2020 marks the 11th year since the birth of Bitcoin.
Blockchain technology, stemmed from Bitcoin, is expanding its use cases outside its typical ones like investment and transferring funds.
Out of those practices, ‘Blockchain Game’ is on a spotlight in Japan since it can bring a new user experience — contents like game items or characters can be assetized on the users’ side.
Blockchain games — also called dApp (Decentralized Applications) games — has different features compared to the regular, existing games. Blockchain games has a relatively short history of 5 years, emerged along with Ethereum in 2015. It’s still on its early stage, but has a bright prospectiveness.
In this article, I’ll go over two chunks including 1) features and current issues of blockchain games with the best practices in Japan and other countries; and 2) LINE Blockchain and LINK (LN)’s missions in blockchain games.
Blockchain Game Features
What’s most special about blockchain games is the assetization of game items and characters on the users side. It’s called the ‘tokenization’ of game contents (game characters and items) or in the blockchain world it’s simply called NFTs (non-fungible tokens). Once the user-acquired contents are tokenized, they can be traded, handed over, lended, and the ownerships can be tracked as well.
Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) have their own values and traits, making them irreplaceable and allow them to prove that the items are original. Most characters or items on the blockchain games now are issued as NFTs.
Game assets of today’s games were always on the game provider’s control, and couldn’t be counted as users’ assets. It’s because game items can only exist in the form of data, so it was nearly impossible to prove the originality of each game item. However, on the blockchain game world now, game items are on the hands of the game users, not the game providers — so the time and efforts spent on the game can be accumulated as user assets. Not to mention, those accumulated items can also get proofs as user items as well.
Since users can trade or hand over their possessions of game assets, it’s also possible to use those game assets in different games. Item sharing between different games isn’t actually a completely new idea, however, blockchain games can make the sharing experience to go a further extent.
And as the engagement between games became easier to build, many different forms of collaborations can be pursued as well. Thus, some of the interesting use cases might emerge and disperse in market. For example, transferring items from one game to another when playing a title of a series can become much easier in near future.
Blockchain Development Features
Just because the game is operated on the blockchain basis, it doesn’t mean that all the game data will be handled on blockchain. The type of data processed on the blockchain are usually for contents management or payments. This has to do with the speed of the blockchain transactions being relatively slower than that of the server, and if every sort of data is dealt just on the blockchain, it can dramatically decrease overall gaming quality and experience. This is why it’s not unusual to separate and process data on the server and the blockchain, so it can be done based on the techniques applied in the regular game development.
But at this point, we shouldn’t forget the most important goal of the game development. Providing a new user experience weighs much more value and importance than the blockchain being a new type of technology, and therefore the ultimate user needs is to enjoy the game as a game.
Applying blockchain into games doesn’t always lead to a better game values. The key is to make gaming experience enjoyable by applying structures — like tokenization — at the right places. A thorough understandings in blockchain technology is important. Yet, there needs to be something beyond the understandings alone — the insights on applying blockchain technology to fulfill its best worth.
The Overview of Blockchain Game
Blockchain games started from a very simple game called ‘Cryptokitties (a game where users can collect and breed cats)’ and its gaming experience is improving every year. Blockchain can especially go well with games like MMORPG, where users can collect items and characters.
Blockchain-based card games are also getting popular these days. Applying blockchain to social games might become a ground rule in the future. And in a long run, blockchain integration with VR games can be done as well.
Out of many platforms in the blockchain world, the most commonly used platforms in blockchain games are Ethereum and EOS — public blockchain platforms that can be operated with a designated operating entity, allowing anyone to freely participate in the platform.
What’s nice about the public chain is that it can make anyone to join the system. But on the flip side, service developing and user experience can get tricky. The transaction speed and dispersibility as a platform are in a ‘trade-off’ relationship, so it’s common to have lower operation speed in public chain since the dispersibility is a priority.
The tricky parts isn’t just about the technology. Some of the gambling game projects under public chains does not comply with legal environment in Japan regarding the gambling laws and/or money-laundry perspectives.
Current Status on Ethereum Games
The attentions blockchain initially received were somewhat ideological, exampled as ‘decentralization’ and ‘censorship-resistance.’
Those ideological standards applied to blockchain-based crypto assets/virtual currencies — mostly represented as Bitcoin and Ethereum — contributed to the birth of blockchain games. Blockchain games went against the traditional norm — users were free from central control of game providers, and could manage their own assets on their own (because of the idea of self-governance and decentralization of blockchain).
On the other hand, as the application of blockchain is widening, the once-ideal direction of blockchain games seems different now: the concept or ideology of blockchain is fading, and now, it’s rather about the application of blockchain technology just to make the games more fun.
Generally, when corporates apply blockchain technology to businesses, blockchain platforms like private chains or consortium chains are used since they can be co-operated by corporations. In these cases, since the dispersibility has been lowered compared to public chains, the transaction speed is visibly higher. Similarly in the blockchain games, these kinds of platforms will be applied more often in the future. Not to mention, LINE Blockchain is also one of them.
Japan’s Expertise in Blockchain Games
The first blockchain game that’s got global popularity was Cryptokitties, where users could exchange or breed cats on the blockchain. Design-wise it was a very, very simple game, but it became especially popular since people who wanted to trade characters as investments engaged in the game — one character in Cryptokitties has even been traded at the value of roughly around 9,500 USD, making it a remarkable ‘wide-popularization example’ in the blockchain game history.
And in 2019, Japan’s blockchain game ‘My Crypto Heroes’ was the next one that’s got a worldwide attention. My Crypto Heroes is a game that allows users to exchange items by characterizing historical figures and play matches between the characters. Game quality was better compared to Cryptokitties, and users’ playing ranges and scopes widened along with the expansion of the secondary distribution market. My Crypto Heroes has also received positive feedbacks after announcing its plans to release other types of titles including card games.
Blockchain Games outside Japan are emerging as well. For instance, in 2019, China’s well known corporate Tencent has released a blockchain game called ‘Let’s Hunt Monsters.’
A game that looks like a mix of features like character assetization from ‘Cryptokitties,’
and AR game features from ‘Pokemon GO,’ it became the most downloaded free game in China’s iOS App Store after launch.