Tags: blockchain | developers | creativity | gaming

Blockchain-Powered Indie Developers Bringing Creativity Back to Gaming

Blockchain-Powered Indie Developers Bringing Creativity Back to Gaming
(Wutthichai Luemuang/Dreamstime)

By    |   Monday, 16 July 2018 11:58 AM

It’s difficult to argue that a market set to total $137.9 billion in 2018 has a problem, but the gaming industry is facing a serious problem from within—stagnation.

In recent years, several trends have emerged that point to a creative nadir of sorts for game makers.

The current tendency of AAA publishers is to continuously release new sequels to franchises with proven track records. This is a decidedly profitable strategy, but one that stifles creativity and innovation. More importantly, it wears on gamers seeking fresh and fun experiences, creating what many call “franchise fatigue”.

Traditionally, gamers have looked to independent developers as an alternative to the high-budget releases, but in past years, that sector has struggled to come up with a sustainable model for success.

The rise of Kickstarter served as a major boost for indie developers, but the platform’s limitations (such as the restrictions on collecting funds raised, the lack of accountability for game makers, and more), make it a less-than-ideal tool. Several major Kickstarter gaming projects in the sector crashed and burned without ever releasing, further reinforcing the point.

However, the rise of blockchain, and especially the emergence of tokenization as a feasible financial model have given new hope to the indie developer community. On one hand, blockchain provides a less restricted development ecosystem for indie developers thanks to its decentralized nature and lack of gatekeepers. On the other, it provides a unique opportunity for fundraising that puts the power back squarely in game makers’ and users’ hands, instead of major publishers.

Are Indie Developers the Last Bastion of Creativity?

This year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) featured a list of games that sounded oddly familiar to the lineup of years past. Among the announcements were a sixth Gears of War game, yet another Assassin’s Creed game, and a fifth entry into the popular first-shooter franchise Battlefield. These were far from the only sequels announced, with many of the most popular franchises revealing new installments for their respective cash cow franchises. Unfortunately for the industry, this has become commonplace, with large publishers more comfortable making safe bets with known winners.

Indie franchises rarely have the ability or resources their AAA counterparts maintain to produce sequels at a dizzying pace. Instead, they must rely on their other assets—creativity and the resourcefulness their teams exhibit. Funding is hard to come by, at least until recently, without finding a major publisher willing to shoulder at least the distribution costs. Even so, indie studios retain some freedom to make games that don’t fit the mold and help propel the industry further creatively. Nevertheless, their status quo is far from ideal.

Without a strong and vibrant community of developers, the gaming industry runs the risk of becoming stale and alienating gamers who become tired of the same game every year. Kickstarter appeared to be a panacea for the community, but its many challenges make it less than ideal for developers seeking legitimacy and reliable cash flow. However, with the advent of blockchain and the ability to generate tokens, indie developers might have found a formula to completely break free from the publisher deals that force them to compromise their creative vision.

Blockchain Represents a Lifeline for Creative Freedom

The gaming sector has always had a close eye on cutting edge technology. From improving graphics to better engines that make more immersive games, the industry is usually among the first to adopt innovative tools and technologies. Thus, it is no surprise that blockchain is already making waves across the ecosystem. Blockchain delivers tools that help developers build better games on a more agile infrastructure while simultaneously offering greater freedom from the industry’s gatekeepers.

One of the biggest applications of the technology is crowdfunding where tokens offer a seemingly custom-built solution that improves upon Kickstarter’s many flaws. Here, projects like GameProtocol have jumped to an early lead. The company has built a decentralized store and creator’s workshop which hosts blockchain tools for developers to build their games, and offers a crowdfunding platform that is more transparent, reliable, and favorable for both developers and their followers. Critically, it forges a direct connection between developers and gamers, incentivizing a more transparent development process and guaranteeing that funders will not be disappointed by unkept promises and shady practices.

Others in the sector have tackled issues which hamper indie developers’ visions. One major disadvantage indie studios face that AAA publishers don’t is a lack of computing and networking power. Server hosting is expensive, and more so for games that require an online connection. Here, NetworkUnits has developed a potent solution. The company’s platform leverages users’ unused bandwidth and computing power to create a more reliable infrastructure and network, for a fraction of the cost.

The sector is also growing and will require a host of ancillary services that support the ecosystem. Companies like Cloud Moolah, which has partnered with game engine Unity, are building a marketplace that will make it easier for indie developers to get their games to market while avoiding the unfavorable deals many AAA publishers offer to release their titles.

Discovering Possibilities for Indie Game Makers

Blockchain offers smaller publishers and developers the ability to compete with AAA publishers on their own terms. By providing indie studios with an ecosystem that is purposefully designed to eschew the many restrictions of the traditional industry players, blockchain presents developers with the ability to keep the creative output flowing. The technology is still advancing, however, and must continue to prove its value by truly wrestling some power away from the companies that have enforced a stagnant development and marketing model for video games. By cultivating an ecosystem that outwardly promotes creativity, blockchain will be a driving force for the growing tide of indie innovation.

Jim Hoffer is founder and managing director at Hoffer Financial Consulting. Follow him on Twitter.

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By cultivating an ecosystem that outwardly promotes creativity, blockchain will be a driving force for the growing tide of indie innovation.
blockchain, developers, creativity, gaming
Monday, 16 July 2018 11:58 AM
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