2022 has been a difficult year for crypto, but nevertheless, we have seen blockchain gaming striding forward like never before. So, it’s that time again, at the buzzer of another year, here is the least democratic awards ceremony in Web3: the Token Gamer Blockchain Gaming Awards and our Game of the Year 2022.
To see last year’s awards, click here.
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 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 and be utilizing 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. 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.
There are many categories I’d love to include in our TG yearly awards, but too many would be won without much competition and without being overly convincing. For example, esports is an area of gaming we hold dear, but esports is incredibly thin on the ground in Web3. I suspect that in December 2023, when we wrap up next year, we’ll include far more categories, but for now, we’re sticking with the 3 we have used in past years. These are broad categories and are areas that have the most impact on the industry.
Unsung Hero: Skyweaver
Any regular readers of Token Gamer or listeners of the Mint One podcast will know I hold Skyweaver in very high regard. In February of this year, I called it the best blockchain game I’d played, following it up with “The title for this article isn’t clickbait hyperbole: this is the best blockchain game I have played in the 4 years I’ve been testing them — and by some margin.”
Skyweaver has some of the most enjoyable TCG gameplay I’ve experienced and that includes outside of blockchain gaming. It also has a superb onboarding experience, true ownership of cards, and almost unrivaled polish. I’d argue the crowning achievement is the mobile app, which if I had a category for best blockchain game on mobile, it would win comfortably.
So, why is it the unsung hero? I honestly don’t know. Gods Unchained is its biggest rival and also a superb TCG we’ve enjoyed for years, but GU gets all the press. Skyweaver still feels as if it’s a little under the radar which is a travesty, because as Web3 TCGs go, it’s brilliant and has a near-perfect mobile app.
Mainstream Awareness: The Sandbox
The Sandbox has been a force for several years in mainstream awareness of blockchain gaming. In last year’s awards, it was pipped by Axie Infinity by virtue of how viral the game went, but The Sandbox was still unparalleled in its onboarding of brands, games, and organizations. This year, I cannot see any game that can compete in generating mainstream awareness.
In the past few years, The Sandbox has partnered with the likes of Snoop Dogg, Adidas, Atari, and many more big names. But, in a difficult 2022 for crypto, The Sandbox did not rest on its laurels, partnering with (and onboarding) a staggering number of famous entities. Here is a selection that stood out to me:
- Warner Music
- Habbo Hotel
- Square Enix
- Steve Aoki
- Tony Hawk
- Paris Hilton
- FaZe Clan
That is a long way from an exhaustive list of 2022 partnerships, and as you can see, it’s an eclectic mix. This means that a Web3 game is reaching audiences and demographics in every corner and facet of modern life, from banking and insurance to socialites and singers. It’s hard to imagine a more effective way of bringing mainstream awareness to the space, even if it isn’t gamers only.
If you’re interested in the folks behind The Sandbox, we interviewed Sebastian Borget, Co-founder of The Sandbox, on the Mint One podcast. I then had Sebastian Borget and Robby Yung, CEO of Animoca Brands — the company that owns The Sandbox — on my panel at Tech Circus’ Enter the Metaverse.
Player Activity: Thetan Arena
Last year’s winner of this category was Alien Worlds and they were certainly a consideration here, but if we go on self-reported numbers, it’s hard to dispute Thetan Arena as the champion of player activity in Web3 games.
25 million players is a playerbase damn-near any game would froth and salivate over, but in Web3, it’s almost an unmatched feat. Yes, as with all Web3 games (and likely all multiplayer games), there will be a number of bots, but as Play-to-Earn has receded with the markets, this will be less of a pervasive issue. What impresses me most about these stats is the peak concurrent users. If a game on Steam hits 150,000 concurrent players, it’ll be in the top 10 games — that’s how high that number is.
We are yet to see a blockchain game that has the sort of playerbase the top Web2 games achieve, though we are circling it with a few in-development projects, I suspect. Nevertheless, if there’s a candidate for it, it’s Thetan Arena, and unsurprisingly, it harnesses the gargantuan mobile gaming market.
If you’re interested in more information on Thetan Arena, our resident mobile gamer, Murtagh, did a review in Q1 of this year.
2022 has seen a great many important projects enter the fray, as well as many existing games further stake their claim. As we are being restrictive on categories for at least one more year, this meant I couldn’t award games I would otherwise have crowned champions of different, familiar gaming awards categories. So, here are some honorable mentions.
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.
A TCG we have been playing, admiring, and writing about since 2018! Gods Unchained has had another great year and is one of the best bets for a game with longevity.
One of the most highly anticipated games in the space, but due to it not quite being released enough to be considered, it was omitted. The various, interoperable game modes are now truly taking shape, and Illuvium Overworld is stunning.
In a similar vein to Illuvium, although Star Atlas is partially playable, it isn’t released enough to warrant consideration this year. Star Atlas is one of the few projects in the space that uses the term “triple-A” and delivers triple-A quality. We haven’t had much yet, but what we’ve had so far is exciting and 2022 has seen the game come on leaps and bounds.
The Forge Arena is one of the few blockchain games I got fully hooked on. As the huge announcement of the game’s move to the Epic Games Store came, the opportunity to freely play Forge Arena went with it. As a result, it couldn’t fairly be included for consideration, but the game has had one hell of a year and is one to watch.
Ev.io is an absurdly fun, playable, and addictive game with the wildest onboarding we’ve seen so far. I believe I showed in the below video that you can be in-game in under 10 seconds from the mere thought of playing. Ev.io’s profile has risen dramatically in 2022 and they have ended the year in a partnership with Coinbase under their new Gaming Days initiative. A brilliant, pick-up-and-play game on Solana.
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 at this point. 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 their partnerships, onboarding of games studios, and furthering of our subsector of the industry.
In our 2022 wrap-up episode, I named Polygon as the biggest winner in the space this year. They have become a titan in onboarding major organizations such as Reddit and Starbucks, and are multifaceted in their vision for bringing industries on-chain.
When it comes to gaming, you could be fooled into thinking Polygon is a little light on the ground if you check DappRadar’s top games, but they aren’t. There is a smorgasbord of high-quality games in development on Polygon, such as Project Elune, Metalcore, and Dr. Disrespect’s competitive FPS with his Midnight Society Studio. There is then of course other positives such as The Sandbox, Planet IX, and CEO of Polygon, Ryan Wyatt, who was Head of Gaming at YouTube.
It has been a remarkable year for Polygon and they have laid the foundations for the future, which I believe will include gaming. If you’re interested in learning more about Polygon, check out our Mint One podcast episode with Brain Trunzo, Metaverse Lead at Polygon Studios.
Immutable is unambiguously one of the most impressive ecosystems in blockchain gaming. Within the next year, I suspect it will become the powerhouse as more of its incredible games become playable. After a partnership with GameStop’s NFT marketplace, Immutable is best known for the games Gods Unchained, Illuvium, and Undead Blocks, but there is also Guild of Guardians, Ember Sword, Planet Quest, Delysium, and many more projects of the highest quality in development.
I am also thrilled to have seen Immutable partner with Atomic Hub which I expect to be an important unison in blockchain gaming going forward.
WAX has had a conflicting year. After ending 2021 on such a high, the future looked incredibly bright for WAX as a gaming network of choice, however, it hasn’t seen the onboarding of gaming projects that its rivals have. Nevertheless, it stands as technically one of the best blockchains around and still hosts and co-hosts many of the top 10 most popular Web3 games, such as Alien Worlds and Splinterlands, who have had another year fighting for the top spot by Unique Active Wallets.
TG Blockchain Game of the Year: Big Time
And the winner of the 2022 Token Gamer Blockchain Game of the Year is… Big Time! Of all the games that are fully playable this year, I couldn’t look further than Big Time. In all honesty, I would have liked to have picked a different game simply because Big Time has won Game of the Year at Polkastarter’s GAM3 Awards, we’ve partnered with Big Time Studios for giveaways, and I’m an MMORPG addict. However, if I set these biases aside, we are still looking at the best game in Web3 at this moment in time.
Many games purport to be AAA, butchering the term beyond recognition. Although there are no AAA games in Web3 in terms of publishers, Big Time feels the closest in terms of quality. It is an MMO that would attract players without blockchain technology and that really is the hallmark of a great blockchain game. This is what developers must aspire to.
At a foundational level, Big Time is an excellent, traditional MMO with twists in both gameplay and, of course, technology. The combat is reactive, satisfying, and smooth, the graphics are stylized and attractive, and the game’s depth shows care and attention in development. Throughout the year there are regular patches to improve systems and fix bugs, as well as larger patches for content. The economy has now been revealed and it is equally thoughtful and interesting.
We first covered Big Time in October 2021 and I summarized, “Big Time is a promising game being built by a great team and sits high up my list of blockchain games I’m chomping at the bit to play.” Few projects have even scratched the surface of their potential when announced, but Big Time has. It is still undoubtedly early days for both Big Time and blockchain gaming, but this MMO could see itself as a mainstay if the developers continue on the same path.
Congratulations Big Time!
My predictions for 2022 in December 2021’s Mint One episode were… wayward, for the most part. However, when it comes to my predictions for blockchain gaming, I’d say I was on the money in last year’s awards article: “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.”
Despite a tremendously difficult year for crypto, littered with disasters large enough to be visible from the ISS, blockchain gaming has made strides. Blockchain games and metaverse projects will have likely ended 2022 with over $10 billion in investment and show no signs of slowing, so I suspect that 2023 will continue the growth we have seen in 2022 with more unpredictability.
As I did last year, I would like to make a nod at an important organization in the space. Firstly, an organization worth being a part of, as Token Gamer is, and I am personally: the Blockchain Game Alliance. The BGA has become the nucleus of blockchain gaming and has grown in members, the caliber of member companies (Ubisoft, AMD, and BITKRAFT to name a few), and relevance to the space’s future.
Congratulations, you have survived 2022 — which was touch-and-go for many — and let’s hope the spoils of this particular war lay in 2023 for us. Thank you for being a part of Token Gamer which has grown in ways we couldn’t have anticipated.