#1: AAA Web3 Games to Watch This Year
As we start to approach the midpoint of 2023, we decided to take a look at five upcoming web3 games that could potentially be released by the end of the year. This list isn't exhaustive, and there may be surprise releases that captivate us before the year ends. In this context, we define "released" as having a highly playable public beta that doesn't necessitate NFTs or special access. The game should be complete enough for enjoyment while other components are being finalized or polished. Some of these games might be delayed until early 2024, but we remain optimistic about playable versions becoming available this year.
MetalCore, developed by Studio 369, is an engaging sci-fi game that features vehicular and soldier-based combat, incorporating tanks, aircraft, mechs, and infantry. The game has undergone promising alpha tests, with Open World Alpha 2 scheduled for release on the Epic Games Store from May 1st to May 8th. The first Open World Alpha phase commenced in October 2022 and the game has undergone continuous improvements since. Initially, MetalCore was slated for release on the Immutable platform but was later moved to Polygon. Ultimately, the game returned to Immutable, becoming one of the first titles to operate on the new Immutable zkEVM chain.
In terms of NFTs, MetalCore has so far only introduced the MetalCore Infantry Genesis NFTs in July 2022, with a current floor price of approximately $37 in ETH and an original minting price of $50 in MATIC. CryptoSlam reports that the NFTs have generated roughly $562,000 in secondary market transactions since their debut, with 80% of that occurring in July and August 2022.
The game's Twitter and YouTube channels frequently showcase high-quality gameplay footage, reflecting the diverse and AAA-quality nature of MetalCore. A litepaper was published in 2022, which, along with the project's roadmap, has not been updated as the team focuses on the game's development. Although the absence of a 2023 roadmap makes it difficult to predict the game's state by year's end, the current demonstrations and playable content indicate that MetalCore is on track to become a top-tier web3 gaming experience.
Champions Ascension is an MMORPG that places significant emphasis on gladiatorial combat. For those seeking to better understand its economy, we recently provided an in-depth analysis of the game's V2 whitepaper. The game has been in a pre-alpha stage for some time, offering "Slices" of gameplay, which include 1v1, 3v3, and recently, free-for-all arena combat, as well as various mini-games in the town area. These slices are accessible from Thursday to Saturday during specific time slots, allowing players to consistently test the game, provide feedback, and even participate in tournaments.
The game will utilize a Polygon Supernet — an app-specific, dedicated side-chain of Polygon with a bridge to the standard Polygon PoS — and incorporate payment technology from Forte. Initially, the game was being developed by successful mobile developer Jam City, known for titles such as Cookie Jam and Disney Emoji Blitz. However, in January, Jam City spun off the development team into a new company called Plai Labs, supported by a $32 million seed investment led by a16z (see our coverage here).
Champions Ascension conducted an initial mint for its most crucial "Prime Eternals" NFTs using a Dutch auction format, which encountered some issues (see our coverage here) that resulted in a floor price of around $560 at the time of writing. In contrast, the tiered free mint for "Elemental Eternals" proceeded more smoothly, with those NFTs trading at a $20 floor price. While there is no current roadmap to estimate release dates, the game still has substantial development work ahead, given its MMO nature. However, considering the quality and playability of the existing slices, we anticipate that Champions Ascension will reach a robust public beta state by the end of 2023.
Illuvium is a collection of interconnected games set in a single world inhabited by creatures called Illuvials, reminiscent of alien Pokémon. The three games include Illuvium Arena, an auto-chess style game featuring Illuvials; Illuvium Zero, a city-building game for landowners; and Illuvium Overworld, an open-world RPG focused on resource gathering and capturing Illuvials. Additionally, the team introduced a peculiar collecting "game" in March that revolves around buying and trading PFPs (see our coverage here).
Thus far, Illuvium Arena has hosted two private betas for NFT holders, one Illuvium Zero Alpha (followed by a Season 1), and an Overworld beta. The 2023 roadmap outlines four private betas for Arena and Overworld before the public beta launch in Q4. Illuvium has sold various promo NFTs minted by the Illuvium DAO and a significant land NFT sale in June 2022, which initially experienced high prices before stabilizing (see our coverage here). Land currently has a floor price of $516 and has generated a staggering $12.4 million in secondary market transactions since its release, according to CryptoSlam.
While land is undoubtedly one of the more speculative aspects of the game, it is at least connected to the demands of the overall economy. For a deeper dive into the game's economy, we recommend our previous analyses here and here. There is a risk that the full public beta may be delayed until early 2024, given the game's initial expectation of a late 2022 beta release. Although the game's visuals are impressive, it will take some time to fully comprehend how all three games intertwine to create this unique universe.
Wildcard is a unique PvP collectible card-based arena action game that resembles a fusion of Clash Royale and MOBA-style gameplay. While there have been no public alphas or betas so far, a streamed exhibition match at the end of February showcased the game's impressive polish. According to the litepaper, Wildcard has been in development for five years, and early private playtests have reported positive feedback on its level of refinement.
The game launched its first NFT, the "Genesis Wildpass" card NFT, on April 20th. Aimed at early adopters, the Wildpass offers benefits such as early access, airdrops, and the opportunity to engage with the developers. The Wildpass enjoyed strong sales and generated $400,000 in secondary market transactions on its first day alone. At the time of writing, the sales had increased by another $100,000, with floor prices reaching $230.
Although a roadmap released in 2022 suggested the possibility of a public beta by the end of 2023, there is currently no public roadmap available for reference. Considering the contrast between the complexity of the economy outlined in the litepaper and the game's current polished state, it is likely that a public alpha or beta will be released without much of the web3 economic features by Q4 to maintain interest.
BigTime is an action RPG centered around time travel concepts and a "personal metaverse" space using land NFTs. The game has been in early access for VIP Pass NFT holders since April 2022 and has been gradually updating to its current v0.25, released at the end of February. In early December last year, BigTime revealed details about its economy (see our coverage here) and has been working on a project called Open Loot to expand its toolset to other developers (see our coverage here).
Interestingly, the early access VIP pass NFTs have a floor price of $420 for the lowest-priced Jade tier on its Open Loot marketplace, but a floor price of just $64 on OpenSea, which may be confusing for those seeking early access. The game is intended to be free-to-play, with passes offering early access and some initial earning perks.
Unfortunately, the roadmap has not been updated since December 2022, and it appears that significant work is still required before the game is ready for public release. However, with early pass holders having access for the past year, it is plausible that BigTime could reach a reasonably playable state for a wider audience by the end of 2023.
#2: Spider Tanks Moves Into Generation 2
Spider Tanks, Gala Games' current flagship title, has recently introduced significant updates to its economy, balance, and content. While it's not the first time the game's economy has been revamped, these changes signify a commitment to improving the gaming experience for players.
In an attempt to fine-tune the economy, Spider Tanks developer GAMEDIA has implemented a short-term experiment with two primary components: altering the daily $SILK distribution and adjusting store prices for Arachnium (in-game non-token currency) and Components (upgrade materials). For a comprehensive understanding of the Spider Tanks economy, we recommend checking out our previous coverage.
The important point is that players earn Victory Points (VP) related to the NFTs used to play and matches won. Players are rewarded at the end of the day with the $SILK token from two special token pools and using a dynamic VP to $SILK ratio. This dynamic ratio is based primarily on the circulating supply of $SILK vs a soft cap, and the amount of $SILK burned the previous day. While making the distribution of token rewards dynamic is the right way to go, the way it’s being calculated has led to pretty extreme swings of the ratio from day to day and negatively affecting Node and Map rewards.
The new experiment replaces the previous separate “allowance” token pools with a single distribution pool for the entire ecosystem. The updated distribution method employs an algorithmic emission of $SILK up to a soft cap, affecting daily distribution to players, Node Depots, Node operators, and Map owners. The result is an increase in daily $SILK distribution until there is more in circulation. Burning $SILK to buy Arachnium, Components or Tank Parts under this new formula essentially extends the emission schedule. It would decrease the circulating supply, thus increasing how much $SILK is distributed on a given day. There is a catch that due to the way the algorithm works, if any particular distribution group earns more Victory Points, that could reduce the ratio for others.
Additionally, the experiment introduces changes to Component and Arachnium pricing. Previously pegged to $SILK, these prices are now pegged to the US Dollar, with store prices adjusting regularly to accommodate the price in $SILK, just as they do for GALA or ETH. This change accommodates for the new algorithmic emission model’s increase in circulating $SILK. At first this will look like an increase in Tank upgrade costs, but will be offset by the larger daily emissions. Higher $SILK burn for Arachnium and Components then also results in a higher and more stable distribution. As Generation 2 Tanks are released and become more prevalent, players will find it more challenging to acquire level 30 Tank Parts. The new adjustments to pricing and distribution should, however, strike a balance between accessibility and preserving the game's challenge.
In addition to the economy updates, the v1.1.1 patch introduces several gameplay enhancements. Players can now access extra details about their VP gain after matches and enjoy the new Supercharge feature, which temporarily boosts the VP potential of a single NFT Tank Part. The patch also includes various balance adjustments to promote more diverse gameplay.
To celebrate the launch of Generation 2, new NFT Tank Parts for upgrading/customizing your tank will be available at a discounted price. While Common Tank Parts won't be sold in the Spider Tanks Store for now, more information on their place in Generation 2 will be released in the future. The first Generation 2 Tank being sold is The Shaman based on a very decisive community vote, but will be followed by the other contenders, The Cleric and The Warrior.
Lastly, Generation 2 tank parts are being released with some key differences from their Generation 1 counterparts. These Generation 2 Tank Parts will be produced for far lower cost, but they aren’t produced at higher starting level based on rarity. All Generation 2 Tank Parts begin at level 0, requiring augmentation with slightly more components in garages to reach their maximum potential. Despite the differences, fully upgraded Generation 2 Tanks should be on par with Generation 1 Tanks in terms of VP potential.
Overall, Spider Tanks is wisely focusing on refining a simple yet enjoyable core design and a complex economy. As the only game not transitioning to the $GALA token, there is considerable pressure on the Gala side for Spider Tanks to execute successfully. Running the economy changes as an experiment is an appropriate approach for implementing significant algorithmic adjustments that will affect the entire economy.
However, we hope that there are adequate safeguards and close monitoring in place to prevent any major short-term exploitation that may arise. While Spider Tanks might not be a AAA web3 game that attracts a massive audience, it is a solid AA title that is committed to perfecting its economy in a pretty uncertain space.
Upcoming Game Announcements
- Faraway and Mutant Cartel announced a new game called Serum City. (Link)
- Pulsar, a web3 MMORTS, went live on its testnet. (Link)
- The Machines Arena released a new Detonation game mode. (Link)
- DOGAMI announced a new racing management game, DOGAMI Academy. (Link)
- Star Atlas announced the launch of “Escape Velocity”, a movement test. (Link)
- Eternal Dragons released a port of its alpha to Android. (Link)
- Tearing Spaces launched a Play-and-earn closed beta. (Link)
- RaceFi released its 2023 roadmap with a potential Open Beta in May. (Link)
- The Unfettered, an ARPG, released a public demo. (Link)
- CyberTitans announced a $50,000 World Challenge tournament. (Link)
- Shrapnel announced an upcoming snapshot for the initial airdrop of its SHRAP tokens. (Link)
Live Game Announcements
- Skyweaver released a massive 2023 roadmap with lots of planned revamps. (Link)
- Alien Worlds launched Syndicate Underground, a new cooperative feature. (Link)
- The Sandbox announced a new land sale called “Mega City 3” with 250 plots for sale and a bundle of special asset NFTs for purchasers. (Link)
- Sunflower Land announced a new seasonal event, Dawn Breaker, starting on May 1st. (Link)
- Galaxy Fight Club announced a series of planned upgrades and a new project. (Link)
- Animoca Brands’ subsidiary TinyTap raised $8.5 million in a round led by Sequoia China. (Link)
- Mythical Games raised $20M in an investment from Scytale Digital that includes migrating its Mythical Chain to Polkadot. (Link)
- Cata Labs raised $4.2 million to boost cross-chain liquidity in a seed funding round led by Spartan Group. (Link)
- A U.S. court in the case against Epic ruled that Apple’s 30% NFT tax is illegal. (Link)
- Wemade signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Ministry of Investment in Saudi Arabia (MISA) to advance web3 gaming in Saudi Arabia. (Link)
- The Japanese Prime Minister unveiled plans to promote the use of NFTs to revitalize the country's economy. (Link)
- X-Metaverse announced an Ecosystem Revenue Share program for token holders. (Link)
- Moonbirds announced $TALONs, a points-based rewards system for NFT holders. (Link)
- EXIT Festival announced a multi-year partnership with Web3 ticketing company, NFT-TiX. (Link)
- KRAFTON announced a $36.8m North-American joint venture with AR company NAVER Z to launch the Migaloo metaverse. (Link)
- Helium network completed a successful migration to Solana. (Link)
Notable Market Moves
- Render finally slowed down a little this week with only a 9.4% increase compared to the double digit gains of the previous two weeks. Render Network published the final results and details of its recent successful voting which has been well received.
- Immutable managed a small boost to climb up the list thanks to the good news about its first Immutable zkEVM game, MetalCore, coming to the Epic Game Store. It was also rebounding off a slump from NFT NYC.
- Floki gained a solid 12.5% this week thanks to the news about being listed on BinanceUS. It was also likely boosted by renewed interest in meme coins thanks to the recent attention around the Pepe coin.
- Gala looks pretty down at 10.9% loss, but realistically the coin was pretty much following general crypto patterns and just didn’t rebound as well as some of the others. Hopefully the migration over to v2 will go smoothly or it could definitely suffer more.
- As always, we recommend looking and thinking long term. Crypto markets have had some big swings lately, but overall are still looking positive given the current economic environment. It wouldn’t be surprising to see a lot of the recent actions around the SEC also result in some negative impact.
Content Worth Consuming
- Making CryptoCrusades; a fully on-chain mobile strategy game (Blockchain Gamer): “An increasing number of web3 game developers only partially adopt blockchain into their projects, but one of the striking features of CryptoCrusades is its hardcore on-chain profile. ‘We wanted to do the impossible: create a full, in-depth strategy game, but stay true to the blockchain aspect. We considered watering down the blockchain side, but in the end, we decided the best way to build something new that our fans would love would be to keep the game fully on-chain’, Meredith says. With the use of smart contracts, the team were able to create a gameplay experience without the complicated web3 onboarding process, by utilizing the Skale blockchain.” (Link)
- 2023 State of Crypto Report (a16z): “New technologies, once practically impossible, are becoming very real. We’re seeing decades-in-the-making work on ‘zero knowledge’ systems advance at a staggering pace, which will unlock further blockchain scalability and a new category of privacy-protecting applications (not to mention applications in AI). The data shows a positive trend in ZK-related research, developer activity, and usage. The U.S. is losing its lead in web3. Between 2018 and 2022, the proportion of crypto developers based in the U.S. vs. the rest of the world fell 26%. Thoughtful regulation can encourage crypto builders to innovate and grow these technologies safely in the U.S.” (Link)
- True ownership or lip service? (Nami): “To gain a better perspective on the possibilities of ownership, it is helpful to view it as a mechanism that grants ‘rights’. The transfer of an NFT, for instance, is an example of a right that is bestowed by a smart contract, but can also be constrained or withdrawn. The ability to modify a physical product is generally assumed, but with NFTs, this is not the case, except in rare circumstances. For instance, if you purchase a PFP, you cannot draw a moustache on it and have it reflect for others. Similarly, if you buy a weapon NFT, you cannot modify its stats, appearance, sound, or other aspects. Even purchasing weapon skins as NFTs only allows you to display them together with the weapon. While it makes sense not to allow owners to change how NFTs function in the game, such restrictions should be part of the game's code or database, not the NFT itself. It begs the question: what metadata can we realistically allow owners to modify? And what does ‘true ownership’ mean if you cannot modify your assets in any way?” (Link)
- Interoperability, Game Ecosystems, and Web3 (Naavik Gaming Podcast): “Interoperability between game ecosystems and economies has been held up as a possibility that is opened up by decentralized protocols, blockchain technologies and web3 - but until now, it has mostly been a pipedream rather than a reality. But now two web3 companies, metaverse avatar developer Ready Player Me and open-world shooter developer Faraway Games, have partnered up to deliver on the promise of interoperable game worlds. Your host, Niko Vuori, chats with Alex Paley, Founder & CEO of Faraway Games and Timmu Toke, Founder & CEO of Ready Player Me, about interoperability, closed vs open game ecosystems and the promise of web3.” (Link)