Blockchain gaming is only four years old – a toddler compared to the rest of the industry. There’s still a lot to grow up on, especially when it comes to play-to-earn games.
I am a 28 year veteran of the gaming industry. During this time I have produced 32 titles from Sega Genesis to Oculus Rift. Some of them were great. Many were unforgettable. I didn’t hear much chatter about blockchain games from traditional developers and players until Axie Infinity started to take off. Cut to the peak of 2021, and the game had nearly 2 million players logging in daily.
Most people outside of the crypto community were (and still are) extremely skeptical about blockchain’s ability to add anything meaningful to games at the time. They see Axie as an example of low production values and rampant speculation, which they want to avoid at all costs. Additionally, they see blockchain as a continuation of the hype by publishers. In 2021, however, many believed Axie would prove blockchain gaming skeptics wrong.
It didn’t. Axie and most other crypto “games” have been terrible experiences so far. They’re not even really games. They’re more like digital sharecropping, rich NFT owners exploiting low-wage players. It’s flat gameplay based on a tokenomics model. This was last seen in October when Axie’s SLP token lost value due to an upcoming token activation.
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Most players sell their tokens on the crypto market rather than in-game, which means the number of tokens is increasing and causing a kind of crypto inflation. The game model relies on a constant influx of new players to sustain it – something this month has proven to be very non-guaranteed.
The value of Axie is primarily determined by that speculation, not fun. The game, if you can even call it that, is literally a grind. Despite attempts to separate it from the game economy’s dependency with iterations like Axie Origins, the toxic hyper-dependency model of tokenomics prevails. This continues to distract from projects trying to create fun games that use blockchain to enhance the gaming experience.
At the height of its popularity, the team behind Axie arrogantly claimed that it “liberated” gamers and enabled a world where work and play merged. But the game’s demise after March’s massive $620 million customer funds hack showed just how hollow that language was. Shifting from the play-to-earn narrative to a play-and-earn ethos, Axie creator Sky Mavis was acutely aware that the game would fall short of its mission.
For blockchain games to be successful, developers need to focus on great game design rather than trying to shore up their tokens. In an increasingly difficult global economic climate, even mainstream gaming is struggling. But the games that are doing well despite the market sentiment are AAA titles like God of War Ragnarök and the latest Call of Duty, which have an exciting story and fantastic gameplay.
The ability for players to spend time creating things that people will love in the form of stickers, skins, and weapons—while monetizing them—is key. People need an outlet where they can be creative and put together content that sparks interest and emotion with a community that loves the game.
If we want to turn the tide in the perception of blockchain gaming, we need to show how players can benefit from it. Going beyond words and actually demonstrating that it enhances gameplay and utility. Blockchain can do incredible things as a backend infrastructure, e.g. B. Allowing players to truly own in-game items, prove the attribution and history of their weapons and loot, and be rewarded for their in-game creations.
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Part of Vitalik Buterin’s drive to innovate with blockchain was fueled by his distress when he lost a spell’s abilities in World of Warcraft overnight due to the game’s centralized control. Blockchain ultimately restores true ownership of in-game features to players, meaning they own them even if changes occur in a game or it goes under.
This property ownership can extend to many areas. Right now, Microsoft and Sony let you record videos of your in-game activities and then post them to social media, but you don’t really have control over how they’re monetized. You are tied to YouTube monetization. With blockchain, players could capture in-game moments, remember them as NFTs, and then allow people to buy/sell them at their discretion. By updating gaming infrastructure and enabling new innovations, real-time integration of players into the creative process can also take place, which is rare in the industry.
The players want to be involved in the development of the games. You don’t want to be tricked into paying more. Studios need to prioritize gameplay, rich visuals, and immersive narratives to get players on board. The blockchain games that become successful will be the ones where the players don’t even know that there is a blockchain working in the background.
Deception and speculative frenzy have been the central characteristics of the broader crypto market this year. So it’s going to be a lot harder to get players on board. Studios need to go one step further to demonstrate to gamers that blockchain gaming can achieve the safety, fun, and adrenaline-pumping action that defines the games they love.
Markus Lang is the CEO of Shrapnel, a blockchain-enabled, modifiable, AAA, first-person shooter game. He received his BS in computer science from the University of Texas at Austin before enrolling in a leadership development program at the Wharton School. He previously served as a director at HBO’s Digital Products Group; as Group Program Manager at Microsoft; and as CEO of companies such as Aristia, Meteor Entertainment, and Zombie Studios.
This article is for general informational purposes and should not be construed as legal or investment advice. The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.