Over the past decade, mobile games have become an important pillar of the interactive entertainment market. With access to smartphones, users around the world have entered the realm of hardcore gamers. The advent of blockchain technology is now creating a paradigm shift, offering players the ability to actually own the assets they earn or purchase in-game and the ability to create tangible value from their time spent playing.
There are many opportunities that this new model can offer, but today most of the projects available simply do not live up to their older counterparts. This led to many doubting that this new generation of games could break into mainstream interest. However, this may be short-sighted. In fact, this is not the first time that a new technology has been dismissed based on its early examples.
The growing difficulty of blockchain gaming
Web3 games incorporate decentralized blockchain elements, including smart contracts and non-fungible tokens (NFTs), to create virtual assets that players can provably own and trade without third-party intervention. This innovation puts a high level of performance back into the hands of players. That said, the crypto gaming space is still nascent, and many early offerings have been described as overly simplistic and derivative without offering new or compelling gaming experiences.
As a result, many self-proclaimed gamers want little to do with NFT games based on a perceived lack of depth and an overemphasis on financial gain. Dubbed “play-to-earn” or P2E, these products offer players the chance to earn real value in the form of cryptocurrency and NFTs that can then be sold for fiat currency. One of the most prominent examples of a P2E play is Axie Infinity, which made headlines when it became a meaningful source of income for many people around the world during the COVID-19 pandemic, only to eventually become unprofitable as bear market conditions kicked in and made money. potential nosedived.
This is unfortunately the case with many similar Web3 games. Many Web3 titles that aren’t built to stand the test of time—or major economic shocks—fail to ignite their fan base without their once-lucrative financial perks. This has led to many detractors of the blockchain gaming genre assuming that current offerings are the zenith of what’s possible, and as a result the sector has been dismissed as a fad. However, a look at the recent past – particularly the monolithic rise of mobile gaming – shows that the oldest products should not define future potential.
A parallel of mobile games
If you looked at mobile gaming circa 2005, the situation would have been similarly turbulent. Subtitles were too simple, often difficult to control and lackluster in the graphics department. The classic Snake game was one of the most popular early mobile titles when Nokia ported it to its line of mobile phones, played by millions of people around the world. At that time in history, anyone using their phone to play games could only be called a casual gamer, and a similar story emerged as we see today.
Many viewed mobile gaming as a novelty for casual gamers that could never compete with the offerings available on consoles and desktops. Fast forward to today and titles like Fortnite and Arena of Valor have become hugely popular with hardcore gamers and even influenced the wider gaming industry. In this day and age, no one would say that mobile gaming is out of step with older offerings, as technology has evolved to make the differences more superficial.
In fact, by 2022, 60% of the gaming market will be dominated by mobile. It is now the largest gaming industry in the world. While traditional gaming platforms still exist and do well, mobile has shown how new technology can change the story of an entire industry as it comes of age. And to put it into perspective, Snake didn’t define what mobile would become.
The future of crypto games
Regardless of what you think about the approach and success of P2E games, it’s clear that this metric should not be used to judge the future viability of games on Web3. New generations of games that will take on older titles are already in the works. Some of these games still have P2E elements and others implement NFT; but importantly, the industry is learning that games must go beyond financial compensation and introduce truly engaging gameplay to attract and retain players.
While many today use Web3, P2E and blockchain games interchangeably, they are not all the same. In the coming years, these fields may further differentiate from each other and even establish new subcategories of the way this technology is implemented. Assuming all future offerings will be largely similar, we don’t see the diversity that has emerged in the mobile market.
Only time will tell what happens with Web3, but those betting against it might want to think twice. There are many parallels between the rise of mobile gaming and what we see now. What killer apps can open up the scene to a larger audience remains to be seen, but in 10 years it’s likely that these types of titles will simply exist alongside their home console and mobile siblings.
Justin Hulog is the Studio Lead at Immutable Games Studio. He previously worked for Riot Games on successful titles including Valorant, Wild Rift and League of Legends. Justin studied Comparative Literature at Columbia University.
This article is for general informational purposes and is not intended and should not be construed as legal or investment advice. The views, thoughts and opinions expressed herein are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.