Since its conception, blockchain has mainly been used as a platform to facilitate cryptocurrency transactions. Only recently have we started seeing alternative uses of blockchain-based technology. Blockchain’s inherent features like distributed data, cryptographic security, immutability, and infinitely expanding capacity make it a natural fit for the ever-evolving video game landscape.
While blockchain is not without its drawbacks, let’s take a look at some of the pros of building a game around blockchain-based technology. You can’t cheat with blockchain, third parties cryptographically vet all in game audits regardless of the game’s rules. As I mentioned in my previous post, the blockchain doesn’t have a single point-of-failure and therefore is not subject to distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks. Because blockchain is peer-to-peer, developers do not need to worry about expensive bandwidth or server costs. Online games will have infinite longevity because they won’t be reliant on the developers to maintain a dedicated server.
Studios can offset development costs by selling an in-game currency, building a decentralized currency directly into the game that can also be traded outside of the game. With no central authority, like in a peer-to-peer networked game, there would be no argument over who shot first. There wouldn’t be a “host” benefiting from lower latency. In a peer-to-peer match, the game ends if the host disconnects. This wouldn’t be a problem on the blockchain because there is no host.
The biggest problem with gaming on the blockchain is speed. Blockchain is just too slow. In a real-time multiplayer game, a simple action can trigger a cascade of state changes. This would take a huge toll on the framerate as every single state change is verified on the blockchain. Of course, every blockchain-based multiplayer game would also need to have its own currency to incentivize the cryptography required to facilitate state changes.
We have already seen a few examples of blockchain based games like Cryptokitties, a virtual cat collecting and breeding game. Etheremon is a similar game, very obviously inspired by Pokémon. While these games are relatively simple, Lordmancer II is a blockchain-based, massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) currently in beta for mobile. Blockchain could also work well in turn-based strategy games, where latency and frame-rate are not a factor. In asynchronous multiplayer games like Words with Friends, hours or even days can pass between turns.
One of the major issues with cryptocurrency is that there just aren’t a lot of uses for it. Cryptocurrency is a natural fit for games with microtransactions, because it gives players the option to trade their hard-earned in-game currency outside of the game.
While there are a handful of unique benefits to blockchain-based multiplayer, they are very specific and are only relevant in certain types of games. The fact that blockchain is essentially unusable in real-time games is a pretty significant drawback. That being said, games designed with blockchain in mind can have really interesting and unique hooks. With blockchain still in its relative infancy there is a lot of room for expansion in the video game industry.