When someone walks down the board game aisle of a hobby store*, they might notice the markings for the number of players a game can support. Chess? 2 players. Settlers of Catan? 3, 4, 5 or more with expansions. Bridge? 4 players (exactly).
Additionally, games have different player requirements for the game to be “fun”. While it’s easy to play Solitaire with 1,2, 3, or more people playing together (with friends commenting and strategizing together), it’s impossible to play Bridge with fewer than 4.
Go one layer deeper and the introduction of features like matchmaking and competitive multiplayer require the games to have an even higher number of players. A game like chess, in theory, could be played in a world where there are only two players, but in practice, without a large community of players to support the various ELOs**, you’d find the same better, higher-rated player beating down on the worse players over and over again***.
There’s a bare minimum number of players necessary to support matchmaking and competitive environments. Just like in token trading and related financial markets that focus on liquidity to accurately evaluate and guarantee transactions, there’s a minimum player count necessary to play these multiplayer games!
The player liquidity requirements change from game type to game type. But when designing game loops for the blockchain P2E/web 3 ecosystem^, it’s the most important piece to understand.
For example, “vibe” games^^ built on the Roblox platform work by bringing thousands of active players into specific experiences at the same time. This game style is built exclusively for a platform that boasts ~50M DAU. These “vibe” games that live on Roblox do not necessarily translate well to platforms that have a fraction of the number of players.
So what’s the solution for blockchain gaming? We’ve been talking a lot about the chasm and understanding the importance of knowing where on the curve we currently are.
Written over 30 years ago, Geoffrey Moore’s “Crossing the Chasm” discusses the market stages that new products undergo in order to hit the mainstream. As a mental model of technology adoption, it’s proven to be pretty damn good over three technology cycles^^^.
If we’re in the innovator/early adopter phase of the game loop, the player liquidity is low and the targeted demographic ought to be targeted towards avid superfans/early blockchain maximalists.
If we’re in the majority phases, the player liquidity is starting to/has already ramped up – thus the lessons learned from massively multiplayer game ecosystems (systems that rely on matchmaking or multiplayer generative mechanics) start to make sense.
As player liquidity changes on the platforms, the game genres that excel the most will change, and thus the top games change along with them.
The top mobile games of 2011 were all single-player experiences (Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery EP, Infinity Blade II, Tiny Wings) vs. the top mobile games of 2021, which are generally multiplayer experiences (Free Fire, PubG Mobile, Clash of Clans).
As Web3 platforms (on-chain or off) evolve with the number of players they support, what we see as the end goalposts will continue to move.
Even more than the token liquidity earned in P2E ecosystems, we predict that the player liquidity requirements of the game itself will be the biggest indicator of what games excel.
*Or “Virtual” store. “Metaverse” store?
** An approximation of player skill level. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elo_rating_system
*** Vibe games are some of the coolest examples of platform-specific experiences that have evolved the past few years. They function similarly to SoHo house/nightclubs in real life, where players on Roblox congregate and just chat, meet people, and check out the “vibes” of the room. These vibe games may be the closest thing to the reported “metaverse” we see across gaming.
^Or any game platform
^^This is not a good thing
^^^The population of users is causally linked to platform adoption as well (some may even say player/user population is the definition of adoption rates