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“We’re at a watershed moment in gaming and in the history of gaming,” said Jason Brink, president of blockchain at Gala Games on Wednesday at the GamesBeat Summit Next panel, “The Crossover between NFT Games and Art.”

Gaming has now transitioned from a physical gaming medium, to stacking up cartridges at home, to cloud-based games you buy on Steam but don’t really own, to a new NFT-based gaming ecosystem where you get to own your stuff again, and it’s yours to do with as you will, he said.

“I think that over the next few years, we’re going to see, massive, massive shifts in this direction,” he said, pointing to announcements from companies like Square. “I think that the gaming industry as a whole is waking up to this as a concept and going oh my God, this is a profoundly powerful thing. And we’re going to see even more of that in the future.”

That’s the foundation of Gala Games, said COO Sarah Buxton.

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“Using Blockchain in a gaming environment, really enables the general public, people that want to play games, to access this whole new, fairer, and more equitable world,” she said. “And I don’t see why you wouldn’t be excited to be part of that. But gaming, and NFTs, are also art, she said, and their approach to both is to realize the greatest and highest art for whatever it is that we’re working on.

“For a long time, gaming had been locked in the dungeon of the financial controllers trying to find ways to make revenue out of it,” she said. “And what we’ve done is we’ve worked to help unlock that and unblock game developers who are coming to our platform to allow them to create art, gaming as art, in the best possible way.”

She sees Gala as a way to bring many creative minds together and allows them to thrive, and enables communities to benefit from access to art and ownership of art. In that way, fusing art into games becomes a huge opportunity both for the artists and the players, and adding utility to it brings it to a whole other level — which is what NFTs do.

An NFT is, in its own right, a piece of art created by a game designer as part of a larger piece of meta art, where many people have come together to create a whole world. Utility is turning it into something that a player not only uses in game, but could potentially use in a play-to-earn economy.

“You can actually take something home with you at the end of the day, earn something, and in some cases, go so far as to actually earn a living through playing games with NFTs, with a strong focus on owning your own in-game experience,” Brink said. “For us, that’s what’s really important. It’s giving that utility and that greater usefulness to every NFT that we have in our platform.”

One of the most compelling things about decentralization is giving players access to new economies they could not access in the real world, while still in the context of a game that’s fun to play.

“We get stories from our community all the time about what playing has enabled them to unlock [financially] in their lives — whether that’s settling bills, whether that’s buying things for their home, whether that’s looking after their kids,” she said. “And I think being able to fling those doors open has meant that more people in the world cannot just access this stuff, but feel like it’s okay to want to do it. And unlike some of the physical resources in the world, it’s limitless.”

The hesitancy is that the counter impact isn’t clear yet. Players can own art or a song or even an endgame item, but what’s the cost of running all of it on blockchain?

“I think once we get our heads around that, once we’ve got greener solutions, once we’re making sure that by giving with one hand, we’re not inadvertently taking away with the other,  then I think it becomes even more exciting, and we’re on the road to doing that,” she said.

Gala, while it relies on blockchain, is not platform dependent;  it works directly with their global community of users every day to iterate. And Town Star, their first game, was a live service running and operational with NFT integration long before Gala, the token itself, existed, which is quite backwards from how it’s typically done in the space.

“This is important because we need to understand what it’s like as a blockchain gaming platform from both ends of this,” Brink said. “What is it like as a platform; what do you need to do to support a game? And then from the game side, what do you need from a platform?”

The company has never taken funding, having been profitable from the time they were just 17 employees strong and able to sell enough tokens to support the business. Their independence is one of their superpowers, Buxton said.

“What’s really nice about that is we don’t have to do what anybody else tells us,” she explained. “We’ve got complete freedom and that means, we don’t have this friction between the commercial reality and the player experience, because we get to choose and so we get to choose our partners, we get to choose how we work.”

Brink hopes this ethos and the support the company can provide to developers to dip their toes into the NFT waters spreads across the gaming industry.

“We see that Gala Games and our expertise can have a tremendous impact on game developers around the world and our deep focus that we’ve had in building economic models and setting up sustainable ecosystems for games,” he said. “We can definitely bring that to the space and we’re very proud of what we can contribute and we look forward to working with more game developers and third parties in the future.”

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