The popularity of Blockchain-based games has exploded in the first half of 2021. But because it was driven by hastily developed games and a desire for quick profits, this boom proved short-lived. By mid-year, amid a flood of negative reviews citing poor gameplay and graphics, many of these projects had lost significant numbers of players and token holders, collapsing their economies.
Now that the hype is over, a new generation of serious play and earn developers is emerging, determined to make truly great Web3 games.
Here’s what the next generation of Web3 games will bring.
We learned from our mistakes
Blockchain has expanded the boundaries of the gaming industry by expanding the concept of the game to earn money and bringing us GameFi. In-game assets can now be used outside of the virtual world instead of being tied to their respective platforms. Investors have been optimistic about this great new world, pumping $3.6 billion into Web3 startups in 2021.
But noise was a double-edged sword. Many gamblers were attracted more by profit than pleasure. Not so much GameFi as Fi-Game, many of them required joyless “grinding” to meet financial goals. Native non-crypto users reported that Web3 games were too complex or inaccessible. The atmosphere turned sour.
Now the industry is learning from its early mistakes. Unlike their predecessors, next-gen decentralized games will have stronger mechanics, better graphics, and richer worlds. This is because smart developers have learned that taking advantage of the full capabilities of the blockchain can provide a better gaming experience. Experience has taught them that games keep players on board because they are engaged and having fun – and not just working to unlock crypto rewards.
The financial incentives keep adding up
The ability for players to own and control resources is a key value proposition of decentralization. Loyal players can still monetize their knowledge in the blockchain-based game while adding value to its ecosystem. Such games support strong communities because they are genuinely based on the Web3 ethos and not speculative resource grabs.
Simply put, player-owned assets and thriving token economies represent the future of gaming.
Players, not studios, will be in control
Big tech has a strong influence on many aspects of our lives. Games are no exception. Frustration over crazy skin prices, fraudulent abuse, freezes, lags or a banned account is a vivid experience for Web2 gamers. Decentralization, on the other hand, empowers everyone in the game. No player is in charge – and certainly not executives at Sony, Nintendo or Microsoft.
Decentralized gaming promotes authentic user customization, not overrated limited editions. We encourage individuality and experimentation, not seeing them as a threat to a multi-billion dollar business model.
The time is right
Early Web3 games were over-promoted and undercooked. It takes a year to create a game, and it takes up to five years to create a great MMO (Massively Multiplayer Online) game. Projects that took some time to build with the full set of blockchain tools are only now getting ready to go live.
Developers also realized that their games didn’t have to imitate centralized ones. Time has taught us that Web3 games are not inherently worse – or better – than Web2. The broader perspective has shown us that the two models pursue different goals, have different funding models and offer divergent experiences. They run on different tracks; direct comparison leads to confusion.
There are now encouraging signs that this message is finally gaining traction. For example, Pocket Gamer Connects this month represents the entire ecosystem of the gaming industry – with blockchain and Web3 technology being discussed alongside mobile, PC and console. We are at a point where decentralized gaming enjoys both mainstream representation and understanding of their unique offerings.
Experiences with full decentralization and turbocharging
There are many ways decentralization can improve the gaming experience. It allows players to securely trade in-game items – such as land, weapons, skins or character outfits – using digital wallets. They also store cryptocurrencies and NFTs (non-fungible tokens) which offer an exciting Web3 gaming tool. On-chain metadata means accounts are more secure and resilient to account takeovers, which affected 21% of the world’s estimated 3.2 billion players last year.
Finally, smart contracts have an almost infinite number of uses in gaming ecosystems. For example, in-game assets can be broken down or loaned to others – a viable option for people who feel financially excluded from expensive, centralized games. Cooperating players can agree to joint in-game purchases, such as skins. Earnings can be shared with the creators in the chain.
Leveraging our strengths
Centralized gaming is currently enjoying great interest and huge reach. Nobody denies it. However, there is a strong appetite for a new path driven by decentralization. Gaming accounted for nearly half of all blockchain usage in 2021, and many of today’s critics forget that games like World of Warcraft and Second Life are the source of cryptocurrency. Tokens are in the DNA of games.
Today’s decentralized gaming sector is in a cycle of rapid learning, innovation, investment and growth. Great gameplay replaces overrated early prototypes. The next iteration will no longer have to compete with Web2. Instead, it evolves into a completely different proposition – one capable of delivering a more immersive experience while nurturing collaborative virtual communities. A digital space where playing to own and playing to create is just as important as playing to earn.
As decentralized games finally learn to capitalize on their strengths, the future has never been better.
(Riccardo Sibani is the CPO of My Neighbor Alice multiplayer, bringing blockchain gaming to millions of players.)