Forte provided a preview of some of their upcoming blockchain gaming features during a recent PayID developer conference. The preview illustrated some of the social monetization techniques developers could leverage within the Forte blockchain. These social aspects of the Forte monetization platform are already present in the gaming ecosystem, but they occur informally or without any developer monetization. Players typically must go off-site to pay for strategy guides and leveling services of the kind mentioned in the developers’ conference. With Forte, the developer indicates it would be possible for a publisher or development house to feature this player-made content natively within a videogame. The creator of the content could then receive payment either in the form of micropayments using a system similar to Coil or via direct payments as players use the Forte blockchain to purchase the content. The developer would receive a cut, which would open a new revenue source that previously existed outside of the developer’s monetization scope.
One of the more interesting social features the Forte developers mentioned was the ability for gaming guilds to provide in-game guide or boss-slaying assistance. The integration of these features into a live game will look more polished than the example provided by the developer, but it nevertheless is an indication of what some of these features might look like, and how they will work once implemented:
The guild-provided assistance feature mirrors the Sherpa system found in the popular first-person shooter, Escape from Tarkov. Tarkov is a difficult and unforgiving game that features a loot and questing system. For beginners to FPS games and looter-shooters in general, the quests in Tarkov are brutal, unforgiving, and completing some of the harder quests are almost impossible, particularly for novice players. Realizing this, the developers of Escape from Tarkov leveraged the more knowledgeable and trustworthy members of their community by creating the Escape from Tarkov Sherpa system. Battlestate games, the developers of Escape from Tarkov describe the Sherpa system as such:
Tarkov Sherpas receive perks in exchange for their services. They receive a special title, munitions, and a weapon that can only be obtained by Sherpas. Guide services of this nature would not occur without some form of incentive, and the best incentive for players to carry out work like this would be financial. Financial incentives, which could be delivered by a Forte powered marketplace, would facilitate a more seamless Sherpa experience. A developer could host peer-to-peer Sherpa services, and natural financial incentives would ensure that there were enough Sherpas to satisfy player needs. A marketplace reputation system would ensure that these shepherds were knowledgeable, friendly, and effective at guiding players through difficult content.
To say that Escape from Tarkov is a difficult game is somewhat understating the matter. Tarkov is one of the most brutal and unforgiving games ever released. Having knowledge of the layout of the maps, as well as the ability to keep a novice player alive during an escape, is a skill set that takes a long time to develop. Players have spent thousands of hours perfecting skills they’ll never see any financial reward from. If the Forte marketplace manages to tie profit from the application of this knowledge to game engagement, it will also lead to developer profit. These new participatory game-economies could be transformative for the games industry as a whole.
As games are transnational, an intermediary cryptocurrency like XRP could be used as a bridge asset for these peer-to-peer transfers. For example, the player would pay in CAD, and the Sherpa would receive USD. The XRPL DEX could be used to trade IOUs in one currency for the local equivalent.
The Forte developers illustrated a potential payment model with a revenue sharing concept, which split the money that a guild accumulated in-game to members of the organization based on their contribution to the overall coffers:
Guilds essentially become corporations, able to monetize activities and share revenue. In the video, this is done through guild points that can be acquired and accumulated through various activities in-game. In an MMO, these activities could include running an in-game store, crafting goods and materials for other players, helping novice players with difficult content, etc.
In this case, the payout was initiated manually by the developer, but the system could also pay guild members automatically on certain dates, which would remove the temptation of guild leaders to withhold payment as a form of punishment.
An interesting application to this technology would be democratic guild governance. Using their stake or membership in the guild, members could vote for leaders and executives using the Forte blockchain. Game subscribers could also vote on the development of new features, sponsor content by popular freelance developers, or even earn an income creating content for other players to enjoy.
Developers should be careful when implementing independent paid content features. Valve tried to monetize game mods previously and was widely criticized for a predatory revenue split, with only 25% of the overall money going to the creator of the mod, and the rest split between the game-developer and Valve. The developer receiving a cut for content sold on its store is reasonable, but it shouldn’t seek to steal the majority of the income from independent modders, because such actions seem greedy to the community and they may scare away more talented content creators.
There are certain instances where the revenue generated from leveling service would seem to eat away at a developer’s profit versus systems already-in-place where developers charge players directly for a level boost. The theory underpinning Forte is that the more participants you have making money, the more monetarily engaged players are in that game-world. As players expand their in-game business, they come to depend on the exchange of goods from other players, like a digital artisan to produce goods that enable them to earn more money. The game operates sort of like a digital village or city – the more people you have participating in the economy, the more prosperous the whole community is. When players see a financial return from their efforts in a game, they may be willing to spend more money purchasing cosmetics from a developer’s store, or they may wind up spending more money on a game that provides them direct value than they would have with a traditional revenue model. Videogames, with the exception of a few, have a one-way relationship with consumers. Gamers trade money and time for entertainment, but they get nothing else from it. When a game is released that provides entertainment as well as a financial reward for participation, it could be transformative for the gaming industry. In a previous discussion, a Forte developer indicated that a game with a million players earning a basic livable income would have an economy worth $30 Billion annually.
A simulated market economy fits well with certain types of games, MMOs in particular. But it’s not a concept that is desirable across every single genre. Competitive FPS games tend to be harmed by these open market concepts because they provide an economic incentive for cheating and exploitative behavior. Gamers also often see a form of marketplace driven cheating within the MMO genre. The World of Warcraft Classic bot epidemic is a good example of this. Games that are plagued by cheaters, botters, and other forms of player exploits, are typically the games which have a vibrant first-party or third-party marketplace. Developers using native market features must be very careful with the incentive structure of their economy. If botting becomes ubiquitous, a game could face a similar scenario as World of Warcraft, with bot mafias ruining the gameplay experience for normal players. I’m not certain how you solve this issue. Nevertheless, some immensely popular free-to-play games don’t have massive cheater problems, at least not to the point where the cheating becomes a constant player complaint. Fortnite and Valorant are good examples of free games that aren’t being destroyed by cheaters. Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds (which features trading on the steam marketplace) and Apex: Legends are free games where cheaters are a constant hassle. Whether or not cheaters manage to ruin gameplay in a Forte monetized marketplace may depend on how the developers implement their incentive structure, and how voraciously they crack down on cheaters. Despite these potential pitfalls, Forte is one of the blockchain gaming projects that I am most excited about, and I cannot wait to play the first Forte blockchain-powered videogame.
Header Photo by Marko Blažević