Blockchain Games: The Challenges and Future in Southeast Asia

By Febrianto Nur Anwari

How the blockchain technology benefits the game developers? Here’s our interview with Desmond Lee, the COO of iCandy Interactive who is developing a blockchain game called CryptantCrab

The game industry has limitless possibilities. The technology has been changing so fast for the past decade. Ten years ago, we wouldn’t think that mobile gaming can be a phenomenon right now. Or maybe, we wouldn’t think that there will be a medium to interact with a virtual character like VR technology does right now.

So does the blockchain technology. Previously we have known that the blockchain technology is usually used in cryptocurrency that has been happening since about five years ago. But along the development, the developers use that technology in many other ways, such as web application and also game.

The rise of the blockchain games has started since the booming of Cryptokitties, a game developed by Axiom Zen back in 2017. After that, developers around the world started to explore more on how to optimize that technology in games. Including iCandy Interactive, who already introduced a blockchain based game called CryptantCrab back in Level Up KL 2018 last November.

Last November, we had a chance to visit the studio and talk with Desmond Lee, the COO of iCandy Interactive. Desmond gave us some insight about blockchain games, how they implement that technology in CryptantCrab, and also predicts the future, especially in the Southeast Asia. For the information, iCandy Interactive also got support from Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) to develop this technology.

Blockchain Games - CryptantCrab Desmond Lee (two from the right) with his team

Game Prime (GP): Could you please give a simple description, how blockchain games work?

Desmond (D): Blockchain, on its own, acts as a digital ledger that is secured via the cryptographic hash. That means it is not exclusive to crypto-currency and can be used to various degrees in other industries. For video games, it introduces the concept of decentralization where users will become true owners of the digital assets they invested in.

iCandy Interactive wants to turn the blockchain game concept on its head as it infuses more fun yet immersive elements – like PVP battling, mutation and working out how element affinity works. That are the major inspirations for CryptantCrab, a spin-off from its award-winning Crab War mobile game.

GP: What are the main advantages of using blockchain technology in games?

D: Benefits in using blockchain include having true ownership of the game assets, specifically those that gamers have invested in. That means, in theory, this concept will not allow anyone to tamper with the data. It’s very much like physical ownership but done in digital form.

By placing game assets – such as virtual crabs in CryptantCrab – gamers don’t just become owners but are also able to improve these assets as they see fit. That means, whatever investment they put into the game, be it improving the character’s stats or obtaining new
mutations, it will be stored into their registered accounts; specifically, via the crypto-wallet. In the literal sense, gamers will be able to experience proprietary ownership.

Blockchain Games - CryptantCrab

GP: What are the main challenges when implementing blockchain technology in games?

D: One of the major challenges the team faced while producing CryptantCrab has been the need to fully utilize this next-gen technology. This includes figuring out what is the best way to use this next-gen innovation to make a video game. It’s like a deep-dive process that mostly consists of integrating blockchain into existing game frameworks and doing extensive research on what others have worked on.

Unlike other marketplace players, iCandy Interactive already has extensive experience with producing and publishing mobile games. This gives the team exclusive insights on what it takes to make a successful game. However, having this know-how does not mean it’s an easy feat. This is where the wider market understanding, specifically for blockchain, comes into play.

If anything, the research and development process is important and plays a crucial role in ensuring the gameplay experience can integrate properly and seamlessly with the blockchain platform. Without the right understanding, implementation can be difficult. After all, the game design and user experience process for blockchain games is very different from traditional game development.

Of course, the biggest challenge is having no actual dedicated game developers for blockchain games to refer to. This is, in many ways, a trailblazing effort, and a process that iCandy Interactive is very familiar with. From its days a mobile game developer, it has always focused
on improving access and raising adoption for the general masses. With the introduction of this next-gen technology, many tried to make a blockchain game and just as many failed to follow through.

As a long-time veteran in the game developer space, it’s only proper to venture into introducing new innovations for video games and expanding their adoption within the mass markets. The self-contained nature of the crypto community faces a challenging time in expanding its growth to a wider audience. However, with game developers looking to branch into this space, it is definitely an opportunity for all to grow.

For those already dabbling with the idea of making blockchain games, two things become very clear in the early stages. First, everything requires gas (blockchain transaction fee) and, second – every transaction (purchase, going into battle, or mutation) has a waiting time.

As CryptantCrab relies on blockchain smart contracts, knowing how these digital agreements work and the ways to debug them are necessary as well. The latter will be a challenge for most as there are various limitations to keep in view. This includes having no time triggers or true random process, usage restrictions for gas, and not being able to generate failure responses.

Blockchain Games - CryptantCrab

GP: Blockchain technology is quite new in the game industry. What do you think about its future, especially in the Southeast Asia? Will it become the next big thing in here and why?

D: As blockchain technology introduces new data protection, user engagement, and process improvements to video games, there will be changes coming online. This includes how the payment, gameplay experience, and information management will be implemented.

For Southeast Asia, a region that is still trying to understand blockchain technology and what it can offer, this innovation hasn’t yet reached its maximum potential. Even as crypto-currencies are in a state of flux, there is still room for development – especially in decentralized platforms and apps. As is, some business sectors within the region are already looking into using blockchain to improve their operations and service offerings.

With video games, the concept of decentralization will become a critical consideration. In fact, this process can be applied in various ways and will be a transformative force for this space in the coming years. This is especially true for player empowerment, community development, and user privacy.

GP: As a new technology, what do you think is the best way to market it to the gamers who don’t know much about blockchain before?

D: There is no right or wrong way to market blockchain-based games. At this point, recent entries into this space are still using the tried-and-tested methods: pure advertising, social network engagement, and approaching the press. Gamers, and the general public alike, subscribe to or follow these platforms and, through these media of choice, will learn about what these new games offer.

What is more important is not the method to market blockchain games; instead, one must consider why would anyone want to jump on board with the idea. That is the goal for game developers who are considering a move into this space.

Right now, games are easily accessible on various platforms, so most will wonder why they go into blockchain then. Where game developers will engage the benefits in using blockchain for games, more important is what it can do for gamers. Indeed, this next-gen tech will make the gameplay experience more personalized for gamers.

Besides true ownership and progressive personalization, blockchain-powered games also bring to the table another potential prospect: literal value. This is more about the time spent than actual monetary investment. Most popular games can be considered a time-sink, most of which do not offer any return in value beyond the satisfying experience of completing a level or mission.

With blockchain games, the long hours of gameplay can be converted into value. As game assets can receive improvements over time, that will naturally raise their market value as well.

Blockchain Games - CryptantCrab

GP: In your opinion, what skill/tools developers should have when they want to start developing a blockchain game?

D: Besides understanding how blockchain works, it’s good to have a wide understanding of advanced programming and coding for the Web. Reading up on how decentralized networks and apps work is also critical. This will make it easier to work with programmes like Solidity, a contract-oriented programming language for writing smart contracts; Truffle; Geth; Web3 JS; and other various Web/server systems.

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GP: Will blockchain games able to market via the mainstream market, such as Google Play Store, iTunes or Steam?

D: For the time being, most – if not all – blockchain-based games are running on the Web browser. Using the browser is necessary as a crypto-wallet must be available for easy access. Both Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox have an extension that is compatible with the more popular blockchain games. There are some ventures making their move onto Google Play and Steam, but nothing is solid yet.

GP: Thanks for your time and insight, Desmond!

You can read more about CryptantCrab through the official website. Now the game is in the pre-sales phase and will be launched soon in this December 2018.

Edited by Devi




About Writer

Febrianto is the Senior Editor of Duniaku.net and the Lead Editor of Gameprime.org. He started his career in game industry as a game journalist since 2008, and was one of the initial members of Duniaku.net since 2011. His biggest interest is local game developer scene. Currently, his mission is to spread the news about Indonesia’s game industry to both local and international game and creative industry’s enthusiast.