Halborn Logo

// Blog


Web3 Gaming and the Evolution of MMO Economies


Rob Behnke

December 11th, 2023

In Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) games, in-game economies have evolved from a mere feature to a fundamental aspect of the gaming experience. Traditional MMOs often feature complex economies where players can earn and trade virtual goods using in-game currency. Historically, these virtual economies mirrored real-world ones, complete with supply and demand dynamics, inflation, deflation, and even recessions. This sophistication has inevitably attracted cybercriminals, seeing MMOs as fertile ground for illicit gain.

Challenges in Traditional MMO Economies

Traditionally, hackers have found ways to exploit game vulnerabilities to generate in-game currency or virtual goods, selling them for real money on unauthorized third-party platforms. These transactions, while lucrative for the perpetrators, posed significant risks for buyers, often involving untrustworthy sites and the potential for scams or legal repercussions.

Web3 in Gaming and its Security Landscape

The new Web3 Gaming era is a significant step forward as it often represents in-game assets and currencies as tokens on a blockchain, facilitating a transparent and unique form of ownership. The decentralized nature of blockchain allows for a shift in asset control towards players, expanding beyond traditional game developer dominance. However, while this model offers distinct ownership advantages, it's important to recognize the complex security landscape it introduces. 

For instance, although blockchain technology can provide a shield against certain types of attacks, vulnerabilities in smart contracts could still pose risks, such as the unauthorized alteration or loss of digital assets. Additionally, if the game's servers have administrative privileges over these contracts, traditional server security concerns remain relevant. 

Another security consideration in this new era is that the traditional need for obscure websites for trading is eliminated; tokens can now be sold directly on legitimate marketplaces at market prices. This direct access to markets potentially makes Web3 gaming economies more attractive to cybercriminals.

In Web3 gaming, blockchain technology principally contributes to enhanced transparency and decentralized asset control. While it’s a misconception that blockchain inherently boosts fraud detection and prevention capabilities more effectively than traditional banking and payment systems, its real strength lies in distributing control and reducing reliance on centralized entities for managing game economies. These traditional systems have their established protocols for fraud detection and prevention. Blockchain’s immutable transaction records primarily foster a transparent environment, making it easier to trace and audit transactions.

However, the role of smart contracts in this ecosystem is often misunderstood. Smart contracts are typically employed to verify and secure ownership of digital assets, such as in-game items, currencies, and titles, through mechanisms like NFTs and ERC20 tokens. They don't usually dictate the in-game economic rules, which are often managed off-chain through server APIs. This means that while smart contracts are pivotal in ensuring the legitimacy and ownership of digital assets, the broader economic mechanics and rules are governed off-chain. Therefore, ensuring the security and integrity of these digital economies requires a comprehensive approach that addresses potential vulnerabilities in both the blockchain (on-chain) and the server-side (off-chain) components of the game.

For the gaming community, adopting Web3 technology presents a multifaceted scenario. While it paves the way for a more satisfying and transparent trading environment with increased integrity, it simultaneously intensifies the need for advanced cybersecurity measures. This shift underlines the evolving nature of gaming economies as they increasingly intersect with real-world value. In this context, the concept of 'security' takes on a broader meaning. It's not just about preventing unauthorized access or theft; it's also about ensuring the fair and transparent operation of the gaming economy. As these digital economies gain real-world significance, the imperative for cybersecurity vigilance and a comprehensive approach to safeguarding these ecosystems becomes more critical.

The Future of MMO Economies in Web3

As we venture further into the age of Web3 gaming, the industry must prioritize robust security protocols to safeguard these digital economies. For developers, it means rigorous smart contract audits and a proactive approach to security. For players, it requires an informed and cautious approach to transactions. The future of MMO economies in Web3 is bright, but only if the entire ecosystem collaborates to keep the playing field secure and fair for all participants.