In 2018, when I connected blockchain and gaming as the delectable pairing of my dreams, I had several examples I leaned on to justify my anticipation to friends. One was the creation of a sort of eSports memorabilia market with NFTs and their history. Given the volume of sales for skins — which you do not own —it seems more than intuitive to me — it seems inevitable. The second example still called upon NFT future use-cases, but in a way that causes me to scratch my head for every day I don’t see it announced: pack openings.
If you have ever wandered by that little indie website, YouTube, you’ll have at some point seen pack openings for a multitude of games. That is, people opening digital packs — like you did physical packs as a child — with in-game items inside. It’s yet another of those situations in which I wonder how I could have possibly explained its popularity today to people twenty years ago. Nevertheless, popular it is, and games like FIFA are near the top of the charts. On a near-weekly basis, I see a clip of someone opening a blue-colored card in the midst of a visual fanfare, see a Portugal flag, and then lose their mind as Cristiano wanders front and center. The delight at getting these rare cards is no less than sliding out that shiny Charizard was a couple of decades ago, but there’s a key difference that has been ignored: we owned that Charizard.
It may often feel like you own these rare items in games — I have felt it myself — but you don’t. You may even be able to sell them for real money on occasion, but that’s usually difficult, risky, and against the game’s terms and conditions, leaving you vulnerable to being banned, and the cold hard truth raining down of how little you own anything digital. Well, I can’t imagine a more perfect match than these packs, like FIFA’s in Ultimate Team, as NFTs. Not only would the players spending their hard-earned cash own the rare items that beam onto their screen with fireworks, but they could sell and trade them with impunity. In fact, it’s in the interest of the game developers that they do, acting as another (potentially gargantuan) revenue stream as they slice off a percentage of every sale fee.
So, I think my bewilderment is justified. Why haven’t the developers of these games that use packs, and enjoy the exposure pack openings afford them, at least made moves towards blockchain technology? Well, they do seem slow on the uptake, but there may be hope yet. Recently, a job listing was posted on LinkedIn for a “Senior Director, Strategic Growth Brand Management: Subscriptions, PC & Cloud” — a nice, snappy job title. I wouldn’t normally care much for this position, but a friend sent me a link to it and I wondered why. The description of the job flirts with the idea of crypto early on, saying, “The world of entertainment is changing. From ownership to access, from linear to streaming, from physical to digital.” But, that’s vague enough that I would have shrugged it off had it not have been for the following:
Thankfully, it appears that one long-term strategic bet of Electronic Arts involves crypto, but in what way, we’ll have to wait and see. For now, we look to the indie developers to pave the way for the tentative giants, and I hope they carve themselves a significant piece of the future blockchain gaming pie in the process. As, for now, it’s blockchain gaming, but it won’t be long before it’s simply, “gaming”.