Since the IOST mainnet launched on February 25, the platform has achieved some impressive feats. On April 11, IOST surpassed Ethereum to become the third most active blockchain network measured by daily transaction volume. And this is a feat IOST has achieved repeatedly since. And IOST-based gambling dApps Endless Game and IOST Play currently comprise two of the top three dApps on DappRadar.com when ranked by the weekly number of transactions. One EOS dApp is slotted between IOST’s two big performers in second place, meaning the top two dApps on IOST have seen a larger number of transactions than anything on Ethereum or TRON in the past seven days.
We recently spoke with IOST CEO Jimmy Zhong to find out what is behind IOST’s sudden success and what the future of dApp-based gaming will look like.
The Future of Blockchain Gaming
Zhong describes Endless Game as “a smashing success in engagement,” reaching “transaction volumes of 700 million IOST tokens within its first day.” And according to DappRadar, Endless Game is currently one of just five dApps across all four platforms it monitors to have seen over a million transactions this week.
As we showed in a recent article detailing the 10 dApps with over $10 million in weekly volume, gambling dApps are by far the most active and profitable area of the current dApp ecosystem across all major blockchain networks. But Zhong explains there are many more potential applications for gaming dApps:
Blockchain technology will help traditional game developers introduce aspects of asset ownership, value transfer, and various in-game currencies, making gaming experiences more engaging and personal to each user. More traditional games could be ported over to blockchains in time to come, but the first wave of adoption will be from new games developed on scalable networks such as IOST that leverage the true value of blockchains.
The most demonstration of what blockchain-based gaming dApps makes possible so far is Crypto Kitties, which briefly ground the Ethereum network to a halt at the height of its popularity in late 2017. Crypto Kitties enabled users to breed their own unique kittens, which were recorded as digital assets on the Ethereum blockchain. The launch of Crypto Kitties came just months before the alt coin bull market of 2017 hit its January 2018 apex and it was a major beneficiary of the hype surrounding crypto at the time, with the most expensive Crypto Kitty being sold for $140,000 worth of ETH.
The hype surrounding Crypto Kitties died down quickly, but it’s legacy is likely to live much longer as the first blockchain gaming smash hit. In November 2018, Crypto Kitties creators Dapper Labs raised $15 million in a private fundraising round. Contributors included venture capital subsidiaries of Samsung and Google parent company Alphabet.
Dapper Labs CEO Roham Gharegozlou explained in an interview with Fortune that games often pave the way for adoption of new tools, pointing to Solitaire and Minesweeper familiarizing early computer users with point-and-click and drag-and-click. The same could be said of smartphone gaming apps, which have in more recent years familiarized millions with touchscreen control techniques. Zhong shares Gharegozlou’s belief in the power of games to spark adoption of new tools and technologies:
Gaming is a critical launchpad for IOST to reach the masses. The complete ownership, transfer, exchange, and sale of assets that gamers experience through blockchain technology creates an immediate appeal. Three months on from the launch of our mainnet, IOST has already enabled developers such as Endless Game, Team Joy, and XPET, a top three EOS DApp, to launch games that are entertaining and easy for mainstream users to interact with on the IOST platform.
Dice rolling games like that of Endless Game are a natural fit for blockchain gambling, using the randomly generated hashes of blockchain networks to deliver truly random outcomes without the prospect of manipulation. Other games to have launched on IOST include XPET, which was originally developed for EOS and allows users to do battle and explore dungeons in a more advanced take on the Crypto Kitties concept. There’s also Liar game, which Zhong says “draws inspiration from a popular Japanese TV series and gives players the options of loyalty, betrayal, trust, and fraud, mimicking behaviours of society and human nature.”
One “killer app” of blockchain-based gaming is that, as Zhong explains, it allows players to be truly rewarded for what occurs in-game. With a growing backlash against microtransactions and pay-to-win features that have become prevalent in the mobile gaming world and have even now seeped into console gaming, there is clear potential for blockchain gaming to create a gaming ecosystem that reward all parties equally:
Gaming DApps like these allow for token rewards to be distributed to players in an interactive and more rewarding way that was not possible before blockchain gaming was introduced.
We’re still less than two years on from the launch of Crypto Kitties and there is a clearly a huge amount of scope for blockchain games to develop further. We recently looked at 10 of the most innovative gaming dApps on EOS, and many on the list have yet to fully be launched. Zhong paints a picture of an exciting future for blockchain gaming dApps when I asked him what he thought the future of blockchain gaming would look like:
The future of blockchain gaming will be seamless, engaging, and more rewarding than traditional games today. Players would have easy access to blockchain games, without having to worry about navigating the technical aspects of the technology. As the blockchain gaming industry matures and develops, traditional games from legacy gaming companies will start to take notice and port their games onto blockchain networks that can offer high transaction speeds and volumes, and provide a seamless experience to everyday gamers.
Concepts like “easy access” and not having to worry about “navigating the technical aspects of the technology” are probably the biggest current barrier to gaming dApps achieving the kind of widespread adoption seen by mobile games available through Apple’s App Store and the Google Play Store. But Zhong says IOST have taken an important step toward making these easy access possible with the recent introduction of On Block:
Our recent introduction of OnBlock, a platform making it easier for everyday users to interact with DApps on the IOST network with just their mobile number or email address as a login and without the need for Gas and Ram, also removes barriers to adoption and encourages more engagement on IOST. As we continue to introduce more DApps each week, we look forward to seeing more users come on board IOST and engage and transact on the network.
There is no doubt Zhong and IOST are passionate about growing the gaming dApp ecosystem and helping the concept achieve the potential so many people see in it. But with Ethereum, EOS, and TRON all having gaming dApps available on their networks, what makes IOST stand out from an increasingly crowded field?
Proof of Believability
One big differentiator between the main dApp platforms is the consensus mechanism used to verify transactions on the network. Ever since the introduction of Bitcoin, blockchain developers have struggled with how best to achieve the holy trinity of decentralization, scalability, and performance. Ethereum, like Bitcoin, currently operates using a Proof of Work (PoW) consensus mechanism, where miners receive cryptocurrency rewards for solving complex mathematical problems that verify new network transactions. But PoW has fallen out of fashion due to the wasteful energy consumption resulting from miners competing to mine blocks. Ethereum is moving toward implementing Proof of Stake (PoS), where consensus is instead achieved across the network based on the quantity of ETH held by different users. EOS uses a version of PoS called delegated proof of stake (DPoS), where users can vote for 21 block producers who are responsible for verifying network transactions. But, as Zhong points out, none of these mechanisms are perfect:
First generation blockchains such as Ethereum promise decentralization at the cost of scalability and performance, while newer blockchains offer performance at the expense of centralization due to a few large nodes that control block production.
IOST uses an innovative new consensus mechanism dubbed Proof of Believability (PoB). IOST Communications Lead Joshua Bass explained how PoB works in an interview with Malta Blockchain Summit in February:
With the PoB system, a node is validated based on its past contributions and behaviors. To maximize fairness and the decentralized nature of the blockchain, IOST has implemented a reputation-based sub-token system called servi. These non-tradeable tokens are awarded to good actors within the ecosystem and factor heavily into the process of choosing the next validator. What makes servi unique is that upon winning the right to validate transactions, a user’s servi balance is cleared, making it far harder for a “rich get richer” scenario to develop…
Proof-of-Believability enables next-gen transaction throughput speeds while ensuring nodes stay compliant, using factors including IOST token balance, servi balance, network contributions and user behaviors. Proof-of-Believability acts as a hybrid to the classic Proof-of-Stake model.
I asked Zhong why he thought that PoB would give IOST an advantage over other blockchain networks in solving the ‘security trilemma’ of balancing decentralization, scalability, and performance:
IOST’s Proof-of-Believability Consensus Mechanism (PoB) addresses this scalability trilemma by combining the decentralized benefits of Proof-of-Work (PoW) and Proof-of-Stake (PoS) systems, with transactions delegated between believable and normal nodes. This ensures speeds of up to 8,000 transactions per second while retaining significant decentralization and security. With the PoB consensus mechanism in place, DApps are supported with a network that enables seamless performance built to encourage mainstream adoption.
The Future of IOST
When IOST first recorded higher transaction daily volume than Ethereum back in April, IOST had seen 843,222 transactions in one day, compared to 727,449 on Ethereum. While there has been volatility in the transaction volume across both network in the month since this landmark was reached, the most recent figures available from Token View show that IOST hit 950,951 transactions on May 23. Just three months on from its mainnet launch, IOST clearly has momentum behind it. Zhong sees this momentum building as the IOST network grows:
We are also working closely with several gaming companies who are interested in implementing blockchain technology and looking to port their games to the IOST network. As we onboard more partners and developers, we will see an increase in innovative DApps that will create a stronger appeal to different gamers and in time, reach the consoles and devices of mainstream users.
Gaming may be what Zhong calls “a critical launchpad for IOST to reach the masses,” but it is not the only area in which the network is expanding. An infographic supplied to DappLife.com by IOST shows the various aspects of the expanding IOST ecosystem. Major exchanges such as Binance, Huobi, and Upbit have already listed the IOST token and IOST is expecting to expand into sectors such as finance and charity.
Zhong sees the current momentum as a glowing indicator for IOST’s long-term success:
Surpassing Ethereum’s daily transaction count within our first 3 months demonstrates IOST’s ability to contest and exceed some of the most established protocols today. Our high transaction volumes are an indication of the usability and demand for Decentralized Applications (DApps) available on the IOST network.