One day in the late 2000s, a passionate World of Warcraft gamer had something unthinkable happen. The game’s developer, Blizzard Entertainment, decided to take away an attribute that the user’s character had worked so hard to secure. The gamer was so disillusioned that he cried himself to sleep that night. Over the next couple years, he became determined to counteract the power of centralized services and found that crypto is the perfect technology for this purpose. This gamer was Vitalik Buterin, co-founder of Ethereum.
Gaming is a use case that lends itself incredibly well to blockchain. Video games are entirely digital by nature, and thus are a prime arena for digital-native assets. Traditionally, these assets have either been IP for the game developer (so even if you earn an asset in their game, it’s still not yours) or they have been customizable and reproducible via open source modifications of a game. In any case, there was no dynamic allowing gaming assets to accrue value.
Blockchain has changed this since it allows for scarcity and publicly verifiable ownership. If I am playing a game leveraging blockchain for this purpose, if I unlock an achievement that rewards me with a rare sword (or if I straight up purchase it) in a fighting game, for example, then it is mine and only I can decide if I want to transfer it to someone else. This is revolutionary because it returns power to the gamer, but also unlocks new business models for game developers to launch the next generation of games.
Vanimals is a company co-built by Onward Labs that is leveraging this technology to create scarce digital assets that can be used in real-life via augmented reality. Vanimals (short for virtual animals) are digital pets that you can play with via AR, transfer across video game platforms, and also train to develop new abilities. The concept features endangered species (whose scarcity in the real world is reflected, as well as more ubiquitous animals such as the common pigeon.
Vanimals is also creating a platform where developers can create their own games based off of virtual animals. Developers can earn money to the extent that their game generates revenue through in-game purchases. In any case, each user’s Vanimals are always theirs and they never have to worry about the platform taking it away or altering the personal characteristics gained through manna and/or training that make each Vanimal unique.
It will be exciting to see what types of games people come up with that leverage the utility of a virtual friend, such as my buddy Flipper. Gaming continues to be one of the first industries that will see rapid transformation due to blockchain technology and I think we have a lot to gain from it. If you’re a developer and want to contribute to this shift in gaming, it’s never been easier – Vanimals has recently launched a developer program to let developers build with the company’s application services and characters. If you’re interested, sign up for the developer program at https://www.vanimals.co/developer-portal.