Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) are changing the gaming industry by giving players true ownership over digital assets that they acquire in a game. The ERC-721 protocol which makes it easy to create NFTs has sparked the development of numerous blockchain-based games, a new and growing industry.
Bitcoin and all other cryptocurrencies are fungible, which means that a Bitcoin is interchangeable with any other Bitcoin. It is necessary for cryptocurrency and currency, in general, to be fungible so it can act as an exchange of value.
Pokémon cards, baseball cards, works of art, and many more types of collectibles are non-fungible. They are distinct from each other due to their characteristics, and they have differing values so they can’t be exchanged at a one-to-one ratio with each other like currency.
ERC-721 is the standard for creating NFTs and uses the Ethereum blockchain to issue and exchange NFTs. This is much like how ERC-20 is the standard used to create fungible cryptocurrency tokens. Through smart contract technology, each NFT issued with ERC-721 is completely unique.
A gamer who acquires an NFT is given a private key, they can access the NFT with the private key to transfer it, and sign messages with the private key to prove ownership. This marks the first time in history that a gamer truly owns digital assets that they find, win, or purchase in a game. Even if the game server crashes or the game goes offline the NFT is cryptographically protected and stored in the Ethereum blockchain and will remain intact.
This breaks the old paradigm where in-game assets were controlled by the company that owns the game and dependent on centralized servers. NFTs decentralize digital assets.
Perhaps one of the most popular games that uses ERC-721 NFTs is CryptoKitties, where users can buy digital cats for Ethereum, breed them, and trade them. The game became such a craze at one point that Ethereum transaction fees skyrocketed due to network congestion. A CryptoKitty sold for a whopping USD 140,000 of Ether in May 2018.
Another popular NFT game is Decentraland, where users can purchase land and have full ownership over that tract of land in a virtual universe. They can build anything they want on the land. Decentraland has the potential to be a blockchain-based Second Life, with the added advantage of a cryptographically secure real-estate system.
The future is bright for NFTs; CryptoKitties and Decentraland are probably just the beginning. It is possible that a massive multiplayer online game like World of Warcraft, Second Life, or Runescape will eventually adopt NFTs or that a completely new game will be created around NFTs and gain global popularity, and become the basis for a major online economy.
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