- The global blockchain gaming market is now estimated to be worth around $21 billion.
- Web3 gaming widespread adoption can be achieved if games are more catered to average gamers, says CEO.
- GameFi mass adoption might take years, similar to what happened with the world wide web.
For the average gamer who has spent the past decade or more playing polished AAA titles on console and PC, their first glimpse of the web3 gaming space leaves a lot to be desired. Downloading browser extensions, navigating different blockchain networks and managing crypto wallets and token swaps is a tad more complicated than picking up a joypad.
Most gamers are unprepared for the learning curve that sees them tasked with understanding how to use decentralized web3 protocols, and even fewer are willing to pay the buy-in costs that require them to purchase high-priced NFTs just to start playing. Who can blame them? NFTs in some of the most popular blockchain games have already sold for thousands of dollars — or millions — if we include virtual land sales in popular metaverses like Sandbox and Decentraland.
The foundational NFTs for one of the most-played blockchain games of all time, Axie Infinity, sold for an average price of $148 each over the past 30 days. Given that Axie Infinity requires players to own three NFTs to start the game, this means Axie users have forked out an average of close to $500 for the privilege of playing in the last month. Cheaper NFTs do exist; the lowest cost of an Axie NFT is currently around $4, but these typically have lower starting abilities than their higher-priced alternatives.
This means web3 gamers are being hit with the pay-to-play stick from two different directions, emulating the worst aspects of the mainstream gaming space which isn’t above asking people to pay hundreds, or even thousands, to experience the full breadth and scope of a given game. What’s more, the crypto rewards a player earns from blockchain games are often minuscule at best: the value of Axie Infinity’s SLP token – which the player earns from successful gameplay – saw 99% of its value disappear in the year since the game launched, and is now valued at a fraction of a cent. Despite the apparent problems with the blockchain gaming space, the wealth of venture capital funding the GameFi space has received over the course of the past year would suggest it has the potential to grow into something more.
Investments within the GameFi space exceeded $3.6 billion last year, and the global blockchain gaming market is now estimated to be worth around $21 billion. Web3 gaming has emerged from the broader cryptocurrency and blockchain experiment as an industry unto itself, threatening to become a ‘new Silicon Valley’ for investors. While VC firms were pouring money into the GameFi space, web3 gaming projects were poaching top talent from major web2 industries, according to a recent report by Drake Star Capital. Executives and developers from firms such as YouTube, Amazon Web Services, Netflix, Electronic Arts, and many others have all leaped over to web3 in recent months, with some, as in the case of YouTube’s former Head of Gaming Ryan Wyatt, becoming the CEO of top-20 projects like Polygon.
Money and manpower are both flooding into the blockchain gaming space despite its current flaws. So what does the GameFi space have to offer that it’s not currently showing us?
Reversing the Rush to the Bottom
Most of the discrepancies in the web3 gaming space arise from its merger of profit and play, a situation that has seen developers prioritize one at the expense of the other. Here, the blockchain space’s lightweight accessibility and ease of use actually work against it. It’s so easy for developers to throw together a working blockchain ‘game’ with native economic infrastructure that nearly 2,000 such games are now live, with much more undoubtedly in development, and few offer anything more than mere one-click ‘gameplay’ that has more in common with yield-farming than actual gaming. Developers thought they could usher in the web3 gaming era just by throwing cryptocurrency tokens in players’ faces. But for web3 gaming to truly take hold, companies have to offer a product that is a game first and foremost. Immersion, intuitive gameplay, replayability, story, character, and graphical fidelity are some of the values the blockchain gaming space should be prioritizing instead of engendering a profiteering rush to the bottom by players who only engage with the game because of monetary incentives.
“Some of the GameFi space really is an example of ‘build it and they will come’,” says ex-Ubisoft member and CEO & Founder of Synergy Land Carlos Bolaños. “For widespread adoption of Web3 gaming to materialize, the GameFi space must produce games that the average gamer would pick up and play regardless of the financial incentive.”
“One hit game could be all that’s needed to bring a mass audience to Web3 gaming. If we can get people through the door with immersive, engaging gameplay, then they’ll get a chance to experience the autonomy, decentralization, and independence of the blockchain space without having it preached to them. They would simply experience it first-hand in a natural way,” added Bolaños.
Blockchain Gaming Is Still in its Infancy
But even the earliest iteration of the internet had its critics, and it took the best part of 20 years for mass adoption of the worldwide web to render these critiques null and void. The same could be said about the concept of GameFi. The world is witnessing a seismic shift in the web3 gaming scene, moving from play-to-earn to play-and-earn. The question is will console-quality AAA games enter the web3 terrain or run in parallel as GameFi emerges?