Blockchain games aren’t going to capture the public imagination until there’s a genuinely great game – full stop.

It looks like the industry thinks gamers will one day say, “Oh cool, I can own my digital items? Let’s play this blockchain game!”

That’s not how it’s going to work. This premise won’t fly until gamers say, “This blockchain game is so cool! Oh, hey, neat, I guess I really own my digital items?”

This article is excerpted from The Node, CoinDesk's daily roundup of the most pivotal stories in blockchain and crypto news. You can subscribe to get the full newsletter here. 

Gamers want to play great games. If they can get additional benefits out of playing, great, but it needs to be a great game first and foremost. Play-to-Earn will always feel more like work-to-earn as long as the game is boring compared to distractions available on platforms such as the PlayStation or Nintendo Switch.

And the existing game companies are not going to blockchainify their famous games. Fortnite is not going to lead here by making skins provably scarce with Ethereum or Solana or Doge. Sorry, no. Centralized control of these commodities works for their business model.

A great game will need to be built from the ground up for blockchain by crypto believers.

As I was working on this post, I went and watched a few videos for the upcoming game Chainmonsters, from Dapper Labs, the company Crunchbase credits with $357 million in investment. The game is still in alpha, it should be noted, and it’s updating all the time, including recently slicking up its graphics.But the game is basically one where you wander around a world gathering up little monsters, playing them in fights to increase their experience and make more badass monsters. What does that sound like? It sounds like Pokémon.

Apparently this is so true that, at least according to YouTuber nondairi, folks who compare the game to Pokémon actually get kicked out of the game’s Discord. Which is weird because it’s not even the first Pokémon knock-off to show up on the blockchains. We covered Etheremon, for example, three years ago.

And look, I get it: A game doesn’t have to be amazingly advanced to capture popular imaginations. The bizarrely profitable mobile game, Flappy Bird, came out in a year when Assassin’s Creed was on its fourth iteration. It is possible for a simple game to take off, but the popularity of Flappy Bird was a wild outlier. The popularity of any entry in the Assassin’s Creed mythos is not.

And, on that note: right next to one of the videos I watched about Chainmonsters was a video about a forthcoming game for the PlayStation, Horizon: Forbidden West, from Guerrilla Games. This was an absolutely insane gameplay preview where some guy rides a cyborg elephant the size of a building and then later the player’s character takes an enemy out with this insane spin-kick stab combo followed by an exploding lightning bolt bow-and-arrow finisher.

It’s hard to describe, in a good way.

So crypto will need to make something comparably impressive and drop immutable in-game items somewhere in its guts before gamers really get excited about this industry. It takes a lot of money and a lot of talent to put together a game that really captures gamers’ attention, but a few people in this industry have made a little money, or so I’m told.

So far, the blockchain gaming offerings have largely been slightly lower fidelity derivatives of past video game blockbusters, as if entrepreneurs in this space lack conviction that a truly original, crypto native game can be really good.

You can find lots of videos out there about blockchain games where people brag about making money. It’s a whole weird thing. What you can’t find are videos of people saying: “I can’t stop playing this thing” and “here’s how you win.”

Earning is nice but it’s not a game-for-gamers until they want to win. 

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