Blockchain Gaming

A Look Back on Web3 Gaming in 2022

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As the year draws to a close, it’s time to take a look back and see where 2022 has taken us in the ever-growing world of web3 gaming.

The year started out well enough. Bitcoin was at $46k, and gaming NFTs were hot. Seemingly every sale was a sell-out, whether it was land or cars or battle robots! It didn’t seem to matter! New gaming tokens were launched and airdrops worth thousands given to the players. At one point early in the year, NFT Worlds, world NFTs were selling for as much as $15k each! It seemed that no gaming developer could go wrong!

NFT Worlds server list (partial)
NFT Worlds ecosystem at their peak

But the series of market drops put a crimp in the value of many NFT collections. And as players cashed out their game tokens, developers discovered that their token economies weren’t really prepared for an outflow of value. Resulting in major drops to many game economies.

The sudden declaration that Minecraft could not be used with NFTs crushed NFT Worlds overnight. And despite a couple of rallies, the market overall continued its downward trend, taking more developers with it as their funds dried up. Some games posted notes about slowing down development or pausing to seek additional funding. While others simply ghosted their players, vanishing into the night and leaving their playerbase with a half-baked product, or even no product at all!

Fuzzles did not survive the bear market
Fuzzles, a project that did not survive the bear market

World events had an effect as well. The war in Ukraine disrupted development for many teams based in the area. And the FTX collapse on top of it all certainly didn’t help, either. Especially for those who had funds on FTX and/or were closely associated with them in some way. FTX’s investment in Solana has resulted in all sorts of problems for that blockchain. Including some major NFT collections fleeing for other chains!

But from the fire comes steel. Stalwarts who have been around for a while such as Axie and Gods Unchained, and Splinterlands just continued onward with their development, improving and expanding on what they already had to offer (though they also had to deal with some layoff as well). Many organizations tightened up their employee count or pushed development back a bit. And though the crypto markets and gaming development took a hit, that didn’t stop dozens of teams from continuing to work on their products and even release alphas and betas. In fact, there were so many alpha releases, that I call 2022 the…

Year of the Alphas

2022 was indeed the year of the alphas. I can’t even begin to name all of the games that had some sort of alpha or beta this year but I’ll try — Genopets, MetalCore, Illuvium (Arena, Overworld, and Zero!), Axie Homeland, Undead Blocks, Mojo Melee, The Fabled, The Harvest, Mytheria, Everseed, Axes Metaverse, Sunville Farms, Moonville Farms, Eternal Dragons, Big Time, Ancient Society, Phantom Galaxies, Star Atlas, Farsite, Spider Tanks (which has gone on to launch), Mirandus, Legacy, Superior, War Park, Chicken Derby, Green Rabbit, Guild of Guardians, R-Planet: Conquest, Farming Tales, My Neighbor Alice, TreeVerse, Life Beyond — and I’ll just have to stop there. Apologies to the other dozens of games with alpha releases who didn’t pop to the top of my head!

Alpha releases are an important development step. Having a working build that you’re willing to put in front of the public is a huge milestone in software development. Seeing so many alphas and betas put out this year is a great sign for the future. However, I do have to say that…

Play to Earn is Dead!

This might seem a strange headline to come from a site literally called ‘Play to Earn’. But there has definitely been a shift in nomenclature and philosophy over the past year. Though some developers still advertise as play-to-earn, many of them have instead opted to use ‘play and earn‘, or the more generic, ‘web3-enabled’.

In part this is due to game developers wanting to focus on the game part rather than the earning part. The play to earn moniker also sets up certain expectations for the playerbase. At one time, Axie Infinity was actually a full-time job for players in some parts of the world. But their crashed economy revealed that this was not a stable situation.

So, developers began switching to the term ‘play AND earn’, implying that you can earn while playing, rather than playing only to earn. And really, this is more in line with what real gamers want. They want fun games first. And if they they also have a chance to make a little money from their game playing when they happen to find the Sword of Ultimate Value, all the better!

And even then we’ve still moved away from the earn aspect. This is particularly true for games that seek to bridge the web2 to web3 divide. Developers just want to present their game in of itself. And then later introduce players to the web3 aspects, if they want to get into that. So while the concept of play to earn isn’t actually dead, the focus on the play to earn wording has certainly decreased.

Even with that, the negative backlash regarding blockchain and NFTs is still strong among the larger gaming community. But, as more companies and developers join the web3-enabled space, it is resulting in a standard of…

Higher Quality Games

As more serious game developers moved into the web3 markets, the quality of the games has increased significantly. Two years ago, aside from a few notable exceptions, the majority of the blockchain games were simply play to earn, with little actual gameplay. They were often thinly disguised slot machines, or a MLM / Pyramid style staking game where the ability to actually earn anything depends on a continual increase in the playerbase.

That began to change as more true games developed. Where once clicking and staking was the high point of play to earn gaming, we now have many better offerings with strong development teams. Now we have some serious game studios putting out their own game clients with high quality graphics and detailed gameplay you would expect to see in a top 10 game on Steam. And developers are still experimenting with different ways to use NFTs, manage their game economies, and onboard new players. So there is plenty of room for further improvements!

While the bear market and other issues may have shaken the blockchain industry, the web3 gaming options only continue to improve. I expect to see even more and better things for blockchain gaming in 2023! And we’ll be here for it, bringing you the latest news and development updates!

Phil Hall has been a gaming enthusiast since birth and a crypto enthusiast since 2017. He enjoys new discoveries and sharing those with others via blogging and photography. You can follow him on Twitter or read his other articles on Medium.