The Rise of Blockchain Games


CryptoKitties Team

Image from CryptoKitties Blog

Nathaniel (Fox) Prewitt

In 2020 the gaming industry in the United States was at an all-time high of 66.88 billion U.S. dollars. With this growth in the market, a new style of gaming has grown among the players. Blockchain games are starting to flood the market with games based on this new system style. Blockchain was not specifically designed for games though, it originated with cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and Ethereum. The rise of blockchain games has led to controversy due to the ideas of NFTs, global warming, and a new way for gamers to make a living. 


What is NFT?


Before I can talk about blockchain games, I need to explain what NFT or Non-fungible token is and how it’s the main fundamental of blockchain games. NFT has grown drastically in the past few years among artists and collectors. Non-fungible means that it is unique and can not be replaced, for example, the Mona Lisa is a non-fungible artwork. You can make copies of the Mona Lisa but the original one holds all the value. NFTs can be anything, from artwork to music, or anything unique. Artists can sell the rights of these digital files to anyone, but that does not mean that you can’t just right-click it and download it yourself without having to pay anything. NFT is mostly for collectors who see potential in owning the rights to the original artwork or people wanting to support an artist. 


What does this have to do with Games?


Game developers are beginning to give the player rights to their in-game items and letting them sell them as an NFT. For example, you get a super rare drop weapon from a boss, as an NFT you own the assets of that weapon meaning you can sell the rights of that weapon to someone else for cryptocurrency. Blockchain games create a whole new virtual economy where people can sell and buy assets in games. With gamers being able to own the rights to parts of the game, the game is no longer controlled by a company but can be controlled by the community and gamers have the right to change the dynamic of the game. Selling your assets properly can make you thousands of dollars. For example, CryptoKitties a blockchain game, the most expensive Cryptokitten was sold for $172,000. This gives gamers more options rather than esports or streaming to make money by playing games. 


Is this a good thing or bad?


Making thousands of dollars for gaming sounds too good to be true, right? Yes, fundamentally, it sounds like a great idea and has worked in the past. But there are many problems with this new technology, new scam strategies, and global warming for starters. Some individuals have already taken advantage of this new virtual economy. A Blockchain game inspired by the new Netflix show Squid Game turned out to be a scam that netted the creator over 2 million dollars worth of cryptocurrency. Other games also have just disappeared along with all the money people have spent on them. Next is the huge carbon footprint that’s caused by NFT transactions. CBS News states, “Memo Akten, a digital artist, analyzed about 18,000 NFTs, finding that the average NFT has a carbon footprint equivalent to more than a month of electricity usage for the average person living in the European Union. The large footprint is partially due to the many transactions involved with NFTs, including minting, bidding, canceling, sales, and transfer of ownership.” With such a large carbon footprint, the new digital art market is destroying our planet. But with these problems, two of the largest gaming companies want to embrace this new gaming industry. Electronic Arts and Ubisoft have both come out that they plan to work with this new idea of a blockchain with their new games while other companies like Valve have rejected it and removed all these games off steam. 


What to expect in the future


As of now, I believe that it is too early to decide anything about blockchain gaming. It is a new way for artists and gamers to make some money but, it also has been exploited by scammers and companies. We will have to wait to see how these massive gaming companies form the new market in their interest. Even among the controversy, expect a large portion of the gaming market to shift into this different style of games.