Why blockchain games will be the first to reward players in a meaningful way
This is a guest column from Paul Collins, the CEO of UK developer Stick Sports.
Colin (Rowe, co-founder and creative director of Stick Sports) and I have been making games since 2004, which in 21st century terms is forever, and then some.
We were there when the first school kid found a way to surreptitiously play a computer game in computer science class.
When mobile games came along we got stuck in, and when we saw the potential in the free-to-play mobile game mechanic we knew we could make a success of it.
How could the players of our games get rewarded in a meaningful way?
It’s exciting to see the potential in something and then to take it all the way. I think over the last few years that’s what it’s begun to feel like – like we’re ready to ride the next wave in the evolution of games.
What’s emerged in our thinking about that ‘next wave’, came to circle around this issue of game asset ownership.
Obviously, as games publishers, we own the games we create and we profit from them.
The advertisers profit too. They own the ads and whatever revenue is generated from those ads being viewed.
The players though, they don’t own anything really and they put in a lot of effort. They ‘pay to play’ in time and effort and also in cash with in-app purchases.
Which raises the question – the people who play our games… how could they get rewarded in a meaningful way?
Then blockchain tech comes along and immediately this problem has a solution, which is incredible if you think about it.
Once again, Colin and I knew there was an opportunity for real transformation in front of us.
The limitations in blockchain games so far
There are a lot of great ideas and some interesting blockchain games already out there.
But we make sports games and so we aren’t coming at it from the direction of how can we turn blockchain into a game?
Our question is: how can we make our gamers feel like professional athletes? How can we use blockchain to solve this problem of ownership without disrupting the beauty of the games we make?
For us, gameplay is king. It’s great to have a blockchain-based Stick Cricket game but if it’s not fun and finessed, it won’t be sticky – that’ll be my only pun – and a good game has a fiercely loyal community.
The players who love it become the best advert for a game.
What we’ve seen from the explosion over the last year or so of blockchain-based games built on the Ethereum network – in the form of decentralised apps or Dapps – is experimentation with non-fungible tokens (asset ownership), which is part of what we’re incorporating.
But overall we’ve found these Dapps all share the same weaknesses: the gameplay is usually bland, formats are repetitive and the games are largely focused on the asset-appreciation aspect.
We understand, of course, that this is a new area and quality comes with time. We also think that time has come.
More problems ahead
Outside of Ethereum-based Dapps there are some more ambitious titles that have launched or are under development. We are excited to see how these progress, but have identified some features we believe will likely prevent widespread adoption.
First, there’s the clunky integration with blockchain that’s off-putting to a casual gamer. Then there’s a focus on developing a ‘hardcore’ following with inaccessible game design.
Lastly, there’s the challenge of building a game community from scratch, which can be overlooked but is one of the most difficult things to do in this industry.
Our aim is to be the first games publisher to bring blockchain tech to the mass market.
Even CryptoKitties, the most successful blockchain game launched to-date can’t really claim to have reached the ‘average consumer’ – largely due to huge barriers to entry and the ever-present issue of scalability.
Stick Sports’ masterplan
Our aim is to bring blockchain tech into the game to serve the purpose of rewarding the gamer – and our already 2.5 million-strong gamer community – without requiring they grapple with new processes in order to play.
The blockchain tech has to be seamlessly integrated and optional. Our aim is to be the first games publisher to bring blockchain tech to the mass market.
We know we can do this by applying our ‘game first’ approach to design and by addressing each flaw we’ve found in the offerings so far. We won’t rely on blockchain tech but instead operate like all of our other free-to-play casual sports games, with the added benefit of tokenised assets with real-world value and transferable ownership.
Once our gamers experience that ownership and all the potential it contains, there’ll be no looking back.
What motivates us is that blockchain fulfils our aim to reward our players.
This is not philanthropy, obviously, I don’t want to try to come across as some sort of Robin Hood when we also benefit. But we do believe the piece of the puzzle that’s missing is true asset ownership.
When we say we want our gamers to feel like professional athletes, we mean we want them to compete at the highest level with the best gear and we want them to own that equipment and be able to control what they do with it.
Imagine the commitment to a game once you’re not just consuming it, but you’re earning from it. You have a real investment there – a reason to be committed to the success of the game in the long-term that goes way beyond the immediate pleasure of play. It’s a win-win situation.
Our gamers can be a vocal bunch; you know that tendency sports enthusiasts have of yelling at the TV whether in joy or disbelief?
So we’re pretty clear on what they expect from us and we’re working hard to make sure we deliver.