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The wearable trophy case
This week, we explore the concept of showcasing game items outside the game environment and how web3 enables proof of rarity and authenticity
Transparency and provable rarity
The concept of rarity in collectibles and games has been around for some time, but the ability for transparent “provable” rarity in web3 has really brought the concept to the forefront. In the past, games could claim items as rare based on their drop rates, but they lacked the means to truly prove an item's rarity due to the absence of transparent databases or code. Usually the closest anyone had to proper status signaling was either via items that were known to be very expensive or required a significant achievement such as defeating a very difficult raid boss in an MMO. However, issues like item duplication exploits often undermined the true sense of rarity, particularly in games with active item trading, such as Diablo. As a result, the authenticity of an item's rarity was often questionable in traditional gaming setups. There have been efforts to enhance transparency and prove rarity in physical collectibles through methods like mint numbers (successfully used by NBA Top Shot) and certificates of authenticity. But now, web3 takes it to a whole new level by ensuring clear and verifiable rarity.
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The “Town Square” effect
Typically, displaying a status symbol in a game requires a specific location like a town square, although social media makes it possible to share an image outside of the game. NFTs, on the other hand, have a unique advantage - they are inherently visible outside of games, which allows for clear proof of rarity and authenticity. This still requires code to read a wallet, retrieve all the relevant data from the smart contract and find some kind of image to display to represent the NFT. As a result, marketplaces have adopted a sort of “Town Square” effect due to the financial motivation to offer compatibility with as many NFTs as possible. Since NFTs work differently, any platform wanting to showcase them must be aware of a specific NFT's existence to display it correctly. This means that when comparing platforms like OpenSea and Magic Eden, entering the same wallet address can lead to vastly different visibility of NFTs.
Status display outside of web3
Currently, there are efforts to facilitate the viewing of "wallet contents" outside of NFT marketplaces, using tools such as NFT Viewer or even Etherscan. However, a universal "profile" system similar to Xbox/PlayStation or Steam does not yet exist. Many platforms are working on such systems, and eventually, one may gain prominence. Hopefully, it will come with a user-friendly username system, eliminating the need to paste in wallet addresses or expensive .eth addresses to find others. Until then, if you want to display rare NFTs outside of web3 communities, your options are limited to using the constrained systems on Facebook and Twitter (sorry, X) for social media display. The unfortunate downside in attempting to flash your status outside of web3 circles is that the average person is still likely stuck in the “right click” mentality and won’t recognize ownership in the web3 context. This is a challenge especially for games, where the NFT’s utility goes beyond visual representation, unlike Art/PFP NFTs. Overcoming this challenge will be crucial for wider recognition and adoption of NFT ownership beyond the web3 circles.
Visual representation in the metaverse
The concept of a metaverse functioning as a social hub holds significant potential. While achieving an exact 1:1 representation of an item from one game to another is highly impractical on a technical level, there is potential for visual representation that doesn't need to be perfectly identical. The movie Ready Player One popularized the idea of a metaverse, and although it had its peculiarities, it showcased the appeal of displaying collectibles or in-game items outside of the game as a coveted social status symbol. In this way, even if the representation is not exact, it can still hold social value.
Cross-platform NFT integration
Decentraland effectively showcased this idea via their "Linked Wearables", which connected the ownership and display of wearables in Decentraland to an NFT owned elsewhere. Unfortunately, this idea never gained widespread popularity after its initial demo with Satoshiverse NFTs, but it's possible that this concept might be picked up again if other virtual worlds or metaverse platforms gain significant traction. For instance, Roblox-inspired platforms like Core, attempted to integrate blockchain wallets to read NFTs, allowing users to display their PFPs on white shirts within the game. These efforts indicate that the potential for cross-platform integration of NFTs remains a compelling idea for the future.
From virtual to real world
It might seem insignificant or driven by ego, but the ability to showcase game items outside of games can help expose others to ways ownership of game items can be interesting. Steam demonstrated this effectively with status symbols and displays like CS:GO skins and exclusive trade items such as the infamous "Bill's hat." These items have provable rarity, which added weight to their display outside of the game environment, even though the transparency was not perfect. Of course, for this display to hold meaning for others, there needs to be some recognition or understanding of the item's significance, but there’s plenty of room for odd looking wearables to become a point of discussion to inform the curious. Hopefully there’s a future where someone hanging out in a virtual social world ends up shouting “OMG is that a real Bill’s hat you’re wearing?!”, and verify it is.
Thank you for reading this piece of our weekly series “Nami’s Nexus”, where we look to decode web3 gaming and dive into the intricacies of the industry and beyond. Don't forget to subscribe to our blog and follow us on Twitter to receive more web3 gaming content!
Thanks for reading Nami’s Nexus!