On January 9, 2022, Mike Shinoda famously said on Twitter:
“Imagine taking your favorite skin from Valorant, and using it [in] Fortnite. And not paying extra, because you own it. Then using it in CoD, Minecraft, even Twitter, IG.”
The ex-Linkin Park guitarist was referring to NFT (Non-Fungible Token) Interoperability in games.
Take your NFT from one game and immediately bring it over to another. The thought was profound yet, traditional game developers heavily criticized the tweet.
Bringing an in-game item from one game to another presents a host of challenges: from intellectual property rights to adapting intimate character designs.
Imagine bringing a blocky MineCraft character to the futuristic dystopia of Cyberpunk.
However, we may not have needed to look that far.
As we’ve discussed in our previous blogs on Enjin, NFT game interoperability exists on several levels.
From the Enjin Blog: A Scale of Labor in Cross-Game Items
Game developers can easily execute the left side of the spectrum. This end involves searching for an NFT token and acknowledging it.
Developers then decide from a range of actions: from rewarding NFT holders with special items, to recreating and reimagining the NFT in the likeness and image of the world it’s being rendered in.
Remember your first time signing up on Grab or Uber? You might have received $10 as a new user bonus. Once you tried the product, you were hooked and became a loyal user.
NFT games can follow a similar approach by rewarding new users with incentives to join their game. Developers can also take a step further by identifying specific NFTs.
For example, Game X decides to target players of Game Y which has one million users. Game X launches a campaign by awarding 100 units of in-game currency to Game Y NFT holders.
While this is a more targeted way of attracting a user base, competitors can easily copy the strategy as it simply involves recognizing a game token and acting based on this information.
To combat this, the strategy is better executed as part of an ecosystem play.
Yuga Labs, the company behind blue-chip NFTs such as Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC) and CryptoPunks, created an ecosystem behind this concept. Holders of Yuga Labs’ NFT assets continuously received airdrops, whether in currency like ApeCoin or metaverse land plots in The Otherside.
This has created an immensely loyal following for Yuga Labs. Holders become spokespersons of the brand and are willing to hold onto assets through the various economic cycles.
NFT Interoperability can also be developed by connecting games through internal marketplaces. Users within an ecosystem can seamlessly store or trade their various game NFTs.
Enjin Wallet 2.0 acts as the one ring to rule them all. Integrated with the Enjin game ecosystem, users can:
NFT.io ties it all together as the trading ground for all the juicy in-game NFTs collected by players.
In December 2018, streaming service Netflix released the interactive film Bandersnatch. Similar to children’s adventure books, viewers choose multiple options on screen. Depending on which decisions are performed for the main character, the film led to various (mostly bad) endings.
Game developers can travel the same route and create special missions and quests for specific NFT game holders. Think of a major game publisher such as Square Enix with its hit series Final Fantasy. Final Fantasy XXI NFT owners could be given special missions in XXII.
This would encourage loyalty from one series to another as previous game players would have something to look forward to in the next title.
It is not hard to imagine how this could lead to something bigger. After all, the hit game Defense of the Ancients (DotA) began as a modification to Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos.
There are risks however as the more complex the side adventures are, the more expensive the development costs become. The discussion then turns into cost versus reward.
In one of the bolder attempts at NFT interoperability, the Sandbox revealed that Bored Ape Yacht Club members’ NFTs could be played as avatars. In addition, other top notch collections such as Gutter Cats, World of Women, Clone X, and Cool Cats will take part in over 140,000 avatar options in Sandbox.
Users click on Sandbox Game Avatars where they can connect their wallets and see a voxel version of their NFTs. Note that users do not need to connect their wallets and can simply select their NFTs from the collections.
The development took more than a year. At the time, Bored Ape released its roadmap 2.0 with mention of Sandbox Miami 2035 + BAYC VX Apes.
While the costs are most likely to be high, Sandbox seeks to pounce on the captured markets of each NFT community.
In the months since Mr. Shinoda’s Tweet, developers have pushed closer to a true form of NFT interoperability. While it’s still early, recent use cases have been very promising.
Read more on why game developers should build cross-game assets here.