Play to Earn? Or Play is Work? A brief review of 124 game projects on BSC
Key Question: Why do ppl play blockchain games?
At the first glance, this question seems easy to blurt: for fun. During the whole history of entertainment, gamers undoubtably achieve some sort of pleasure during the process of gaming, plus the stories to boast afterwards.
But that answer is not even close because from the playing experience, blockchain games stand no chance comparing with traditional video games.
So perhaps we have to employ some studies of neuroscience and review the history of traditional games to figure out why they attractive so many ppl in such a long time.
Theories of behavioral design show that human’s brain can easily get pleasure under an instant-feedback circumstance, by an achievement system and from a fully defined environment. All three factors have been perfectly provided by video games.
Perhaps that’s why back to the first decade of this century, video games had once been referred as “electrical drugs”. They were believed to have an extremely negative influence on gamers, especially teenage gamers. But when those so-called “electrical addicted” generation grew up, the criticism towards video games seems to be much more rational. Just like salt, alcohol, and tobacco, video-game generation didn’t become the beat generation. It just melts into our daily life.
Obviously, blockchain game is just another branch of video game. And they are, more or less, inspired by those traditional video games on the market. But blockchain and video game seemed to evolve in separated worlds, until Axie Infinity entered in June 2021.
The remaining of this paper is trying to describe the logic of blockchain games development by reviewing 124 game projects listed on BSC. The structure would be as followed:
1.“P2E” mode created by Axie and supported by L2 and sidechains
2.Other than P2E, what is the ecosystem of blockchain games on BSC
3.What the potential might be?
“Play to Earn”
Since Axie Infinity introduced this mode to this industry, almost every blockchain game has labeled itself as “Play to Earn”. In this review, all 73 projects (aside from gamefi, game platform, pure collection, sidechain and streaming) have P2E description.
Even in an imagined game world, some sort of resource has to be scarce. In this logic, game designers would delicately design the economy system in the game to make sure gamer’s max pleasure from challenge but avoiding freaking them out. In crypto games, that resource can be easily tokenized and that’s the theoretically basis of P2E.
And that’s why we have seen blockchain games have been inspired by all themes of traditional games. Among 60 “pure” game projects excluding card games, 8 are Pokemon-like games, 8 are land-building games, and 11 are PRG games. The rest look more or less similar to one or more existing video games.
The only two differences between blockchain games and traditional games so far are on-chain, and tokenization.
In this review and other reviews, hardly any public chain has the ability to afford a 100% on-chain game. Even Axie had to wait until L2’s maturity to be successful. So, a possible solution might be partly on-chain. Like Sorare on ETH, the front end is centralized, just like other soccer manager game, but the back end is decentralized on StarkEx’s Validium (L2).
Besides, more so-called 3A games are on the way. Like Project Quantum and Metaverse in this review, and Star Atlas on Solana, they only post every few design images and models. From their roadmap, their beta version are at least months away.
Tokenization is another key innovation.
It doesn’t mean that traditional online games didn’t exist this mode. In almost every popular online game, gold farmer exists to some extent. But most of the trades between digital assets and fiat are unofficially made in an C2C platform like eBay. A recent attempt was made by Blizzard in their RPG game Diablo 3, but only a few months later they closed the auction house due to inevitable inflation.
Gold farmer has become a job. And they are organized by, small or big, game studios. Traditionally, they are viewed as cancer in the system. Under control, they are part of the ecosystem; once out of control, they could ruin the whole ecosystem and migrate to the next, just like locust.
Considering the quality of existing blockchain games, the majority of players are gold farmers. For them, it is not a game; it’s a job.
There have been traditional online games trying this mode, but Axie might be the only successful one. It could be due to the fact that Axie has a world-class “gold farmer” studio, YGG, to support this program. And it did generate very surprising income effect.
But there is only one Axie, and there is only one YGG.
Besides 73 “Play to Earn” games, there exists 17 gamefi (game+defi) projects, 24 game platforms, 9 collectible NFT projects, one game pub chain and one streaming project.
Gamefi and platform are the other 2 main areas supporting the eco of blockchain game system.
In traditional finance, anything bringing a positive money flow could be viewed as an asset. Since the NFT in blockchain game could earn tokens, they are definitely financial assets. Therefore, markets around those assets, both primary and secondary, are necessary in the system, which generates all kinds of gamefi protocols and launchpad platforms.
Among all the gamefi projects, Mobox has uniquely-designed NFT and a few games developed to use these NFT. And it’s the most valued game project on the market.
As for the platforms, one recently project call ChainRoblox catches my eyes. It is said that this project is started by former employee of Roblox, the company that first introduced the concept of Metaverse to Wallstreet. Despite of its immaturity, the background looks attractive.
From the perspective of games, blockchain games are just standing at the end of the start. The future games have at least two tendencies: PFU and PFF. PFU stands for “play for utility”, which means a bunch of professional gamers play games for money, honor or achievement. Meanwhile, PFF is “play for fun”. Besides the success of 3A games, there are also Angry Birds, Plant vs Zombie, Candy Crash, etc. They also satisfy the need for leisure and relaxation.
We have seen both modes in existing blockchain games. Therefore, the future might consist of fully on-chain block games and partially on-chain 3A games.