Can Blockchain Improve the Gaming Industry?

Many of those my age will remember Magic: The Gathering. Part of the joy of physical card collecting was unwrapping a card that you had no idea how many other people had access to in the world. It’s possible that those cards might not ever be manufactured after a limited run, and therefore your card might be really rare and as a result, powerful in the context of a game and coveted in the context of your friends.

Today, game designers are forced to tweak their games at every turn to optimize for the entire game’s ecosystem (and grow revenue!). Regular patches to Dota2FortniteOverwatch and more games are often met with the community’s delight or disgust as players lament their favorite character’s new “nerfed” state.

These updates serve a few key purposes:

  • They keep the community engaged in the game by providing fresh mechanics and reasons to continue playing.
  • They tweak the balance of the game for the benefit of the entire player base.
  • They allow the game designers to run short-lived experiments that inform larger game design and behavioral choices.

However, with these updates, one thing is clear: the direction of these games is entirely controlled by the companies designing them (with only input from the users). Gone are the days of owning the Magic: The Gathering card for life - in today’s digital world you can unwrap that card and effectively it can become useless at the behest of the game designer.

This is where blockchains have the potential to introduce a new power dynamic between the game designers and the gamers themselves. They could be used to give true ownership of digital in-game assets to players. This is a concept the teams at World of Ether and Gods Unchained are experimenting with. Blockchains could also be used to build novel forms of governance for in-game economies where gamers can participate more actively in the ways the game evolves.

So, why do we believe gaming economies are prime for experimentation and blockchains? For starters, gaming economies are already vibrant online ecosystems. As a result, it’s more likely they can withstand the level of experimentation that is going on in the blockchain world today. In game economies (compared to economies involving real-world assets like stocks, real estate, and more), the stakes are relatively low. As these new economic ecosystems emerge, developers, gamers, and investors all need to be open to experimentation. Game economies are both nascent and prevalent enough that they can provide a fertile ground for this experimentation.

We are very interested in the extent that blockchains can enable new behaviors within gaming ecosystems or help bring “offline” behaviors in gaming “online.” If you’re building something around blockchains in gaming, reach out!

By Venture Partner Chris Kurdziel
@ChrisKurdziel