One area never too far down on my home page is blockchain technology. Those in this specific corner of the industry say it is not a tool of the future; it is already here and is essential. Conferences and events are held across the world to emphasise its progress and provide opportunity for experts to demonstrate its value.
But we’ve been hearing about how crypto-currencies are on the verge of mass adoption for more than a year now. We saw the hype of Bitcoin rise and fall in unity with its value and today we seem no nearer to a world run by distributed ledger technologies (DLT). So when will it happen? What will it take for blockchain to truly emerge from its corner and flood the gaming industry?
To deny that progress has been made would be naive. The first example has to be Malta. Labelling itself as the world’s “Blockchain Island” was another bold move. However, it is clearly keen on living up to that title. In 2018, the inaugural AI and Blockchain Summit was hosted on the island and this year it was given two slots on the global gaming calendar. The first edition of 2019 was held in spring and the next will take place in November.
That growth highlights the level of attention received by the new technologies. It is worth noting however, this conference does not solely focus on the gaming industry and of course includes AI as well as blockchain.
When I speak with digital suppliers such as platform providers, they are all eager to make it clear they can integrate blockchain technology. They say this is no problem and are happy to do it for any customer. When I ask them how many operators have actually opted for a crypto payment system, I get a less enthusiastic response. The answer rarely exceeds double digits.
There is still so much doubt in place over the use of crypto-currencies. Maybe the hesitancy exists more as a result of the extra effort. Operators already have a series of regulatory hoops to jump through, so to add another one may be a step too far at this point. With blockchain technology still so new when compared to traditional payment methods, the process is obviously far from being streamlined. This can be off-putting to operators. Time is money after all and if they need to close their website to integrate crypto-currencies, even if only for a short period, they will lose revenue.
One area that will surely drive on the use of blockchain technology is betting on esports. For the moment, it seems as if the industry is waiting for a new target demographic to mature. Betting on esports is becoming more popular as children who would play Fifa or Call of Duty become old enough to place a wager on their favourite pro team. Esports and crypto-currencies are a perfect partnership to help each other grow.
This partnership can be further fuelled by operators designing their own tokens, essentially creating their own currency. This is what esports operator Unikrn has done. By building its own token, Unikoin Gold, it encourages customers to spend more on its websites. The tokens can obviously be used to bet but are also used in giveaways, online shopping and exchanges.
Are we on the verge of mass adoption? The short answer is no. Rather than an overnight surge, blockchain in gaming will experience a steady trickle of new users. Day-by-day the number of customers using it will grow and this will be influenced by new players joining the betting landscape, bringing their expectations with them.