Vitalik Buterin and Soulbound NFTs: A Potential Solution to Some Blockchain Gaming Problems

Is there a place for "soulbound" NFTs? How could it best be utilized?

With equal parts nostalgia and shame, I can say I played World of Warcraft for around 15 years, and on and off from the week of release until last year. It was a singular game, genre-defining, and while it has lost its way in recent years (which is being generous), it’s a staple of gaming history.

It is also, indirectly, a staple of crypto history, because Vitalik Buterin, creator of Ethereum, did so after a spell was changed for his warlock in WoW. Looking back, it was something of a butterfly effect for modern technological events, and in a recent blog post, Buterin revisits WoW to ponder another game feature.

NFTs That Cannot Be Traded: The Soulbound Solution

The first time I’ve used my own screenshot from World of Warcraft in an article: achievement unlocked.

NFTs being able to be traded — and thus bought and sold — have that dynamic at their backbone. Without that functionality, the NFT boom would not have existed, it’s pretty safe to say. However, when it comes to blockchain gaming, there are some issues with this.

Currently, there is a struggle in blockchain gaming where all the desired features utilizing blockchain cannot comfortably combine, at least if a great, competitive game is your desire. Play to Earn (P2E) is one mechanic, but if that is achieved through NFTs as opposed to just tokens, the enemy of gaming crops up with a vengeance: pay to win.

With WAX, you can make it so NFTs are not tradable, like Buterin is suggesting with “soulbound” NFTs. In WoW, particularly powerful items are “Bind on Pickup” which means as soon as you receive it, it’s bound to you and you cannot trade or sell it. This prohibits pay to win to an extent, but also hamstrings the economy and desirability of the NFTs.

Buterin’s chief point in his blog post is that web3 is too money-oriented currently, and it’s difficult to disagree, though far from unexpected. The internet saw a similar trajectory with an abundance of investment from titans of industry and the average person alike.

This is a deep topic that will require unpacking in a more substantial piece coming soon, but it’s well worth reading Buterin’s post and thinking through the problem in the meantime.

What do you think? Is there a place for “soulbound” NFTs? How could it best be utilized?

Lead image a composite including a photograph by John Phillips, used under Creative Commons via Wikimedia Commons

Robert Baggs
Robert Baggs
Full-time professional crypto writer and Editor of Token Gamer. Co-host of the Mint One Podcast. Obsessed with MMOs. London based. Primary holdings: WAXP, ENJ, & BTC. Secondary holdings: ETH, GALA, & MATIC

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