Money, Tokens, and Games

Blockchain's Next Billion Users and Trillions in Value

Can you always spot disruptive innovation? When we hear the story of how the invention of the automobile hastened the demise of buggy whip companies, we often question why the disruptive potential of gas-powered cars wasn’t noticed. In the modern era, most people buying digital cameras in the 1990s would have scoffed at the idea that in a few years’ time, we would all be carrying around cameras in our mobile phones.

The potential for tokenization via blockchain has been talked about as being transformative for the past few years but we are not quite at the point of mass adoption. Unlike automobiles or more recent innovations like ChatGPT or the Metaverse, blockchain is a back-end infrastructure technology without a prominent consumer interface, making it harder to visibly see how it could be innovative.

But we believe we are approaching an inflection point, where the promised potential of blockchain will be realized and be measured in billions of users and trillions of dollars in value. Successful adoption will be when blockchain has a billion-plus users who do not even realize they are using the technology. This is likely to be driven by the adoption of central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) by large central banks as well as tokenized assets in gaming and blockchain-based payments on social media. By 2030, up to $5 trillion of CBDCs could be circulating in major economies in the world, half or which could be linked to distributed ledger technology. Tokenization of financial and real-work assets could be the killer use case driving blockchain breakthrough with tokenization expected to grow by a factor of 80x in private markets and reach up to almost $4 trillion in value by 2030.

We first wrote about tokenization in the 2021 Citi GPS report Future of Money: CBDCs, Crypto, and 21st Century Cash. At the time, China was starting to pilot test its (CBDC) and other central banks were warming up to the idea of their own digital currencies. In recent months, central banks in multiple large countries have announced plans for CBDCs this decade, giving almost 2 billion people the opportunity to experiment with digital currency.

To be successfully adopted into the mainstream, blockchain needs the help of technology enablers, including (1) decentralized digital identities, (2) zero-knowledge proofs, (3) Oracles, and (4) secure bridges. The legal plumbing also needs to be altered to enable smart legal contracts that will provide a whole new set of rails for global commerce and finance to run on. Regulatory considerations are also necessary to allow adoption and scalability without the hindering innovation.

Although we think mass adoption could still be six to eight years away, momentum on adoption has positively shifted as governments, large institutions, and corporations have moved from investigating the benefits of tokenization to trials and proofs of concept.

Blockchain user numbers will be boosted by daily activity. The success of blockchain adoption will be measured by when it is being used by a billion plus end users who do not even realize they are using the technology. Blockchain-based products can make a significant impact in terms of wide consumer adoption in digital currency, especially central bank digital currency (CBDCs), gaming, and social.
Almost anything of value can be tokenized and tokenization of financial and real-world assets could be the “killer use-case” blockchain needs to drive a breakthrough. We forecast $4 trillion to $5 trillion of tokenized digital securities and $1 trillion of distributed ledger technology (DLT)-based trade finance volumes by 2030.
Blockchain promises something that is in parts a replacement of a current functioning system and in parts new capabilities and operating models. From a technology specification perspective, blockchain needs to have transaction scale and throughput, strong guarantees of security, on-chain identity, privacy, Oracles, bridges, and good user experience.
Contract creation and execution can be a painful process, making it ripe for disruption. Technology-enabled smart legal contracts, are legally binding agreements with obligations performed automatically by a computer. They are dynamic, connect to outside data sources, and allow for human involvement where necessary.
Digital Money

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