Here’s a diagram of this year’s slate of blockchain games set for release:
Before jumping too deeply in, here are some caveats / context for the above:
- The slate does not reflect games that have already released an Alpha or Beta product and have a full release planned for 2022 (post Q1).
- The slate assumes a Q4 launch date when no in-year launch date was available.
- The slate does not include DeFi “games” (for example, Bridgeworld isn’t reflected above).
- The genre reflects the primary genre, but of course most games crossover into other sub-genres (i.e. a strategy game as RPG elements).
- Blockchain game projects with too little data were excluded.
- Existing games that are planning to add blockchain functionality were included.
- There very well may be more games being developed that get added to this list before the year is over.
Of the more than 42 blockchain games scheduled for release in the next three quarters of 2022, roughly 1/3 of those games fall in the strategy genre, another 1/3 fall in the RPG genre, and the remaining 1/3 are unequally divided between the action and simulation genres (with heavier weighting in the action genre). Popular sub-genres included battlers and auto-battlers, shooters, and collector/card collecting games.
Blockchain games lend themselves to strategy and RPG gameplay, so it’s no surprise that most games fall into those genres. More than 90% of the games coming out in 2022 feature both PvE and PvP features. At first blush, designing both PvE and PvP in new games may seem ambitious, but the inclusion of both serves multiple purposes. Blockchain games need to incorporate economy features into gameplay, and PvE incentivizes players to explore the world and collect / earn rewards in a more casual setting. PvP incentivizes players to wager with rewards in a higher stakes environment.
Of the upcoming games, 7 of the 42 come from existing franchises, either as a new game with blockchain or as an existing game with blockchain features added. Of these 7, take note of Wildlife Studio’s Castle Crush which has more than 1.5M MAUs 6 years into the live game. Wildlife Studios is betting that Castle Crush, with its proven engagement loops, will be a good candidate to test how receptive the gaming community is to the addition of blockchain-enabled features.
Looking at social channel following, we can see that, on average, upcoming blockchain games have 73k Twitter followers and 52k discord users. When we look at the total Twitter and Discord followers for upcoming titles, there are a cumulative total of 2M Twitter followers and 1.5M Discord members (of course, some users are duplicated across games and channels). Games with the highest social followings are: Illuvium, Mobland, Fota: Fight of the Ages, and Guild of Guardians.
PC/Web is the leading platform followed by mobile; this is a symptom of less regulation on PC and browser compared to other platforms and storefronts that have limiting rules and restrictions. There is a fairly significant group of games that are planned to be cross-play on PC and mobile at launch, and another group of titles that noted they would add mobile cross-play down the road. Modern game engines like Unity and Unreal make it much easier to port games across platforms, making mobile cross-play a relatively low lift.
There are trade-offs with cross-play since any given game isn’t developed with a focus on a specific platform. I would be wary of certain competitive blockchain games with cross-play, as players on certain platforms may have an advantage over players on other platforms (the classic console vs. PC shooter debate). This inequality could be mitigated if developers used a cross-progression approach — where the game is the same across platforms and players share items, progression, account, and economy across platforms, but players only play against others on the same platform.
The one console title in development is Phantom Galaxies, an open world action RPG space shooter that requires mech NFT ownership to play. The game claims to be cross-play on PC and console. Given Sony and Microsoft have not yet allowed blockchains on their platforms, it will be interesting to see how Phantom Galaxies might try to get around 1st party regulations. Notably, Xbox and PlayStation have price parity policies that prohibit game developers from selling in-game items for different prices on different platforms. These platforms don’t want players to leave their ecosystems to buy in-game assets that will then be brought back to consoles (and therefore not get their cuts of transaction revenue). Blockchain gaming throws a wrench in price parity, because all NFTs would naturally be tradable outside of the PlayStation or Xbox stores. It’s unclear if Phantom Galaxies has a strategy to facilitate its blockchain ambition on consoles, or if the studio is misguided in thinking that the full P2E experience will be available on consoles in the near-future.
The three VR/AR games in development are:
- Parallel Life: A strategy CCG
- Matterless: An AR pet simulation game (mobile)
- Fota: Fight of the Ages: A MOBA RPG that is integrated with Microsoft Mesh (mixed reality) technology
Other facts about the 2022 blockchain game slate:
- Of the 20 games that clearly indicated land would be an NFT, 75% included land as part of the blockchain strategy of the game.
- 50% of the games are F2P while 50% require NFT ownership to play.
- More than half the games have raised funding either though traditional venture means or through token sales.
Takeaways from Whitepapers:
After reading through 40+ whitepapers from blockchain games slated to launch, I’ve compiled a list of success factors and red flags that bubbled up through the strong and weak whitepapers.
- Experienced team → Champion’s Ascension is a good example, because it comes from a proven team at an existing mobile developer, Jam City.
- Focused on engagement loops first, followed by blockchain as a component of design → Last Expedition exemplifies a team focusing on the core mechanics first; in this case, AAA shooter combat comes before any economy design.
- Lockup period for team token allocations → Taunt Battleworld has a 1 year period in which team members can not sell their allocated $TAUNT tokens.
- Focus on one type of gameplay to start → Golden Bros is starting as a 3v3 shooter with a focus on just that type of gameplay.
- Thoughtfulness on social features → Matterless, the AR game, will incentivize IRL meetups through “geodropping,” which is like an airdrop for specific geographic locations.
- Land sales in games without the need for land: Adding land NFTs to a game that doesn’t have an open world or need to make space scarce doesn’t make sense and is likely to lead to land-driven economic recessions.
- A team focused on too many gameplay features: Some games in development have open world, trading card, farming simulator, shooter, and brawler elements. This is a shotgun approach to game design.
- Wagering as a core component of P2E systems: Building a P2E system on top of wagering gameplay is not a long-term strategy. Video games today do not have wagering, because betting is controlled by highly localized laws; for example, in California rules change county by county. For this reason, games can’t legally add wagering systems that allow players to trade real value to one another.
Almost every blockchain game falls back on “focusing on fun first and earning second.” Finding the fun — and, more specifically, strong engagement loops — is absolutely critical to the long-term success of any game. Players typically invest money in a game proportionally to the amount of time spent in the game (intuitively, the more you use a product, the more value it has to you).
Whitepapers for most blockchain games primarily focus on economy design, which is important, but should come secondary to discussing core engagement loops. In the web 2.0 version of gaming, there are four primary player motivations, which were popularized by Bartle’s taxonomy of player types:
However, today we would need to add a fifth quadrant — or maybe a Z-axis — for players whose primary motivation is earning. For developers working on blockchain games, the traditional motivations should be prioritized over the motivation to earn. This is because once a game becomes overrun by players expecting more out of the game financially than they put into it, it becomes fundamentally unsustainable.
One final, semi-related thought: It's important to consider the traditional game slate as well as the blockchain game slate to understand the level of competition for players time for different genres and at different times. For example, the web 2.0 console / PC slate in 2022 has 26 confirmed major titles (AA - AAA) with more to be solidified over the coming months. When looking at the slates for blockchain games and web 2.0 games, there is more white space in Q3 than any other quarter, and Q4 is the most busy. If I were a blockchain games developer (especially for console/PC) and could choose a release date, I would shoot for Q3 for the sole reason that competition for player time on new titles will be lower in that window.
With over 40 blockchain games set to launch during the remainder of this year, it’s important to step back and look at the broader genre trends and platform trends. What’s most exciting is that 2022 is going to be an amazing year for learning best practices. We’ll get fresh insights and data from teams working on blockchain games across genres and platforms, which can increasingly inform your own work, whether you’re making games, building tools, investing, or simply aiming to get a better grip on the market
Ever so often, we’ll continue to provide updates on the upcoming release slate and include an expanding number of details. Let us know what you think!
Big thanks to Alex Summers for writing this essay!