I pay $5K to play Pokemon now.
EV
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Sebastian Park
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November 26th, 2021

Is the future of Blockchain gaming more like Soccer or Formula 1?

An underrated and important leap in game development that occurred with the ubiquity and spread of free-to-play/freemium games was the shift away from paying upfront for a game’s content.

This fundamental shift allowed people to play the game FIRST. Then, if players enjoyed the game, built-in game mechanics rewarded the game creators and the game itself through the mechanism of freemium.

The past decade of game design has been built on the concept of a massive top-of-funnel to the games themselves. This allowed millions of players to play and only monetized the sliver of them that wanted to become paying customers. Those who truly enjoyed the game and the super-spenders (whales) subsidized the gameplay. New companies and top publishers emerged via this form of game design: current game publishing giants such as Supercell, King, and Zynga.

One of the strangest facets of blockchain gaming is the return to old-school arcade mechanisms: before you can even see if you enjoy the game, you must pay to play the game.

But it doesn’t stop there. Most blockchain games aren’t just “pay to play”; they require you to buy the underlying asset.

This is like telling someone who lived in a rural part of America in the 1980s and wanted to play Pac-Man, that you don’t just need the quarters, you need to buy the cabinet itself too. And you need to pre-order it, without ever seeing if the game is any fun.

To take the analogy further, the cost basis and style of gameplay we currently understand would be the equivalent of a new arcade opening up in your hometown, but in order to get inside, you need to fund the cabinets that store the games you want to play.

As with most forms of new/disruptive platforms/entrants into the games ecosystem, this style of high-cost-of-entry has been accepted as part of blockchain gaming’s table stakes.

Companies like Yield Guild Games provide scholarships to further create a liquidity layer, allowing people to play games that may have a barrier of entry in the thousands of USD*. This system appears to be working for early adopters into blockchain gaming.

However, are these high barriers to entry, “charge the top of funnel”, blockchain games a new wave of game development? Or is this a hard problem that must be solved to allow for a more accessible top-of-funnel program, from which games will emerge and disrupt**?

Should blockchain gaming be soccer, or should it be Formula 1?

This question seems as straightforward as whether or not we’re buying the quarters or the cabinet.


*Worth noting from a cognitive science perspective that blockchain native users may view the price statically as a number of ETH, thus may view the cost on a basis of what ETH price was when they got in vs. what it currently trades at.

**Fun reference point: The initial wave of mobile games were not free-to-play. The F2P movement gained steam further downstream in the mobile game lifecycle.

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