The blockchain – a disruptive technology through which information in a network is linked to all the other data in the same network - promises exponential increases in digital security, an outlet to more efficient data management, and also happens to be a potential game-changer for the gaming industry. The flexibility and universally integrable aspects of the blockchain – stemming from its nature of being a self-managing, decentralized network (therefore having no central ‘owner’ that controls the system itself) - provides it with the ability to efficiently address many of the issues that exist around the alternate universe of gaming.
One example of this is with regards to compensating developers; acceptable methods of payment which aren’t run on blockchain technology (or some other universally integrable payment system) may vary depending on one’s location, and this often leaves certain regions out of a gaming market altogether. Online platforms like Steam have tried to make games accessible to more people, particularly those with Windows computers, and have actually introduced Bitcoin – a digital currency whose value is entirely managed on a blockchain - as a way to pay. Still though - Steam itself takes a significant cut from developers (somewhere around 30%), and while many would argue this is still a pretty good deal: there might be a viable alternative.
One such alternative could be a decentralized gaming content platform that runs independently of any company and is instead maintained by a blockchain. Gamers could use this service by purchasing whatever digital currency, or cryptocurrency, would be part of the blockchain at its founding, and additional cryptocurrencies could later be added onto the network if a majority of players agreed upon it. This is at least one way a system like this could be set up; the rules for how the system would operate could also be built into the blockchain itself and later be updated periodically through voting. For now though – a firm named GameCredits is beginning to lay the foundation for this vision, and is in the midst of utilizing blockchain technology through their platform, which utilizes a cryptocurrency token called GAME. While the company still maintains a centralized authority – deciding the rules through which the blockchain operates, and collecting payments on the network - the blockchain ensures that payments are made swiftly and securely (there’s currently around a 10% charge to developers) and also ensures a greater level of security to individual accounts than may otherwise be implementable. GameCredits plans to host over 1000 titles by mid 2017.
Beyond this, the concept of the blockchain can effectively address the issues surrounding in-game trading of assets and potential theft. It could do this by storing each in-game asset as a unique code - or hash - in the system, which would have to go through a formal mutually agreed upon process to be able to be transferred from one player to another. Every item in the blockchain would therefore be easily traceable due to its unique hash and so the item could be readily recovered even if theft were to occur (hashes are generated from the connection that the item they’re referring has to the rest of the network, and a hacker would have to gain control of 100% of the nodes in the network to clear the verification process for modifying which hashes belong to which account).
Another company that’s planning to explore the world of cryptocurrency is Gamytech – which provides a platform through which players can bet against one another on 6 popular titles, including their biggest hit ‘Backgammon For Money’. They’re planning to release the token ‘Betcoin’ during their network expansion this upcoming August, with the vision of providing greater efficiency and transparency during payouts. They are one of the risk-takers who are helping to bring the age of decentralized autonomous management to the gaming community.
The blockchain brings a lot of potential to the gaming industry – and some of the potential advantages are still unknown due to the novelty of the technology itself. As cryptocurrency becomes more popular and both new currencies and systems through which these currencies are used are popping up every day: the crypto-world continues to slowly expand its influence into the public realm. As a gamer for over half my life I’m very excited by the future of gaming – with or without the utilization of blockchain technology. I believe that it would, however, be the icing on the cake.