The digital ownership that is conferred by blockchain will enable the Metaverse to fulfill its real potential as community-owned and community-governed. Each day, news comes up of more involvement by the big industry players like Epic Games and Roblox as the world moves closer to the Metaverse.
Metaverse is a shared persistent virtual environment of many intertwined digital experiences. The challenge is that none of this matters until the netizens can truly own various digital assets. All this seems to be starting with gaming.
Video games appear to make us feel like we can do anything that we think about. The virtual worlds are limitless potential to enable users to transcend the realities of daily life as they become heroes. They provide the players with a sense of control of their destiny.
Games And Gamers
Games are perceived to be good simulations of life. The players earn various rewards to accrue some worth and then climb the ranks where they achieve status. The targets and goals are something on which the gamers place massive value, and every week, gamers spend an average of 30 hours playing games, interacting in different game forums, and then participating in some game streams.
They also spend a lot of money on in-app purchases, like armor and weapons, for many purposes that upgrade their gameplay or just look cool. They sometimes pay to accelerate their progress and reach higher levels more rapidly.
One may argue that achieving success in the games is misleading. As a species, it is evident that we spend a lot of time in simulated environments, all while we surrender our economic potential and substance. The traditional video games are believed to be some of the most contained, controlled, and restrained worlds imaginable: beautiful walled gardens that are set up for the players to play only within them.
Any viable sense of ownership or freedom that the players feel is an illusion since the game publishers and all platforms are in control of your video game and metaverse experiences. Valued at more than $170 billion and growing, the global gaming sector is now priced higher than movies and music combined. There is also a lot of stake for the game publishers that feel like they have to restrict controls on games to protect their profits.
Games Versus The Real World, Is There A Conflict?
One good example is playing out in Chinese courts today. Tencent, the biggest video game publisher in the world, is suing DD373.com for $6.2 million in damages since it enabled the Dungeon Fighter Online players to trade virtual coins and other in-game items on DD737.com’s site.
In court, Tencent explained and insisted on its terms and conditions, highlighting that any virtual items bought by the players have no real-world value and will forever remain the property of Tencent. Also, even the game’s virtual coin that players buy from the platform be exchanged for other in-game items, represents ‘service charges,’ according to Tencent.
Players are not allowed to trade their in-game assets outside the platform since they never owned the assets to start with. That is not an isolated challenge. Virtually all game publishers follow the same approach.
Currently, most of the traditional games just allow gamers to carry out a limited, and predefined set of economic activities. Players are obliged to use in-game trading networks and systems. They can only transact with specified in-game currencies that include gold, coins, credits, and gems. In that context, in-game assets only have value within their native games.
Since assets and games are provided to the users on a licensing basis, it means that they are not owned by the player; they are rented. The rental is tenuous at best. The players can pour many years of effort onto a game and spend thousands of dollars accumulating assets. However, everything can be wiped out in an instant and with no recourse.
It happens regularly in the world of games. Delisted Games is a site that tracks the dead games. One good example of a game that is becoming extinct is the China-exclusive version of Call of Duty that is scheduled for shut down in August and had accepted payments for the in-game purchases until the end of June.
The unintended consequences can leave most of the players high and dry, as was the case of Ubisoft closing down its servers that blocked Might & Magic X: Legacy players from purchased content from their in-game gains since the beginning of June.
Severe failures can occur, including a fire or flood at a crucial data center, that wipes out progress, accounts, and even entire worlds. In March 2021, players of the survival game Rust lost several days of progress when the game’s servers caught fire.
Even though the incident may have been much worse, that was still fairly serious in a game that runs in real-time, whether you can log in or not. Eventually, shifting regulations and licensing arrangements can also deprive the players of their games. For instance, due to licensing restrictions, one European player of Star Trek Online can no longer access the game if they relocate to Hong Kong.
It appears ridiculous to block access and participation in online games based on territory, mainly considering the borderless and inclusive nature of virtual worlds and games. The gaming sector takes a protective and restrictive approach.
Digital Property Rights Within Games
The various circumstances highlight the absence of any equitable digital property rights within games. Until today, players had not reviewed deeply the issue of digital rights, but due to the growing number of blockchain games, there will soon be a revolution wherein gamers will begin to demand their property rights.
There are means already in place for digital property rights in games: non-fungible tokens (NFTs) as in-game assets. Enabled and powered by blockchains, NFTs are unique and indivisible tokens that grant owners property rights and then enabled digital assets to have real value, independent of the platform.
The platform may be a game, a publisher, a mobile application store, or any other exclusive hosts. But, gaming might be the best starting point since the 2.7 billion gamers around the world understand the concept of virtual goods.
Digital ownership rights on a blockchain are offered by open permissionless protocols and assured by the collective reckoning of community consensus. That enables the non-fungible token game assets to get traded between the holders in a manner that is unthinkable in most traditional games.
That is great for gamers, but most traditional game publishers fear that the new dynamic will hurt their profits.
NFTs Are Revolutionary
A great example of a tokenized game is F1 Delta Time, a blockchain game by Animoca Brands licensed by Formula One. All content that exists within this game can be owned by the players. Cars, tires, parts, and even drivers and the tracks that you race on are NFTs that can be used in-game or traded on a third-party marketplace, as explained by the owners’ prerogative.
In that context, some of the players of F1 Delta Time have said that they are making thousands of dollars every month. Non-fungible tokens also support interoperability and cross-platform functionality, which means that the digital assets themselves become the center of the player experience; eventually, the content will become the platform.
Just as you can own one set of chess pieces that can be played on many boards, you can eventually own NFT add-ons that can be used in different games or can have some access to various virtual worlds. The Metaverse is nigh. For now, the more game content is tokenized to empower the participating gamers and deliver more digital property rights, the more bullish analysts are about the future of the gaming sector.
In short, the world appears to be moving toward a more equitable and decentralized global internet. All that is underpinned by blockchain platforms as a transparent and immutable base ecosystem for accountability and propelled by an incentive model designed to reward the communities that introduce, build, and maintain its value.
This new digital economy is expected to rebalance the flows of money and power, reduce the effect of intermediaries on virtual worlds, and eventually free people from many years of restrictions.
History is filled with many examples of societies that are transitioning from autocratic to (more) democratic systems. But, it might be the first time it is happening on a huge scale.