Gaming brings forward a mass community of untapped potential for the blockchain industry to access and kickstart mass adoption. Diverting the interest of blockchain from investments to real-world utility is the goal that developers must aim to lead the industry in gaming, but how do you bring traditional gamers into the blockchain space? Tackling this goal requires us to look over how we approach players with pre-sales, looking into what games are doing right, and what mechanics are attractive specifically with blockchain games.
The most obvious eyesore, for me as a gamer and a blockchain supporter, is when a game has a pre-sale with outlandish tiers of available random Non-Fungible Token loot boxes or packs. Now before we get to that, I believe pre-sales, at the state that blockchain is and the number of small teams there is, are essential for developers to be able to create their game and have the proper funding. It is no different from developers or one man devs in traditional gaming using Kickstarter to fund their project. NFTs are meant to be collectible, so the more of the required currency you put into a box or pack, the higher chances you have of acquiring “legendary” items that are more scarce and are only available during the pre-sale. The difference that blockchain gaming provides is that this seeked out item is yours to own, sell, trade or give away if you please. There is no entity, hopefully, preventing you from only keeping that item stored within that game.
However, we are still faced with an issue that loot boxes bring within the current global gaming community. Your twenty dollars may get you an amazing item that everyone wants or you can get three commons that everyone has. That problem is not solved in blockchain games simply because they are, “unique and limited”, or, “you are in control of your items”. Take a look at pre-sales across the market. Most are in the range of 0.2 ETH to about 0.8 ETH for these packs or loot boxes. In many of these games, you need to buy these NFTs to be able to play the game at least in a competitive way. In the current market as of this being written, that is between $50-220 that you will be dropping to play a game that requires you to own those NFTs with the hope that the money you spend will provide you with an item that is rare and could alone be desirable, enough to be worth more than what you spent, to another player.
That is a big gamble that blurs the line separating what sets aside cryptocurrencies from NFTs. For many people already in the blockchain space, that is a common thing we run into when purchasing anything in the industry, but that is a turn away for most people that only know that Bitcoin was 20k and now we are pretty bummed out. Specifically, parents, who you must understand will be the ones providing the money to their children who take up a significant chunk of gamers. That also includes people ages 16-28 who are gamers but have school expenses, student loans and are beginning to start their family life. The balances with what developers are used to in the industry start to work against them when attracting players from the core gaming community.
Tied to that, is the issue of wealth classes in the gaming community. This is not a problem only present in blockchain, but it is one that will hit hard for game developers. If during this pre-sale there are only 100 legendary items, who do you think has the best odds of obtaining them? The person with an income of 60k a month or the young kid who works 3 days a week because of school, but is a dedicated gamer? That takes me directly back to my first statement on this topic. If the 0.8 ETH box has a higher percentage to generate one of the valuable “legendary” items, well that kid who is more dedicated and involved with gaming is either spending half his savings or not playing the game at all. It leads me to ask: What are the barriers stopping a person with a large amount of money to come in and purchase a vast amount of those items and therefore controlling the sale price on the market?
I believe that gaming companies within the blockchain will stand out and benefit from lowering the prizes from these high tier loot boxes and/or sticking to a fixed prize tied to fiat and not a cryptocurrency. With how volatile cryptocurrencies are, asking for 0.2 ETH (~$50) today could be asking for $70 tomorrow. By then, if you are looking to game, it is much more practical to buy a $60 dollar game and get a rich story with content.
Blockchain games lack the ability for players able to just spend a fixed price for a game to have access to numerous in-game items and multiplayer interactions. Methods that developers can aim to start with that initial game prize. A game on pre-alpha that I have recently begun to play called, Forgotten Artifacts, has two packs you can purchase to start playing the game. One is fixed at $25 dollars and the other $100. The more expensive one, of course, provides you with a higher chance to get a legendary item with some extra in-game content. One is affordable and the other matches the prize that special editions usually costs for traditional games. Not to mention it is easier to access for all gamers with the option to pay in USD. Regardless which of the two you have, I was immediately able to enter a game that the developer, Cliff Cawley, has put hard work towards design, mechanics, and gameplay. I am able to go into these dungeons and fight in an RPG Loot style game without needing to purchase more NFTs.
The microtransaction aspect comes with the pets you are able to purchase, which are also tradable blockchain items and have alongside with you. The game will have skins, aesthetics, more pets, and other in-game mechanics as it develops. As a gamer, this game was an instant win to me for the fact that I can play it for a single prize like traditional games and choose to spend more money for these customizable items if I choose to. The content available at the moment of the game is limited, but it shows how potential triple-A games that release with one set prize can do when releasing blockchain titles. Gameplay and content-rich games are something that the traditional game industry is struggling to balance with downloadable content and pay to win transactions existing. Blockchain games aiming to become more than idle runners or collectibles with no gameplay, should take note of what this game is doing at the moment. Of course, it is pre-alpha, so this could change.
I think that the cards game genre is one that will flourish immensely from blockchain and NFTs. The competitive and collector mindset harmonize in the same way that cards games do in the real world. Steem Monsters, rebranding to Splinter Lands, is a game I like simply because you hold the sense of mystery when purchasing booster packs, while still only spending a real-world affordable price of two USD. You can instantly play, move up the ranks, sell or buy cards, and not have a hole in your wallet.
Another card game that I think is taking advantage of collectibles and competitive is Mythereum, which I will go a little more in depth with because it leads to the next mechanics that I believe is essential for blockchain games.
First, a disclaimer, I am as of writing this sponsored by the Mythereum team, but this article and the particular subject are not influenced or done for the game. The reason I bring this game up is the same that got me more involved in the fruition blockchain games can bring to the industry. The game practices various mechanics that I think most blockchain games should apply. The first begins with the play-to-win mechanic. The game features an in-game currency, Mythex, that has numerous uses for the players but is not purchasable. Mythereum had a pre-sale, like most games, and currently has a new edition of cards that are purchasable, but the key thing is you do not have to buy anything to play. As soon as you sign up, you get 30 free cards that are playable and able to place on chain when a certain amount of battles are done.
This leads me back to the in-game currency that is earned and not purchased. The game allows you to earn their currency by battling other players, cheering on-going matches, generating it from mines within the game, selling products such as gold or iron, winning tournaments or a certain amount matches, and raiding other players. Once 132MX is reached within the game, you can begin to move any amount past that on-chain into your chosen wallet. With the currency, you can host tournaments, form alliances, upgrade your on-chain cards, and buy other cards on OpenSea if the person accepts it as payment. A person can play the game and only spend Ethereum on placing their free cards on-chain and gas needed to buy or sell cards on Opensea.
In this industry, we call that proof-of-play. Purchasable in-game currencies within games only work if they are used solely used for aesthetics and no gameplay advantage. Otherwise, they become pay-to-win and your game is now based on your wallet size and not skill. Mythereum, like other games, has the option to buy cards packs for Ethereum, but there is no pressure from the game or devs to buy those cards to enjoy the game. It holds enough to grind and reward to build your collection on your own with peer-to-peer transactions.
Mythereum leads me to my next subject, which I believe is one that is very sought out in the blockchain gaming community. Interoperability is one of the greatest and most attractive features a blockchain game could have for me. If you are not familiar, interoperability, within blockchain games, is the practice of allowing a player to use an NFT from a different game and bring it into another game in some form or another. Whether it just be for a skin, a weapon, a clothing piece, or, in this case, a playable card within the game. Within the game, Mythereum, you are able to bring in CryptoKitties and forge them into playable cards. The game takes the traits of the CryptoKitty and determines the cards abilities and stats. These cards are then able to be placed on-chain and ready to be sold if desired. If you change your mind, you can undo the process and have your CryptoKitties back.
Whatever the game it may be, the practice of interoperability gives your games NFTs more utility, resulting in more demand and higher value. I am more inclined to drop that 0.2 ETH if I can take your NFT into multiple games if I wanted to. As a gamer, you never wanted to take your Halo Armor into another multiplayer game? Perhaps have it be converted into a shield in a game such as Conan Exiles? Those possibilities are endless when developers and their community come together. Of course, that practice is not to be expected from the game just launching or in development, but keeping that choice for your players in the works puts you ahead of other games.
My favorite, without a doubt, is the goal, that developers and the blockchain community aim to create, is the Oasis from, “Ready Player One”, by Ernest Cline. The virtual world designed by the character, James Halliday, brings together what many blockchain and traditional gamers want. A place for all your games and items to exist and interact with. In other words, the peak of what interoperability can be. Whether it be Decentraland or another developer that makes this happen, we can not forget that we are still in such a young stage for an industry. If blockchain is the way to go, which in my opinion I believe will play a key role, we have to take a step back and make sure we have regular gaming down first. You haven’t forgotten about Innovative Online Industries, aka IOI, right? The evil corporation with big pockets that almost took over Oasis.
Dapps will take the lead in mass adoption, but the gaming aspect will triumph over them all. With a multi-billion industry of gamers, we must make sure that blockchain games become more financially accessible, full of the content without the NFTs being the primary form of attraction and mechanics that do not insist on your wallet is the catalyst to start your journey as a blockchain gamer. We are a young industry, but the thing about gamers is, when we have something in mind, we will make it happen.
Let me know of any games you think are doing it right and whether you agree or disagree with the article. As a young industry blockchain games can improve on many aspects, so let me know if there is anything I missed that you think is essential for developers to take into consideration.
The article is meant to be informational, not to promote, and not to urge you to buy anything. NFTs are similar to cryptocurrencies in that they can be an investment risk. Always do your own research before buying anything in the blockchain space.