The blockchain community rallied around the first game to launch on the Tron network this weekend and most of them seemed to avoid the elephant in the room. Blockchain games really aren’t very good right now.
Magic Academy joins the fold as the first idle blockchain game in the world and the first on the Tron blockchain. City building strategy game MegaCryptoPolis joins the fray in the coming weeks after generating more than $1 million in fiat currency before its official launch. That combines an Ethereum wallet with more traditional HTML5 and may be a breakthrough.
The gaming industry helped drive the internet, certainly in the social media age where social gaming and microtransactions have become a flourishing industry in their own right. The industry could be a welcome boon to the blockchain then.
The incumbents are checking out the blockchain technology and Ubisoft is the biggest name so far to commit to the Blockchain Game Alliance. If the next Farmville, Candy Crush or Mafia Wars comes on the blockchain, then it will be a bigger deal for the decentralized tech than it is for the game itself.
Tron Welcomes Magic Academy As a Start
Magic Academy, which launched this week on the Tron Network, is probably not that game. It is an important step in the right direction, though, as it provides a platform for people at home to make assets in the game and sell them for the Ethereum-based Jade utility token. That can then be used to fund other microtransactions.
MegaCryptoPolis is another strategy game, but it’s one that could have legs. Everything depends on the public’s initial reaction and if building cities becomes a Farmville-style craze then the blockchain has its poster child.
Everything Has A Price
In the end characters, buildings, saved games, everything could have a price and smart contracts could take care of authentication and the actual transfer. The concept, rather than the game itself, is the important point here.
It’s the way online gaming is going and the likes of Fortnite achieved world domination with a free download and in-game purchases. This ‘Freemium’ model has been proven then and rewarding people simply for playing is the next step. But first and foremost, the games have to be engaging and fun.
Social Gaming is Big Business
Blockchain games are not even in the same ballpark as Fortnite and other online phenomenon right now. Social gaming was worth $117 billion in 2017 and the mobile gaming developers in particular keep hitting higher heights.
Angry Birds, Pro Evolution Soccer and Clash of Clans are streets ahead in terms of playability and success. The blockchain needs to earn its place at the gaming table, then, or face being the accountant for the in-game purchases.
It seems inevitable that online casinos and sports betting will eventually switch to the decentralized blockchain thanks to the perceived security and P2P opportunities, but actual games might be a step too far for the blockchain technology and the development teams it attracts.
Ethereum simply doesn’t have the same pull as the Android, Google Play or IoS Stores and the developers that are working on the blockchain are either keen enthusiasts or playing the long game. Most are taking the quick money on offer elsewhere.
Ethereum is relatively new technology that needs to get orders of magnitude faster if it is to work in the real world as well. Vitalik Buterin and co are doing their best to make quantum leaps that will bring developers to the dApps fold, but there are simpler ways to work. That is largely the reason why blockchain games are so basic right now.
Here are the best six blockchain games we have so far, and how they can improve.
A clever combination of card-based strategy and basic arcade gaming, Spells of Genesis plays to the blockchain’s strengths. It is also based on the blockchain and the basics are you have to collect, trade and combine orbs that you then send into action against rivals, Pokemon-style.
You can play it on either Android or Apple phones and the game has got great reviews.
As the player progresses through the game, their cards increase in value, creating a ready-made marketplace. In theory, this is the future of gaming as those cards can work in several different games.
It just doesn’t look like the future of gaming and you really have to be in to card-based strategy. Surely that can’t be a big crowd.
This game has potential and already raised money for the game through an advanced token sale last year..
It’s an Augmented Reality combat game in the Pokemon Go vein, with a collection of 50 cyborgs, monsters and Gods to choose from. Inevitably custom characters are an integral part of the equation and there is already a marketplace for levelled up characters.
In-game Creature tokens will be an integral part of the experience, and it appears that bartering, buying and selling are going to be an important part of almost every game that is built with the blockchain in mind. That ability to make low-cost, trust-free transfers is the blockchain’s real USP and it has the capacity to take microtransactions to a whole new level.
Augmentors has the potential for limitless character upgrades, bespoke artwork and a community of creators getting paid for their contributions.This one can work.
BitGuild has created what it claims is the first idle blockchain game in the world and it joins the Tron blockchain.
One of the big selling points is that you can simply buy the assets you need to progress in the game and that nothing can be locked off. Is that a good thing for gameplay? Logic says no, but time will tell.
Jade is the in-game token that players will mine by playing and spend on warriors, wizards and upgrades. It’s all clever, but the game itself lacks visual appeal and looks like a refugee from the 1990s. Social gaming has gone so far beyond this that it feels like a massive step backwards.
A game needs to be playable, first and foremost. The casual social gamer will not play second-rate games just because they’re on the blockchain and the likes of Magic Academy simply won’t tempt players away from the traditional games that are getting better, faster and more responsive with each passing generation of smartphone.
Calling CryptoKitties a game is something of an overstatement, but it did capture the public attention and came close to crashing the Ethereum network in December 2017. So what was it? A platform to breed your own unique virtual cat. It’s the blockchain equivalent of the old-school Tamagochi or Beanie Baby crazes.
You could sell the cats and Genesis, the very first CryptoKitty, sold for the equivalent of $117,000 in Ether. In other news, there is a sucker born every minute.
Players, for want of a better word, can breed their cats that have their own unique virtual DNA. Now, the bad news, we think, only 4 billion cats can ever see the light of digital day. CryptoPuppies is an obvious way round that self-imposed limit, but it doesn’t look like it will get that far.
CrytoKitties drew the ire of the Ethereum community when it was accused of crowding out more valuable projects and taking up blockchain resources that Ethereum simply couldn’t afford. Whichever way you look at it, though, this bizarre digital cult was a raging success.
That convinced creators Axiom Zen to spin the game into a separate company and it raised $12 million to develop CryptoKitties and more blockchain games. Within months, the number of CryptoKitties transactions collapsed, so Axiom Zen had better look outside the world of digital cats for its next moment of inspiration.
Is this the only true decentralized blockchain game? The community says yes and the game that has been with us since 2014 has become something of a cult classic.
It’s beautifully simple and it’s intertwined with cryptocurrency theory. You need to mine coins, by picking them up and carrying them to another point. Your opponent stops you the only way they can, by manoeuvring next to you and exploding, of course.
It’s not a good game in any objective sense, but it is addictive and that has helped HunterCoin to a place in blockchain gaming folklore. That and a lack of real competition.
The game hasn’t launched yet, but it has created a significant buzz and now it’s all about getting the game out there to the public. It has already generated more than $1 million in fiat currency sales and land barons can collect taxes in Ether.
The game works in conjunction with an Ethereum digital wallet, which is a prerequisite, and it looks like it has the potential for long-term engagement.
It’s made for microtransactions, as players will elect to buy buildings and services rather than earn them over time and this game has the makings of a viral hit. Maybe blockchain games are about to get better after all.
* Reader David spotted that Spells of Genesis is not, in fact, built on the Ethereum blockchain. That’s corrected now.
The author is not currently invested in digital assets.