Predictions for blockchain gaming in 2024
In the latest episode of his Blockchain Gaming World podcast, editor-in-chief Jon Jordan talks to BlockchainGamer.biz editor Jenny Jordan about some of events and trends that will be making the news in 2024.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
BlockchainGamer.biz: So we’re discussing what happens with blockchain games in 2024. Where do you want to start?
Jon Jordan: To be honest, looking back at the data, my first feeling is relief that 2023 is over. It was definitely a bad year. All sorts of companies suffered in various ways.
I hadn’t realized how low the price of most gaming tokens had gotten. A lot of the gaming tokens hit their all-time-lows in a period from June through to September, even for some of them October. Token price isn’t everything but for the majority of 2023, for a lot of game projects it must have felt like unending doom, because no matter what you were doing this key financial metric was just going down.
And the reason I didn’t realize how bad it got was because everything changed very quickly in mid-October when the price of Bitcoin started going up and has continued to go up ever since.
Looking forward, do you think the biggest challenges for the sector in 2024 will be external, such as legalization, or internal forces such as speculation?
That’s a good way of framing it. I think external threats are bigger, but it is a good point that we’ve forgotten just what the Axie Infinity boom/bust cycle was like. At the end of November 2021, for one day it had over one million onchain users and then it immediately dropped. It went up like a rocket and then peaked and then came straight back down again.
So it will be interesting to see if there’s a couple of games which have that boom/bust cycle. But it won’t be like all eyes on them in the way it was for Axie, because Axie was the first blockchain game people in the game space looked at. And the quality of games are now considerably better, especially with companies such as Ubisoft and Zynga and CCP. They’ve integrated blockchain in a much more holistic way than was in the past.
BlockchainGamer.biz: Do you think the big hits in 2024 will be games we already know about or something new?
One game we talk about a lot is Shrapnel, which isn’t quite triple-A. It’s not a $200 million game from Activision. It’s a $40 million shooter from a well established, but not massive team.
And while I think there’s always a problem when you try to sell a blockchain game as being as good as a normal game but with blockchain because there’s a tension. Shrapnel isn’t going to be as good as a very high-end Call of Duty. Still, I think a game like Shrapnel could do well. I’m not sure the traditional gaming market is quite ready to say “This is a great blockchain game”. That’s going to take some time.
Another similar title is Off The Grid, which is a little under the radar. It’s from a former Crytek team, which is known for its shooters, is fairly well funded and is coming to console. In the past I’ve expressed some skepticism about how quickly that will happen. The game has sort of promised stuff in the past which hasn’t happened although that may not be its fault. But it’s an interesting game in terms of how it’s integrating blockchain and NFTs.
So while I would say those games are not going to be massive hits, they do demonstrate a step up in terms of quality. And certainly if you can get a blockchain game onto console, at that point you’re addressing a potential audience of 100 million players.
Other interesting projects include what Nexon is doing with MapleStory Universe. It’s a longer project because it’s so complex, a more ground-up blockchain project. That will take longer. We’ll talk about The Sandbox later but it’s interesting because it’s been building for a long time and has laid the foundation. Given the success of Minecraft and Roblox, I can imagine The Sandbox having a million users, whatever that means.
Finally, I think there will be some quirky projects with a bit of virality, a bit of tokenomics that will attract a big audience. We’re seeing that at the moment with Pixels, which has gone from nothing to 120,000 users. It’s just announced a token airdrop event so I imagine it’s going to see a lot of growth with people piling in to try and get some tokens.
People can argue whether that is good or bad but it’s just one of the marketing tools we have in crypto. So we’re going to see it no matter what we think about it.
It seems that some projects which started out as games are moving more towards UGC. Is that the future in 2024?
Like lots of trends, this is a trend beyond blockchain, but it fits very well with blockchain. There are some strong synergies. UGC is a big thing because it’s such a powerful tool. If you can get people to be creative in your game, then they’re much more engaged, they’re more likely to go to their friends and family. And if you start having monetization, like you have with Roblox that’s really powerful. People are running little businesses in these games.
Obviously the thing about blockchain is you have a payment method already built into your game inherently and hopefully you’ve thought about incentives and why people would make things. In fact, Shrapnel’s main blockchain monetization is people building maps using NFT pieces that you can charge people for playing on. Clearly The Sandbox is more of a Minecraft approach.
The obvious problem with UGC, however, is it makes the project massively more complex. We thought The Sandbox was going to be released two years ago. It’s taken them all this time, not just for the UGC, but it’s really complex and you have the issue of people making things you don’t want them to make.
There’s all manner of things people find offensive these days and you can guarantee 13-year old boys will be making exactly those sorts of things. Swastikas are the least of it. So you have all those moderation issues too.
And now The Sandbox is going mobile too, which adds complexity. But what about blockchain games going mobile. Will that be big for 2024?
It depends on the project. I don’t think mobile is right for all blockchain games, probably for a small minority of blockchain games that have been designed to be mobile and work within app store rules and have a roadmap of how they can expand their features to be more open to blockchain as app stores allow them to be.
At the moment, problems arise because people design blockchain games – all the monetization, NFTs etc – and they put it on a browser, which works or doesn’t work, and then they go, right, let’s get it on mobile. But then you have to redesign it for the app stores and so take features out and redesign it and then you end up with this Frankenstein monster that doesn’t work.
We mentioned them a lot but Mythical Games is trailblazing in this regard, which we’ve seen with NFL Rivals. It launched without any blockchain and slowly added in more features. First you could buy NFTs using a special currency so that Apple and Google got their 30%. The NFT was obviously 30% more expensive than if you bought it on the website. Now there’s a full NFT marketplace and later in 2024 you’ll be able to start selling your NFTs via the app. I’m not sure how that’s going to work in terms of what money you get back.
But Mythical has this advantage because it knows about games. It ran Blankos Block Party as one of the first blockchain games on PC and went through several iterations of how that marketplace worked and how the money flowed. So it has an advantage. And you could argue Mythical has spent the past two years failing to get Blankos to work in terms of how they would want it to work. So it’s stopped the PC version and is remaking it as a mobile game.
And what’s interesting about Mythical is it’s sort of educating Apple and Google in terms of how blockchain works and that it’s not all scams and you can see that reflected in projects like NFL Rivals because every three months there’s a new update and there’s more blockchain.
I don’t think in 2024 Apple and Google will allow you to do whatever you want. There’s always going to be restrictions. But you can sort of see how the process works. And the thing about mobile is it’s where three billion people are. Now you’re not going to get three billion people downloading your game, you’re probably not going to get 100 million people downloading your game, maybe 10 million.
What about fully onchain games in 2024?
I think the sector is experiencing a difficult balancing act as the people making those games are super geeky programmers. The games are interesting but they’re making games for a thousand of their mates. It’s a really constrained market. It’s a great place for experimentation and it’s interesting that the media is covering it a lot more. But you’re really interested in onchain games, so do you think it will be big in 2024?
I don’t think it’s going to be mass market yet. I’ve found it fascinating some developers are so motivated to go fully onchain because they believe in the core values of decentralization and digital ownership. I am bullish on its future but it’s incredibly complicated. It’s like a full-time job sitting down trying to get into these games so it’s a niche at the moment.
I would say, let’s say, over a 10 year span, I can’t see how the sector doesn’t move towards being more fully onchain. It seems like the logical endpoint. Maybe it takes 100 years, I don’t know. But I think that’s where you end up. The question is how quickly it happens.
What about the term “web3 gaming”? Some people think we should scrap it. Some projects now don’t want to define themselves as blockchain games. Are we going to move away from talking about web3 games and blockchain games and just talk about games in 2024?
This is just an argument within the industry’s navel. Maybe it’s interesting for us to discuss but for the vast majority of people who have never played a blockchain game, it doesn’t matter. In the end they just get called games but it takes time.
Back in the day you had mobile games, and no-one played them because you had to buy them, so this new thing came out called free-to-play, which was to define them against paid games. So we used the term F2P but no-one calls them that any more because all mobile games are free-to-play.
So, again, I think it’s another decade-long project where it will just be games. But in the foreseeable future, a term like blockchain or web3 is a useful signal that a game is designed in a different way, it’s thinking about ownership and community. So hopefully it will be viewed as a slightly positive thing, or very positive thing for some people.