In early 2018, we saw the power of blockchain in gaming. Some months later, we launched Token Gamer with the express interest of tracking and covering what we believed — and still believe — to be the future of the gaming industry. It was tricky in 2018, though. There wasn’t a great deal of news happening on a day-to-day basis, there were precious few games with alphas or betas we could test, and even fewer that were fully released. We predicted some of what was coming, but not all of it, and certainly not the explosive growth of Play to Earn (P2E) games.
Three years ago, I remember David and I saying that we would only cover the games worth playing, and it’s still something we strive to do today, but the lines have become far blurrier. On the more inclusive side, there are many blockchain games that, while they aren’t quite up to the gaming experience standard we would have set as a threshold, are having a significant and potentially lasting impact on the gaming industry. As much as the games don’t interest us particularly, with many of them barely shuffling past a Flash game from the early 2000s, their role in things to come is worthy of any gamer’s attention. It’s less about the game and more about use-cases for new mechanics.
The other side of that coin has seen us have to make the decision to exclude certain games that do look of a high enough gaming standard, simply because their business model and priorities are not for the good of the gamer or the industry. The money swirling around in crypto is conscious-rattling, even in the blockchain gaming world, with games such as Axie Infinity airdropping $60m to early adopters just last week. It was inevitable that this would attract people whose sole interest is to line their own coffers, and quality of product takes a firm backseat as a result. We have turned down sponsored posts from these types and will continue to do so as these projects are dangerous.
The Danger of Cash-Grab Projects
There are a number of dangers of gaming projects that aim to deliver the absolute minimum viable product whilst squeezing every last penny out of anyone who so much as looks at the game. These are greedy, have-a-go developers masquerading as indie gaming studios potentially damaging the industry as well as tarnishing the good work of the real indie studios. Here are three key issues with these projects.
Firstly, there is the obvious way in which it impacts the industry: the players. Many of us are excited about blockchain gaming, the metaverse, and all that lay before us, and it can lead us to make poor decisions. We look more favorably on projects, focusing more on their potential than the likelihood of it ever being realized. We optimistically throw money at pre-alpha concepts and roadmaps hoping to have bet on a winning horse that will come good one day, only to never get there. Many projects with initial bursts of success appear to become cash-rich and motivation-poor as a result.
The second issue is just how successful some of these low-quality projects have been. I, of course, wouldn’t name any, but they’re attracting two types of customers (with some hefty overlap); those optimistic games, but also investors. It’s no secret that if you invested in one of the popular blockchain games when they were new to market, you could easily be very wealthy indeed. So, many people are taking the same approach they have to ICOs of a few years ago and NFT projects earlier this year: spread bet. This means that with the right finesse of the smoke and mirrors, projects without a lick of actual dev work are getting large funds, incentivizing other undesirables to dream up their own “game”.
The third problem could be argued as having the most detrimental effect of cash-grab projects: how the blockchain gaming sub-industry is seen. With unimpressive games and borderline scams, many gamers without a strong interest in crypto will just shrug at these titles with confusion and move on. The reputation of blockchain games will take a hit and while I don’t believe it will ever do enough damage to cause blockchain gaming to never evolve past infancy, it could delay the development for years.
I openly admit I have backed projects that were not good enough and I regret it. But, that’s not the motivation for this article and I’m not calling those projects out. My concern is that we see more and more of these lowgrade efforts at getting our money and delay the bright future of blockchain gaming. All I can do is prescribe more thorough due diligence than you might ordinarily do before investing in any pre-release game and, conversely, giving as much support to the great blockchain games as you can. That doesn’t have to be financial, it could just be raising awareness with your fellow gamers. Our little subsector of the industry is still young and on wobbly legs, so let’s do what we can to help it stand.