Gamers Hate NFTs. A New Wave of 'Web3 Games' Hopes to Change That

Gamers Hate NFTs. A New Wave of ‘Web3 Games’ Hopes to Change That

“Web3 games” are those that utilize crypto and NFTs. Gamers have rejected them en masse, but some Web3 game developers think they can win players over.

Chris used to spend hours a day playing League of Legends, but he stopped after deciding he was sinking too much time into the popular battle arena game. When he saw Axie Infinity last May, though, he was hooked. Inspired by Pokemon, Axie Infinity is a video game about training and battling monsters. That sounds like innumerable other games, but one element distinguishes Axie Infinity: It’s built on the blockchain.

Axies are the Pokemon of Axie Infinity, but they’re owned as nonfungible tokens, or NFTs. A cryptocurrency called Smooth Love Potion is earned by battling these Axies. Players can also breed Axies, then either sell or battle with them. Chris, who declined to give his real name and goes only by the pseudonym Cryptobarbarian, felt he could justify playing video games again — as long as it paid.

“It was fun for the first few weeks, but it gets boring really fast,” the 28-year-old said. From there, he said, Axie Infinity became purely about making money.

Axie Infinity is a browser game. Accessing it is free, but you need to buy a team of three Axies to play. At its peak of popularity, bottom-tier Axies cost around $350 each, meaning playing the game once required a four-figure investment. The game allows Axie owners to lease out their monsters to other players, however. A longtime crypto investor, Cryptobarbarian told me he bought $30,000 worth of Axies and loaned them out in return for 40% to 70% of the profits. (CNET wasn’t able to verify his purchases.)

The strategy paid off at first. Axie Infinity was a hot ticket in CryptoTown, generating over $15 million a day last August . But thanks to a combination of poor in-game economics, inflation threatening the real world’s economy and a $600 million hack reportedly caused by a fake job posting , the price of Axies and the game’s Smooth Love Potion cryptocurrency collapsed. The same monsters that cost hundreds of dollars last year now fetch under $10.

“I got around 100 players playing for me with high-end Axies,” Cryptobarbarian said to me over Twitter, “which overall cost around $100,000 at the height and are now worth nothing.”

To gamers, stories like this provide ample reason to reject “Web3 gaming,” a term referring to the integration of NFTs and cryptocurrency into games. The significant carbon footprint of ethereum and bitcoin adds to the resentment. Be it Ubisoft bringing NFTs into Ghost Recon or Square Enix investing in cryptocurrency technology , gamers have fiercely resisted the blockchain coming anywhere near their industry.

The fear is that crypto and NFTs will deform gaming into a side hustle, transforming its purpose from entertainment to moneymaking. Play-to-earn titles such as Axie Infinity prove the point; they’re not games as much as they are financial speculation with the veneer of a game.

“I’ve never met anyone that played it just for fun,” Cryptobarbarian said of Axie Infinity, “only to make money.”

But Axie Infinity doesn’t represent the future that many Web3 developers envision for gaming. Video game firms, both small and large, are developing titles they hope will clean the slate of Web3 gaming. All are on carbon-neutral blockchains such as polygon or solana, which are far more efficient than ethereum. (Whether they’re as secure is an open question.) The goal isn’t to make titles that entertain crypto speculators, but rather to make games fun enough that people can justify playing them regardless of whether they earn crypto.

“I’ve long been a believer that gaming is one of the consumer internet categories that is most likely to bring on mainstream adoption of crypto,” said Amy Wu, head of gaming at FTX Ventures, the investment arm of the FTX crypto exchange. “But I also believe when you have a hit game with Web3 elements, it’s very likely that the majority of players will never actually trade those tokens. They’re just playing the game.” Free to play, play to own

The upcoming wave of Web3 games will range from free-to-play mobile titles to big-budget AAA games for PC and console. On the simpler end of the scale is Shatterpoint. With an art style inspired by Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, it’s an action RPG for Android and iOS that, on paper, looks like many top App Store games. There’s a single-player campaign plus a PvP multiplayer mode. You earn new weapons and gear as you […]

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