For the past decade, cryptocurrency evangelists have been telling us that Bitcoin represents a new financial dawn.
It’s a change just as far-reaching but even more fundamental than the shift from coins and notes to chips and scans. Yet while even the most conservative now have cards in their wallets, we are not seeing a mass migration to crypto. Bitcoin and its ilk remain on the sidelines, financial tools that are intriguing and that have certainly made some people fabulously wealthy through shrewd trading. Yet we are no closer to using Bitcoin to fill the car with gas or buy the weekly groceries.
Part of the reason is that there’s not been a sufficiently compelling driver to make us choose such a fundamental change as moving away from dollars and cents to what are effectively ones and zeros. However, esports and gaming hitting the mainstream in the wake of wider events over the past 12 months could finally give impetus to broader Bitcoin adoption.
A groundswell of esport interest
The esport market as a whole actually saw a slight decline in 2020, as so many of the major in-person events were postponed or canceled. However, the result was nowhere near as catastrophic as that experienced by traditional sports. Remote tournaments were still able to take place and the whole esport concept benefited from a groundswell of interest for the simple reason that it was practically the only show in town.
It has triggered a whole new population of esport enthusiasts, and the market is predicted to grow by about 50 percent between now and 2024, when it will be worth around $1.6 billion. That’s not to say that families will suddenly be more interested in CS:GO than the NFL or baseball. esport appeals in the main to a very specific demographic, which is males in their 20s and early 30s from developed countries. That happens to be exactly the same demographic that is most open to crypto and blockchain technology.
Crypto and esport
Cryptocurrency and gaming are no strangers to one another. We’ve seen blockchain ecosystems like Tron that allow you to earn while you play. And of course, Bitcoin is already a common way of depositing at online casinos as it brings important properties like security, transaction speeds, and, perhaps most crucially of all, anonymity to the user. Now, crypto entrepreneurs are focusing on the world of esport like never before.
Tron is continuing to be a pioneer in this regard. Late last year, its founder Justin Sun announced that esport streaming service Dlive would be acquired by BitTorrent, which is owned by the Tron foundation. Meanwhile, esports legend Susie Kim, the woman credited with bringing mass popularity to Twitch in South Korea, has launched her own cryptocurrency, the SUSIE.
These are just a couple of examples of how links are being forged and strengthened between esports and crypto. Other established altcoins in the esport space include FirstBlood, which launched its gaming platform way back in 2016, and MobileGo, an Ethereum-based token that operates tournaments and face-to-face matches on the blockchain principle of smart contracts.
NFTs for digital assets
We said earlier that to give real impetus to adoption, crypto needs to bring some new or additional benefit to the table. While MobileGo, Tron and the rest certainly make sense, they fall just short of that standard. However, the renewed interest in NFTs, or non-fungible tokens could be exactly the driver we’ve been waiting for.
Without going too far down the rabbit hole, NFTs are unique, one-of-a-kind digital assets that differ from conventional fungible tokens like Bitcoin or Ethereum due to their scarcity. NFTs have hit the headlines in recent weeks, thanks in no small part to interest from influential names like Elon Musk and Michael Saylor.
Their applications in digital areas like the arts are manifest, but they could also represent a new frontier in the gaming community. Take a look at Wallem, for example. This 3D AR game makes clever use of NFTs for skins and other in-game assets, while also rewarding players in Ethereum. Gamer turned YouTube celebrity turned comedian turned novelist PewDiePie has always been a strong supporter of crypto and gaming. He’s recently issued his own NFT skins that can be bought and traded in the Wallem universe.
That’s just one among a deluge of NFT-related initiatives to appear in recent months. For example, Animoca has announced a partnership with Formula E to create an all-new NFT-based racing game, while Enjin is working with Skymarch Entertainment to bring three NFT-based games to market over the coming months.
Esport, gaming and crypto are three aspects of technology that are known for their rapid rates of development. As we proceed further into the 2020s, however, it seems that their progression is tending to intersect with increasing regularity. There are exciting times ahead.
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