Most gaming projects involving blockchain technology are indie and small, which could be taken to mean that the technology is not overly useful to the gaming industry, but that is wholly incorrect. Many of the developers currently working on blockchain games might be small, but they’re making some of the earliest moves in what will eventually revolutionize gaming.
Cryptocurrencies are ubiquitous in modern society. Three years ago, had I brought up the topic at a dinner party, the conversation would have died a swift death. However, mass adoption and the double-edged sword of celebrity adoption and endorsement (yes, looking at you Musk) has it so prevalent that even retired family friends have holdings, albeit mostly BTC. Now, when the conversation crops up, as it so often does, people are occasionally surprised that I don’t particularly care about cryptocurrencies as currencies, rather I care about blockchain technology. As soon as I saw the potential for blockchain in the gaming industry, it was difficult not to be excited for it, even though I knew deep down we were likely a decade or more away from it being commonplace.
I’ve discussed the value of blockchain in gaming before, bringing up my go-to example of NFT value: the weapons used in a major gaming tournament could then be sold as verified eSports memorabilia, for example. But that’s not what really excites me; that’s just an obvious consequence that game publishing behemoths will exploit to high-hell in the years to come. What excites me are persistent items, and moreover, characters.
This is some way off, I realize that, but I can’t see a way that with the road the games industry is on, they don’t arrive there. That is, characters and items in-game being NFTs and persistent through multiple games. One of the biggest draws of many MMORPGs, for instance, is the bond you develop with your character as you progress it. If that character could come with you into other games, suddenly that bond is something else entirely. Developing your favorite weapon in Call of Duty with attachments, skins, stickers, and dangling trinkets and then keeping it as you move from title to title is appealing indeed, but having your character like an online alias is one step further. And while this is a long way off of reality, the first steps are happening as we speak.
MyMetaverse is an indie developer with multiple games in the works, but the Metaverse is going to be a persistent world across all of them. That is, the items, economies, and even quests, are being designed to apply to all of their games. They currently have one game released — Meta City: Minecraft — which utilizes Enjin (the trailer for this is worth a look too). They claim this to be the Minecraft server with the best implementation of NFTs, which I cannot verify, but it isn’t persistent items or even economies that caught my attention, it’s their newest feature: MetaCitizen
MetaCitizen, as far as I am aware, is the first cross-game NFT character creator of its kind. You are able to create your character, profile page, and even level the NFT character up, and then play it in any of the three MyMetaverse games when they are all open. Your character is a permanent NFT (ERC-1155 – Enjin) that can be seen and whose backstory can be read on any blockchain explorer.
With this sort of character creation, your character exists in a way it never has before, no matter how many hundreds of hours you dumped into it. Previously, all that tied your online identity together was your username, if that. Now your character could truly exist and be verifiably yours.
This might seem like a small step for blockchain gaming, given it’s an indie developer team for some small games with a currently low player-base, but I assure you it’s more significant than that. A decade from now (hopefully sooner, but it’s unchartered waters) you will see this sort of persistent character creation in multiple gaming worlds and genres. For example, in EA Sports games like FIFA or NBA you can usually create a character with your own likeness for career modes. It isn’t difficult to imagine that your character could then be used in any of their games and be persistent as an NFT. With the dynamism of NFTs only just having its surface scratched, this needn’t be a token (pun intended) feature, but another powerful draw to keep gamers in developers’ ecosystems with character progression. That’s without cross-IP (intellectual property) possibilities.
The future of blockchain gaming is bright, but still distant. These early steps in the right direction will eventually become the foundations of a tectonic shift in the gaming industry, and as is so often the case with games, it begins with those pioneering indie developers saying “wouldn’t it be cool if…”