Blockchain Games & Esports: Describing the Winners

Ready Up

One of the most interesting emotions that I think about every so often -and even experience occasionally- is the feeling of ambivalence. For me, where it really hits its hardest is when I'm heavily anticipating the release of a new game. I get SO excited for the release, going as far as listening to podcasts and watching a ton of content (without spoilers, of course) just because I want to have my hands on the game already. I got my headphones on, I'm smiling, 100% locked into a video, and then out of absolutely nowhere: I'm heartbroken that the game isn't releasing for another year.  
  
Is it all that bad? Not really, but it's hard to shake that feeling of anticipation. This is exactly where my heart sits when I think about Blockchain Based Games. There's some cool things out there, but we're simply not at the point where gamers are going to come flying in. In order to best explain my thoughts, let's take a look at how gaming advancements have accelerated technology, and then discuss how traditional gamers would translate over to blockchain gamers.

Pioneers who Game

Historically speaking, advancements in gaming has regularly pushed the forefront of technology. Many use-cases that were first developed for gaming has since sparked interests in where  similar technologies can be deployed. A few examples include:

- Pokemon Go
    - This game took the world by storm. Prior to its release, there wasn't any significant AR utility for the common consumer/person. The surge of users & support brought new minds to the space, and with it, new ideas.
- Oculus Rift
    - The original team at Oculus prior to getting acquired by Facebook showcased a team with a vision. Prior to 2010, VR was simply a simulation that one could experience, but not interact with. When Oculus Rift unveiled their prototype and launched their kickstarter in 2012, game developers from all around the industry took note (https://youtu.be/DhcOMOWRMnA). Up until Oculus Rift, VR technology was expensive and outside of the reach of the consumer. No VR headset at the time had done anything specifically for gaming either. Oculus' VR headset developments was a pivotal moment in VR history, one that was inspired by a love for gaming.
- Xbox vs Playstation Console war
    - If you want to watch two groups of people who love the same thing, but hate each other, look no further than the ongoing console war between Xbox and Playstation. No matter what generation of gaming we enter, consumers are spoiled time and time again with cutting-edge hardware, power, storage capacity, and software optimizations.
- IBM Personal Computer
    - Oh yeah, we're kicking all the way back to the 80's son. In the early 1980's IBM revolutionized technology for the modern consumer by unveiling the world's first personal computer. Prior to this, computers took up the space of an **entire room**. Many personal computers even came with "the technology needed for gamers to create their own games with BASIC code. Even Bill Gates designed a game, called Donkey (a simple game that involved dodging donkeys on a highway while driving a sports car)." (Full history of gaming here: https://techcrunch.com/2015/10/31/the-history-of-gaming-an-evolving-community/).

"Alright Quez, you've said plenty about the history of traditional gaming, but what does any of this have to do with CURRENT technology? No one ever worked with Blockchain or NFTs in gaming before 2017."

Bruh, chill. I'm getting there.  
  
There have been several games that have been played & invested in prominently. One of the most lucrative and historically significant games back then was CrytpoKitties; a game centered around kittens that have "a unique genome that defines its appearance and traits. Players can breed their kitties to create new furry friends and unlock rare attributes" (https://www.cryptokitties.co/about). It was one of the world's first successful games that leveraged the benefits of blockchain, meaning that no CryptoKitty could be replicated, taken away, or destroyed. Each CrytpoKitty is an NFT (ERC-721) that is unique, and the game featured a highly-popular breeding mechanic where owners could take two CryptoKitties and breed a new offspring. Yo, people LOVED it. I'm uncertain of just how popular it is today in 2021, but for reference, there are just over 2 million listings on Opensea with sales volume of roughly 66,800 ETH. I don't know if people are still buying as part of the game, or just as collectibles now. I'd say it's worth checking out, even if it's just to learn about it.  
  
There are many teams working on projects with hopes of attaining, if not exceeding the level of popularity that we witnessed with CryptoKitties. Some of these teams have built amazing worlds, stories & lore, characters, mechanics, game theory, you name it. But if that's the case, why isn't there more hype around blockchain games today?

There is hype. Take a look at Axie Infinity, Treeverse, Illuvium, Star Atlas, and so many more. People are buying NFTs to be part of these games, or at the very least, staying very close to the project owners to learn more as the games continue getting developed or maintained. Yet, even with certain games leveraging Play-to-Earn mechanics (P2E) and great in-game economies ($SAND, $MANA, $ENJ), the larger gaming community hasn't even been made aware of what's being built! Let's make something crystal clear too: 98% percent of the gaming audience being completely unaware of these games should speak volumes about the priority of making games that people WANT to play! That should always be objective number 1. Simply put, it doesn't matter of you're first to the blockchain-gaming space. First-mover advantage will only take you so far. The moment a new game or update is released that people like even just a tiny bit more than what's available, the audience will move. This has been historically been the case, and is evidenced by modern day streaming platforms like Twitch.  
  
In June, the Warzone Viewer Average sat at roughly 117,000 folks.

A short 2 months later, and Warzone has lost almost 40,000 viewers. There are many reasons for why this may have happened, but as a member of the gaming community, I know that much of it was due to many big streamers being wildly frustrated with the lack of an anti-cheat, as well as Activision Blizzard's ongoing legal battle. Many of these streamers moved to Apex Legends for the time being, which is reflected in the average viewership described below.

More Power, Baby

Ultimately, I see the blockchain gaming player-base being no different than the traditional gaming player-base. I mean really, who else are you trying to win over?

P2E alone will not be enough of a reason for someone to play your game. If it were, we'd see every gamer in the world flooding towards Axie Infinity. By no means am I insinuating that it should be Axie's goal to win over EVERY gamer on the planet, I'm simply saying that future game developers (as well as existing studios of all sizes) must consider what kind of experience they are looking to deliver to the player. Blockchain enables a decentralized environment where players have a great deal of power & freedom. Successfully leveraging this technology, as well as potential DeFi protocols to enable players to get paid on their NFTs or their time spent in the game, is entirely predicated on whether the studio is making a game people want to play in the first place. A game could have cutting-edge protocols and every P2E mechanism conceivable, but if it sucks, no one is gonna play it. Sorry, not sorry.

"So how the hell is gaming & esports supposed be an accelerator Quez???"

Let's brighten up a bit here. The important thing to consider about the industry is the sheer amount of value that is contained digitally. Almost every component of the industry that is monetized is produced digitally; highlight clips, live-streams, podcasts, in-game assets (weapons, gear, skins), and even social media interactions all translate to dolla dolla bills y'all. It prompts a few questions: how do NFTs change this? In what ways can NFTs be leveraged to augment an experience, or provide further value to the consumer? How do NFTs enable creators in this industry?

Answers to the questions above are where everyone wins. There will be no need to explain the value of proving ownership of a digital asset because the gaming audience already has a natural demand for digital assets as it stands. NFTs will simply be manner in which they're introduced to an economy that all players will be a part of. There will be no middle-man to buy digital currency from, and the days of buying in-game assets that can never go anywhere else but that one game will be forgotten. The gaming audience will be able to buy directly from creators producing the assets, which leaves creators' pockets full. Those assets will be kept, used/burned, or traded amongst players across the game, which stirs the in-game economy in a provable & transparent manner that everyone on the network can verify, and gamers ultimately win by being able to play a game they love. When put this way, it sounds simple to do. But oooohhhh mannnn, it is gonna be a real challenge.

On the other hand, there's no denying that the growing popularity of Esports will also play a big part in the NFT Space's adoption rate. Esports competitions have already been held in massive, technologically advanced arenas, and have been an incredible spectacle to witness. It will be interesting to see whether any particular blockchain game would be able to have a proper Esport behind it. My early theory is that it would have to be a PvP (player vs player) kind of game where players can build up their characters/avatars, and are able to wager some amount of currency or item(s) that the winner gets to take home. The game could be a fighting, racing, or skill based game. The point is that there ultimately has to be a clear victor. The Blockchain Esport would invite viewers to engage by watching live and placing bets on which player would win. It could even be a Team vs Team structured game like what we see in traditional Esports today. I don't know, I guess I'm envisioning some sort of Digital Roman Colosseum.  
  
As of right now, there's nothing outside of a viewing experience that esports fans get to walk away with. I won't list every possible thing that Esports Organizations and Leagues can do (shameless plug #2: keep your eyes on Quezt Gaming if you're interested in leading the charge), but some low-hanging fruits for Esports x NFTs are:  
- NFTs enabling event entry (IRL utility)  
- team meet & greets
- free NFTs for fans at an arena (Camera -> QR Code -> free NFT)
- in game assets sold directly by Esport Organization designers (CDL x Esports Orgs).

Closing Thoughts

This blog ended up being way longer than I thought it would. I just started writing and didn't stop. I am beyond exciting to approach the intersection of Gaming & Esports and NFTs. I love to let my imagination run wild here, because that's how great ideas come about. We're early into this space, but ideas alone won't suffice. I believe that now more than ever is the time to be networking & collaborating with like-minded folks that want to build & experiment together. Folks that have a desire to create the Metaverse they dream of. In a space where days feel like an eternity, it is going to demand a lot of patience and hard work in order to bring the Metaverse to life. I celebrate all those who are working hard in the shadows, and those that are out there being vivid dreamers and illustrative creators. There are worlds out there ready to be explored, and even more waiting to be created. Let's go make history.

Thanks for reading,
- Quez

Leave a comment