January 29, 2021 5 min read
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Since PayPal announced late last year that it was making a foray into cryptocurrencies, investment has been flooding into the market. In particular, the price of Bitcoin has spiked, leading to much speculation about crypto going mainstream.
However, this has happened before. Bitcoin’s previous all-time high led to a sudden surge of interest that cooled off into the long “crypto winter” of 2018. If cryptocurrencies, and the blockchain technology that underpins them, are ever to unlock mainstream adoption, then real-world utility combined with a compelling user experience is more likely to provide the key. Looking at recent news trends, combined with the macro events of 2020, esports and gaming currently seem to be one of the hottest tickets.
Due to a lack of attendance at in-person events this year, the global esports market shrank slightly, but it’s forecast to grow by over 50 percent in the next three years, rising to $1.6 billion. Analysts within the crypto sector already believe there’s vast potential to tap into this market, with digital research firm Messari predicting mass adoption of blockchain technology. The market demographic fits well into this scenario – predominantly male, aged 18-34 and based in economically developed countries.
Crypto entrepreneurs capitalize on esports
According to some of the latest news reports, blockchain and esports entrepreneurs are seeking to capitalize on the opportunity to converge the markets. Esports personality Susie Kim recently confirmed that she is launching her own custom fan cryptocurrency called SUSIE. Her followers can use it to buy access to private Discord chats and shoutouts on her social channels.
She joins an existing group of 30 gamers, creators and influencers who have issued their own cryptocurrency on the Rally platform, which is backed by Andreessen Horowitz and other VC Firms. Kim is credited with helping gaming streaming platform Twitch to build its presence in South Korea.
Elsewhere, FirstBlood Technologies has been operating an online competitive gaming platform using the blockchain-based Dawn Protocol since 2016. It uses its own token but has recently announced an integration with MakerDAO to incorporate the crypto-backed DAI stablecoin into its games.
Esports competitors on the platform will be able to participate in tournaments using DAI and win the stablecoin in a series of events taking place over the coming months. This is an intriguing development, given it creates a link between esports and decentralized finance, which has so far existed as a niche in the crypto sector.
Crypto wunderkind Justin Sun, the founder of Tron, is never one to miss a trick when it comes to the latest market opportunities in crypto. In late October, it emerged that BitTorrent, which was acquired by Tron in 2019, was taking over DLive.tv, a blockchain-based esports streaming service.
NFTs – the new frontier of gaming
Beyond esports, blockchain and the broader gaming sphere are providing entrepreneurs with further inroads into mainstream adoption. Gaming is one of the few sectors that has benefitted from the 2020 pandemic, as people have looked for new ways of entertaining themselves at home.
One trend that’s definitely making a resurgence is non-fungible tokens (NFTs), which allow blockchain innovators to issue one-of-a-kind digital assets with unique attributes. It’s a feature that lends itself particularly well to gaming, as it means users can acquire in-game assets of value that are stored securely on a blockchain.
Online gamer PewDiePie, aka Felix Kjellberg, has amassed an incredible 107 million followers on YouTube alone. So when he speaks, the online gaming world tends to listen. He’s been a longtime supporter of blockchain in gaming, but most recently, he’s lent his support to the blockchain-based 3D augmented reality game Wallem. The game uses NFTs for skins and other items, also rewarding players in Ethereum-based tokens. PewDiePie has issued his own NFT representing one of his skins that can be purchased and used in the Wallem virtual world.
Early November also saw a slew of NFT-based gaming announcements. Animoca Brands, a blockchain-based gaming firm, confirmed a licensing agreement with the racing game Formula E to create a game using NFTs. Formula E holds 14 races across five continents every season, pulling in viewership of 411 million.
Another blockchain gaming project, Enjin, announced via Twitter that it was partnering with Canadian firm Skymarch entertainment to develop a further three NFT-based games. These include a collectible card game called Crystals of Fate and an RPG called Zeal.
Digital pets have enduring appeal
Longtime crypto enthusiasts will remember that NFT’s first became popular in 2017 when the craze for digital cat artwork, Cryptokitties, started congesting the Ethereum blockchain. It seems that there’s a sustained enthusiasm for digital pets, as Axie Infinity has risen to become one of the most used decentralized applications in the Ethereum ecosystem. Axie Infinity allows users to breed and battle their own digital creatures. The project recently confirmed it was partnering with blockchain giant Chainlink for a decentralized oracle service to price the assets traded on its native marketplace more accurately.
At this rapid pace of development, it’s evident that the convergence of blockchain and crypto with gaming and esports provides many opportunities for users, innovators and established players in the space. Even if the current Bitcoin bull run doesn’t sustain, blockchain and gaming is a segment that’s definitely worth watching over the coming months and years.