Profit, escapism, blockchain: Why Valve missed a trick in banning blockchain games on Steam
What is the purpose of a video game? It depends on who you ask. For game developers and publishers, it’s profit, regardless of what their PR communications want you to think. Huge, unfathomable profits that eclipse those generated in most other industries. In return for these riches, all gamers ask of developers and publishers is to use a chunk of this money to give them some form of visceral escapism — let’s call it fun. And herein lies the sacred balance between profit and fun. Give people what they want, and they’ll come back for more. It’s generally how the world works, given everybody keeps their end of the bargain.
Valve recently made a huge move by banning all blockchain games from Steam, its publishing platform. Keep in mind that Steam’s monthly active user (120 million) community is larger than the entire population of most countries.
Content that is strictly verboten on Steam includes anything containing hate speech, sexually explicit images, defamatory statements, and so on, and so on. All standard stuff, but there, at the very bottom of its rules and guidelines, almost as an afterthought: “Applications built on blockchain technology that issue or allow the exchange of cryptocurrencies or NFTs.” At first glance, this can be read as, “sure, blockchain’s fine, as long as it doesn’t include the issuing or exchange of crypto and/or NFTs”, but they have made it very clear that if your game smells of blockchain, you’re not welcome on Steam, which is unfortunate.
It would have been an entirely different story if dodgy NFTs were the sole target of Valve’s wrath. Heck, we would’ve been riding the same wave, but Valve has missed a trick in chucking out blockchain with the NFT-soap scummed water.
Light Nite was the first game to be banned from the platform in late September, before the recent announcement by Age of Rust that it too has been removed from Steam. NFTs feature prominently in both games as an in-game commodity.
In response, Age of Rust developer @SpacePirate tweeted the following: “Steam’s point of view is that items have value, and they don’t allow items that can have real-world value on their platform. While I respect their choice, I fundamentally believe that NFTs and blockchain games are the future.”
Tim Sweeney, CEO of Epic Games, Steam’s main rival, also fired off a response, tweeting: “Epic Games Store will welcome games that make use of blockchain tech provided they follow the relevant laws, disclose their terms, and are age-rated by an appropriate group. Though Epic’s not using crypto in our games, we welcome innovation in the areas of technology and finance.” Good on him.
Sweeney has been outspoken about the dodgy nature of NFTs in the past, saying that the “whole field is currently tangled up with an intractable mix of scams, interesting decentralised tech foundations, and scams.” Epic later told The Verve that it’s willing to work with “early developers in the new field”. The company is approaching it on a case-by-case basis.
Game or marketplace?
CryptoKitties labels itself a game, but it’s a platform for NFT sales. There are many other ‘games’ that are little more than gamified NFT marketplaces riding the muddied coattails of the craze. If this is where Valve’s beef lies with blockchain, then kudos to them, but there’s more to it, obviously.
Amy Wu, partner at Lightspeed Ventures, thinks the reason for Valve’s hostility has something to do with the decentralisation of power. “Valve banned blockchain games from Steam yesterday. It’s not surprising. Web2 centralised platforms get a cut of all value generated from their ecosystem. Blockchain circumvents that and decentralises value back to builders and users,” she tweeted. Further to Amy Wu’s point, it’s actually the case that NFTs protect the content originators by sharing a portion of any proceeds back to the originator themselves. This, in fact, is how Beeple acquired his highly publicised wealth.
Considering this, it does seem somewhat shortsighted by Valve, given that we’re this early in blockchain development, especially in the gaming industry. Do they reverse their decision when gamers flock to games that incorporate blockchain into their systems? We’re not talking NFTs here, but video games as we know them, just better.
If applied correctly, gamers wouldn’t even have to know that the game they are playing is built using blockchain technology. The question publishers like Valve should be asking is, what can blockchain bring to the gaming experience — greater immersion and participation — not what it can cost them. Phrased differently, how can this technology make gaming more fun, more visceral, more real? And what do publishers stand to gain from this? Ultimately, what is the purpose of a video game? The answers for both gamers and publishers are obvious or should be.
Profit. Fun. Blockchain. It doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game.
Lepricon is reimagining the possibilities for entertainment through blockchain technology and seeking to establish the general acceptance of player-owned economies in games. We believe that gaming can and should be the first killer-on ramp to mainstream adoption, and Lepricon’s stated mission is to catalyse this outcome.
Our activities break into three distinct tracks; technology, entertainment and DeFi.
At the core of this strategy is Lepricon’s own high-speed, gas-less Ethereum-compatible side chain, Leprichain. We are developing software solutions in the form of SDKs, which will empower mainstream game development studios to incorporate blockchain technology into their games. These solutions are built upon and powered by Leprichain, with the intent to create a drag and drop blockchain solution for mainstream game developers.
Lepricon is developing several in-house entertainment activities that operate on Leprichain, including our collection of arcade and carnival games at Lepricon City. The first games are straightforward, but we will develop more complex games that demonstrate Leprichain’s capabilities over time. We will leverage these demonstration games to encourage third party dApp developers to deploy on Leprichain.
Leprichain and all of the dApps that run on it are powered by our ERC-20 utility token, L3P. Lepricon’s DeFi portal will enable L3P holders to manage their tokens, participate in governance, and benefit from advanced yield-earning activities. Lepricon’s DeFi portal will launch towards the end of the fourth quarter of 2021.
For further information, please visit https://www.lepricon.io.
$L3P Contract: 0xdeF1da03061DDd2A5Ef6c59220C135dec623116d