Forget What Ought To Be Blockchain’s Killer App – It Will Be Gaming

By William Freedman - Member of FinTech Connector / New York

First, let me thank the FinTech Connector crew in New York for inviting me to the Ascent Conference last month. I promised Angel and Mary a blog post in return, and I’ve been remiss long enough to trigger a little snark on LinkedIn. (It’s cool, Angel, I had it coming.)

I was running late October 3, so I had to join FinTech Connector’s roundtable, “Fintech Disruption: The People Impact of Innovation” in progress. Even so, it was a delight to meet some fascinating people from all over the world discussing how organizations and reporting structures are just as susceptible to being ploughed under as the business models they support. Still, the PATH train was so behind schedule (still getting used to New Jersey life!) and Pier 36 so difficult to navigate that I can’t fairly present the proceedings of that session.

If I could be forgiven that faux pas, though, I’d like to discuss another roundtable that was equally fascinating.

It was also a little later in the morning, and I had a chance to consume a caffeine beverage in the meantime. (Someone was peddling a cold coffee drink with “protein”. They didn’t like it when I asked them, “Oh, you mean milk?”)

It was called “What Will Be the First Blockchain-based ‘Killer App’ Beyond Speculation?”

One of my clients is a blockchain-based ecommerce platform called IOU. It’s still in the ICO phase, not much past the white paper. Still, it’s predicated on an interesting concept: If fiat currency is nothing more than promissory notes from sovereign governments, and cryptocurrency can disintermediate the medium of exchange from these governments and return it to the people who create the value, then we could all issue our own promissory notes as currency. So in addition to the typical e-commerce functionality – connecting buyer and seller without going through Amazon, developing a token-based loyalty program – IOU aims to make every participant their own central bank. Your credit is every bit as good as your peer ratings say it is, and those who have faith in you can trade your IOUs on the platform as readily as they trade Federal Reserve Notes.

And, when we went around the table, it was words to that effect that I suggested would be that first killer app.

I thought I was being novel. Everyone else seemed to think it would be cross-border payment processing or microlending or some other longstanding use case for digital ledger technology.

Even so, we all left with a distinctly different opinion than we came in with. All of us, that is, except Cindy Mallory, a JAKT strategist and PS4 game designer. (Actually, her business card said “Stragist”. She was a little embarrassed when I pointed that out to her and she took little comfort in my assurance, “It just goes to show you’re a big-picture thinker, not a gnat’s-eye detail person.” I’m sure she’s got new cards by now.)

Gaming the system

“Gaming and early adoption tend to go hand in hand,” according to the website for JAKT, a digital product and innovation studio. “Armed with top-of-the-line computer hardware specs, blockchain gamers lead the march to build, tokenize, and raise awareness (and concurrent users) of blockchain based games, games marketplaces, and “grey-market” transactions of in-game assets, characters, and custom skins.”

The unsigned piece goes on to explain why gamification could be the ticket to drive wider adoption. Lordmancer II is offered as one example. It’s a game that teaches players how to engage with the blockchain environment. Similarly Cryptozombies teaches participants to write smart contracts.

 The 'Ready Player One' OASIS platform might also be blockchain's killer app. Credit: Warner Bros.

The 'Ready Player One' OASIS platform might also be blockchain's killer app. Credit: Warner Bros.

And ultimately, what’s the difference between blockchain tokens and in-game currency? When the coins used in one game can be exchanged for the coins of another, you have a training ground for trading on a crypto platform.

From fun to fintech

Blogger Patrick Kelly cites a Facebook study that reveals gamers will pay for:

  1. New missions or levels,

  2. A sense of achievement and

  3. Daily rewards.

In fintech terms, these link to established e-commerce processes:

  1. New or exclusive products or content,

  2. Earned freebies such as a a free night’s stay after 10 nights of purchased hotel

    accommodations and

  3. Discounts for customers who visit the site every day.

According to a Fifth Tribe CEO Khuram Zaman, e-commerce sites have, for some time, been utilizing games to engage customers and develop a sense of community. Also, Scalefast points out that gamers are by nature extremely loyal customers so, if online retailers can use the game as a point of sale, then they have a dedicated core of repeat buyers baked in. 

The future is now, and has been for years

Let me give the last word to my friend and client Edward W. Mandel, who shared some of my story with his audience on Medium.

“Have you seen that Spielberg movie, Ready Player One, the one that takes place mostly in an immersive, virtual reality game a quarter century in the future? That’s the kind of world that blockchain has the opportunity to build,” Eddie writes. “The movie was based on a novel by Ernest Cline. When he wrote it in 2011, there was no such thing as cryptocurrency trading. There was only one digital coin, bitcoin, and you could only exchange it for fiat currency – and it was only worth a dollar and change.”

From that, we can conclude that the OASIS platform is closer at hand than many of us thought.


William Freedman is a New York-based fintech writer. He serves as an advisor, consultant or content provider to BQT, Collective Wisdom Technologies, Exsulcoin, goTRG, IOU, OpenGift, SharEstates and others, engaging in white paper/business plan composition, media strategy and web content creation. He blogs about blockchain economics at https://medium.com/@WilliamFreedman and holds an MBA in international business from The American University.