According to some, blockchain gaming is the future of the gaming industry. Its rapid growth has added fuel to that narrative, going from a standing start to a $3 billion industry in 2021. By 2025, it’s expected to be ten times bigger than that. It all sounds good, but there is a problem: Most people agree that – entertainment-wise – blockchain gaming leaves a lot to be desired. As such, the average gamer isn’t ready to give up on League of Legends and Call of Duty just yet.
However, there is a growing consensus that blockchain technology, and its subsidiary elements like cryptocurrency, are primed to disrupt everything from web browsers to social media to financial investment. But gaming, of all types, looms largest as a natural bedfellow. But there remains the glaring issue that the vast majority of blockchain games are limited in terms of gameplay. Quite frankly, most of them are boring.
Blockchain going mainstream
At its best, blockchain gaming should be able to elevate the gaming experience. If you consider the rise of cryptocurrency casinos like Metaspins casino, these platforms use the new technology to elevate the existing experience offered by the industry. They don’t try to change the fundamentals of roulette, for example. They just offer a new, and some would say smarter way, to access it. But blockchain gaming, according to critics, does not elevate the gaming experience. At least, not yet.
The most-cited issue is that blockchain games developers seem to forget the underlying reason we play games – we want to be entertained. And blockchain games tend to put rewards front and center of the experience. The most famous example is arguably Axie Infinity, the NFT-based game that had a rapid rise, particularly due to its popularity in the Philippines, but also a rapid fall. In July 2022, the game’s revenues fell around 98% from their peak in August 2021.
If you are aware of Axie Infinity, you’ll know that it quickly became a phenomenon, the poster-child for blockchain gaming and all that it represents. People played the game in order to make a living. But as the crypto market declined in 2022, so too did the appetite for Axie Infinity. In short, people stop playing when they can’t make money from it.
The point, as such, is that games like Axie, and a host of other blockchain games, are only as popular as long as there is a financial reward at the end of the logged gaming session. We aren’t trying to knock Axie here, and it does have a big enough ecosystem to thrive again once the crypto bull market returns. But the fundamental point remains: Take out the financial rewards, and nobody wants to play.
Industry needs time to mature
And yet, we might take a contrarian view to those who believe blockchain gaming can’t be fun. The industry is just getting started; it’s barely a few years old. If you are an avid gamer, you’ll know it takes years to build a typical AAA game. Consider how long it took to develop Cyberpunk 2077, an idea that started before anyone had heard of blockchain gaming.
Indeed, most agree that blockchain gaming is in its Netscape Navigator moment. That is to say the early days of the internet, where Netscape was the first commercial browser. From there, you got Internet Explorer, then Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and the rest. Blockchain is but a few years old, so it needs some time to mature.
And the good news is that we see signs of that maturity. Not just in the release of titles that are fun to play, but through the recognition by leaders in the industry that entertainment should at least have equal billing to rewards. In a sense, what we want to see is the transition from play-to-earn games to play-and-earn games. The difference is substantial. The former puts the earning of rewards first, whereas the latter puts entertainment first.
There are other issues for blockchain gaming to sort out. But the most fundamental is to create games that people want to play, regardless of the rewards associated with playing. Moreover, these games don’t need to come with rewards, as there are other benefits to blockchain technology, including the ability to control our data. But the industry is only getting started, so it deserves the benefit of the doubt that it can change the gaming world, eventually.