What does Microsoft purchasing Activision Blizzard mean for video game culture?

It is the biggest acquisition in video games so far and we are…surprised to say the least. But what does Microsoft’s planned acquisition of Activision Blizzard actually mean for video game culture, for the way we play, and for the market of the future? Come along as we discuss limitations and possibilities.

In our side quests, we then dive into some NFT chatter as we cover the GDC’s annual State of the Game Industry report as well as several cases of copyright infringements.

Shownotes

2 comments on “What does Microsoft purchasing Activision Blizzard mean for video game culture?

  1. Paul says:

    On the topics of NFTs. I have to note, that I’m not an expert, but here’s what I’ve gathered from hearing many people talk about blockchains and NFTs and thinking about the topic quite a bit:

    TL;DR:
    The use of decentralized ownership tracking doesn’t make too much sense in a videogame context (or in most contexts for that matter), because blockchains tend to get really large which forces them back into centralization after some amount of time. The only way it could make sense is in the unlikely scenario that many publishers/retailers join forces to create a unified licensing system for videogames and DLC.

    I think that game companies wanting to implement NFTs/blockchain technology are just jumping on the buzzword train without ever having thought about what blockchains were originally supposed to do. The whole point of a blockchain is ownership tracking of digital goods without the need for a central authority.

    The only way this truely works is if everyone always keeps a copy of the entire blockchain on their own computers and if you always package the entire data of every ingame item inside the blockchain. This would mean everyone who wants to purchase an ingame item has to download every ingame item ever made to their computer in order for it to be truely decentralized. Now, the bitcoin blockchain by now is half a TERABYTE in size (if I remember correctly). And that is just a couple of floating point numbers, no 3D models, no textures, no music/SFX.

    Now let’s say we don’t package the entire asset inside the blockchain but just a token (sort of a license to use the item) and you show e.g. Ubisoft the token and can then download the ingame item. That would decrese the size of the blockchain quite a bit. Now, remind me… why did we put this into a blockchain again to decentralize it, if you need to go to Ubisoft anyway?

    Okay, maybe we did it to allow people to trade ingame items. One argument for NFTs is that the original creator (so Ubisoft in this case) always gets a cut of every transaction. Now the thing is if this is an item, that can be used in a single game made by one company… why does that company not just open up their own central marketplace for ingame items with some sort of transaction fee? Why does it have to be a blockchain, why do we have a need for decentralization?

    The only video game specific scenario in which I see an actual benefit for the customer in blockchain tech is the following: A big chunk of major publishers and most digital retailers work together to create a unified decentralized blockchain based licensing system. It should not matter whether you bought your game/DLC from Steam, Microsoft, Sony, GOG etc. It also should not matter where you actually downloaded your game, be it an official source like Steam or a torrent with a drm protected version of the game inside it. You just have to proof through the blockchain, that you own this game and you can then play it. This would completely decentralize distribution of games (Though I’m not even sure that current cryptography would allow for such a licensing scheme). And it will (almost surely) never happen because it would mean that publishers and retailers loosen their grip on the market quite a bit (Unless some future government orders them to do so).

    But even in this unlikely scenario the size problem does not go away if you want true decentralization. The size of a blockchain is unbounded and the whole point is that every user has a copy of the whole thing. When it eventually exceeds the storage space of consumer grade computers, it is unevitibly forced back into some degree of centralization.

    That was quite a wall of text, sorry for that.
    Ich habe fertig.^^

    Best regards,
    Paul

    1. A very interesting wall of text, though!

      Since my understand is blockchain technology is not as detailed, I am truly grateful for that insight. According to what you describe, it seems that the centralisation of a blockchain in the “metaverse” of one company seems the most likely scenario for the foreseeable future.

      From what I understand though this is largely something that does, at least in its early stages, does not really impact game development beyond some item, DLC, or cosmetics sharing. Regardless, it feels like a profound shift is taking place. Interesting times!

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