6 ways blockchain is revolutionizing online gaming

Back with another one of those block(chain)-rockin' reads.

  • Blockchain is already revolutionizing many industries across the board, and the gaming sector is no exception.
  • The gaming industry is a massive market on the rise with huge potential for growth, and blockchain is already looking for ways to innovate this up-and-coming sector.
  • Blockchain projects are already focusing on solving specific pain points and issues currently found in the gaming world which will be based on the technology.

It is often said that blockchain technology could one day revolutionize a range of industries, from global payments, energy and even the election process. However, one sector in particular that is somewhat under-discussed is the gaming space.

Blockchain is the technology that supports cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. It's basically a giant accounting ledger that records each and every transaction that is processed by the system, and it's extremely secure. Moreover, blockchain requires no third party to verify transactions, as that role is left to a group of online volunteers known as "miners".

So how does this link in to the ever growing world of gaming, an industry that generated $108.4 billion in 2017 revenues?

Incentivizing

Photo: YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP/Getty Images.

Japanese football fans watch a large screen of the football video game 'FIFA 14, 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Limited Pack' for Sony's PlayStation 4 at a launching event in Tokyo on June 4, 2014.

Incentivization within gaming is a crucial selling point for many leading titles. For example, players of FIFA Ultimate Team, a hugely popular mode within the FIFA soccer range, are given the opportunity to earn FUT coins while navigating through the game. However, other than allowing the player to purchase additional player packs, these FUT coins have no use outside of the game.

Blockchain uses a digital token system that once listed on a third party exchange, allows users to exchange them for other cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, or even real-world cash. As a result, the future of competitive gaming built in collaboration with blockchain could reward successful gamers with in-house cryptocurrencies that have real-world value.

One such example of this is the Huntercoin project. The blockchain-based gaming world allows players to earn its native HUC coin by competing with other players.

True ownership of rewards

Similar to the FUT coins, gaming skins are a hugely popular way for players to earn in-game rewards. Essentially, skins are a customizable reward that allows players to change the appearance of a particular in-game feature, such as a character, vehicle or weapon. This is a surprisingly lucrative industry, for example, in early 2018 a Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS: GO) player sold a weapon skin for $61,000!

However, some would argue that these gaming rewards are opaquely controlled by those that own the title. As blockchain does not require a third party to facilitate the transferring of digital assets, players would be free to trade in-game skins on a peer-to-peer basis, gaining full control of the skins they have earned.

Removing the black market

Earlier this year, an interesting report surfaced regarding a Fortnite player that had his account banned by the developer. The ban centered on the player's attempt to sell his gaming account, which contained a range of skins, accessories and other in-play rewards. As many titles do not offer a facility to buy or sell established accounts, players often have to turn to the unregulated black market where, as there are no safety mechanisms in place, they face the risk of getting scammed.

In contrast, blockchain provides a transparent escrow-like system that allows digital assets to be transferred without the requirement for an intermediary to validate the transaction. As a result, gaming developers can utilize blockchain tech in their network, creating safe, secure and free marketplace to buy and sell accounts, rewards and skins.

Transferring rewards across multiple titles


Players that prefer to obtain instant in-play gaming add-ons rather than attempting to earn them through successful game-play sometimes have the option to purchase them directly from the developer. However, one such qualm that this model presents is that players do not have the ability to transfer these items to additional titles. For example, a recent study found that 62% of participants would feel that in-game purchases would be better value if they were able to use them across multiple games.

By utilizing the blockchain, gamers would be able to transfer digital items with ease, without needing to go through a third party. Ultimately, this could work in the favor of both the player and the gaming developer, insofar that it could encourage an increase in spending.

Real world staking

(Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images)

Fans look on during the FACEIT ECS Season 6 eSports finals between Astralis and MIBR on November 25, 2018 in Arlington, Texas.

Competitive gaming, otherwise referred to as eSports, are currently experiencing growth at an exponential rate. In fact, total eSports revenue is expected to exceed $900 million by the end of this year, a sizeable increase from 2016's $493 million. Player-to-player competitiveness within the gaming sector has never been stronger.

One organization that has recognized this demand is Unikoin Gold, a blockchain-based platform that allows players to gamble on the outcome of games. Unlike previous attempts to facilitate this market, Unikoin Gold has not only formed partnerships with leading titles such as Dota 2 and League of Legends, but has also acquired a full gaming license from the Isle and Man.

Online gamer streaming

A somewhat new market for video game enthusiasts is that of online streaming. Gamers upload live recordings of their game-play activities, alongside ongoing audio commentary, to popular third-party platforms such as YouTube or Twitch. However, the current state of play sees vloggers lose an unfair percentage of their earnings to the platform that hosts their video. Moreover, those that are fortunate enough to receive revenues for their gaming streams are often required to have a significant following which is higher than five figures, something that many gamers fail to achieve.

One company looking to put control back in to the hands of the gaming vlogger is AQER. The platform aims to provide a fairer and more transparent earning system based on blockchain. The project's CEO Phillippe Perotti has stated that:

"Inter-mediation in the vlogging or streaming industry is done poorly in many ways. Pricing, for example is neither fair nor transparent. Streamers and vloggers do not know how to price their content, and brands take advantage of them. The lack of pricing transparency between vloggers grants brands a lot of leverage over them."

Blockchain could help mitigate these issues and give gamers opportunities to get their fair payment without being taken advantage of.

It's safe to assume that gaming is here to stay, and with it many new jobs and opportunities are on their way, whether in building games or in being professional gamers. It's even possible that within the next few years gaming tournaments will become as mainstream as any other sporting events, with many major gaming events already being held and watched by millions online. Blockchain is already disrupting the sector in many ways and will be the door opening the gaming industry to new opportunities, but exactly what the future of this promising combination looks like only time will tell.

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  • The jaw bones of an 8-million-year-old ape were discovered at Nikiti, Greece, in the '90s.
  • Researchers speculate it could be a previously unknown species and one of humanity's earliest evolutionary ancestors.
  • These fossils may change how we view the evolution of our species.

Homo sapiens have been on earth for 200,000 years — give or take a few ten-thousand-year stretches. Much of that time is shrouded in the fog of prehistory. What we do know has been pieced together by deciphering the fossil record through the principles of evolutionary theory. Yet new discoveries contain the potential to refashion that knowledge and lead scientists to new, previously unconsidered conclusions.

A set of 8-million-year-old teeth may have done just that. Researchers recently inspected the upper and lower jaw of an ancient European ape. Their conclusions suggest that humanity's forebearers may have arisen in Europe before migrating to Africa, potentially upending a scientific consensus that has stood since Darwin's day.

Rethinking humanity's origin story

The frontispiece of Thomas Huxley's Evidence as to Man's Place in Nature (1863) sketched by natural history artist Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

As reported in New Scientist, the 8- to 9-million-year-old hominin jaw bones were found at Nikiti, northern Greece, in the '90s. Scientists originally pegged the chompers as belonging to a member of Ouranopithecus, an genus of extinct Eurasian ape.

David Begun, an anthropologist at the University of Toronto, and his team recently reexamined the jaw bones. They argue that the original identification was incorrect. Based on the fossil's hominin-like canines and premolar roots, they identify that the ape belongs to a previously unknown proto-hominin.

The researchers hypothesize that these proto-hominins were the evolutionary ancestors of another European great ape Graecopithecus, which the same team tentatively identified as an early hominin in 2017. Graecopithecus lived in south-east Europe 7.2 million years ago. If the premise is correct, these hominins would have migrated to Africa 7 million years ago, after undergoing much of their evolutionary development in Europe.

Begun points out that south-east Europe was once occupied by the ancestors of animals like the giraffe and rhino, too. "It's widely agreed that this was the found fauna of most of what we see in Africa today," he told New Scientists. "If the antelopes and giraffes could get into Africa 7 million years ago, why not the apes?"

He recently outlined this idea at a conference of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists.

It's worth noting that Begun has made similar hypotheses before. Writing for the Journal of Human Evolution in 2002, Begun and Elmar Heizmann of the Natural history Museum of Stuttgart discussed a great ape fossil found in Germany that they argued could be the ancestor (broadly speaking) of all living great apes and humans.

"Found in Germany 20 years ago, this specimen is about 16.5 million years old, some 1.5 million years older than similar species from East Africa," Begun said in a statement then. "It suggests that the great ape and human lineage first appeared in Eurasia and not Africa."

Migrating out of Africa

In the Descent of Man, Charles Darwin proposed that hominins descended out of Africa. Considering the relatively few fossils available at the time, it is a testament to Darwin's astuteness that his hypothesis remains the leading theory.

Since Darwin's time, we have unearthed many more fossils and discovered new evidence in genetics. As such, our African-origin story has undergone many updates and revisions since 1871. Today, it has splintered into two theories: the "out of Africa" theory and the "multi-regional" theory.

The out of Africa theory suggests that the cradle of all humanity was Africa. Homo sapiens evolved exclusively and recently on that continent. At some point in prehistory, our ancestors migrated from Africa to Eurasia and replaced other subspecies of the genus Homo, such as Neanderthals. This is the dominant theory among scientists, and current evidence seems to support it best — though, say that in some circles and be prepared for a late-night debate that goes well past last call.

The multi-regional theory suggests that humans evolved in parallel across various regions. According to this model, the hominins Homo erectus left Africa to settle across Eurasia and (maybe) Australia. These disparate populations eventually evolved into modern humans thanks to a helping dollop of gene flow.

Of course, there are the broad strokes of very nuanced models, and we're leaving a lot of discussion out. There is, for example, a debate as to whether African Homo erectus fossils should be considered alongside Asian ones or should be labeled as a different subspecies, Homo ergaster.

Proponents of the out-of-Africa model aren't sure whether non-African humans descended from a single migration out of Africa or at least two major waves of migration followed by a lot of interbreeding.

Did we head east or south of Eden?

Not all anthropologists agree with Begun and his team's conclusions. As noted by New Scientist, it is possible that the Nikiti ape is not related to hominins at all. It may have evolved similar features independently, developing teeth to eat similar foods or chew in a similar manner as early hominins.

Ultimately, Nikiti ape alone doesn't offer enough evidence to upend the out of Africa model, which is supported by a more robust fossil record and DNA evidence. But additional evidence may be uncovered to lend further credence to Begun's hypothesis or lead us to yet unconsidered ideas about humanity's evolution.