Blockchain emerged as a decentralized and distributed ledger alongside Bitcoin, the first cryptocurrency, in 2009. Nowadays, about 82 million blockchain users are drawn to the technology due to its promise of transparency, immutability, and security. Yet, the technology has expanded, finding applications in various industries, such as finance, real estate, and energy trading. The iGaming industry has also embraced blockchain, with users being able to access a VIP casino experience online and carry on transactions in cryptocurrencies.
In recent years, blockchain gaming has emerged as an ambitious industry determined to revolutionize the world of video games as we know it. In what follows, we break down blockchain games, the existing challenges to their adoption, and four titles seeking to appeal to the mainstream public.
Blockchain games: appeal and challenges
Essentially, Blockchain games are video games that use blockchain technology to introduce unique features such as decentralized ownership of in-game assets. In these games, players can truly own, trade, and transfer digital assets using blockchain’s transparent and secure ledger. The use of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) allows for verifiable and scarce in-game items, increasing the rarity and value of virtual possessions.
Despite initial enthusiasm, Blockchain games have struggled to win the hearts of gamers and developers. One of the main reasons is that most users turn to blockchain games as investors rather than entertainment-seekers. In Global South nations, such as Vietnam, Philippines, Thailand, Argentina, and Brazil, games like Axie Infinity have become a way to earn a living. A 2023 report revealed that 55% of global blockchain players are located in Asia, totaling 1.7 billion.
Critics have pointed out that blockchain games are boring and simply not appealing enough beyond the play-to-earn promise. Typically, they lack the engaging gameplay, complex storylines, and character customization of traditional video games. Another salient issue has to do with scalability. Blockchain games tend to struggle to handle high demand, which sees developers looking for ways to scale up. This issue was made obvious in 2022, as a third of the investments in the sector were specifically directed towards building better infrastructure.
In recent years, however, some developers have worked to widen the appeal of blockchain games through more engaging dynamics and straightforward gaming, including Pixels, Sweat Hero, Gods Unchained, and Alien Worlds.
Pixels is an open-world game revolving around farming, creation, and exploration. Powered by the RONIN Network, it has an in-game token called BERRY and a free-to-play option. Players are given one avatar to harvest resources, cook food, raise animals (Pixels Pets NFTs) as well as buy, sell, and trade goods. Land Ownership is possible, and the more players work, industrialize, and automate their property, the more its value increases. As of October 2023, Pixels had about 100.000 monthly active wallets and 1.5 million monthly transactions.
Around 2015, Sweat Economy set to revolutionize fitness through its app, which paid cryptocurrency for physical activity. The concept was simple: the more users walked, the more they sweat, and the more they earned. Now, Sweet Hero takes that vision further through gamification. Players who enter the Sweet Wallet app receive their unique Leg NFT. They engage in “battles” against other users to earn $WEAT tokens. Each battle consists of tapping on the steps as soon as they materialize on the screen.
Launched in 2018, Gods Unchained is a free-to-play, play-2-earn PC, trading cards game. Players immerse themselves in the fantasy world of Eucos, where mortals must align themselves with one of the six gods and use magical abilities to engage in battles. The cards are NFTs digitally owned by users on Ethereum. They can be used to earn currencies and items such as the ERC-20 $GODS token or traded on marketplaces.
With its unique aesthetics, complex lore, and gameplay, Alien Worlds seeks to connect with sci-fi aficionados. Released in 2020 and built on the WAX blockchain, the play-to-earn game features a universe of six different worlds, each with 500 plots of land. Players own the land, which is represented by an NFT. What’s more, it is possible to mine Trillium (TLM), the native utility token, and transfer it to Binance Smart Chain. Alien World emphasizes community and is striving towards building a “Tokenized Lore”, where players decide what is canon and what isn’t.
Wrapping up, while blockchain game developers have been determined to revolutionize gaming, the endeavor has proven challenging. Not only is the technology alienating but existing titles have been hindered by lackluster gameplay and scalability issues. Pixels, Sweat Hero, Gods Unchained, and X are some titles fighting to overcome such obstacles and finally appeal to a wider audience.