Gaming on the Block
They used to say that gaming was just a silly hobby for unemployed people. But then you see Steam worth $3.4 billion and Discord worth $15 billion, and you start to realize.
In many ways, the crypto and gaming communities are alike: considered geeky by most people and considered a scam by those people’s moms.
Seriously though, just two decades ago gamers were the early adopters of the technologies that ultimately changed the digital world: web graphics, interactive interfaces, and all kinds of other computer technologies. Video games massively changed the education sphere by introducing the gamification of learning, while also helping secure significant funding for the cloud technologies. So in some sense, us, the crypto community, is quite similar to the early gamers. Just like I used to make fun of my parents who used to play Pacman, I can already imagine how my kids are going to make jokes about me using crypto tech together with the dinosaurs.
But how did crypto sneak its way into gaming? To put it simply, money is the common denominator, so the first touch point was obviously the Play to Earn projects. We have covered these thoroughly in one of our previous Medium articles. But what other features did the blockchain bring into the world of gaming?
A good game offers you an opportunity to identify with your character — even more than a good book or movie will have you identify with the protagonist. It’s one of the reasons we like to play RPGs in the first place, and the main reason you’d buy $50 Fortnite skins. You probably use the same nickname across all games you play, right? Because that character is you.
However, no matter how much you spent on your skins, characters, or items, you don’t own them: you may lose your digital personality anytime just because a moderator didn’t like your choice of words in the team chat. In other words, your video game assets aren’t yours and can be taken away by the publisher. Read the small print. And even if that never happens, the risks are there.
“Not your keys, not your Omega-Destroyer-Obsidian-Sword 5000”.
This exact problem is solved by the concept of crypto gaming. The basic approach is that all in-game assets (such as your avatar, house or castle, sword, and pet dragon) are tokenized, i.e. represented by a unique NFT. Since NFTs are stored on the blockchain, a public, decentralized ledger, it gives the player the rights of ownership to all assets as well as the ability to transfer these rights to others. This makes the player the real owner of their digital items. The publisher has no way of taking what’s yours away, aside from shutting down the project as a whole — and even then the NFTs might retain their value as collector’s items.
Moreover, in case a game server is compromised due to a hacker attack, the players’ NFTs are safe in their wallets; another benefit of decentralized gaming. Just make sure to never hand over your keys to the game’s publisher. And if they do ask for it, well, there’s your reason to pick another game.
Now, how about the game developers? What do they gain by going crypto, or is it a move that only benefits the players? As it turns out, the blockchain model is just as great for the devs, as it enables them to monetize their projects more efficiently by creating their own tokens to list these on crypto exchanges. By doing so, younger and smaller studios can as well raise the starting capital for their games. Being able to offer in-game purchases via direct on-chain payments is an added bonus, as the studio would otherwise lose some 30% of their revenue to the platform, such as Apple’s AppStore.
Create your roadmap, show some early results, sell your tokens to those who believe in your project, and get more money to get your roadmap completed. Just don’t pull the rug somewhere in the middle of this plan. And successful cases of such games will surely drive more developers to join the scene, working together to further the adoption of crypto gaming.
Another side benefit of blockchain GameFi worth mentioning: the technology works really well if you are running all kinds of PvP competitions. Storing all data on-chain ensures full transparency and eliminates any doubt that the winners are selected — and prizes distributed — fairly. The blockchain also eliminates the need to build the entire data transfer and storage infrastructure for your game, cutting on development costs.
Okay, so does it really work that great? Yeah… not yet.
One of the famously failed attempts to integrate NFTs into a mainstream game was Ubisoft’s Ghost Recon Breakpoint shooter, and the players were excited about the feature — right until it was revealed that getting the first free NFT item would take almost 600 hours. Consequently, it didn’t make Ubisoft a lot of money. According to some reports, there were as many as 15 NFTs sold, for a whopping total of $400. Two weeks later, the NFT feature was scrapped.
Another project that compromised the NFT games’ reputation is, of course, STEPN. With millions of dollars invested into marketing, the project has become one of the brightest examples of NFT games. It crashed as loudly, seeing more than 70% down from the ATH. In this case, the failure wasn’t about greedy off-chainers that decided to earn money on a hyped technology. It was simply about an unsustainable financial model. In a nutshell, while being very complicated, STEPN is still a Ponzi. Not having any external cash flows, it could pay the investors back only by bringing in more investors. And when we see that kind of model, we know what’s the deal here.
Keeping these examples, we would be lying by saying that Solana gaming is already perfect. It’s not, because of various reasons: from simple lack of mass education about NFTs and finances to AAA companies not fully understanding the crypto community.
Another issue that held back the rise of crypto gaming was the high gas costs on the Ethereum network. If you want your assets to be NFTs stored in your wallet, you need to mint those NFTs in the first place — and an average minting fee on Ethereum ranges from $10 to $30. Now multiply that by the number of items every player has and you will get a nice four-digit bill for tokenizing your equipment and inventory.
Not to mention that most blockchains have a significant carbon footprint, making crypto gaming far from sustainable. This is an issue a lot of users started to pay attention to over the last few years.
And this is where Solana comes in. With its ridiculously low fees and comparatively modest emissions (Solana was carbon-neutral in 2021), this PoS blockchain is perfect for crypto gaming. If you want some more details on how this is made possible, check out our earlier Medium article where many questions are answered.
But even considering the problems above, there are some great examples!
The current state of the Solana-based crypto games
“It has become one of the most popular Solana-based blockchain games. Players can choose various gameplay types, enabling a more immersive gaming experience on the Solana blockchain. Moreover, the agriculture-oriented gameplay — involving fishing, shooting, farming, crafting, etc. — is an appealing and approachable concept. It lowers the entry barriers and has the potential to bring more people into play-to-earn gaming.”
“What sets MonkeyLeague apart from the rest is its high-production-value multiplayer gaming. It creates an exciting turn-based play-and-earn soccer game combined with decentralized finance elements. Anyone can pick up MonkeyLeague, but mastering the game is something different. Additionally, players own the game’s assets, including Stadiums, where games are played. Owning a Stadium can lead to generating passive revenue in MonkeyLeague.”
“Neopets Meta is built on the cult classic Neopets, which had over 150 million players. Bringing that familiar look and feel to the metaverse and combining it with P2E elements will bring modernized nostalgia to that former player base. For those new to Neopets, there is much to like, as there are no upfront investment costs to engage in this virtual pet metaverse. The option to collect resources and craft a house to furnish, decorate, and expand for one’s Neopet is rather appealing.”
These are Solana’s biggest, most advanced gaming projects. Each of them offers you the opportunity to collect your own NFTs, and even earn some crypto. These projects’ graphics, gameplay, and interfaces might still lose the comparison with top titles released by the biggest publishers, but, as the saying goes, Rome was not built in a day.
It is obvious that Solana gaming is rapidly evolving and has already become one of the biggest innovations in the gaming world. That’s why we believe in top-tier studios coming to the Solana chain or at least trying it out.
Everyone already understands that crypto is the future of finances. And close is the day when everyone realizes that crypto is the future of gaming as well.