Tons of people on my Twitter feed have been mentioning Gala Games. Some have been running nodes, and others discussing non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and blockchain-based property ownership in Gala’s upcoming MMO, Mirandus. I’m most interested in the latter because it’s something I’ve written about before.
Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are fungible, essentially meaning one Bitcoin is worth the same as another. A non-fungible token (NFT) is a cryptographic token issued on the blockchain that represents something unique like a photograph or a collectible trading card – a concept that can be extended to any limited run collectible or work of art. An artist can mint a work of art on the blockchain, and they’d truly be one of a kind. It is in this aspect that the blockchain has the most to offer to the gaming ecosystem.
The neat thing about the Mirandus NFT implementation is that the developers are using NFTs as land deeds. Essentially, they are NFTs representing property ownership in their upcoming massively multiplayer game. Two of these deeds, each currently listed on the Mirandus webpage for 2,320 ETH (about $3.5 million dollars) have already been sold – the Citadel of the Sun and the Citadel of the Stars.
These are truly unique NFTs as there are only one of each of the citadels, sun, wind, earth, moon, and stars. Below the citadels in rarity and cost are towns, villages, hamlets, outposts, and homesteads. Owners will be able to rent portions of their properties to players who can then establish storefronts to generate their own income in-game.
I generally consider ownership of a $3.5 million dollar property in a game that hasn’t been released yet to be a risky proposition, but two entities have already taken the plunge (one initially purchasing the property for $800,000), and who knows, it might be very profitable for them in the future assuming they can find someone willing to give them the rather large asking price. If Mirandus takes off, they’ll have a major stake in one of the game’s largest and most prestigious income-generating properties. If Mirandus can establish a large enough player base, these early adopters could possess, in the form of a property deed stored as an NFT on the blockchain, a game property they can develop that generates rental income comparable to or exceeding most real-world homes.
There is also the other possibility, the one none of us like to consider when we’re excited about a new project, but it’s something investors should keep in mind before they shell out that kind of money on digital property. Games are a finicky thing, and MMOs are notoriously hard to develop. The biggest advantage that Mirandus has at the moment is that they are one of the first developers in this space to try this funding method out – and I say it is a funding method because that’s what it is.
Video games, particularly those with a decentralized gaming marketplace, are not cheap or easy to develop. The Mirandus devs seem to be using NFT sales as a Kickstarter of sorts. It’s very possible that the game flops, and the early investors will have shelled out hundreds of thousands of dollars for a useless digital property. I hope the purchasers of some of these NFTs have at least considered that possibility as there are a ton of ridiculous moon-Lambo rocket jockeys in this space that dive headfirst into any decentralized venture expecting constant and limitless returns.
Any game world essentially runs on money. The developers, even of a “decentralized” game, need to make up the cost and accrue profit through mechanisms like subscription sales, cosmetics sales, expansion packs, content packs, and character sales. Some use predatory loot box models, stickers, anything a developer can sell to you, they will. There’s no such thing as free-to-play, even if they call it that. These worlds and marketplaces don’t run on fairy dust and good intentions, and a decentralized gaming marketplace and game world is no different, particularly when the security of the NFTs and the game servers rely on distributed computing schemes. All of this costs money.
But seeing Twitter exchanges like this makes me uneasy:
If the game property you are thinking of buying is worth more than your house, please reconsider. There is no guarantee this game takes off, and if it doesn’t, well, expect tears and some angry tweets at the very least. If you’re one of those peculiar gaming whales that has the means and desire to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on pay to win cellphone games, then, by all means, have at it, but if you could lose your shirt over this, be careful.
Typical Kickstarter or crowdfunding methods promise users something more whimsical in exchange for backing – usually artbooks, digital items, things of that nature. I’ve never seen one that promises users future income returns from managing in-game properties or running a proof-of-work “grandfather” node. I’m not sure what the securities implications of something like this would be, as it’s way out of my wheelhouse, but hopefully, people have considered this.
With that out of the way, I think land deeds stored as non-fungible tokens in game worlds are amazing, and the thought of owning a business or home in the decentralized equivalent of Orgrimmar or Stormwind is just about the coolest thing in the gaming world that I’ve seen in a long time. A player-owned and run MMO with real ownership of property and with a functional economy is the kind of game I have always wanted to play and explore. Some of the best games ever made have come from developers that have cut the tethers of player creativity loose and allowed their customers to build upon the engines that they’ve created. Games like Counter-Strike, Defense of the Ancients, and Team Fortress wouldn’t exist absent the modding projects, nor would the spinoff games like League of Legends, Auto-Chess, and Team Fight Tactics. When developers let players run free in a world, amazing things can happen.
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