Blockchain technology offers new approaches to creating, distributing and monetizing games, with non-fungible tokens (NFTs) being offered as a promise to players that they too can be part of the revolution. But the vast majority of consumers have indicated they’re not buying it yet, and adoption isn’t as widespread as many investors had 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 address that question.
Today, while the Internet is extremely efficient for data and data interoperability, it still poses challenges in data ownership and business interoperability, said Canaan Linder, founder and CEO of Stardust. Blockchain is a new build of the internet and NFTs are the rebuilt game assets in a brand new world.
“Gamers view them as predatory and frankly we’ve done a pretty bad job as an industry telling them how to favor them in their games, but this is the new era of gaming,” Linder said. “It’s a rebuild of the platform all games are built on, how games interact with each other and our players really own their items. It’s not something to be afraid of – it’s the future, and like mobile games, it will come whether players like it or not.”
Every time a new technology emerges, the public steps out, 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 is showing 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 of course they are looking for, that should be present in any great game. But they are now also looking for this new thing. This ability to join the game and have that creative opportunity, that ability to own and have the things they make, leads to further opportunities for them. That’s the new. And it changes our priorities in terms of how we build the game.
But there’s a gap in the audience, Linder noted — Grandma religiously plays Words with Friends and Candy Crush; how likely is she to jump 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 Web2 games are for everyone,” he said.
“I think it’s up to us as an industry to try and expand these games to millions and millions of players, to create an environment where these very native Web3 folks can also play alongside these Web2 classes that are looking to some of the things that Web3 brings, not all of them, and not as natively, but still getting access to this new platform in this new technology.”
The solution, said Mark Otero, founder and CEO of Azra Games, comes along with the greatest takeaway of all his time in the gaming world: we all have 24 hours in a day.
“And so when I think about making an entertaining product, the first thing we have to do is make something that’s so good, it’s going to shock you and change your pace 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 accessibility and mass production – and they are no longer in the top 20 highest-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. “First you have to build an entertaining product with as little friction as possible, where the technology itself is not in the foreground. Like how many of you in your regular life, people run up to you and beg you for an NFT? Please build an NFT game!”
Bettner pointed to GamesBeat’s 2023 Web3 calendar itself, and the fact that their panel had standing room only, as a sign of hope for the industry’s future.
“It’s been a tough year for Web3, no one is 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 we’re making called Wildcard, is because we all perceive that that opportunity that we’re describing is still didn’t happen.”
No one currently prefers a Web3 game to Tears of the Kingdom – and no Web3 game can match any of the previously released Web2 games, he said. Is there something inherent to Web3 that will stop that moment?
“Not from what I’ve seen so far. So those games are coming,” he said. “That I look forward to. That’s what I think we’re trying to build here. And I will tell you that those moments are coming and your faith in this opportunity and your interest in it is well founded.”
In 1999, no one could have comprehended what the internet was about to bring to the world – and while blockchain already has a wide range of benefits for developers, from data transparency to monetization opportunities, this is just the beginning.
“One of the things I want to take away from everyone here is that it’s okay not necessarily to know what the future holds and what benefits blockchain will bring to every part of every industry, but we know it’s out there.” Linder said. “We know it’s coming.”
Don’t miss the full panel, free on request here!