How blockchain could end bad monetization in gaming
Mainstream gaming is relatively new; crypto is even newer. Here’s a long-standing issue that blockchain might help solve
In the grand scheme of things, videogames as we know them have existed for a little over 30 years. To give you some perspective, the first movies were projected in the 1890s, and recorded music dates back to the 1870s. Now, these decades-old industries still have their issues, so it’s no wonder that mainstream videogames still have some kinks to work out – big ones.
Enter crypto gaming, an unprecedented phenomenon whose creators hail as the kink-worker-outer for mainstream gaming. In just under a year, hundreds upon hundreds of crypto games have popped up (though only a tiny amount have launched). (And only a tiny amount are fun).
So, what are these kinks exactly? Janky bugs aside, there’s one big malpractice that affects mainstream gamers across the board: the monetization of in-game assets. How and to what extent is blockchain a promising solution? Blockchain as a technology could decentralize in-game asset monetization in such a way that gamers are also beneficiaries.
Monetization? In my videogame? It’s more likely than you think
The videogame industry is all about one thing: money. Hell, every single industry in the world has to be about money. That’s why they’re an industry. In the 80’s and 90’s, you couldn’t watch your Saturday morning cartoons without being plastered with tubular videogame commercials featuring radical 8 and 16-bit action and exploding TV sets. We all begged our parents for those amazing videogames, which more often than not ended up being over-hyped pieces of junk that we were quick to cast aside as soon as the newest videogame started advertising. Ah, the wonders of being a child!
No, mom, you don’t understand. I need this game. It’s the last one I’ll ever need. I’m totes serious.
Nowadays we don’t see as many TV commercials as we once did, but exclusive pre-order bonuses, microtransactions and loot boxes are par for the course and have one common denominator: poor and unjust monetization.
In case you are out of the loop, Gameunculus will fill you in. Back when this began, pre-order bonuses were things like a mug, a t-shirt, or just some trinket that you could take to school so you could boast ‘bout bein’ Day One gang, y’all. Now? It’s not even collectibles. Call of Duty? You get some maps. Spider-man? You get an avatar. Sonic: The Lost World? You get 25 lives. Twenty. Five. Lives. Mind you, this is a videogame with a very lenient concept of lives. They don’t matter that much. Yet they're offered as paid content. Yikes. What’s worse, more often than not this is done by already-established videogame franchises that suddenly join in on the “fun” and start offering, in exchange for real-world money, the same stuff that they have been offering for years for free, or content that is just locked behind a paywall.
HOW AM I A RISK TAKER IF I’M BUYING A SAFETY NET, SONIC
Time for a pop quiz. What’s one of the main principles behind blockchain gaming? Repeat with Gameunculus: To ensure that the player, not the videogame company, has actual ownership over the in-game assets. And – what’s that now? “The problem that many gamers have with paid content in videogames is that the ownership of in-game assets is solely controlled by the developers and not the players themselves”? Well, aren’t you a star student! Sure, that mug you got for pre-ordering a game back in the day was not exactly cool, and that black t-shirt didn’t really help you in the dating pool, but at least those items were yours.
A speedrun through some bad monetization cases
Let’s look deeper into how monetization in AAA videogames is currently working. FIFA was a big player in the lootbox revolution with its Ultimate Team game mode. In it, you pay (with real money or in-game currency) for card packs, containing player cards and other items, which could in turn be sold to other players for more in-game currency. That’s a super cool concept, and it became massively popular in 2012-2013, because it was possible to get your hands on your favorite soccer players even for free if you grinded. But then a year goes by, and a brand-new FIFA game is released, and it’s back to square one. In other words, all of your money (and time, for crying out loud!) invested into Ultimate Team at the end of the year is pretty meaningless. Remember that sweet 99 Overall Team of The Year Super Exclusive Eat-Your-Heart-Out Cristiano Ronaldo card that you got in FIFA 15? Yeah, here are some bronze players from a wide assortment of Asian countries as a token of your hard work.
What, you thought that card didn’t exist?
Blockchain games can bring a solution to that practice. In FIFA games, the only way to spend real money to buy packs is by buying FIFA points, only sold by EA. Technically, you can also buy in-game currency from third parties, but that’s a big no-no for EA, and they’ll ban you for it. If all of these FIFA Ultimate Team cards were on the blockchain, however, then you would actually own the card. If you buy a pack or work your way to an extra rare card, you could actually sell it and get some profit from it, making FIFA Ultimate Team a much more rewarding and engaging experience. Sure, it looks improbable today and it seems that EA is heavily against decentralizing their in-game currency, but the applicability of the blockchain on AAA games is there, and the rapid growth of this industry proves that anything can happen.
Let’s talk about Star Wars. YAY! Star Wars Battlefront II. Oh. Nay. Gameunculus knows that that wound is still open, but we don’t want to start riots, so please put that pitchfork and torch away. For those who don’t know, Star Wars Battlefront II is a breathtakingly beautiful game that aimed to be the definitive Star Wars gaming experience. What we got instead, though, was a game infested with microtransactions. Here, you can unlock your favorite characters from Star Wars, either paying for them or grinding for 40 hours so you can afford them with in-game currency. Sure, they somewhat fixed this, but the damage was already done, and it reportedly costed EA $3 billion in stock value. Now, Gameunculus doesn’t want to give the idea that microtransactions in videogames always equal mayhem and evil intent. That’s not the case, but these examples are just low blows from the developers to the playerbase for a quick cash grab. It all feels like when you played videogames on the shopping mall. You could have fun, but you knew that at the end of the day, nothing was truly yours.
All you had to do was follow the damn fair monetization train, CJ!!
Let’s leave all that negativity aside for a minute. Let’s talk about good things and take a look at Twitch’s most viewed games. You’ll see that all of the videogames mentioned thus far are almost nowhere to be found, even though they are all well-established AAA franchises. Instead, at the top of the list you have games like Fortnite and League of Legends, two games that have broken into the mainstream in recent years. One could argue that these videogames offer unique experiences, but they are beloved representatives of two very popular genres (Battle Royale and MOBA) that have a lot of competition, yet they remain atop of the rankings. However, they share one specific aspect: both of them offer paid content, but in both cases they are only for aesthetic purposes. No advantages, no extra modes, no new maps, nothing like that. Instead, they give you the chance to whoop ass dressed as a giant pumpkin, a samurai, a werewolf, and what have you.
Imagine killing all of your opponents while dressed as a Nutcracker soldier. Absolutely barbaric.
It almost seems like the players don’t want to be stepped on and scammed by forcing them to pay for content that was once free, and that they are much more willing to spend money on something that’s for aesthetic purposes only or that’s competitively fair. Wild, isn’t it? However, there’s still a long way to go, as uncalled-for lootbox systems and paid content that’s just not worth it still plague the industry.
It’s dangerous to go alone, take the blockchain
Enough about mainstream videogames already! This is Gameunculus, for Pete’s sake! So… how could blockchain end bad monetization schemes in gaming? A few ways. Remember the case of FIFA Ultimate Team, a platform that seems to be begging for long-term engagement from the player base (how many times are you willing to build an amazing team just to go back to the beginning?). Imagine if, through your money or time investment, you could pull a sought-after card which you actually own. You’d then put it on the market place (on the blockchain), sell it, and make an actual profit from it. That would surely motivate you to keep playing and getting equally good or better cards. The system and the market movement is already there: you have tons of people buying and selling those cards, with the only detail being that the only true beneficiary is FIFA and EA itself. This could apply to many other games, where an experience becomes more rewarding and engaging because its assets belong to you.
It’s not like you have to look that far, either. In this ever-evolving world of crypto gaming, there are already some refreshing and interesting alternatives that could change AAA videogames further down the line, especially in the world of competitive gaming. One such example is Hyperloot, a system that tokenizes in-game assets for healthy game monetization, specially designed for eSports. They even have a demo where they show it off with Quake III, it’s pretty cool. One of the main features of Hyperloot is that it is a system that could be integrated for tokenization of in-game assets of previously-existing videogames. A system such as this could also be integrated for single player videogames for an enhanced and more engaging experience, or it could also be integrated into multiplayer games, tokenizing both aesthetic or fair competitive assets. Regardless, this could potentially mean that you could finally be the literal owner of the in-game assets of your childhood’s favorite games. Needless to say, this is not an endorsement, but rather an example of how blockchain is already dipping its toes into mainstream gaming.
Of course, projects such as Hyperloot are just an example of how blockchain gaming as a concept can change or contribute to mainstream gaming. It goes to show that, rather than a buzzword or a fad, blockchain could be a tool to monetize content in a way that feels both fair and decentralized.
Sure, Gameunculus doesn’t think that FIFA would be too keen on decentralizing their content – after all, being the sole owners of their assets enables them to do just about whatever they want with it (like wiping’s everybody’s progress every year). This makes blockchain that much more important! A correct implementation would be a giant step towards making game developers accountable for their actions. If the player base starts claiming (rightful) ownership over assets, they will start to see and taking action upon scammy or unfair monetizing practices in the mainstream videogame industry. Power to the players!