Executive Summary

  • Undead Blocks is an on-chain FPS zombie survival game with PvE and multiplayer modes for both F2P players and NFT holders developed by Wagyu Games. 
  • The gameplay loop is based on surviving waves of zombies. However, the enemies and maps lack variety despite the multiple game modes, and as a result Undead Blocks can feel quite monotonous at times.
  • Players who equip NFT weapons get additional rewards that can be exchanged for dollars. 
  • The three-currency model is sustainable but not scalable since rewards are generated through the mint and resale of NFT weapons, which are limited in number.
  • The team has plans for multiple updates including a mobile version of the game, but the studio needs to figure out a way to generate more meaningful earnings for players as the game scales.

Understanding Undead Blocks

Undead Blocks is an on-chain FPS zombie survival game with PvE and multiplayer modes developed by Wagyu Games. It does not shy away from calling itself a play-to-earn game —  its own marketing language refers to the experience as “kill-to-earn.” 

The initial Weapon NFTs were based on Ethereum, but in August 2022 Wagyu announced a collaboration with IMX and released subsequent NFTs on the IMX platform. The beta build is currently available for download on PC and Mac, and the developers plan to launch the game on mobile as well.

Twitter| Undead Blocks is going mobile
Source: Twitter

The project was started in October 2021 by the Vietnam-based team created by Grant Hasaley and nine other founding members. The game design and development are handled by Ukraine-based Kevuru Games with the help of a team of 40-plus developers. Wagyu has so far raised $1.7 million through Animoca Brands, Genblock Capital, Exnetwork Capital, and Double Peak Group. 

Grant has a background in finance and the core team lacks experienced game development credentials. However, Kevuru Games has a proven track record with shipping products. The $1.7 million raised so far seems to be on the lower end,  and Wagyu will likely need to be frugal in its approach as development continues. 

Before we dive deep into Undead Blocks, it’s important to understand the shooter market the game is trying to break into. The shooter market on web3 has not yet matured, but we can derive high-level insights from the traditional mobile shooter market as it exists today. 

Shooting Sub Genre Data
Shooting Sub Genre Data (Jan 2022- Feb 2023) (Source: data.ai)

The overall shooting market on mobile generated $6.9 billion in the last 12 months with 3.2 billion downloads. Revenue is much more concentrated than downloads, with the top 10 games making up 75% of the market, led by Ten Square Games’ Hunting Clash. 

An interesting dynamic is that the PvE shooter category grew both in revenue and downloads year over year (YoY), contributing to 33.8% of the downloads but just 8.7% of the revenue. This might be because PvE shooters tend to have weaker retention numbers than other subgenres, which affects revenue. Most PvE Shooting games employ a level-based structure with a light meta, which helps explain why players may not stick around in the long term. For a more detailed breakdown of the mobile shooter genre, read Naavik’s mobile genre report on the subject here

Top 10 PvE  shooter games by revenue
Top 10 PvE  shooter games by revenue from January 2022 to February 2023. Source: data.ai

We found that half of the games in the top 10 are zombie-themed. Play to Earn currently lists around 148 Web3 games (both live and in development) in the shooter category, of which 52% will be free-to-play (F2P) games and 38% will be available on mobile. This list is much more diverse in terms of genres. But if we are to extrapolate the trends from mobile shooters, there is a good chance that zombie-themed games will have a larger role to play among web3 games as well.

Top Collections on IMX
Top Collections on IMX (5 March 2023) (Source: Immutascan)

According to the top collections list on the IMX chain, the Undead Blocks Skin Vault currently ranks No. 5. The assets for the game are currently split between ETH and IMX. 

Undead Blocks Metrics
Undead Blocks Metrics (Source: Twitter)

Based on the metrics that the team has shared, 7,800 Undead Blocks players collected 330,000 ZBOXes, played 40,000 matches, and played 3.8 hours on average in a week. The launch dates are yet to be announced. 

Undead Blocks website visits by country
Undead Blocks website visits by country (Source: Similarweb)

Though it is difficult to get more granular player data, website engagement can throw some light on the demographics of the user base. Most of the players visiting the website are from the U.S., with the second country being Brazil — though this might change following a mobile launch. 

In this deconstruction, we will try to answer the following questions:

  • How will Undead Blocks compete against the scores of shooters out there?
  • This is definitely play-to-earn, but is this play-to-earn done right?
  • What does the core game and economy loop look like?
  • How does the three-token model work, and is it sustainable?

Gameplay

Core Loop 

Undead Blocks Core Loop
Undead Blocks Core Loop

Undead Blocks is a wave-based zombie survival game. Before entering a match, players need to equip their loadouts with weapons and perks. At the start of the wave, players begin with a particular weapon. Killing zombies grants them XP (100XP for a normal kill and 150XP for a headshot). This XP is then used to buy more powerful weapons in the session. The zombie hordes get more difficult and stronger as time progresses. 

The XP that the players collect can be used to:

  • Buy more weapons in the sessions
  • Reload weapons
  • Access special areas on the map
  • Buy perks
  • Buy grenades

Each of these costs different amounts of XP and grants different benefits. The best strategy is to open up special areas in the map so as to get a better shot at defeating zombies and gain access to special weapons. Even if players own the weapons and have them in their loadout, they still have to spend the XP to use them in the game. This makes the experience skill-based. Killing zombies also have a chance of dropping ZBOXes which reward players with tokens. We will cover this in detail later in the deconstruction. 

Players can play the game for free, however, if they own NFT versions of the weapons, they can get additional rewards. We will explore those mechanisms further in the analysis. The main revenue stream for the game developers is the sale and resale of NFT weapons as well as in-game loot boxes. 

The above core loop experience varies slightly within Undead Block’s different game modes, so let’s look at these modes one by one. 

Game Modes

Game Modes
Game Modes

The available game modes in Undead Blocks include: 

  • Solo: This is the standard mode in which players have to survive as many waves as possible.
    • VIP Solo Mode: This is for players who own weapon NFTs. In this mode, there is a higher drop rate of Loot Coffins (the game’s equivalent of a loot box).
  • Speedrun: In this mode, players need to complete a set number of waves as fast as they can. A pistol variant of this mode is also available and requires players use only the pistol as their weapon. 
  • Massacre: The objective in this mode is to kill as many zombies as possible. Currently, the massacre mode requires players use the MP5 as their weapon.
  • Assault: In this mode, the player has to kill as many zombies as possible in a set amount of time. Currently, this mode requires players use the AKM.
  • Tournament: This mode involves a limited-time, score-based leaderboard that rewards players based on their performance. The tournaments are also eligible for sponsorships by brands, guilds, and other third parties. 
  • Duo Mode: A standard two-person mode designed to be played with friends. 

Wagyu is keen on adding multiplayer modes to Undead Blocks, but understandably this is a time-consuming and difficult process. As it stands, the studio has prioritized the solo mode for VIP players based on community feedback, although the company intends to launch the multiplayer modes as soon as possible to help increase the variety of the gameplay and also avoid letting Undead Blocks grow stale. 

This is a smart decision for a few reasons. It’s a good decision for the team to focus on PvE as it will make the game more accessible while reducing the risk of delays and bugs associated with multiplayer support. This also helps Wagyu bypass the issues posed by concurrency, especially in a crowded FPS market with the additional constraint of being a blockchain game.

Enemies

Undead Block’s enemies
Source: Kevuru Games

There is a fair amount of visual variety to Undead Block’s enemies. Yet when it comes to behavior, many of the enemies act similarly. One suggestion for Wagyu is to increase enemies’ behavioral variety to keep the experience fresh even after multiple playthroughs. One thing missing from the game is boss battles to help break up the pace of the gameplay and test the player's skills to provide a sense of accomplishment. 

Maps

Undead Blocks| Map Design
Source: Spintop

Another area where Undead Blocks needs improvement is in its map design. At this point in time, there is just one map available, which won’t keep players engaged for long. 

The duo mode could use a dedicated map while the VIP mode can have a separate map to give a unique experience to NFT holders. There could also be maps that work well with specific weapons. Although more maps will be launched in the future, the current lack of maps makes the experience less replayable.

Weapons

Undead Blocks | Weapons
Source: Wagyu Games

Weapons are the heart of any shooter. Undead Blocks has the standard fare of weapons. They look and feel different enough to offer gameplay variety. Weapons also act as a progression system within the game.  

The weapon balancing is satisfactory — as in most shooters. the more expensive weapons (obtained through higher XP expenditures) feel more powerful and are able to do higher damage. These weapon types can be classified along the lines of melee, handgun, SMG, assault Rifle, shotgun, long range and specialty weapons. There are a total of 14 different weapons available now with more to come in the future. 

There are NFT and free versions of the weapons. However, the weapon skins are all NFTs and can be applied on both the free and NFT variants. Weapons can be upgraded, but the feature is not active yet. This puts the pressure of monetization on the weapon skins. Considering that Undead Blocks is primarily a PvE game, this is a questionable strategy because customization works best when players are able to use their purchased items as a way to show off to other players and express themselves. 

Perks

Twitter| Perks
Source: Twitter

Perks are boosters that players can buy to give them temporary benefits. These include Diet Sprint to increase your sprinting speed; Reload Rootbeer to increase your reload speed; and Macho Dew to obtain a health bonus. These give tactical advantages and add to the overall strategic depth. These perks can be stacked, but players can only buy one of each. 

Character Skins

Undead Blocks| Character Skin

Undead Blocks has different character skins, called Survivors. There are 12 of them with different rarities, but they don’t offer any gameplay benefits as of right now. Wagyu does use the skins as an avenue for microtransactions and to offer customizability. These skins are available in loot boxes and are limited in quantity, and they’re not as important to the economy as weapon skins because players can't see their character in-game as one might in a third-person experience like Fortnite. 

Rewards

ZBOXs| Loot Boxes
ZBOXs, Wagyu’s version of loot boxes, are dropped during play. Source: Wagyu.

The main aim is to collect the ZBOXes dropped during matches. These boxes have a chance of dropping for every zombie killed. Also, the higher the wave number, the higher the probability of ZBOXes dropping. 

Undead Blocks has two currencies: the standard ZBUX, which is the in-game currency that cannot be traded, and the Gold ZBUX, which acts like a stablecoin and can be exchanged for $0.10. 

The ZBOXes drop standard ZBUX. In the duo mode, the reward is split 50-50 between the two players, but the chance of survival is higher. While playing the VIP mode, in which only players that have NFT weapons can enter, the ZBOXes drop Gold ZBUX as well. 

Twitter| Gold ZBUX
Source: Twitter

Wagyu is currently experimenting with the drop rates of the gold ZBUX. However, in one playthrough of an hour, players reported earning $0.05. It's not enough data to generalize, but let's assume the value for now. Now, these players would have to have owned an NFT weapon to be able to participate. The floor price of the NFTs stand at around $200. This means the player would have to play 4,000 hours to recover the floor price of the weapon. 

At face value, this seems like a fair deal for a player treating the game as a play-to-earn experience, whereas in traditional F2P games the player would get nothing for their efforts. However, what works against the play-to-earn system is that the average player is likely expecting a higher and faster payout. Wagyu has to carefully manage these expectations in order to keep people sticking around. One of the reasons new web3 releases shy away from marketing their experiences as play-to-earn is to avoid both setting unrealistic expectations and promising players a return without a guarantee the game can ultimately deliver. It's better to treat real-world earnings as a cherry on top of a fun gameplay experience that stands on its own. 

There is a clear separation between rewards for the NFT holders and F2P players, despite the gameplay being the same. Undead Blocks launched the VIP earning mode as a beta at the end of February of this year. The zombie-themed shooter market is relatively unoccupied in the web3 community, making Undead Blocks a unique standout.

One suggestion would be to increase the variety of enemies, maps, and modes to keep the experience fresh and to prevent the only meaningful reason to play being the play-to-earn component. That might work in the short term, but the moment there is even a slightly better shooter experience out there, players won't hesitate to jump ship. 

So the task at hand would be to prioritize improving the gameplay experience. This decision would depend on player feedback, development timeline, impact on gameplay, and market trends. However, we suspect that the development team should first focus on new enemies, and then add PvP into the mix before exploring new maps.

Tokens

Gold ZBUX

Gold ZBUX

Gold ZBUX is the pillar of Undead Blocks’ play-to-earn system. They can be treated as an in-game stable coin as each gold ZBUX will always be valued at $0.10. These can be exchanged for any cryptocurrency, and there is no withdrawal limit.

  • Sources: Players can get gold ZBUX by playing the game while equipping an NFT weapon. F2P players can get a chance to get gold ZBUX by climbing the leaderboard. 
  • Sinks: The current main sink is the Loot Coffin (loot boxes), which costs 80 gold ZBUX or $8. In the future, gold ZBUX can be used to purchase exclusive skins and perks.

Standard ZBUX

Standard ZBUX

Standard ZBUX is the asset upgrading currency in Undead Blocks. In the future, players can upgrade their weapons using this currency and increase the value of their loadouts. Standard ZBUX cannot be traded and is treated as an off-chain currency.

  • Sources: Players can get Standard ZBUX through ZBOXes that are dropped while playing the game. The amount of Standard ZBUX earned through these ZBOXes is random. Players need not have an NFT weapon equipped.
  • Sinks: Currently, there is only one sink of Standard ZBUX and that is buying Loot Coffins from the store. The main utility of such is to upgrade weapons. 

It’s a good decision by the team not to make the standard ZBUX tradable. That way, these tokens can act as the engagement currency for the game and can be a measure of the “sweat equity” of free players. However, like any game, the developers will need to balance the source and sink of standard ZBUX so it doesn’t inflate and lose its value over time. This can be achieved by keeping up the sink pressure while simultaneously managing its source. 

Managing the source through the probability-based ZBOX mechanism is a smart move as it will give the team control over the game’s economy. The sink pressure needs to be managed through a focus on both durables and consumables. Some examples of consumables are the boosters in games or the +5 moves in Match 3 games. Similarly, Undead Blocks can charge players to continue the current game even after death. This will ensure spending depth and give the developers the ability to monetize every session. 

Undead Blocks| Leaderboard

The leaderboard in Undead Blocks is a good way of distributing Standard and gold ZBUX as rewards without inflating the economy. This is important especially for gold ZBUX as they are backed by fiat with a fixed conversion ratio. Since the rewards given out in the leaderboard are predetermined, it will help the team plan out their tournaments to optimize for maximum players to earn gold ZBUX. 

Undead Tokens

Undead Blocks| Undead Token

The Undead token is the governance token in Undead Blocks. As of now, the proposed use of this token is for governance and staking. The token release schedule is also undefined. 

Undead Blocks| USD Chart

According to CoinMarketCap, 3% of the overall max supply of 500 million tokens is currently in circulation. With a price of $0.20, this is way below the historical high of $2. The daily transaction volume hovers around $400,000 and can be assumed to be speculative in nature as there is no direct utility associated with the token. With a market cap of $3 million and only 3% of the total tokens in circulation indicates potential inflation in the future.

Undead Blocks| Undead Tokens| Staking program
Source: Wagyu Games

The other utility for Undead tokens is the staking program. Players can stake a fixed amount of the token to get weapon loadouts. There is also a fixed APY of UNDEAD that players can get back over time. 

Undead Blocks| Undead Tokens

Approximately 361 loadouts have been minted through the 703,871.7 Undead tokens that have been staked so far. While it is a smart idea to give weapon loadouts as rewards for staking, giving away Undead tokens as rewards for staking is not a sustainable strategy, especially with the high APY promised. Thankfully, this has been paused and it may have been a way to create initial utility for the Undead token. The total staked amount accounted for 4.7% of the Undead circulating supply, which indicates the token’s utility was not very effective.

Weapon NFTs

Undead Blocks| Genesis Weapons
Undead Blocks Genesis Weapons on Opensea

The weapon NFTs are available through two collections: the Undead Blocks Genesis Collection and the Undead Blocks Apocalypse Collection. There are 6,500 total NFTs and 3,500 are owned by players. Only NFT holders will be able to extract value from the system, and players can buy these on OpenSea using Ethereum. 

Undead Blocks| Weapons Owners
Undead Blocks Weapons Owners (Source: Cryptoslam)

At this point in time, there are approximately 2,000 owners of these NFT items, which is a very small number to achieve scale. There will basically be two groups of players: F2P and NFT owners. The F2P players will be able to earn some money by selling the skins that they get. NFT holders can randomly be dropped crates that can give them gold ZBUX. The NFT weapons don't provide stat boosts. Rather, they act as entry criteria for earning-based game modes. The whole aim is sustainability. 

The team plans to introduce weapon upgrades in the future. However, players will be able to upgrade their weapons using Standard ZBUX, which cannot be bought in-game. The reasoning is to avoid making Undead Blocks a pay-to-win experience. 

Skins & Loot Coffins

Undead Blocks x IMX
Source: Twitter

Since the number of Genesis weapons is low, Undead Blocks partnered with IMX to release skins for all weapons. Everyone (NFT weapon holders and non-NFT weapon holders) can use these skins in the game. These skins can be obtained through Loot Coffins, which can be bought from Wagyu.io, and players can then sell them on the IMX marketplace. 

Undead Blocks| Loot Coffin
Source: Wagyu Games

Every Loot Coffin drops weapons or character skins. These differ based on rarity and are limited in quantity. Every season, there will be new Loot Coffins that offer new skins. In the first season, there are 300,000 skins available for purchase through Loot Coffins. As of now, only 39% of the Loot Coffins have been bought and most of the skins are being sold at $0.5 to $50 in the open market. 

Undead Blocks| Loot Coffin
Loot Coffin Price in Gold ZBUX (Source: Wagyu.io)
Undead Blocks| Loot Coffin
Loot Coffin Price in Standard ZBUX (Source: Wagyu.io)

Loot Coffins can be purchased through gold ZBUX or standard ZBUX. What’s interesting is that both the F2P and NFT owners can both partake in this feature. The pricing is also accessible at $8 per Loot Coffin. The skins themselves can sell for $0.5 to $50, meaning there is a potential to make a profit even if players spend gold ZBUX. This will help Wagyu scale up the number of players who would be able to earn from the game. A suggestion would be to have special Loot Coffins that can be opened exclusively by gold ZBUX and Undead tokens. This will push more players to play with NFTs and buy Undead tokens as NFT skins can be equipped on non-NFT weapons.

Economy

Undead Blocks| Flow of Different Tokens

The above diagram represents the flow of the different tokens used in Undead Blocks. Let’s now dig into how different entities take part in this economic model. 

F2P Players: Players can play the game while equipping an NFT or for free. F2P players get standard ZBUX that they can use to obtain skins through Loot Coffins. These skins can be traded in the open market. F2P players can also earn gold ZBUX through winning tournaments. However, the main issue is that monetization is not robust enough for F2P players. At this point in time, Undead Blocks still lacks common features like battle passes and advertising. This means F2P players are net extractive and do not add value to the system. This is not sustainable in the long run. 

NFT Weapon Holders: Along with all the ways in which F2P players can earn, NFT holders can earn gold ZBUX by participating in the VIP modes. They can also earn by trading their NFT weapons in the open market. This will be even more meaningful when the weapon upgrades become active in the future. Undead Blocks makes money from the sale and resale of its NFT weapons and skins. However, the economy will be sustainable only if it is able to achieve scale through larger participation in the on-chain aspects of the game.

Source of USDT for Gold ZBUX: Since Gold ZBUX is directly convertible to USDT in a fixed ratio, we speculate the team has a pool of USDT ready to be exchanged for Gold ZBUX. The team hasn’t explicitly mentioned the source of the USDT, but we can assume that they can come from the NFT resales, gold ZBUX spent on Loot Coffins, and other partnerships. Another source of USDT is the sponsorships for the tournament mode. One such example was Kratos Guild sponsoring $20,000 for an Undead Blocks Tournament. The Undead Blocks team also must consider development costs when factoring in how much USDT it can give back to players.

Let's understand how the team is making revenue from the NFTs. 

Revenue from the NFTs

Based on the NFT sales figures from Cryptoslam, the total historical sales are approximately $6.5 million. These come from three different collections: the Genesis Weapon Collection, Apocalypse Weapon Collection, and the Skin Vault. 

Rev Generated through Mints and Creator Fees

An approximation of the cumulative revenue generated by Undead Blocks through mints and creator fees (5%) stands at $1.6 million. What is important to note is that most of this has come from the initial mint of the Genesis weapons. This is an issue since the weapons are supposed to be limited in quantity. 

The Undead Blocks skins that are given as part of the Loot Coffin are part of the strategy to achieve scale by periodically launching new skins. However, at this point in time, they contribute less than 2% of the cumulative revenue. In the month of March 2023, the total revenue contribution from skins stood at 1.3% of total revenue generated that month. Since this is primarily a PvE game, buying skins might not be a huge revenue generator because players can’t show them off. Even though there is a multiplayer mode where players can team up with others, due to the lack of concurrent users, the system is usually not able to find others to play with.

If play-to-earn is the main draw for the game, Wagyu will need to figure out how to generate more revenue so it can distribute the funds among its players and use the remainder to run and scale its operations. In order to succeed, the team will have to consider both sustainability and scalability. Let’s look at how the team plans to tackle this through the Undead Blocks roadmap.

Current Roadmap and Suggestions

Mobile Launch

Currently, the game is available only on PC, but the plan is to launch on mobile eventually. This will give Undead Blocks the opportunity to scale. However, it will be an uphill battle. Since the game is not made for mobile, porting the game in its current state will pit it against AAA players — a tall task given the game’s lack of resources and low-budget look and feel. 

To add to this, the rules around the usage of NFTs (especially on iOS) are prohibitory for the model Undead Blocks has at the moment. The team will need to figure out how they monetize this scale since a major component of revenue generation is the resale of weapon NFTs with limited quantity. From the developer's perspective, they want to use the inflow of players to make selection easier for Guilds and esports teams. But the business model for esports is also facing serious obstacles at the moment

User Acquisition

Undead Blocks website visits by channel
Undead Blocks website visits by channel (Source: Similarweb)

The team has done a good job up until now marketing Undead Blocks through organic means. Wagyu has also leaned heavily on guilds and influencers to generate buzz. Here is a detailed Twitter thread about the studio’s efforts on this front. However, if Undead Blocks needs to scale further — especially on mobile — the studio will need additional funds.

Renting

Undead Blocks aims to enable a renting system in which players with weapon NFTs are able to rent them to others for a limited time. The renters will receive a percentage of the gold ZBUX earned by the players using the rented weapon. The model needs larger scale to work and presents a potential distraction for Wagyu as it tries to prioritize its next steps. 

Live Ops

The team aims to incentivize players to get more weapons by having live-ops events centered around them. Some examples are new maps that encourage the use of different weapons and leaderboard events with particular weapons as entry criteria. 

Here are a few other suggestions we think can help Undead Blocks.

More NFT Weapons

To scale the monetization of Undead Blocks, the team will need to add more NFT weapons from time to time. This will have to be in accordance with the growth of the user base. This will increase their revenue generation capacity which will in turn help with more players participating in the play-to-earn experience.

More Multiplayer Modes

In the short term, due to the lack of concurrency, it makes sense to focus on PvE modes. However, if the monetization is purely based on cosmetics, then the game will require multiplayer modes with more players in order to let people show off their cosmetics to a larger audience. It will also be an expectation from mobile players whose current experience with mobile shooters is primarily multiplayer gameplay.

Additional Undead Token Utility

Currently, the Undead tokens have little to no utility. The first utility that can be provided to the token is to allow players to buy Loot Coffins with it.

More Gameplay Variety

Undead Blocks is at risk of becoming monotonous. However, variety can be added through new enemy types, boss battles, and new maps. But the content treadmill will be an uphill battle and the team needs to prioritize its feature development.

Conclusion

Undead Blocks has been in development for quite some time and still continues to adhere to the blockchain gaming standards like focusing on play-to-earn and limited-quantity NFTs. In terms of the gameplay, the experience fails to offer substantially differentiated gameplay when compared to other FPS shooters on the market. 

In fact, a lack of content variety will make the game monotonous and impact retention. Wagyu hopes the play-to-earn aspect will keep players around. Though the economic model seems to be sustainable, it will be difficult to keep the promise of play-to-earn alive as the number of users increases relative to the restricted number of NFTs. 

The team's attempt to attract sponsorship revenue through scale may not succeed due to the increasingly crowded and competitive genre. However, the team can take multiple steps to achieve sustainability and scalability. The success of these steps will depend on the team's ability to prioritize and use their resources efficiently. Given the funds at their disposal and the tough competition they face, it will be a challenging battle.

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