Depending on the source, non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are either celebrated as ground-breaking innovations or dismissed as redundant additions to a gaming ecosystem.
In gaming, this dichotomy is heightened. Why? First, NFTs, and by extension, cryptocurrencies, have a bad reputation that’s hard to shake. Moreover, their value have not been presented convincingly. Lastly, there hasn’t been a game that have crossed over to the traditional gaming side.
Yes, there are success stories like Axie Infinity, a popular play-to-earn (P2E) strategic game. But, a disappointment like Ubisoft’s Ghost Recon Breakpoint, which sold a measly $400 in NFTs makes the technology appear like just another extraneous upgrade.
Yet, NFTs are more than a superfluous add-on. They offer tangible solutions to the problems of ownership and stakes gamers have in the game economy.
With that said, certain gamers are well aware of the benefits digital ownership brings. They as well-versed in the gaming realm as they are with blockchain and crypto. They believe in the substantial potential of NFTs to drive changes that will ultimately benefit the entire gaming community. Here’s what they had to say.
Over Google Meet calls, Daila and Erica shared how they got into gaming and why having in-game digital assets on the blockchain not only makes sense but improves their gaming experience in tangible ways.
Daila, who as a gamer and mother slings hilarious content, digital assets and snacks on the daily, believes NFTs can truly empower gamers. She played video games when she was younger, but she was never that hardcore until she had kids.
She decided to start playing video games again as a way to connect with her children. “When you have kids, you wanna kind of meet them on their level,” said Dalia.“It's almost impossible to do that right now without some kind of tech aspect,” the content creator explained.
Her 16-year-old daughter plays games like Farmville, while her son, age eight, got into Minecraft pretty young. “For me, the concern was internet safety," Dalia said. "So the only way to make sure he was safe is to participate in it. And so I was like, ‘Okay, Mommy will play with you.'"
Playing video games with her children led her to find a gaming community of her own. She says she joined the Ethereum-based NFT community Sappy Seals the second she started her Twitter account, and described on a podcast the sense of belonging she experienced as feeling like a mama. The founding members were so earnest, emotionally invested, and young at the time, that they tugged at her motherly heartstrings, and she adopted them as her own brood.
Joining the Seals gaming community evolved into her buying into innovative NFT gaming projects like Brawler Bearz, a mobile-first 2D fighting game. "Brawler Bearz caught my eye because of their innovation, story and engaging gameplay," says Daila. Players buy a pixelated NFT character that is fully animated, and then they can train it, teach it combat tactics and fight with it in tournaments. The game uses NFTs in a unique way and has a medieval background.
For Erica, there is no doubt that NFTs can transform gaming. A gaming content creator and streamer, she revealed in a video call interview that she has always enjoyed learning about technology, and she has been into crypto for a while now. "There was something about crypto that just really captivated me. It was a challenge, and it was new." the avid gamer says. “I have been bullish on NFTs and gaming since I found out that games were being built on the blockchain. It's a whole new world that I just need to immerse myself in.“
As she discovered games that could be played on the blockchain, she saw an opportunity to combine her two passions. According to the streamer, owning in-game assets brings distinct advantages.
"A lot of times when you have that asset and you bring it into the game, it's going to give you some special perks", she says. "I can go on Magic Eden or Open Sea, and I can actually pick out my character and it's mine. Nobody else's is going to look exactly like mine."
As an economic principle, scarcity drives supply and demand. As online marketplaces, Magic Eden and Open Sea, they respectively play a significant role in the NFT industry. Magic Eden is the top spot for gaming activity. The streamer also thinks NFTs answer another problem: losing digital content if a gamer stops playing the game in question, or if his account gets banned from the ecosystem.
"With NFTs, you could take your character, and put it on a marketplace like OpenSea, totally legit because you own it, and you could sell your character. Or, you could just keep it in your wallet. Maybe you have a connection with your character, and you don't want to sell it," she said. "You can actually transfer it to your wallet and digitally keep that collectible. There are a lot of pluses that some people don't think about when it comes to NFTs and gaming."
And so, it appears a growing cohort of gamers are excited about NFTs’ functionality, but with a quick perusal of Reddit, one can also find resounding skepticism in the gaming community regarding digital tokens.
Some gamers hope that this trend of good-for-nothing gaming NFTs would just go ahead and die already. Based on their comments, one could easily conclude that owning your downloadable content (DLC) is something the gaming community most definitely does not want.
One Reddit user, Spacingoutrock says in a thread that NFTs are a definite no-go.
They’re not alone. A Game Developers Conference annual survey revealed that about 70% of game developers think gaming NFTs are a scam. Yet, there’s also a community that likes NFT gaming and welcomes the idea of owning and of trading them.
Daila thinks the NFT perception problem lies with how digital ownership was first presented to gamers.
“I think just the term ‘non-fungible token’ — most people don't realize what that even means,” she said. “On Reddit, they present [NFTs] as ‘digital collectibles’. Everybody was getting their digital collectibles on Reddit, saying, these aren't NFTs, they're just collectibles on Reddit. It's the same frigging thing. It's just a matter of presentation.” says the content creator.
Roblox, one of the most popular user-generated content (UGC) gaming platforms, is loved for its seamless user experience and enjoyable social environment, offering an avenue for self-expression and digital connection that can alleviate the sense of isolation. For instance, in a recent Guardian interview, a Roblox player named Hannah revealed how her digital avatars within the game empowered her to explore and express her gender identity with newfound freedom.
“You can escape real life and have a completely new identity,” said Hannah in the interview.
However, Roblox is not built on blockchain. While the user experience is seamless, the lack of NFT technology in Roblox is notable when monetization is a motivating factor, as it is for many gamers. In the article, Hannah shared how she’s not only playing inside Roblox for escapism. She joined a community of game-makers called “Pops Developing” and started earning Robux, the platform’s token. In the interview, she said she had earned £1,200 from the games she created, and estimated she had more than £1,000 to cash out.
“Even if I earn just 5% of what those top games earn, I’ll be happy,” she said in the interview.
Given this incentive to monetize gaming activity, NFTs just make sense. In a walled-garden gaming environment like Roblox, in-game assets are not transferable to new gaming environments, thereby capping an item’s resale potential and, therefore, the creator’s earnings. Robux tokens are not minted on blockchain, and are therefore akin to Monopoly dollars or Chuck E. Cheese tokens, with value only inside of its particular gaming world.
Shay McLean, an online community manager and hobby gamer, said she’s never played video games that had NFTs as in-game assets — but wishes she did.
“I've played a lot that have stores with digital items but they are not transferable or able to be sold. In other words, fixed assets without transferability. If they were NFTs, I'd be sitting on a gold mine!” said the gamer in a direct message exchange with the author.
But do NFTs offer a “gold mine” for individuals? That depends on how you look at it.
According to J.P. Morgan’s 2022 Opportunities in the Metaverse report, people in the metaverse spent $54 billion on virtual goods, skins, and lives in 2021 — about $12 billion more than movie-goers spent at the box office. In 2021, NFT collectors, investors, and gamers together spent at least $44.2 billion on digital assets according to blockchain data firm Chainalysis, but that amount has since leveled off to around $37 billion.
And then there are the in-game impulse purchases known as microtransactions. A report from Business Research estimates that the small digital purchases that unlock new features, levels, and game-changing enhancements amounted to $67.94 billion in 2022, with the potential to grow to $76.66 billion in 2023.
According to PwC’s latest Global Entertainment and Media Outlook report, the global gaming industry will likely be worth somewhere in the ballpark of $321 billion by 2026, even amid an observed growth slowdown for the entertainment and media industry as a whole.
NFTs could offer gamers a stake in this global game economy, argues Dalia. In gaming, NFTs are being used to represent items such as weapons, armor, skins and anything that helps the character navigate a game’s ecosystem. "With NFTs, you own that digital asset,” Dalia emphasized. And if game developers decided to include licensing rights in the digital contracts of the assets they sell, gamers could help proliferate the lore and grow the game's brand value through entrepreneurial endeavors of their own. It could be a win-win.
Exploring gaming through the voices of gamers has presented us with multiple perspectives to consider. Whether you consider NFTs in gaming as the way forward, or believe they add no value at all, digital ownership is undeniably innovative, just by the opportunities it unlocks. Moreover, innovators always find their way up — it's just a matter of patience and means. The question is: Which side will you be on if all major game publishers integrate NFT into their game ecosystems?
Émilie Boivin is a crypto and AI enthusiast who covers immersive technologies, ethics, financial innovation and the Metaverse. Connect with her on Twitter.
This article and all the information in it does not constitute financial advice. If you don’t want to invest money or time in Web3, you don’t have to. As always: Do your own research.