The same way startups try out new tech, games often can be seen testing out new innovations. When it comes to blockchain games, the first game that comes to mind is CryptoKitties. The game is essentially a digital cat-breeder game on ethereum. Blockchain games have also allowed early adopters to experiment with the benefits of open protocols. Even at the moment, the top dApps by transaction volume are games.
There is of course a big amount of skepticism when it comes to the blockchain gaming space. One of the biggest and heated discussions, came after Tony Sheng explained why Fortnite would not embrace blockchain in the near future.
The post inevitably drove the discussion towards how blockchain tech fundamentally recreates economies in the gaming world. He underlines the fact that true digital scarcity breaks currently-existing business models and that’s probably why the gaming industry won’t rush to use blockchain. In general, most people will agree with his statement that:
“If games manage to bring crypto to the masses, they will have entirely different business models.”
2017’s incredible success made it very difficult to differ signal from noise in the blockchain games sector. The incredible bull run allowed many ether-wealthy early adopters to be able to engage in early dApps. CryptoKitties was the first blockchain-gaming experience for the masses. People actually “owned” the cats that that made the whole concept very exciting for the community. At the peak, some cats managed to sell for thousands of dollars.
Blockchain games under the microscope
This is why we need to take a closer look at CryptoKitties. At the time of creation, there was almost no gaming infrastructure on ethereum. CryptoKitties literally build everything themselves, from the website, to the artwork, cat-breeding function and their market. At release, the business model was simple and when they sold a 0 generation cat, they banked 3.75% of the cut every single time a new kitty was sold or sired.
Many experts argued that the game could have been built on a centralized infrastructure. User experience could have been exactly the same and kitties could have been stored in a SQL database. Mainstream users however, found the games incredibly hard to use and with good reason. Everything was simply too hard and complex, including KittyHats, a set of ERC20 tokens which allowed users to customize their cats.
Cat value was driven higher because it was simply another thing you can do with them. The impact however, was distorted because of how hard it was to use. You had to download a chrome extension and do the accessories on a whole different website. If CryptoKitties embraced KittyHats and showed the accessories on the main website, the business model could have been changed a bit.
Maybe the lesson we could take from CryptoKitties is that at the moment, technology simply cannot provide a reliable way for crypto to be integrated into mainstream gaming. Blockchain games are currently relying mainly on software innovation which tends to evolve a lot quicker than hardware. This is why small tinkerers will most likely keep experimenting and next year, we might finally see some developments that will push the space forward.
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