Blockchain technology offers novel approaches to game creation, distribution and monetization, with non-fungible tokens (NFTs) offered as a promise to players that they, too, can be a part of the revolution. But overwhelmingly, consumers have indicated that they’re not buying it yet, and adoption has not been as widespread as many investors have hoped.
During the Stardust session at GamesBeat Summit 2023, “From niche to mainstream: the path to mass adoption of blockchain in gaming,” leaders from the Web3 space came together to tackle that question.
While the internet today is extremely efficient for data and interoperability of data, it still poses difficulties in the ownership of data as well as business interoperability, said Canaan Linder, founder & CEO, Stardust. Blockchain is a new build of the internet, and NFTs are the rebuilt game items, in a brand new world.
“Gamers think of them as predatory and honestly we’ve done a pretty bad job on as an industry of telling them how they can be advantageous them in their games, but this is the new age of gaming,” Linder said. “It’s a rebuild of the platform on which all games are built, how games interact, and our players truly own their items. It’s not something to be afraid of — it’s the future, and similar to mobile games it will come whether players like it or not.”
Every time a new technology emerges, the audience emerges too, said Paul Bettner, CEO of Playful and Wildcard Alliance — it happened with the early mobile games, and it happened with VR games, and it will happen again for blockchain games.
“This audience shows up and they’re looking for something new,” Bettner said. “And that word is opportunity. They come to the game not just looking for fun, which obviously they’re looking for, that has to be present in any great game. But they’re also now looking for this new thing. This ability to affiliate with the game and have that creative opportunity, that ability to own the things that they create, and to have that lead to further opportunity for them. That’s the new thing. And it changes our priorities in terms of how we’re building the game.”
But there’s a divide in the audience, Linder pointed out — grandma is playing Words with Friends and Candy Crush religiously; how likely is she to hop into a blockchain based game? Perhaps more likely than we think, if we overcome the assumption that “blockchain based games are for speculators and for crypto heads and Pepe holders and that Web2 games are for everybody else,” he said.
“I think it is on us as an industry, that we try and extend these games to millions and millions of players, to bring in an environment in which these Web3 very native people can also play alongside these Web2 classes who are looking for some of the things Web3 brings. Not all of them, and not as natively, but still gain access to this new platform in this new technology.”
The solution, said Mark Otero, founder & CEO at Azra Games, comes along with the biggest takeaway from all his time in the gaming world: we all have 24 hours in a day.
“And so when I think about creating an entertaining product, we first have to create something that’s so good, that’s going to jolt you, and change your rhythm of life and your human behavior,” he said.
During the early era of mobile games in 2010, the popular titles like Cut the Rope and Angry Birds focused on the touchscreen technology, not on accessibility and the mass production — and they’re no longer in the top 20 grossing games — and that’s an analogy to keep in mind, when it comes to blockchain and NFT games, he said.
“The focus is misplaced,” Otero explained. “You must first build an entertaining product with the lowest friction as possible, where the technology itself is not at the forefront. Like how many of you in your ordinary lives, do people rush up to you and beg you for an NFT? Please build an NFT game!”
Bettner pointed to the Web3-packed agenda of GamesBeat 2023 itself, and the fact that their panel was standing-room-only as a sign of hope for the future of the industry.
“It’s been a rough year for Web3, nobody’s unfamiliar with that,” he said. “My sense of why we’re all still here in this room, why I’m still here, working as hard as I can on the game that we’re creating called Wildcard is because we all perceive that that opportunity we’re describing hasn’t happened yet.”
No one is choosing a Web3 game over Tears of the Kingdom right now — and no Web3 game can yet match up to any of the Web2 games that have come before, he said. Is there anything inherent about Web3 that’s gonna stop that moment from happening?
“Not from what I’ve seen so far. So those games are coming,” he said. “That’s what I’m looking forward to. That’s what I think we’re trying to build up here. And I will tell you those moments are coming and your faith in this opportunity and your interest in it is well founded.”
In 1999, no one could have understood what the internet was poised to bring into the world — and while blockchain already has a broad array of benefits for developers, from data transparency to monetization opportunities, it’s only the beginning.
“One of the things I want to impress upon everybody here is it’s okay not to know necessarily what the future holds and the benefits that blockchain will bring to every component of every industry, but we know it’s there,” Linder said. “We know it’s coming.”
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