Placing the words “blockchain” and “mainstream adoption” is enough to elicit a sigh from anyone connected with the sector. It seems to be all the world, or at least the US and Western Europe, has been talking about for the past five years. Crypto spending is certainly on the up, but even the most partisan has to admit that mainstream adoption is still some distance away. But there is more to blockchain adoption than using Bitcoin to buy a burger or pay the rent.
The gaming sector is going through a period of rapid growth and is generating more revenue than ever before. It’s an area of tech that has always been high on innovation, and the current market conditions only push it closer to the leading edge. Investment in blockchain gaming is going through the roof, with $18 billion spent on Web3 gaming since 2020. Those in the thick of it are confidently predicting that blockchain games will transform the industry and that they are going to do it this year.
Is a new gaming dawn upon us, or will we be in the same place hearing a similar story next year?
2022 showed blockchain gaming gathering momentum
By the numbers, 2022 was an astonishing year for blockchain gaming, and there was certainly an air of foundations being laid for something special. Just take a look at some of the highlights:
- More than $7.6 billion was generated by Web3 and metaverse projects – up from $4.78 billion in 2022.
- 7.4 billion on-chain game transactions – up from 5.4 billion in 2021 and 0.2 billion in 2020.
- 1.13 million unique active wallets connecting daily to games – up from 0.6 million in 2021.
- Gaming accounted for almost 50 percent of all on-chain activity.
That’s all great but there is still a gulf between where we are today and blockchain gaming hitting the mainstream. A survey by the Blockchain Gaming Alliance asked more than 300 people connected with the industry to discuss pain points and obstacles.
The usual issues of accessibility and regulatory concerns were close to the top, but trumping them all was the elephant in the room – almost 40 percent said the games are just not good enough.
The power of a ground-breaking game
We often hear the argument that a reason blockchain falls short of widespread adoption is that it is a solution looking for a problem to solve. There is a degree of truth in that, and in a moment, we will look at blockchain poker, a special case of blockchain gaming that is achieving adoption precisely because it solves a problem. However, poker is a distinct gaming niche.
When you look at the broader gaming landscape, every paradigm shift over the years has been precipitated by a truly great game, one that has gone down in history as a classic. Super Mario sent Nintendo sales through the roof. Farmville was the social game that launched a new era. Grown adults bought new phones to play Angry Birds. Pokemon Go! sent the entire world into some sort of collective insanity.
Until blockchain has its ground-breaking game, the game that everyone wants to play, it will remain an interesting idea on the periphery of the general consciousness. But once that game arrives, the battle is won, and the overarching principle of using blockchain tech as a vehicle for gaming can take over.
Blockchain poker – a special case
iGaming is a specialist niche within the overall gaming universe, albeit a highly important one that generated about $60 billion in revenue last year. In the US, in particular, blockchain poker has seen rapid adoption among online poker players, not because it is a “ground-breaking game” but because it addresses a specific need.
That need can be expressed as “How can I transfer funds to and from my online poker account with the minimum delays or transaction costs?” In some jurisdictions, that’s easier than others depending on banking regulations, but in all but a handful of US states, blockchain poker makes a genuine difference in significantly improving the experience for tens of millions of online poker players.
Of course, there are other benefits to playing poker with crypto too. Crypto transactions are provably fair, players do not have to share any personal information and can remain anonymous, and Bitcoin poker is globally available regardless of location. These factors might not otherwise be enough to drive adoption on their own, but they soon become self-evident and only serve to strengthen the attachment with blockchain poker players.
Is there a ground-breaking game on the horizon?
As for the broader picture, blockchain gaming is still looking for its very own Farmville or Pokemon Go! Cryptokitties were never going to take the world by storm, but there are some intriguing games arriving on the scene in 2023.
- Illuvium is an Ethereum-based sci-fi adventure that involves exploring alien environments and gathering NFT monsters and fighting other players for prizes.
- Bluelight inc gives you the chance to launch your own business and become the Alan Sugar of the Metaverse
- Star Atlas takes advantage of the Solana rush. Set in the distant future, it is a strategy game on a grand scale that involves space exploration and conquest.
- Sorare is one for the sports fans, essentially transporting the fantasy football concept into the metaverse.
- The Walking Dead: Empires – the massive popularity of comic books and TV series has yet to be replicated in gaming. Could this be the one?
Will one of these be blockchain’s ground-breaking game? Or is it the one still waiting in the wings? The coming months will provide an answer.