Sorry readers, I caught the blockchain bug. When 30-person firms are getting $4.5B valuations, it’s time to pay attention, regardless of one’s priors. Everyone seems to have a Blockchain hot–take, but I’ve found most to fall short of ruthlessly integrating the implications and design space of the technology. Blockchain players (who are also, by definition, investors) insist, at every turn, that it’s so obvious blockchain gaming is the future. Advocates frequently cite specific benefits – true ownership, play-to-earn, “aligning incentives between players and developers,” and decentralization. A smaller crowd expresses skepticism about what blockchain solves for gamers, and if blockchain has the implications advocates think it does. This mounts a normative and positive element to discussions of blockchain. On cue, Benedict Evans offered a measured assessment of the situation:
Here’s the thing: I want to investigate that very notion; are there interesting technologies and great ideas buried in blockchain gaming? Over the last few weeks, I’ve spoken to several blockchain companies and studios to investigate these questions myself. Instead of chopping another log for the hot-take woodchipper, I want to split blockchain posts into examining individual pieces of “web3” gaming. A subject like tokenomics demands more than a passing mention to appreciate and dissect truly. Regardless of blockchain’s future viability, it’s undoubtedly true it faces a whole host of juicy problems: token design, NFT asset design, smart contracts, auction houses, and the like.
A Win For Game Economics
For a Game Economist, answering those juicy problems hits nearly every button: monetary policy, institutional design, and property rights but doused in video game-marinade. You’d be crazy not to find this stuff fascinating. But it’s also clear to me that if blockchain gaming takes off, so will the continued evolution of the designer. We’ve already seen live-service games create a class of “economy” designers and a relative decline in level design. In the type of open economy blockchain games enable (trade is possible), game designers must start to take formal economics seriously – a large part of blockchain design depends on predicting and understanding the movement of prices. Raising equity via token design becomes a whole new type of problem for designers. While we’ve seen slow growth in the number of Game Economists, blockchain gaming will demand a rapid rise in designers with price theory training.
First up, an evaluation of “true ownership.”