Distributed ledgers, in the form of blockchain technology, are jostling their way into financial markets, healthcare systems and the global supply chain, but perhaps the most significant disruption has yet to come. In recent months, nonfungible tokens (NFTs) have taken the spotlight as a stamp of legitimacy for digital goods, ranging from art to worn-out internet fads. However, the gaming industry is uniquely suited for the integration of NFTs, something already recognized by several notable entities in the gaming industry, particularly Sony, Ubisoft, GameStop and even Sega.
If you find this hard to conceive, the analogy of the livable arcade depicted in Ready Player One presents a functional way of elucidating what shape a blockchain-based gaming industry could take. The film, based on the Ernest Cline novel of the same name and directed by Steven Spielberg, tells the story of a teenager on a quest to find the keys to a hidden fortune within the virtual world of the OASIS — the Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation. Interestingly, the connection to blockchain technology was made even prior to the film’s release.
Without it being majorly obvious at first glance, blockchain technology, beyond NFTs, could certainly provide the operational base layer for the vast majority of the weird and wonderful concepts portrayed in the film. From the Pizza Hut delivery drones (see this academic report) to facial recognition technology, you’ll find that these types of technologies are no longer reserved for the big screen — they’re already making their way into the real world.
Let’s start with the basics
Having to pay only $0.25 to boot up the game, everyone enters the OASIS at the same level. Pretty much everything else incurs additional in-game fees — a relatively common concept in gaming. In this way, currency in the OASIS is used as fuel for the network, much like the SAND token in The Sandbox, which exists on the Ethereum blockchain. Similar to the OASIS, albeit on a much more rudimentary level, this allows players to purchase in-game services, trade and vote on decisions that affect the gaming network.
Beyond this, players use familiar gaming tools to navigate through the realm of the OASIS, such as a heads-up display (HUD) and a user interface (UI) inventory. Of course, these concepts exist in blockchain-based games too, in titles such as Neon District (a role playing game) and Dissolution (a first-person shooter). Unlike traditional gaming networks, these games have been developed with blockchain technology, which allows players to truly own their acquired assets. Further development will see future gamers offloading excess in-game items to reclaim real-world value.
Traditional gaming, as it stands today, is not conducive to how the OASIS operates. Value is largely siloed to the respective game as it exists on the particular platform. In this way, an individual playing Call of Duty would not be able to exchange value with another playing FIFA or Fortnite. More significantly, interoperability doesn’t exist between the gaming networks of the likes of Microsoft and Sony, further isolating the enormous potential exchange of value between these worlds.
On the contrary, blockchain-enabled gaming grants players the ability to bring their assets to decentralized exchanges and conduct value swaps much like those seen on automated market makers like SushiSwap and Uniswap. These platforms operate a little differently from centralized crypto exchanges such as Binance or Coinbase in that there is no central authority approving the transactions. Instead, the authority of funds and trades is distributed among users, thus removing any single point of failure.
While there certainly are a few extra steps when compared with the seamless transactional flow…