Memecoins, metaverses, and Elon Musk crashing an entire asset class by hosting SNL. The past couple years have been explosive in the blockchain and cryptocurrency space from a multitude of standpoints. Pop culture, sociality, innovation, economics, morality. Crypto seems to span into so many different aspects of our society. With this massive movement in technology and innovation comes a lot of new things, from professional baseball teams being sponsored by glorified ponzi schemes to people getting paid for exercise via a web3 lifestyle app. However, nothing has created a bigger buzz than NFTs. Unless you’ve managed to distance yourself from the internet over the past couple years (if so, bravo), you’ve probably been exposed to NFTs via social media, word of mouth, advertising, or even through your own line of work.
Over the past several months, NFTs have completely taken over the broader crypto scene. They’ve undeniably brought so many new users into the space, and have captured tons of spotlight time across all forms of mainstream media. However, after months of rapid growth and popularity, it seems a bubble formed and popped in the NFT market. Copy cat after copy cat of “art projects” went boom and bust within 24 hours, and there was a noticeable amount of malice and deception in the space that left many users and fans angered or confused.
As we seemingly enter the beginning of a “crypto winter”, there are still people just as passionate and enthusiastic about helping to build the future of cryptocurrency and NFTs. A few weeks ago, I got to attend NFT NYC and had the pleasure of meeting some of these folks. Of course, my main objective was to figure out why NFTs are making headlines in the gaming space. Here are a few of my biggest takeaways from the conference as someone who works in the gaming industry and is a lifelong gamer:
Whole Lotta Infra
While I didn’t see a lot of hype for highly anticipated web3 game titles, I did see a ton of companies that want to provide the tools and infrastructure for implementing NFTs and blockchain into games. From porting existing in-game assets into their NFT form, to providing players with customized web3 wallets, there was a clear overage in companies that are looking to provide the tools rather than the entertainment. This made a lot of sense to me because, well, it’s pretty damn hard to make a really awesome game that keeps players coming back for more. When NFTs were experiencing explosive growth in the second half of 2021, and there was a clear linkage being established to gaming, a multitude of new “web3 game” projects were emerging every day. Many of these games were seemingly drummed up and developed within weeks, pumped up by the bull market and their ability to create tight-knit player communities enthused by the promise of profit when the game would launch. However, when these games eventually launched, there was a big call out from the broader gaming community about the quality of these games. The majority looked like 8-bit farming simulators with the NFT twist of “ownership” and “playing to earn”. Boom and bust DAU numbers coupled with the subtle decline in the broader market left many of these game projects abandoned and forgotten. I think there is a slow, gradual shift at play here, where seasoned game developers are taking their time with developing titles, systems, and mechanics that actually make sense. At the same time, you have talented people that understand NFTs and want to provide the tools and backend to true game creators. I think this combination will inevitably fuel much higher quality projects in the space.
AAA Might Not Play
During the conference, I had the pleasure of attending a brief talk given by William Quigley at Radio City Music Hall. William has years of experience in the cryptocurrency space, having helped create Tether, the world’s largest stablecoin by market cap. Since then, he launched WAX, a blockchain ecosystem specifically built for NFTs and video games. He had a lot of good insight and data to reflect on, but something that really stuck with me was his distinction between indie game developers and AAA when it comes to NFTs. He said that innovation and new winning concepts for NFT-inclusive games will come from the indie development community, rather than AAA. The biggest developers and publishers have spent years building games and business models that are profitable and sustainable. The idea of them suddenly sharing income with their users amidst constant revenue growth pressure from investors doesn’t make a ton of sense. William’s perspective resonated with me because we already observe indie developers taking more risks and pushing the edges of creativity and innovation in games. I think it’s more likely that an indie developer will come up with a unique model that supports the creator and players in a sustainable way.
Games Are Cross-Category, Maybe NFTs Are Too
Another big takeaway I drew from William Quigley’s talk was that NFTs (at the moment) sit at the center of three massive consumer segments; shopping, entertainment, and social. Similarly, I think games and game IPs have expanded rapidly into these segments. More than ever, games are a part of mainstream media and culture, having taken top-spot in the entertainment industry over just the past few years. Games and virtual worlds like Fortnite and Roblox have cultivated enormous followings and social communities. Brands and products are partnering with games everyday to reach new audiences. It seems almost inevitable to me that if NFTs can start incorporating real, valuable utility to users, they’ll be here to stay as we gradually enter a more virtual world held together by the internet and programmable, open-source systems. While it might not be games specifically that bring direct value and utility to NFTs, it makes sense to me that as the technology improves, the expansion into these massive consumer segments grows.
Overall, I really enjoyed attending NFT NYC. The passion and drive the people had behind their projects and companies was palpable. There was still a healthy amount of skepticism and sort of not knowing what is to come, but the willingness to push onward and keep building during tough times was winning across the board. I’ve seen and felt the same sort of passion from indie game developers at Playcrafting’s own Play NYC event. Hopefully as these world’s continue to collide, we will see some real quality and value created in NFT-inclusive gaming. Until then, cheers to all the creators and developers that are building through the storm.
JC Le Meur
Business Development Manager at Playcrafting
This article first appeared on What Made Sense for Games at NFT NYC.