Blockchain gaming has an unhealthy relationship with how games are launched. It seems as if every game out there is in some sort of alpha, closed beta, or open beta with very few considering themselves launched. But if you looked outside of the blockchain community, you don’t find the same proliferation of pre-launch games.
In this article, we will cover:
- Game stage definitions
- GameFi’s unhealthy relationship with launching
- Three practical examples
Game Stage Definitions
To really understand this issue, we need to establish some agreed-upon definitions. This can be tricky because blockchain games have muddied the waters in what these terms mean, but I’ll put forth how I see the current state of launch staging.
First, we have the alpha launch. In a game’s alpha, the game is usually pre-crypto, meaning there is no earning potential yet. Often this includes a testnet version of a game to allow players to test it out and to see how they will earn in the future with test currency. Another thing to note is that alpha is usually very limited in its size and often includes a whitelist or requires its participants to hold some sort of NFT pass. The purpose of the alpha is to conduct a test on the game, by having users test out everything they can to see if it is working properly and to report any bugs that are found.
Next comes the closed beta launch. In a closed beta, usually the game is now in a stage where users can earn an ROI (Return on Investment). This stage invites a broader audience, but also can require a whitelist, registration, or holding some sort of NFT pass. This stage is more of a larger scale stress test. While the alpha invites a small group to test the functionality of the game, the closed beta invites a wider audience to better see if the game can support larger groups of people at a time. Bugs of course will still be found and sorted through, but the game should be more playable at this point, And begin to feel like more of a functioning game.
Next comes the beta launch which should be now open to everyone. In a beta test, the game often opens additional features that weren’t available in the closed beta. The game should be fully functioning at this point. The point of this phase is to make sure that game balance is sound, as well as of course finding any remaining bugs, and a larger stress test on the overall system.
Finally, we have game launch. This phase usually means the developers are now fully confident in the product they are putting forth, and also usually comes with an increase in marketing surrounding the game. I should mention that although the above steps are linear, games often skip steps. You will also likely hear other terms like “pre-alpha,” “pre-beta,” etc. that can even further muddy the waters.
GameFi’s Unhealthy Relationship With Launching
From my perspective, GameFi does these phases poorly, and for multiple different reasons. For one, there is often an unhealthy hype around each game phase. Communities love to hype up their audiences. This, however, often results in disappointment when hype doesn’t meet reality, and can be seen in countless crashes of GameFi tokens. Hype does not lead to sustained success. It leads to short-term gain, followed by a precipitous crash.
Another issue with the current GameFi staging is a lack of development between stages. Sometimes games will undergo the changes from alpha to closed beta to beta with seemingly few playable changes made to their base game. Why change phases if your game isn’t making substantial gains in development? Developers should be able to clearly demonstrate why they are moving from one stage to the next.
Finally, a third issue I’ve found in blockchain gaming stages is games rushing their stages before they are ready. There is a desire out there to capture the available market as soon as possible and to make a quick return, and so games sometimes change phases months before they are ready. They rush to deliver a product that isn’t ready to be delivered. This issue is unique to blockchain gaming because its players are also invested in the game, and so want the product as soon as possible. This can create stressful demand on the developers.
Three Practical Examples
To demonstrate the three pitfalls above, I have three examples of game transitions that I personally was disappointed with. Before I go through them, it’s worth saying that all three of these games I follow, hold potential, and would like to see all of them succeed. I wanted to write articles on all of them, but haven’t yet due to the following shortcomings.
The first example is a game called MouseHaunt which is on BNB. This will be a game where your character is a mouse and tries to navigate through an obstacle course, while other players are ghosts and work to prevent you from doing so. This game recently started its “open alpha,” which consisted of zero gameplay whatsoever. Not even as much “gameplay” as a clicker offers.
The reason why this is an example of an unhealthy launch is that there was entirely too much hype built up by their community managers about a version of their app where you can’t do anything. Unnecessary and/or unworthy hype is a really big problem in blockchain gaming because games overpromise and underdeliver. This causes their tokens and NFTs to become boosted to levels that can’t be sustained by the product delivered. This norm needs to change.
My next example is Realms of Arkovia which admittedly is less of a game and more of a “clicker.” ROA, which is built on WAX, just went from their alpha to their beta, but the issue there was the only change was adding their coin for staking which has minimal impact on actual gameplay. This highlights the issue of the lack of developer progress between game phases. So I’ll repeat my above question, “Why change game phases if your game isn’t making substantial gains in development?” This one was particularly frustrating, because originally they had a number of other features to be launched alongside their token, but have now been delayed.
My final example is Titan Hunters which is built on BNB. They recently went from beta to what they call “Mainnet Launch.” Titan Hunters is a dungeon clearing game where you beat a level of monsters then go on to the next level, and so on. The issue here is they launched their game before they were ready. Their launched game has more bugs than their beta did, including significant bugs that prevent players from advancing levels and collecting rewards. Some of these bugs existed in their beta, were reported (by me and presumably many others) and they chose to release the game before fixing them.
The overarching issue is that these problems have become acceptable in GameFi, and it’s because we as players excuse the developers. If a traditional game released an unplayable game, or a game full of bugs, that would be the death of it. They would miss their window of opportunity for success. But because of investment in blockchain gaming, players don’t have as simple of a break from games that are failing to deliver what was promised, or expected. They still hold out hope that the games that are disappointing them will turn it around and do better in the future. There are also just not enough options out there right now, so mediocre game launches are good enough. Hopefully, we will see new games come along and pioneer how to navigate this tricky GameFi landscape soon.