We’ve written plenty about the differences between decentralized games and traditional games. With DGames, players own the assets they acquire and have some control over the direction of the game. The game’s logic and rules are for all to see and gamers aren’t dependent on any centralized party for the game to keep on running.
Let me give you a concrete example to explain why this matters. A traditional game like Counter-Strike is entirely vertically integrated: everything is owned by its developer Valve, from items to game logic to user interface. All the game’s components are developed and controlled by Valve.
You might think that’s not true. After all, Counter-Strike has an active community of gamers trading community-created skins on third-party websites such as OPSkins, all seemingly without Valve’s involvement. Surely they don’t control everything.
Yet last May, out of nowhere, Valve introduced a rule where recently-traded items would have a seven-day cooldown before they could be traded again. This caused a big uproar in the community, leading to a change.org petition to revert back to the old trade rules. The petition got 160,000 signatures, but to no avail. Valve stated they have no intention reverting back to the old rule, and the community had no choice in the matter.
DGames are different. Because DGames run on blockchain technology, game developers will have to be more considerate with their gamers. If developers do something against the will of the community, a large group of gamers could mobilize themselves and fork away from the original game, creating a game identical in every aspect except for the aspects that the community didn’t agree with.
This, by now, has become a well-known example of the power of blockchain technology implemented in games. Whether this is good, because it empowers the community, or bad, because it can slow down developers who want to introduce new features, is outside of the scope of the article, but it seems right that the people enjoying the game, and often contributing to further content creation, at least have some degree of power.
But DGames have started to differ from traditional games in other ways too. Whereas traditional games are entirely vertically integrated, DGames are becoming increasingly modular. This started becoming evident with the success of CryptoKitties in December 2017. CryptoKitties is quite vertically integrated itself. Although everything is on the blockchain, CryptoKitties’ items, game logic, and UI are all components developed by CryptoKitties’ developer team.
But the difference with traditional games is that second-layer experiences started being built around CryptoKitties. It started with a simple blockchain explorer (Kitty Explorer), then a marketplace, then other games too. KittyHats allowed gamers to kit their CryptoKitties with cool hats, while KittyRace allowed gamers to race their CryptoKitties.
The next evolution of this modularity, if you will, can be exemplified through the popular DGame Etheremon. The developers behind Etheremon had created their game, but then added functionality by connecting it to other blockchain modules that would enhance the game. Etheremon started using MetaMask for wallet functionality, DDEX to exchange tokens, and Loom as a scaling platform. Etheremon now uses all these different components created by different people to create a better game.
Then there’s one step beyond that, where a much smaller group of game developers outsource everything but the very essence of the game to these modular components. All sales are done on a decentralized marketplace, the game itself is hosted on a platform like Decentraland, uses a wallet from Coinbase, and so on… Game developers can focus on the core idea of their game, while everything else can be plugged in if needed.
OpenSea is one of those modular components, and quite an essential one.
What is OpenSea?
OpenSea is the largest marketplace for crypto collectibles on the Ethereum blockchain. It has over 1.2 million digital assets listed, has transacted over 4,000 ETH in one year, and has over fifty asset classes for players to buy and sell. It was founded in November 2017 by CTO Alex Atallah, previously at Palantir, and CEO Devin Finzer, previously at Google and Pinterest.
The company started right before the massive surge in popularity of CryptoKitties. They launched the OpenSea platform beta just a month later, and CryptoKitties were the first crypto collectibles that gamers could buy. The platform has since expanded to not just include the non-fungible tokens (NFT) of DGames, but have also started including NFTs like blockchain art, LAND from Decentraland, event tickets, appreciation tokens (yes, it exists), and courses.
The reason why a platform such as OpenSea matters is because blockchain has the set of properties we discussed at the beginning of the article, which set it apart from traditional games. Non-fungible tokens are unique, because they’re enforced by a decentralized ledger. They’re also immutable, in the sense that these items exist regardless of the existence of the entity that created them. They’re interoperable, as we’ve seen with second-layer games such as KittyHats and KittyRace. And they’re liquid, in the sense that anyone can transfer them wherever to whomever with a wallet address.
But the above requires a marketplace for players to buy and sell those NFTs. And building a marketplace that’s interoperable isn’t easy, nor is it very convenient for gamers to switch between marketplaces for every DGame they want to play. OpenSea is the one stop shop that enables all the benefits of blockchain technology.
As of today, the company doesn’t really have any competition. They were the first crypto collectible platform and they’re still by far the largest. They raised $2 million in a seed round last May, and their investors are big hitters: Blockchain Capital, Coinbase Ventures, Foundation Capital, and angel investors from YouTube and Eventbrite, among others.
Ways of Trading
To solidify their role as top dog in decentralized marketplaces, OpenSea acquired Atomic Bazaar last December. Atomic Bazaar was an Ethereum digital asset marketplace that allowed its users to trade in real time. This will allow OpenSea to add new ways for people to trade assets, from item-to-item bartering to generally more sophisticated orders.
Not that its users were limited in ways they could trade before. On OpenSea, users can sell their item for a fixed price or they can auction it in a variety of currencies, including ETH, MANA (of Decentraland), and DAI (a stablecoin pegged to the USD). OpenSea also supports eBay-style bidding, which means users can bid on a particular item that they want, but that might be priced a bit too expensively. This will inform sellers of the maximum price people are willing to pay for the asset, and should lead to a more liquid economy.
Another interesting feature of OpenSea is bundling. Introduced last October, OpenSea users can now sell a group of items all at once. It’s innovative, because it’s not limited to the assets from a single DGame. You can bundle across DGames, which is exactly the kind of interoperability that only blockchain technology allows for. As of right now, there are 1,768 bundles for sale, so the feature has definitely caught on.
While some DGames have their own marketplaces, such as CryptoKitties and Axie Infinity, most DGames don’t. In these scenarios, OpenSea is the primary marketplace for buying and selling items, making it an invaluable component of those games, while also acquiring quite a powerful position in their ecosystems.
Listing an asset on OpenSea is free (apart from the inevitable Ethereum gas fees). OpenSea makes its money by taking 2.5% off the price of a successful sale. The user wins a lot, OpenSea wins a bit.
OpenSea at Work
In researching the articles I write, I occasionally buy a crypto asset to see how the game mechanics of a particular DGame work. Mostly, I’ve been playing Steem Monsters, an excellent card collectible DGame, as well as Axie Infinity, a game where you raise and fight your Axies.
When I created an account on OpenSea (which is really as simple as unlocking your MetaMask browser extension), I didn’t see the Steem Monsters card pack I’d bought, considering that the game is built on the STEEM blockchain. I asked the OpenSea team if they were looking to support digital assets on blockchains other than Ethereum and this was their reply:
That sounds reasonable to me. It makes sense to start with the most popular DApp platform before considering other platforms that might not yet have the traction you want. They have to stay on their toes though, because there’s now an open opportunity for competitor marketplaces to jump onto those other DApp platforms and build a following.
But apart from my Steem Monster card packs, OpenSea showed me everything I’d ever done with crypto collectibles. I immediately thought “this is really useful”. You see, when you start buying and selling crypto collectibles in different marketplaces across games, it’s not always easy to keep track of where you bought what and for what price. People lose physical items, so think about how easy it can be to lose digital items that float around in computer code, that you can’t physically see.
Because I bought all my crypto collectibles through MetaMask, OpenSea gives an immediate and very comprehensive summary of all my crypto collectibles, including those in escrow and those for sale. It also shows all the transactions you’ve ever done with crypto collectibles, which shows you not just the crypto collectibles you’ve sold, but also which wallet address own it now and what they’ve been trying to do with it.
This way, I found out that one of the Axies I’d sold a few months ago, for 0.15 ETH, is now owned by a wallet address who also owns CryptoKitties, HyperDragons, Ether Kingdom armor, and so on… The person had been trying to sell my Axie ever since he bought it, but has been unable to so far. I could see all this immediately using OpenSea, which I thought was very neat.
Not just that, but OpenSea gives an incredible amount of detail for each individual asset. Below is one of my Axies I’ve been trying to sell for 0.1 ETH. It’s being held in escrow, because you can’t use the Axies you’re trying to sell. As you can see from the screenshot below, OpenSea doesn’t just display the image of your Axie and the fact that it’s being held in escrow while you try to sell it for ETH, but it also gives all the Axie’s properties relevant to the game.
The page also displays any possible offers that people have made on your Axie, as well as its listing history (which is where you can trace back where it came from and who owned the asset before you), as well as similarly priced items. You can also click on any of the properties for OpenSea to immediately display a list of Axies with that property, which you can then offer on.
I like it. OpenSea is the #1 marketplace for crypto collectibles and it’s easy to understand why. It’s intuitive and gives a nice overview of your crypto collectibles while also making it really easy to buy or sell other crypto collectibles for a wide variety of DGames. OpenSea came across as so immediately useful I have no doubt I’ll return to the platform for buying and selling crypto collectibles for Ethereum DGames.