Game First, NFTs Second: 3 Ways Web3 Studios Can Win Over Traditional Gamers
The topic we want to explore in this article is the future of gaming. More specifically — the transition from web2 to web3 gaming, and the eventual merging of the two.
While preparing the Powder Heroes NFT drop last year, we discovered a significant gap between the traditional gaming communities and that of emerging P2E blockchain games, perceived by many as speculative, opportunistic, or simply boring. Put simply, the majority of gamers today dislike web3.
Since our drop, we’ve been looking into ways to bridge this gap, convinced that web3 has a lot of value to offer to gamers at large. Think of this: of the $60.4B generated from in-game purchases in 2021 in the US alone, players got zero. This surely can be done better — with the help of the blockchain.
What would it take for web3 games to go mainstream? Here are some tips based on our own experience at Powder, combined with insights shared by gaming experts during the Non Fungible Conference earlier this year.
💡Game first, NFTs second.
Create gaming experiences that people would want to play even if NFTs weren’t there.
Rule number one in gaming: the gameplay counts above everything else. It must be engaging and fun. Web3 games are no exception to that rule. Ask yourself this: If your game didn’t have NFTs, would people still want to play?
While the first generation of blockchain games, most notably Axie Infinity, could ‘sacrifice’ the gameplay to some extent to pilot the underlying blockchain tech — and make a valuable use case out of it for the industry at large — the next generation web3 games will have to focus on bringing an experience to gamers that is truly worth living — and sharing.
Since launching Powder in 2019, we’ve seen that players of all levels and technical abilities are willing to go the extra step to create and share game clips if a game offers a variety of exciting experiences. In that sense, players can become valuable brand ambassadors by sharing game clips and other game-related content on social platforms, which is something that Powder facilitates with its AI-powered content creation tools.
In the absence of traditional advertising channels at their disposal, web3 gaming studios should be aware of this power of word-of-mouth and maximize it to their advantage through UGC, inspired by awesome gameplay.
In that regard, Bilal El Alami from Dogamí recommends drawing inspiration from successful games and tapping into pop culture to create a sense of familiarity — innovating is great, but something that ‘resembles something else’ is likely to gain more traction.
Take The Sandbox, for instance. Its name, to start, immediately refers to the game mode you can expect to play, appealing to all Sandbox gamers who love to explore, build and destroy freely. Secondly, its block animation instantly draws connections with mainstream games such as Minecraft and Roblox, making it easier to believe in its gameplay value. Dogami itself is influenced by games like Tamagotchi, Nintendogs, and Pokemon.
💡Players don’t need to be experts.
Use simple language and facilitate the onboarding of all.
As of today, the kind of communities that gather around blockchain games are fractured. Arash Mahboubi from Immutable, explained there are four kinds of players in one of the most successful web3 games out there, Gods Unchained:
- Traditional gamers;
- Crypto enthusiasts;
- Grinders looking to earn on a regular basis;
- Flippers betting on a big win down the line.
In this context, it becomes clear that as long as web3 games continue to advertise their chosen blockchain and the utility of their NFTs as a key selling point, they will continue to sacrifice their chances of appealing to the first — and arguably most passionate and vocal subgroup — of these player profiles.
As Arash put it, there’s no need to talk of “non-fungible” when you can describe in-game NFTs simply as “digital assets”. Similarly, Yan Ketelers, the CMO at Venly, pointed out that players don’t really need to know which blockchain the game is running on, let alone what the backend tech is like.
This makes perfect sense if we think of traditional gaming. Gamers want to know what your game is about and what they can do inside of it. But you don’t need to detail exactly what technologies make those actions possible. Traditional games don’t advertise the fact that they’re built on Unity as a key selling point. So why does it matter to your gamers what wallet solution you’re partnered with?
As Powder has continued to partner with web3 games, we have seen the surprised reactions of streamers and players — previously skeptical, like most gamers, about NFTs — discovering that web3 games could contain fun gameplay worth sharing. As with every game, web3 or not, it is important that the best moments of a game are showcased properly so players know what experiences they are missing out on. In crude terms, it’s about creating FOMO.
That is not to say, however, that blockchain-specific information is not important. Any player who wants to find out more should have the opportunity to do so. Educating your players through white papers, tutorials, and educational resources & events should continue to be part of a broader community strategy. For players new to the blockchain, onboarding needs to be facilitated and gamified where possible.
💡It’s OK to be selective with partners.
Bring in partnerships that actually add value to the gaming experiences.
In web3, projects often go to market through partnerships. We’ve been seeing platforms like The Sandbox scale massively thanks to those. Adopting a similar strategy, however tempting it may sound, is not always a good idea.
The key question to ask is whether a partnership is actually going to improve the gaming experience, adding an extra dimension that makes the gameplay more exciting. Think of a Marvel partnership with Fortnite, resulting in new beautiful skins and game modes for the players. Or Dogami teaming up with The Sandbox to bring beloved pets into The Sandbox metaverse. Cross-industry collaborations, like Lil Nas X’s concert in Roblox, are a clear source of entertainment for players.
Think of every partnership from the perspective of your existing community. The community-centered approach of web3 — although one of the best parts of web3 — is also a potential risk, as many partnerships are made in an attempt to combine communities, but not necessarily to suit the project itself. A partnership may help you gain followers on Twitter and Discord, but the initial substance that made your community strong could start falling apart if the partnership’s only value is superficial, and the incoming community is too different.
Something to be aware of too is the current limitations of interoperability, highlighted by Jerome de Tychey from Cometh. Because of this, transporting an avatar, a virtual pet or house, from game X to game Y, adapted to the visual style and storyline of the host metaverse can be a pretty big challenge, requiring significant resources. It’s better to consider these limitations before making empty promises to your community.
With its promise to democratize gaming ownership, the web3 future will have a lot to offer to gamers worldwide. Now it’s up to us to come up with the best strategies to get there. Let’s play it smart and build truly incredible experiences and tools for gamers to have fun, create, and monetize!
💡 For more insights from the Non-Fungible conference, check out our dedicated Powder Campus playlist on YouTube.
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