The first blockchain games were launched back in 2017, but right now this sector of the crypto industry is experiencing a wave of hype. The rise in popularity of decentralized video games, or GameFi, is largely due to the active development of the decentralized finance (DeFi) and non-fungible token (NFT) industry.
Many projects from the GameFi sphere adhere to the play-to-earn concept, within which gamers earn in-game digital assets that can be used in the game or withdrawn to third-party sites to exchange or sell.
We talk about the development path of decentralized video games and how other projects are leading in this area now.
How did the GameFI sphere begin?
In 2017, Ethereum launched CryptoKitties, the progenitor of modern GameFi applications. The first blockchain game instantly attracted tens and hundreds of thousands of users and even temporarily paralyzed the work of the Ethereum blockchain.
Then the decentralized game about breeding, buying and selling cartoon crypto-cats led to an overload of the network of the largest altcoin in terms of capitalization. In a short period of time, processing transactions in the CryptoKitties game began to consume up to 20% of all computing power of the Ethereum network. In the first week alone, the creators of crypto-seals – the Vancouver company Axiom Zen – earned $ 2.6 million.And for the year, the amount of additional investments in the project exceeded $ 27 million.
This overwhelming success did not leave other blockchain developers indifferent. Therefore, in the wake of the popularity of CryptoKitties on the Ethereum network, a number of other decentralized games on the blockchain were launched, among which were Ether Shrimp Farm, Ether Cartel and Pepe Farm. As a result, in May 2018, the Ethereum network became overloaded again, which led to a 20% increase in the cost of gas.
It is important to note here that these blockchain games more closely resembled the current concept of “profitable farming” than play-to-earn projects. So, for example, in the case of Ether Shrimp Farm, users had to breed and sell crypto shrimp, and also try to make production as efficient as possible. Assets earned during the game could be withdrawn to ETH. Ether Cartel and Pepe Farm worked along the same lines.
That all changed in the summer of 2018 when the United States Major League of Baseball (MLB) released MLB Crypto Baseball, its very own blockchain game that worked in a similar way to CryptoKitties. This blockchain game can already be attributed to those projects from GameFi that turned out to be the most in demand on the crypto market. For example, MLB Crypto Baseball users could buy collectible characters represented as league players. These characters also provided access to the most memorable moments of the league baseball games. Another popular collectible blockchain game NBA Top Shot works in the same way today.
As a result, by 2019, large companies began to enter the blockchain games industry. For example, AMD has joined the Blockchain Game Alliance and also announced a partnership with online gaming platforms Robot Cache and ULTRA. And the South Korean corporation Samsung has added the Tron blockchain game to its Galaxy S10 smartphone crypto wallet.
By 2020, GameFi projects began to appear on the crypto market in the form in which we know them now – these are blockchain games where users can not only have fun and collect in-game items, but also earn tokens and in-game digital assets that can be sold on the secondary market. It is thanks to this concept that the GameFi sphere has received a multi-million dollar audience that is constantly growing.
Review of the most popular blockchain games
GameFi’s play-to-earn model allows users to earn, not just spend. For example, in 2020, Coindesk wrote about how about 100 people from the Philippine city of Cabanatuan, thanks to the Axie Infinity game powered by the Ethereum blockchain, were able to pay bills and buy food when they lost their jobs due to a lockdown.
Axie Infinity is currently the most popular NFT game on the crypto market. The developer of the project is Sky Mavis, founded in early 2018. It has a team of 40 employees and is headquartered in the Vietnamese city of Ho Chi Minh City. The site says that the trading volume of the internal marketplace of the game over the past 30 days is about 156 459 ETH – about $ 540 million at the current rate.
The largest traffic for the app comes from Indonesia and Venezuela, as well as other emerging economies. In May of this year, the game was downloaded by 29,000 Filipinos, while the total number of users of the NFT game exceeds 350,000.
Axie Infinity players receive income in the form of SLP tokens and other rewards. Rewards can be used in-game or sold on the in-game marketplace, or taken out of play on the open market. The daily trading volume of the SLP token is $ 164 million, while it is listed on the largest crypto exchanges such as Binance, KuCoin, Gate.io, FTX, and OKEx, among others. Also, the AXS management token is used inside the game, the holders of which can vote on the development of the project, engage in staking, and also make payments within the Axie Infinity ecosystem.
Due to the rise in fees on the Ethereum network and the popularity of the game itself, the cost of building your own team of NFT pets has increased significantly. To start playing Axie Infinity, you need to buy three pets. In mid-2020, it could have cost $ 5. However, now prices for only one pet start at $ 155, that is, the entry threshold is at least about $ 465.
To make the game more accessible, the project community has developed a scholarship system whereby pet owners can lend them to new players so that they can start playing and earn SLPs without investing their own money. The player’s earnings are further divided between him, the pet owner and the community manager. The latter is also responsible for teaching and helping the newbie. Thus, a model for renting in-game NFT assets appeared in the game.
The largest decentralized metaverse, Alien Worlds, runs on its own WAX blockchain (fork of EOS), as well as Ethereum and Binance Smart Chain. At the same time, Alien Worlds is the fastest growing blockchain game and one of the most popular decentralized applications (dApps) on the market, surpassing the Uniswap decentralized exchange in terms of the number of users. Today it is played by over 2.7 million people.
App creators Sarojini McKenna and Michael Yates previously worked on the EOS blockchain.
There are seven planets in Alien Worlds, and users are engaged in earning a TLM token. They receive TLMs for mining, fighting other players, and completing quests or as rent for their land. In-game items are NFT tokens and can be used as avatars or as mining tools.
Each planet in the game is a Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAO). At the same time, different planets offer different game mechanisms. For example, on the planet Binance, players can complete quests, and on the planet WAX, they can mine TLM. At the same time, all DAOs are controlled by the Federation – an in-game organization of game developers that monitors the gameplay. Every day, the Federation allocates TLM tokens to each planet. She can also create new planets.
Alien Worlds was the first decentralized game to break the 100,000 user mark first, followed by a million and two million users. As of October 2021, over 2.7 million people play Alien Worlds.
The creators position the application not only as a game, but also as a new generation social network – that is, a metaverse. You don’t have to pay anything to start playing. All you need to do is register a WAX wallet, go to the official Alien Worlds website and join the game. However, in order to start mining TLM, you need to purchase certain NFT assets in the game.
Decentraland is a decentralized virtual world based on the Ethereum blockchain where you can buy, build and sell digital real estate, as well as artwork and other NFTs. Just like the previous described game Alien Worlds, Decentraland is more a new generation social network than a video game in the usual sense of the word.
Decentraland was created by the Decentraland Foundation, which was founded in 2015 by Ariel Meilich and Esteban Ordano. The virtual world was first introduced to users in February 2020, and since then it has been one of the most popular and largest metaverse on the market.
Trading within the project takes place using the MANA token. To date, all 90,000 parcels of land that the Decentraland meta-universe is divided into have been sold. Now users implement them not only within the project, but also on third-party NFT marketplaces. For example, in July, Republic Realm bought land in Decentraland for $ 913,000 and plans to turn it into a virtual shopping area. In this zone, users of the unique platform will be able to purchase virtual clothing for their digital avatars.
At the same time, you can build anything on land plots. So, this summer, the famous British auction house Sotheby’s built a copy of its central office in Decentraland. It is planned to be used as a virtual gallery for displaying digital art in NFT format.
However, judging by the information from DappRadar, the Decentraland marketplace is not very popular now. Over the past day, only 38 people visited it, and over a month – just over 500.
You don’t need to pay to start playing. It is enough to open the Decentraland website in a browser, create your own avatar, accept all the registration conditions – and you can start. At the same time, in order to start participating in events, you need to connect a crypto wallet that supports the assets of the Ethereum blockchain.
CryptoBlades is a browser based RPG on the Binance Smart Chain blockchain. Created by Riveted Games, which has been operating on the crypto market since 2014.
CryptoBlades users must engage in battles and defeat enemies with powerful weapons. They receive a Skill token for defeating rivals and participating in raids. Also, players can hire additional characters to earn more tokens.
CryptoBlades has an open market where you can not only sell your Skills, but also exchange your in-game characters. It should be noted, however, that a player will need a certain amount of BNB to pay transaction fees within CryptoBlades.
To hire the first character, you need 1.2252 Skill ($ 18.4 at the current exchange rate), as well as about 0.0015 BNB ($ 0.65) for battles. In addition, you can purchase in-game packs:
- For $ 101 – 4 characters and 3 swords.
- For $ 154 – 4 characters and 4 swords.
- For $ 206 – 4 characters and 5 swords.
CryptoBlades is one of the most popular decentralized games out there. According to DappRadar, its monthly number of users is 472,000. At the same time, the peak activity was observed in the summer, after which it began to decline.
Splinterlands is a decentralized card game on the Hive blockchain. Its users collect cards with different abilities and characteristics (reminiscent of Magic the Gathering or Hearthstone). However, unlike its famous counterpart, all cards in Splinterlands are NFT cards that can be traded or exchanged.
Splinterlands was one of the first blockchain and NFT games. Co-founders Matthew Rosen and Jesse Reich launched a game in 2018 called Steem Monsters. Initially, the game ran on the Steem blockchain, but in March 2020 it switched to Hive, a fork of Steem.
All battles in Splinterlands are automatic, so the main focus of the player is on strategic preparation for the battle. One of the advantages of this game is that the user always has a chance to win – regardless of experience, skill level or the size of his collection of cards.
At the same time, the game uses three tokens – Credits, DEC and SPS. Credits are an in-game currency that players can use to purchase packs of cards. DEC is an internal token that is used to buy cards and is credited as a reward for winning. And SPS is a governance token. To start playing, it is enough to buy a spell book for $ 10, after which various game features will be unlocked and the first DEC coins will be issued.
Splinterlands is currently the second most popular blockchain game, second only to Alien Worlds. During the day, the number of application users reached 200,000. The project is cross-compatible with other blockchains such as Tron, Ethereum and WAX.
Despite the fact that blockchain games are attracting millions of users, looking at the development path of the GameFi segment, it seems that it is still in its infancy. So far, the link between decentralized gaming and cryptocurrencies may alienate the general public due to the fact that many do not understand the technologies that this sector is based on.
It is the user audience that plays a big role in the distribution of the game, in its popularity. The concept of CryptoKitties was simple – so they were able to win over their audience in a short period of time. However, on the scale of the global gaming market, decentralized games still occupy only a small share of it.
Nevertheless, with the proliferation of cryptocurrencies, more transparent regulation, and a simple and user-friendly interface, GameFi projects can become really massive. Therefore, it is quite possible that over time they will even appear on consoles and will be sold through online stores such as Steam and Origin.