Think Your In-Game Objects Really Belong to You? Here’s How Web 3.0 Games Are Redefining Ownership
Hey, chaps! If you are a devoted fan of video games like me, I’m 99% sure you’ve purchased all sorts of buffs and skins. Avatars, clothing, weapons, potions — there are so many little things that can help us level our characters up and make play-through much easier and more joyful. But do these virtual in-game objects actually belong to the player who bought them?
I’ve made a deep-dive research into the intricacies of virtual ownership and I am dying to share my shocking revelations with you!
When you buy a microwave or a pair of T-shirts, you’re pretty sure you own these items — it’s a tangible transaction. By giving money to a shop and having received goods in return, we become full-fledged owners of these things. But what happens when you buy digitally downloaded movies, television programs, Kindle books, MP3s and armor in Lineage?
Spoiler: there is no clear law to define that, especially when it comes to video games. But, shortly — we own none of virtual things whatsoever!
Just think of it:
When you buy an iPhone, a piece of metal itself has little value — you mostly pay for having access to unique software by Apple. That means the corporation has all rights to change its soft or even deny you access to it (and you don’t have to be a real baddy to deserve such a ban).
Another example is social media that automatically gets a licence to handle your digital content once you upload your shots, videos or posts (ah, shoot, guys from my Dream Team should be careful with their nudes and other sensitive content). Yes, you can delete your files, but there’s a high chance that it will be stored on third-party servers for some time. In case someone reveals it, it would be hard to win a lawsuit against a social media giant anyway.
Yup, this is the bitter truth, so I guess you know where I’m leading to.
Now I’d like to share a few important facts about ownership of digital items:
- When you buy a CD game, you purchase the ‘opportunity to use the software provided by the developer’. That means you cannot distribute it, modify it, and use it for commercial purposes.
- When you buy a game on Steam, you do not possess it — you ‘rent’ it and cannot distribute it or even share with your friends.
- Your in-game objects can be used within the corresponding game, and legally, you have no right to present it to anyone else. Users are prohibited to freely utilize these items as means of economic activities like mortgage, interest payment, or transaction. Many games, though, allow trading items within their own ecosystems.
- In the majority of cases, you cannot pass your account to another person, even to a family member. However, there are exceptions from this rule: Entropia Universe, Second Life, and Blizzard (the latter allows transferring characters to heirs, but requires a lengthy verification procedure).
Turns out, digital items cannot fully belong to players. So far, it’s game architects that dictate the rules — they want to keep law, economy, ecosystem under their control. But why are governments standing aloof?
While there are differences in the legal status of virtual products in Europe and the USA, the overall trend is to recognize game producers’ ownership rights above those of users. The terms of service agreements, which clearly indicate that gamers do not own virtual objects, have frequently been affirmed by courts in both regions. Usually, the emphasis of these agreements is on the licensing part and the developer’s right to edit or remove in-game elements.
Turns out, if developers decide to remove your favorite sword or armor from a game, these items will simply disappear, and don’t even count on any reimbursement :(
Legal precedent is changing, though. Court decisions in certain cases have favored gamers who have suffered losses as a result of developer acts, raising the possibility that developers may be accountable to consumers. These incidents demonstrate the continuous conflict in the digital game industry between developer control and user expectations.
Despite a massive rise of video games during the last 20 years, governments still have not built an adequate legal system for treating ownership of virtual objects and dealing with criminal activities in games (like stealing). Authorities cannot decide whether digital assets can be considered property or not (the same is now happening to cryptocurrencies). Hence, all players can relate to is only games’ rules, which are always on developers’ side.
So, where is this safe haven? In the WEB 3.0 gaming sector.
Web 3.0, with its decentralized and blockchain-based technologies, is revolutionizing the ownership of virtual goods in gaming (by the way, if you wonder how blockchain changes traditional games, read my previous article). How exactly?
Blockchain technology enables the creation of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) that represent unique, verifiable digital assets. In simple terms, once you purchase an in-game object, it gets registered in the blockchain, and no one can reverse this event until you decide to sell your NFT. What’s written in the blockchain, is written. You don’t have to be afraid of game developers suddenly removing in-game objects from your account.
In Web 3.0 games, NFTs grant players full property rights to their virtual items. This means they can buy and sell in-game assets with a high degree of autonomy and security. It also allows players to trade these items on various marketplaces, and even take their virtual items from one game to another (which has not become a common practice yet).
In WEB 3.0 games, a lot of objects can be tokenized: land, characters, avatars, clothing, armor, buffs, furniture, and so on. Bluelight.inc is no exception! Recently, they have launched the Shop for players to buy in-game objects, and plans to launch an NFT collection. Everything you buy will stay yours rightfully!
That’s it for today. Take care, guys, and always read the fine print. But better — switch to WEB 3.0 games.