been a hot topic in technology with more mainstream brands actively taking an interest. Last year the Los Angeles Dodgers launched the first-ever Crypto Bobblehead Night at Dodger Stadium and now CBS is partnering with Lucid Sight to auction the first six iconic Star Trek starships as digital collectibles during a limited-time event. But beyond being collectibles, these ships will also be fully playable in CSC, a sandbox space MMO available on Steam in early access. But the question remains — why does blockchain matter and what does it bring to gaming?
Throughout the evolution of gaming, while the technology has changed over time, some elements have remained constant — profit and ownership have been controlled by developers and publishers. For all of the player’s invested gameplay hours, once the experience is over they own nothing. But imagine if you as a player were able to have complete and perpetual ownership of the in-game items you purchase along with the ability to sell these items at whatever price you set in an open and completely independent market? This is the next evolution in gaming — the Play To Own economy all facilitated by the technology of blockchain.
What is a blockchain?
Simply put, blockchain is hosted on a distributed network of global computers that make decisions and store data in “blocks” based on the consensus of a cryptographic principle. This principle is considered the “chain” that binds the blocks together. Each block contains a timestamp and a link to the previous block forming a chain — hence the term blockchain. What’s unique is that the database is not managed by a single body but instead everyone in the network gets a copy of and has access to the whole database. Each block created perpetually exists and new blocks are added to the ledger making the manipulation of documents and other information impossible. Blockchain technology today is primarily used as the foundation of the world’s most popular cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin & Ethereum. While Cryptocurrencies have been the initial use case, the advent of the “smart-contract” (i.e. simple programs that can be run on a blockchain) has opened the doors for this technology to impact everything from ticketing, inventory control, collectibles, and even games.
Smart contracts and digital ownership
Smart contracts are bits of instructions/code published on a blockchain that can process transactions through a set of instructions. With this system, a person can create trustless and immutable rules. These rules can be created in a way that either prevents changes or allows for limited changes by only select individuals.
Smart contracts today are commonly used to create what is referred to as a token. A token can be considered fungible. Examples of fungible tokens would be a currency, coins, or health potions in a video or items where each unit does not need to be individually identified because each unit has the same value. Conversely, a non-fungible is an item where each unit benefits from individual identification, such as a property deed, a movie ticket with an assigned seat, or a spaceship in a video game. On the Ethereum Blockchain, the two most commonly used standards for fungible and non-fungible token are ERC-20 and ERC-721 respectively. So an ERC-20 token is to a generic Delorean automobile what ERC-721 token is to the Original Back To The Future modified Delorean. A token can easily be accessed by any application / smart contract on the Ethereum blockchain that supports these standards.
ERC-721 and true digital items
The support of smart contracts on the Ethereum blockchain has paved the way for a whole new class of product: digital items/collectibles that can provide a true provable independent scarcity and ownership.
Here are a few examples of Ethereum blockchain games that make use of ERC-721 digital items along with some interesting facts.
Digital Cats — CryptoKittes, was the first widely publicized digital collectible game featuring breedable digital kitties similar to the popular Tamagotchi keyrings from the ’90s. One of their Kitties was purchased for 600 Eth ($171,000) at the time of the sale in late 2018.
Sports Collectible Games — MLB & Lucid Sight launched a blockchain-based Digital Collecting game called MLB Champions. MLB Teams have sold for as much as 68 Eth ($19,700). Animoca Brands is launching the official licensed F1 racing game, F1® Delta Time, later this year and has already sold a virtual F1 car for an astounding 415 Eth ($106,000).
MMO — CSC is a space sandbox MMO that had a record sale in 2018 of the Proxima Trading Outpost for 83 Eth ($54,000).
Blockchain and the future
Blockchain technology is still relatively new and unique use cases are being discovered daily for the technology. The concept of players participating in the economy of the games they play isn’t new but the technology to help legally facilitate this is still in its infancy.
Blockchain today is like the internet in the early 90s when it was known as the World Wide Web. Audiences are still trying to figure it out and access to it is limited by both lack of knowledge and ease of use but that’s a temporary problem that new third-party solutions are currently solving. One such solution is Lucid Sight’s SaaS called Scarcity Engine, which allows developers to interact with blockchain seamlessly without even the need to initially even own cryptocurrency.
Currently employed in MLB Champions, Scarcity Engine allows new users to purchase their MLB figures and play them in real-time with live MLB games using a credit card rather than cryptocurrency. Then the user has the option to convert their figures to minted blockchain assets they own to keep or sell for whatever price they set at a later date.
With Facebook’s Libra on the horizon and Chase bank launching its JPM Coin, it’s clear that this technology is on the rise. Blockchain gaming presents a great new opportunity for both game developers and players to create an entirely new symbiotic relationship with a democratic economy that benefits both players and developers.
Fazri Zubair is CTO of Lucid Sight.
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