Last quarter, venture capitalists and investors put $2.5 billion dollars into the Web3 gaming industry, yet the mainstream Web2 gaming community wants nothing to do with it. So, where is the disconnect?
Imagine a company that creates a product for an industry and/or community of people with zero knowledge about that industry (which is pretty much what companies do to our culture all the time, but that’s a different story for a different day). I am talking about Web3 gaming companies that create products without the feedback or input of gaming natives. The result? Lack of mass adoption and a divided gaming community.
Before we discuss the solutions, we have to address the problems, and one of the biggest issues with Web3 gaming is the current play-to-earn gaming model. What does “play-to-earn” mean? If you ask Twitter, you might just start an uproar, accidentally go viral, and have to block thousands of crazed gamers, as they are very sensitive about the play-to-earn structure.
There are many definitions of play-to-earn, but one of the most cohesive definitions I found is by Built In: “Play-to-earn games are online games that let players earn rewards with real-world value by completing tasks, battling other players and progressing through various game levels. These rewards come in the form of in-game assets like crypto tokens, virtual land, as well as skins, weapons and other NFTs. Due to the decentralized nature of these games, players can buy, transfer and sell these in-game assets outside of the game’s virtual world in exchange for real money.”
This differs from the traditional gaming structure, where you pay to purchase the game and complete repeated tasks to unlock prizes and get to another level. Another difference in traditional gaming is that you aren’t allowed to own those prizes or sell them to anyone else.
At first glance, you may think traditional gamers would be interested in this new model. After those long hours of strategizing and playing the game, you are able to unlock digital assets that hold real value and, in some cases, make you money. Despite this seemingly rewarding new model, the traditional gamer community wants no parts. Why?
The construct of the play-to-earn model may seem like it’s rewarding users for their efforts in the game, but from a traditional gamer’s point of view, its allowing people to cheat their way into winning. In Web3 gaming, you are able to purchase digital assets from other players who earned those assets the “proper way.” This allows for an unfair advantage for people who have the funds to buy assets from others, as they don’t have to put in much work themselves. This takes away from the core value of gaming culture as a whole. The community bonds over wins and losses, techniques to push through different levels, and overall support in trying to beat the game. If you can just buy your way to the next level, then what is the point of playing?
Another negative of these play-to-earn collectibles is that they hold no real value or utility outside of the game. Most of the digital assets, whether it be a gold coin or new skinwear, are literally just that — digital assets within the game. While that holds value to players of that gaming ecosystem, there is no additional utility that players can take advantage of. The lack of initial utility could also result in low resale value.
Utility isn’t the only incentive digital assets are lacking. The capabilities of the assets are limited to the gaming ecosystem that it is in. Gamers are not able to bring the assets to other games or marketplaces to sell (which is a huge advantage you would normally have with blockchain-backed collectibles). This limitation pushes away mainstream gamers, who were interested in trying out Web3 gaming for the decentralized perks.
But that is just the tip of the iceberg. Most of the Web3 gaming products are created by tech developers and non-native gamers. This causes the UX design to be less user friendly, which is at the top of the list for gamers. Not to mention the low quality — from a structural perspective — and the overall design is just not appealing to the eye.
Another issue is the high risk users are exposed to while playing. Although, technology isn’t perfect, the almost daily recent reports of hacks definitely scare away potential users from even thinking about trying Web3 gaming. The current structure of Web3 gaming not allowing for multiplayer or group game play is also a problem. One of the biggest perks of gaming is the community created by the thousands of users who are playing. That community is created through group game sessions, message boards, and live audio features with other players. Web3 gaming takes away from the community building aspect, which is one of the biggest perks of buying and playing.
Are there any real solutions to these problems? I asked Web3 gamer and influencer Brycent, who provided this insight: “I think that gaming in Web3 is in a very delicate space. We saw for quite some time gaming studios prioritizing tokens over transparency and gameplay, and as a result the space has had to unlearn and grow from initial Web3 gaming pitfalls. Ultimately, I believe the future of gaming is Web3 but we are still a far cry away from seeing games that can compete at the highest level to attract audiences that make this category of gaming sustainable.”
Obviously, there are a lot of tweaks and restructuring that need to happen with Web3 gaming. Moving forward, companies should deploy more native gamers such as Brycent to advise in the early stages of game development to ensure the best product development. If companies continue to proceed in the way they have in the past, there is little hope for mass adoption of Web3 in the gaming industry.