The future of Web3 games, could they reach the mainstream market? That is an interesting question.
Days ago, I read an article on CoinTelegraph about the future of Web3 games. While I agree with some of the arguments, I think it would be interesting to see the question above explored by someone who has experience in the gaming industry for more than 10 years.
I have to admit that I’m not an expert at all at Web3, blockchain, NFTs, and whatnots. However, I’ve been working in the gaming industry since 2008. Furthermore, even though personally I love AAA games, professionally I work on many different branches of the gaming industry from AAA games, PC gaming, mobile gaming, esports, or anything related to the gaming industry in a broader scope.
So let’s discuss the question. What is the future of Web3 games? Could it become mainstream?
Getting to AAA Gamers is a Hell lot of harder
In the article from CoinTelegraph, it’s said that Web3 games have to compete with AAA games to reach the mainstream market. While I think it’s entirely plausible to target AAA gamers, it would be so much easier to target the free-to-play gaming market or even the mobile game market.
AAA gamers are so much more demanding. They have so much higher standards. AAA gamers don’t like loot boxes. Yet, it’s in every free-to-play game and mobile game. AAA games would also be criticized a lot more related to their performance. Just look at Cyberpunk 2077, Saints Row (2022), Gotham Knights, Wild Hearts, and so many more AAA games that can’t offer smooth gameplay on their early release. However, if we see mobile games, they have a lot more problems. Not just performance-wise, most mobile and free-to-play games don’t even have compelling gameplay. Most of them are just copies of the others with some little adjustments.
Of course, on top of the ladder, there are free-to-play games like Dota 2, League of Legends, VALORANT, and Genshin Impact. Yet, Web3 games don’t need to compete on the highest level of free-to-play games.
The second argument is that AAA games are not considered mainstream anymore. Mainstream means having more players, right? If we check the ranking from Newzoo on Top PC Games by Monthly Active Users, we can see that most of them are free-to-play games. Maybe it’s just me but I don’t think free-to-play games can be categorized as AAA games. I wouldn’t say that Roblox and Minecraft are AAA games either.
I would not consider mobile games to be AAA games too. PC or console games are the ones usually referred to as AAA games. Meanwhile, nowadays, most reports say that the mobile games market is bigger than the PC or console. Statista said, “The largest segment is Mobile Games with a market volume of US$315.90bn in 2023.” This report in ONMO also shows that mobile gaming will account for 52% global gaming market share in 2021. While PC and consoles will account for 20% and 28% respectively. Another report, from KEVURU Games, also shows that mobile games have a 50% market share, while PC has 22% and the console has 28%.
So, besides it’s easier to compete in the free-to-play and mobile gaming market, it also has bigger market potential if the aim is becoming mainstream.
People who have experience playing MMOs which allow trading between players will know that prices will drop from time to time. It’s inevitable. In a game where trading between players is allowed, more players mean more items sold in the market. More items mean more supply and more supply means cheaper prices and lesser value. The decreased value will also include the in-game currency.
Certainly, game publishers won’t limit the number of players in their games. Active users are one of the most important metrics to boast if they want to receive more funding. So, another strategy is needed to control the in-game economy. It’s certainly not easy. Even the most experienced MMO game publishers will be having a hard time controlling the prices in the in-game market. It would be a nightmare for the Web3 game publishers, which certainly have less experience, to do the same task.
This conundrum is not that bad if there is no real money involved. However, real money trading is the whole deal for Web3 games. Remember the ‘play-to-earn’ jargon for the Web3 games? Web3 games are usually ‘offered’ as an investment tool. It’s certainly not a good investment tool if the value will certainly go down from time to time.
Check out my other article: What Does It Take to be a Good Writer?
Speaking of ‘play-to-earn’, I would say that this jargon needs to be revised or even overhauled entirely if Web3 games would aim for the mainstream market. I think some Web3 game publishers already realize this. There is a new jargon saying ‘play-and-earn’ which is better, IMO.
In ‘play-to-earn’ jargon, the ‘play’ is secondary. The ‘play’ is just the means to an end, the ‘earn’. I think this is also one of the reasons why Web3 games don’t have interesting gameplay. So far, the main goal of Web3 games is to earn. No wonder it fails big time. The main focus of a game should be its gameplay. It’s not the graphic, the story, or the music. Sure, those things help a lot but it’s not the core of the game. Even more so, ‘earning’ is definitely not supposed to be the core of a game. There are a lot of better tools that could help with our earnings, besides games.
That’s why I said that ‘play-and-earn’ is a better jargon because the ‘play’ and the ‘earn’ are positioned equally.
However, I still think it would be better if the jargon is overhauled completely. I think the word ‘earn’ will make people think differently. I would argue that people will always have better judgement when thinking about investment and their earnings. It would make us more logical, compared to when we’re thinking about doing something fun.
We, humans, could be very illogical when we think about ‘fun’. We don’t need to count the ROI when we spend on our entertainment. Yet, we will calculate returns when we think about an investment.
Let’s say there is a billionaire. I guess he wouldn’t think too much when he spent $5,000 to have fun with his friends. However, if the same friends wanted him to invest the same amount, most likely the billionaire would need to see a business plan.
On the surface, the jargon makes sense. Who would refuse to make money playing games? However, it also changes our purpose from doing something fun to making an investment. That perspective makes it harder for Web3 games to reach the mainstream market. Everyone wants to do fun things but only a few people want to make an investment.
In the end, I’m a sceptic. I might be wrong and I can’t predict the future. However, currently, I believe those 3 things I mentioned would make Web3 games so much harder to reach the mainstream market. Web3 game publishers need to address those problems if they truly want their products to reach a bigger audience.
Feat Image: Suludan Diliyaer via Pexels