Token Gamer Blockchain Gaming Awards and Game of the Year 2023

After the frostiest of crypto winters in 2022, 2023 has been the start of the redemption arc. So, as we near the final whistle of another year, here is the least democratic awards ceremony in Web3: the Token Gamer Blockchain Gaming Awards and our Game of the Year 2023. To see last year’s awards, click here.

The Rules

There are only a few rules that currently dictate which games we consider:

  • The game must be released or soft-launched
  • The game must have blockchain technology as a key component
  • The game must have a focus on gaming and gameplay

As blockchain gaming is currently a fledgling subsector of the industry, many games are not fully released, and these games cannot be considered for that reason. However, if a game is playable by anyone interested and isn’t going to have a full progression reset prior to its official launch, we deem it as soft-launched.

We also require that games have blockchain technology central to the gameplay and mechanics. That is, we will not consider games with loosely related NFT collections, for example. The game must be built with blockchain at its heart and utilize the technology to improve the game for the players, not as a USP or granny annex tacked on the side.

The final rule is important as it will rule out projects some people will want to be recognized. There are many games that have had a huge impact on the industry, but sit closer to DeFi than gaming. The majority of these projects are focused on staking and passive “gameplay” loops. While I appreciate the importance and the popularity of these — though perhaps less so in recent years — unless there is genuine gameplay (and that is admittedly up to our discretion at the moment) we won’t be considering them.

Individual Blockchain Gaming Awards

There will come a time when I will have a large selection of categories, and although I thought that day would come sooner than it has, there just isn’t a broad enough selection of games utilizing blockchain quite yet. Nevertheless — and possibly in light of that — there are three areas worth highlighting when it comes to the games we can play.

Unsung Hero: Skyweaver

https://tokengamer.io/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/1-1024x541.jpg

It upsets me to my core that I do not have the requisite clout to call something an “unsung hero” and have people flock to it. I don’t ever expect that level of power, but nevertheless, I yearn for it. Not so I can sell sponsored articles for thousands of dollars or cultivate an ego, but so I can match players up with the best games.

Last year, Skyweaver won this same title and arguably, could have won the TG GOTY. I called it the best blockchain game I’d played and it’s still right up there, improving month-on-month. I’m not the most avid TCG fan, but blockchain gaming is lucky enough to have two titans, and Skyweaver, somehow, appears to be a lesser-known gem.

Now, I can’t see the player numbers, so it’s hard to know for sure, but whatever it is, it deserves more. And to reiterate last year’s comments, if you’re a mobile gamer, Skyweaver has an app version that is the closest thing to perfect I’ve ever seen for a multi-platform game.

Skyweaver is a game that moves blockchain gaming forward and is criminally overlooked by many blockchain and web3 gaming outlets and influencers.

Mainstream Awareness: My Pet Hooligan

My Pet Hooligan is another fantastic example of a traditional game that uses blockchain technology. Its art style, playstyle, and marketing are all well thought through and its integration of NFTs is more aggressive than some other successful blockchain games that are also clearly aimed at a wider audience. In many ways, that objective of targeting gamers indiscriminately, not merely blockchain gamers, was successful, not least because of the broad coverage it received.

As it stands, it’s one of the best blockchain games you can play and I would say it’s the best action game. It is a cohesive project that I’ve enjoyed this year and it rightfully garnered attention around the globe, though it deserves more. It’s also worth mentioning that AMGI Studios, the team behind My Pet Hooligan, was one of the first to give away NFTs through Amazon’s Prime Gaming.

If you like third-person shooters, particularly quirky ones with a strong identity, this is a must-play.

Player Activity: Pixels

Pixels is an MMO on Axie Infinity‘s Ronin blockchain and it’s an incredibly late release to get the award for player activity, but frankly, it deserves it. When Pixels launched, I followed it closely and tried it. I’ll be brutally honest: casual, social MMOs are not for me. But, that isn’t to say I can’t tell when one is doing it right.

Then, DappRadar released a thoroughly interesting report on the game after it exploded in popularity. Many of us in blockchain gaming are so used to games only blowing up when players could earn decent returns that when Pixels went parabolic in daily active users, I wanted to know why. The answer? Because it knows what it is and does it well.

Pixels DappRadar UAW player count
Stats courtesy of DappRadar on 31st December 2023

As you can see above, Pixels is still trending in the right direction with a massive following and its low trading volume is arguably indicative of how enjoyable the game is, regardless of blockchain. Even with my crude workings out and low-end estimates, the game has a healthy playerbase for any game, web3 or otherwise. I would recommend reading my analysis of the report for more information UAWs and so on: Web3 Game Pixels on Ronin is Blowing Up and the Stats Reveal a Lot.

Pixels is a massive win for Ronin and has established itself as a mainstay of blockchain gaming in record time.

Honorable Mentions

The difficulty with giving games various accolades is that someone reading this might be fooled into thinking it’s an exhaustive list. That is, all of the good games won the major awards, but that’s simply not true. There have been a plethora of games this year that are worthy of your attention but didn’t quite push the envelope enough to win something directly. So, here are some examples of that.

Alien Worlds

A year ago, I gave Alien Worlds an honorable mention too and said the following: “One of the founding fathers of Play-to-Earn and tokenized economies, the most consistently active game in the space, and constantly innovating with new ways blockchain can revolutionize gaming.” All of this is still true, and I would implore you to read my article analyzing Alien Worlds’ success: Why Alien Worlds Has Stood the Test of Time When Other Web3 Games Failed

Symbiogenesis

Symbiogenesis was a genuine contender for the Mainstream Awareness award by virtue of how much mainstream media attention it attracted. However, it isn’t fully playable yet and although the innovation behind the project is off the charts, I’m unclear how much of a game it is yet. Still, Square Enix boldly stepped into the blockchain ring when few other AAA publishers have and they’ve done it in a way that few other publishers could.

Guild of Guardians

I was invited to the friends and family closed beta for Guild of Guardians and I can tell you that the only reason this game isn’t winning an award is because although I dumped a fair few hours into it, it isn’t openly accessible. So, according to my own rules, I cannot award it but I wanted to plant a flag: it’s a highly enjoyable and addictive game that will see success in 2024.

Blocklords

I was torn between Blocklords and Skyweaver — really torn — over the “Unsung Hero” award. Blocklords would comfortably win a “blockchain game closest to triple-A quality” award if I had one because it simply is triple-A quality. That said, it needs a little more time and some more players through the door of the recently released game before its potential is fully unleashed.

Mojo Melee

In terms of games I got addicted to, there were two this year: Guild of Guardians and Mojo Melee. That isn’t necessarily indicative of anything significant, but Mojo Melee is a fantastic autobattler and every time I picked the game up this year, I couldn’t put it down until I exhausted myself on it. It has the feel of an indie game, but one that is created by gamers above all else. When Mojo Melee releases on Apple’s app store, I fear my bedtime routine may get hijacked.

Blockchains

I have decided to make a change this year after some thought about this section. In August, a flagship partnership happened in blockchain gaming: Immutable zkEVM in Partnership With Polygon Launched for Game Devs. This story got a lot of coverage but you had to be deep in blockchain gaming to appreciate how surprising it was; two frontrunners for being the ecosystem to dominate blockchain gaming had combined. This was when I realized I needed to stop just talking the talk and start walking the walk.

I have criticized blockchain tribalism many times in writing and on podcasts. At the same time, I have pushed for blockchain technology to be seen as a foundational tool in gaming, not its USP. So, why am I pitting blockchains against each other? It made sense in the past 5 years because only certain ecosystems could truly handle games, both from the technical perspective of transaction speeds and gas fees, and from the developmental perspective of serviceable SDKs for Unity and Unreal. But now, these are basic requirements. So, I’m retiring the idea of giving awards to blockchains until it makes sense again, if indeed, it ever does.

TG Blockchain Game of the Year: NFL Rivals

Blockchain Gaming Awards

The winner of the top accolade from the least democratic awards in gaming, TG Blockchain Game of the Year 2023, is Mythical Games’ NFL Rivals.

I am, more or less, keeping a tally all year of the games worth considering for these awards. As we moved into December, I started looking at what might win the individual awards. What is an “unsung hero” in the space? Well, NFL Rivals — it has achieved more than damn-near any other game in the space and most blockchain gaming lists, reports, and articles don’t mention it. The slight irony is that although blockchain gaming hasn’t given NFL Rivals the credit it deserves, it has done tremendously well outside of the sector. So in a way, perhaps it should win the award for mainstream awareness instead. But, wait. It has onboarded millions of players across Apple and Android and was even a featured game by the Apple App Store; no other blockchain game can come near those numbers. So, it has to win the award for player activity.

https://x.com/johnwastaken/status/1651444026640400385?s=20

It was then it was clear that I was looking at the TG Game of the Year and it wasn’t even close. Not only had a blockchain game developer partnered with one of the most desirable IPs inside and outside of sport, but they had done so in a meaningful way and created a fantastic game. It feels like the spiritual successor of NFL Blitz which is high praise if you’re old enough to remember a piece of gaming history.

 

I believe one reason many people in blockchain gaming overlook NFL Rivals is that most websites that track trading volume, transactions, and Unique Active Wallets (UAWs) cannot or do not track NFL Rivals. DappRadar’s stats for the game are patently incorrect, but fortunately, NFL Rivals’ in-game marketplace has an explorer and CryptoSlam appears to use its API.

NFL Rivals Mythical Games UAW stats CryptoSlam
Image courtesy of CryptoSlam.io

As you can see above, NFL Rivals has managed a $2.3m trading volume in the few months the game has been live, and according to Mythical’s explorer, over 130,000 active accounts. What makes NFL Rivals particularly impressive here is that it didn’t achieve the impressive volume by speculators hoovering up the floor or the game going viral in the crypto bubble, but rather how it should be done: people enjoying the game and an organic trading volume and transaction amount following as a result. Further to that, and a little anecdotally, I suspect many players aren’t even aware they’re trading NFT players as Mythical Games does not use that term anywhere I have seen.

I would go as far as to say that NFL Rivals is the first game to be a mainstream success and use blockchain at its core. In the future, when people trace the history of blockchain technology in games, NFL Rivals will be a significant notch on the timeline.

In Closing

In 2022, I predicted 2023 would be a year of growth and I think I was right in that regard, but then again, it was hard to not improve on the bubbling swamp of misery that was 2022. But 2023 hasn’t been a year that will earn a place in the annals of gaming, rather one of quiet transition. Like crypto itself, blockchain gaming has spent the last 12 months gathering itself, stabilizing, and strategizing for the years to come, and 2024 is poised to be something quite special for the space.

 

Robert Baggs
Robert Baggs
Full-time professional crypto writer and Editor of Token Gamer. Co-host of the Mint One Podcast. Obsessed with MMOs. London based. Primary holdings: WAXP, ENJ, & BTC. Secondary holdings: ETH, GALA, & MATIC

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