As 2021 comes to a close, we look back on the biggest year for blockchain gaming and what is most likely the catalyst for a bright future. The industry has grown in ways many of us predicted, but in a timeframe few of us could have imagined.
So, grab a drink and enjoy our wrap-up of blockchain gaming in 2021, award the biggest successes, and announce our Blockchain Game of the Year 2021.
There are only a few rules that currently dictate which games we consider:
- The game must be released or in open beta
- The game must have blockchain technology at its core
- The game must have a focus on gaming and gameplay
Being 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 that have loosely related NFT collections, for example. The game must be built with blockchain at its heart.
The final rule is important as it will rule out projects some people will want recognized. There are many games that have had a huge impact on the industry, but sit closer to DeFi than gaming. Many of these projects are focused on staking and passive “gameplay” loops. While I appreciate the importance and the popularity of these, unless there is genuine gameplay — and that is admittedly up to our discretion at the moment — we won’t be considering them.
When I assessed all the games that I have played, covered, and that fit our criteria, I had an idea of who I believe to be the outright winner. However, the shortlist was massive. I decided to award three that truly stood out this year and that I really believe warrant recognition.
Unsung Hero: Lost Relics
Lost Relics is a dungeon crawler ARPG, and in our opinion, is criminally overlooked. This is one of the projects you show somebody who thinks all blockchain gaming is worlds away from traditional gaming and wants more familiar gameplay. Staggeringly, it is mostly made by one person, Cliff Cawley, and is built using Enjin.
Lost Relics is an engaging and polished title with excellent utilization of blockchain technology. It is the sort of indie game that would get a strong playerbase even without blockchain, and that truly should be the aim of all projects.
Mainstream Awareness: Axie Infinity
No 2021 blockchain gaming awards could be complete without the mention of Axie Infinity. The monster battling and breeding game is on Ethereum and recently migrated to the Ronin sidechain. The impact this game has had is so profound that it was in strong contention for GOTY. Developed by Sky Mavis, Axie Infinity dominated the global NFT in-game trading volume and from Q1 2021 to Q4 2021, increased its playerbase by over 12,400%.
However, its most significant impact — and the reason we wanted to award it — is how much Axie Infinity has done for global awareness of blockchain gaming. It thrusted our little sector into the limelight all while helping poorer communities through its accessible Play to Earn (P2E) mechanics.
Player Activity: Alien Worlds
Alien Worlds also commanded an accolade for a few reasons. While it is admittedly on the fringe of our gameplay requirement, its expansions in content, its tokenomics, and its unparalleled player activity make it a true success story.
Alien Worlds is a space exploration and mining game, whose token, Trilium ($TLM) has been a tour de force in its own right. The game has been a staple of the DappRadar game charts for most of the year and the number of transactions for Alien Worlds in 2021 is around 1 billion, with 320 million in the past 30 days! A phenomenal achievement.
2021 has had some fantastic gaming projects outside of the ones specifically awarded that not only deserve recognition, but that ought to be recorded for posterity. The following are the blockchain games that made our finalist shortlist:
As the name implies, blockchain gaming relies on blockchains. Transaction speeds and caps, gas fees, and environmental impact are all important, but they are foundational. Built on top of those metrics are crucial factors such as ecosystem, game development assistance, game promotion, and so on. Three blockchains have stood out this year, with two having led the pack for several years.
WAX has seen creeping success for just over three years, but in terms of blockchain gaming, 2021 saw the chain go parabolic. Between the likes of Alien Worlds, Splinterlands, and Farmers World, WAX has dominated the top 5 blockchain games by users and their support for the games in their ecosystem has been superb.
BSC went from zero to one-hundred real quick, to quote philosopher, Drake. From relative obscurity in the gaming sector towards the start of 2021, they have closed the year with a strong presence and will likely finish Q4 with the most games in the DappRadar top 25. Their influence is growing steadily and they certainly left their mark on 2021.
Enjin’s games have difficult-to-find player statistics, however, they’re noteworthy for reasons outside of that. Firstly, their Enjin Adopter Program is a great way to induct developers into blockchain game development. Secondly, and on a related note, their $100m metaverse fund further fleshes out their support. Thirdly, their Unity SDK is likely the simplest onboarding tool for game developers who wish to implement blockchain into their project.
TG Blockchain Game of the Year: Splinterlands
And the winner of the 2021 Token Gamer Blockchain Game of the Year is… Splinterlands! This trading card game on the WAX and Hive blockchains has made a splash in a year that has seen remarkable growth. According to the Blockchain Gaming Alliance annual report, Splinterlands grew its active playerbase by 3,267% from Q2 2021 to Q4 2021. It also regularly topped the charts based on user activity with north of 350,000 daily active wallets according to DappRadar. Its token, $SPS, became its own success story, soaring over 1,400% this year.
However, what makes the game, GOTY, is not how many players it has or how much its token is worth, it’s the game itself. Splinterlands is a novel take on the traditional trading card games you may have played, like Hearthstone or Magic: The Gathering. With interesting variables such as the total value of your deck changing every game, the developers have neatly overcome gameplay becoming stale.
In addition to the core gameplay, Splinterlands has been expanded in many directions, with guilds, tournaments, daily quests, seasons, leaderboards, rankings, rewards, staking… the list goes on. In our opinion, it is the most complete and enjoyable blockchain game in 2021 and with consistent updates and expansions. Where some games are already seeing their userbases beginning to dwindle as P2E is more lucrative elsewhere, Splinterlands is strengthening. This is due to the game being addictive and having rewarding gameplay outside of financial returns.
2021 has been the year for blockchain gaming many of us have been waiting for, but there’s a lot more to come. 2022 will see our sector erupt in ways we can’t predict and with projects that push blockchain’s role within gaming in entirely new directions.
We have covered blockchains and games, but there are of course myriad other important players in our industry who have been integral to the sector’s growth in 2021. There are two we would like to highlight.
First up is an increasingly familiar name in the space and an organization worth being a part of, as we are: the Blockchain Game Alliance. The BGA is a collective that has the sole purpose of promoting blockchain within the gaming industry. Secondly, we would like to highlight DappRadar whose analytics and reports are invaluable to anyone working in or around blockchain gaming.
Here’s to a great 2021 and a better 2022, Happy New Year, and congratulations to all the winners!