Could NFTs become a fixture in video games? At least one publisher, Mythical Games, is betting on it.
The Los Angeles-based game maker already has some big names including luxury clothier Burberry and DJ deadmau5 ready to create special high-tech playable collectibles in its new online multiplayer game “Blankos Block Party” this summer.
“Blankos Block Party” is an colorful art-filled open-world game where you can explore an ever-growing variety of racing, tag, collection and shooting levels, build your own levels and create competitive mini-parties with friends.
Mythical announced early access for the free PC game Monday at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) – go to blankos.com – and revealed some partners who will be helping create unique items players can get in the game. There are currently more than 20,000 levels created by players and by Mythical in the game, which has been in early testing and just opened its marketplace to alpha testing last week.
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What makes “Blankos Block Party” different is when players spend money on characters or items, they will actually own them and can sell them through the game’s marketplace for real money. Mythical’s marketplace is built on blockchain technology, which records digital certificates of ownership of the game’s playable NFTs, or “non-fungible tokens.” Artists will also profit from the resale of Blankos.
Player can earn some Blankos by simply playing the game. But others range in price from $10 to $20. More rare Blankos sell for higher prices – a recent drop of 400 limited-edition Blankos sold for $150 each. Many players have turned a profit by reselling Blankos in the marketplace, the game maker says.
“Players can invest time, their assets get better. They can train them to have different skills and the more time they put into it the more value it has because it becomes rarer,” said Mythical Games’ co-founder and chief creative officer Jamie Jackson. “It’s not just a JPEG. This is a real asset. It’s there in the game.”
NFTs: How they play in video games
NFTs have become a massive monetary movement with people spending tens of thousands for digitally-authenticated NBA video clips and millions for digital art. Video games are a natural for NFTs because of in-game economies in which players already spend billions globally on characters, skins and other items.
“But most of that spending is on mostly intangible assets. You are basically buying satisfaction,” said Mythical Games CEO John Linden. “We really wanted to try to shift it and bring ownership back to the players so these items they get, they can actually have the ability to resell, upgrade and be a little entrepreneurial in the game.”
Authentication as “Blankos Block Party” will have rids the need for players attempting to sell their in-game assets outside of the game, which is “unsafe” with “a lot of fraud,” he said.
Even though this is the advent of NFTs in video games, digital authentication in online games is not totally new. The online game “CryptoKitties,” launched in 2017, lets players buy, collect, sell and breed digital cats, all of them supported by the Ethereum blockchain. The company behind “CryptoKitties” went on to become Dapper Labs, which began marketing NBA Top Shot clips earlier this year.
NFTs get a lot of attention and hype right now, but eventually they will be commonplace. That’s because people – not just video game players – will want to have digital rights to their online lives, says Yat Siu, co-founder and chairman of Animoca Brands, a digital tech company that has invested in Dapper Labs and has NFTs in its own blockchain games including “F1 Delta Time.”
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Think of NFTs as digital property rights, not as hyped investments because not all NFTs will be high value, Siu said. “It’s a little bit like saying every object in the real world is going to be a Mona Lisa. That’s not how it works,” he said. “However, there will be a small percentage of these assets that have incredible value for whatever reason.”
In its “F1 Delta Time” game, players made about $2 million in rewards in the month of May, by racing, selling or doing mundane things such as working on a race crew. A recent auction of virtual real estate NFTs in Animoca Brand’s virtual world The Sandbox generated nearly $6 million.
COVID-19 drives goal of digital rights
The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated interest in digital property rights as many of us spent a lot of time online over the past year or so, said Siu, who complemented Mythical Games in a recent interview. “Blankos Block Party” is another example of how the campaign for digital rights will begin in games because players already understand the value of digital goods.
“Right now in the digital world we own nothing and I don’t mean just game assets, Siu said. “What are Facebook, Amazon and Tencent? They are digital kingdoms within which we exist as serfs with very limited ownership. We are living in a digital feudal age. … When the goal is owning digital property, then it is worth fighting for the governance and the rights around that.”
Mythical Games recently announced a $75 million round of funding, which brings its total amount raised to $120 million. The studio’s team has in the past worked on games such as Call of Duty, Skylanders, World of Warcraft and Club Penguin.
Gamers can tune into Twitch on Friday on many popular streamers channels to win a playable NFT.
And other game companies have talked to the studio about using its technology to bring blockchain-backed NFTs to their games. “We see this being the beginning for the whole games industry,” said Rudy Koch, senior vice president for business development at Mythical Games. “Any game can incorporate these concepts.”
Follow Mike Snider on Twitter: @MikeSnider.