Whatever happened to blockchain gaming?

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Lessons from 2019’s trending titles

While DeFi has emerged as the most significant vector for dapp growth in 2019, the game sector hasn’t been slacking.

The year has seen the launch of new titles, some of which have quickly grown to become the most popular dapps in terms of active wallets.

In addition, some older games remain in contention for the top spot.

The result is that as we enter Q4, at least four titles are sustaining more than 2,000 daily active wallets.

The DAU count — 30 day rolling average — for the five most popular blockchain games

That may be small beer in the context of the ongoing Jimmy Song versus Joe Lubin wager, which is anchored on usage figures of 10,000 DAUs and 100,000 MAUs.

But that particular bet isn’t due to be settled until May 2023.

Rise and fall

2019 started with one blockchain game dominant.

Developed by a small team out of South Korea, EOS Knights is an idle RPG in which all in-game actions are transactions on the EOS blockchain.

Particularly popular in Korea and China, EOS Knights’ growth continued during Q1, peaking at almost 7,000 DAUs in early March.

From that point, however, it experienced a steady decline, most likely driven by a combination of a lack of long term retention features and more active anti-bot measures from the developer.

As ever in the blockchain world, it’s rarely clear what percentage of active wallets are real players. Most likely there’s a wide range, depending on a game’s specific design and the blockchain it’s running on. Certainly, an idle game running on EOS will attract a higher level of bots than a collectible game such as CryptoKitties on Ethereum.

Nevertheless, with the launch of additional metagame features, EOS Knights has now stabilized its audience at around 3,000 DAUs.

Notably, a new version of the game called Klaytn Knights will soon launch on the Klaytn blockchain from Korea messaging giant Kakao, which is also supported by phone makers such as Samsung and LG.

In other words, EOS Knights may best be viewed as an experiment for an improved version that could be played by many thousands.

Time to level up

Another blockchain game out of Asia, the Japanese-developed My Crypto Heroes which runs on Ethereum, experienced a different trajectory in 2019.

Starting the year with around 200 daily active wallets, this immediately leaped to almost 2,000 when a subscription service was added in February. For 0.1 ETH a month, players gain daily rewards such as experience boosts, new characters, in-game currency and access to new arenas.

Indeed, such is the generosity of the rewards, it’s a no-brainer for someone interested in playing the game for any length of time.

Combined with one of the most active markets for NFT characters, the result has seen My Crypto Heroes sustain solid growth to around 3,000 DAUs, which was only dented by the rising gas price for transactions on the Ethereum blockchain during September.

Since gas prices have dropped, the game’s audience has bounced back to its August levels.

It’s also worth pointing out you can play My Crypto Heroes as a traditional centralized game without accessing any blockchain features such as character ownership and trading and the subscription.

Developer Tokyo Double.Jump claims only a third of the game’s players interact with its blockchain elements.

That’s not relevant for this article, but is a reminder that future blockchain games are likely to mix on- and off-chain activity.

The rise of EOS gaming

When it comes to new blockchain games that have found success in 2019, there’s a clear trend.

Prospectors (released in June), EOS Dynasty (May) and Crypto Sword & Magic (June) all run on the EOS blockchain.

Aside from this, however, they are different experiences.

  • Prospectors is wild west-theme economic simulation from an eastern European developer
  • EOS Dynasty a Chinese Middle Kingdom-themed reskin of EOS Knights
  • Crypto Sword & Magic is a blockchainized version of a successful Facebook game from South Korean developer NOD Games.

Prospectors and EOS Dynasty have been the most successful of the three: at various points each has taken the #1 position of most popular blockchain game, peaking at around 3,000 DAUs.

Crypto Sword & Magic has seen growth in its audience base but on a much lower level of magnitude. It currently has around 800 DAUs.

Yet another note of caution.

As previously alluded to, because Prospectors and EOS Dynasty use their own tokens, which can be cashed out of the game economy, there is an incentive for players to use bots for financial gain. This is less the case of Crypto Sword & Magic which only uses EOS as its currency for trading items.

Now, this sort of uncertainty is something DappRadar takes very seriously. We currently filter our raw data to remove what we consider to be manipulated traffic and we will roll out additional features to further stamp down on such activity in the future, especially on EOS.

Some dapp developers are also very open about their zero tolerance. For example, My Crypto Heroes developer Tokyo Double.Jump says “We always keep eye on bots by using Google reCAPTCHA and other tools, and once we detect them we immediately ban them”.

What’s next?

But there’s no reason to end this article on a downbeat.

The blockchain game sector remains incredibly buoyant. The current games are a small subset of the total projects in various stages of development, with 2020 shaping up to be a very important period for this nascent industry.

High profile launches include the likes of Blockade Games’ Neon District, Pixowl’s The Sandbox, Animoca’s F1 Delta Time, and Experimental’s CryptoWars (all on Ethereum), plus Blankos Block Party on EOS.

Even now in the later stages of Q4, titles such as Lucid Sight’s Crypto Space Commander and Immutable’s Gods Unchained are also in open beta, and the launch of Decentraland will enable games such as Battle Racers to release.

And these are just a selection of the titles we can talk about. There are plenty of other projects in development, but our lips are sealed (for now).

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