The global market in gaming is said to be worth more than $135bn in 2018. Perhaps even more impressive, due to the rise of mobile gaming, the games industry has managed to sustain double-digit growth for more than ten years.
Despite these numbers, it has never been more difficult for an independent game developer to bring their game to market successfully. First, they must have adequate funding to develop the game itself. This is essentially the same as funding a startup business, so developers may be dependent on loans or convincing investors to hand over some startup capital. Crowdfunding via Kickstarter or Indiegogo is also a popular option.
The next challenge is marketing. Many developers are not seasoned marketers however indie developers often don’t have teams of marketing professionals behind them. The window for marketing a game is short, as most games achieve their best sales in the period immediately after launch.
Launching Is Only The First Step
Even once a game is successfully launched, there are the further challenges. While increasing the number of active users is a critical success factor for any game, the underlying server infrastructure must be scalable enough to contend with increasing user numbers. If gameplay becomes sluggish or if servers go down, users will quickly find another game.
Even if scalability is achieved, it can be difficult to maintain user loyalty against so many competing games launched each day. Many games try to engender loyalty by providing collectibles, or other incentives such as unlocking new levels. However, such incentives often require the intervention of moderators, particularly in massively multiplayer online (MMO) games, where many participants are involved, and disputes can happen.
Finally, for any successful game, piracy can also be a problem. Illegal copies are created and distributed in a similar way to fake clothes or handbags. While some reports seem to indicate that piracy in games could potentially increase the sales of the genuine article, this may not provide much consolation to a developer seeing the results of all their hard work sold off as a cheap copy.
All these problems are evidently not killing the relentless growth of the gaming industry. However, they do create some insurmountable barriers for independent game developers. This puts much control of the gaming market into the hands of big companies who favor profit-generating tactics over creating a unique user experience. In 2015, more than 35% of revenue from video games was generated by the top three game publishers.
Blockchain Gaming Platforms
Savvy tech startups are now starting to create blockchain-based gaming platforms that can address many of the challenges faced by game developers. Bitcoin was the first use case of blockchain, creating a trustless, peer-to-peer exchange of value. These same principles can be applied to connect game developers and users in a peer-to-peer blockchain gaming environment.
Funding and Marketing
Two projects aiming to help game developers more easily fund and bring their products to market are BitGuild and The Abyss. The former offers a “game incubator service” allowing developers to crowdfund the development of their game using the native tokens of the platform. The Abyss provides a motivational referral system, where users receive rewards for referring other users to different games on the platform. In this way, there is a ready-made audience of game users on the platform at the time the developer launches the game.
Scalability and User Loyalty
Blockchain allows decentralization of computing power across multiple nodes in a network. However, similar to centralized servers it is possible that the network can become overloaded. This is a challenge encountered by the makers of Huntercoin, the worlds first decentralized (MMO) game.
Huntercoin was released in 2014 and allows the gamer to mine coins as part of the game itself. It served as a successful proof of concept, as the game is still going strong today. The mining of assets creates a user base with a stake in the game itself, which makes them inherently loyal to continue gaming.
However, the scaling problem is similar to that encountered by the Bitcoin network. Everything on a blockchain is recorded permanently, which means that the database naturally increases in size over time. The bigger the database, the more computing power is needed to participate in the network, which quickly puts a strain on the individual nodes.
The creators of Huntercoin are now releasing their solution to this problem — the XAYA platform. The team behind XAYA have developed a solution that allows interactions and in-game assets to be stored off-chain. Utilizing off-chain functionality in this way makes XAYA a highly flexible and scalable platform that can accommodate virtually unlimited transactions within the game.
Decentralization of the power driving the platform means that 24/7 gameplay is virtually guaranteed, without risk of downtime. The XAYA SDK also allows developers to code games in their preferred programming language.
A blockchain network is secure and resilient against attacks, with the network itself moderating the actions of its participants. This protects against piracy and also means that user transactions are guarded against hackers. Additionally, decentralized networks don’t require any moderators.
Using blockchain as a platform for game development provides multiple solutions to indie developers who would otherwise struggle to launch and maintain a successful game. By opening up the market in this way, blockchain fosters an environment of innovation and creativity, rather than advertisements and payment models. From a user perspective, blockchain will bring more diverse gaming options with more incentive to keep playing.