2022 has exposed how quickly NFT games lacking non-P2E monetization appeal die.
Therefore, this article explains how to drive your P2E game's sustainability and profitability by equally focusing on providing fun gaming experiences, and P2E revenue incentives to attract true gamers and convert figurehead investors into active gamers.
Discover how to make your crypto game Fun-To-Play.
Blockchain Games are games built on a blockchain, where players can collect, own and store their in-game assets as NFTs and crypto tokens with real-world utilities in digital wallets.
The birth of Play-to-earn marks the fast money gaming industry developers had always coveted; they could immediately earn post-launch.
Unfortunately, most of these elite blockchain developers had zero game development experience and presumed their games' tokenomic appeal was enough incentives to trump a fun gaming experience.
Ultimately creating a rather infamous boring reputation for web 3.0 games.
Too many crypto games are just gamified blockchain and defi protocols without real fun appeals.
However, Axies' 2022 crash, amidst others, proves that crypto games that are nothing without their P2E appeal will attract more investors and collectors than gamers. Investors and collectors are not interested in playing your games and would always find ways to cheat the system to earn more.
Axie infinity's crash perfectly portrays this:
During the Covid-19 2020 lockdown, Axies' breeding demand launched Axies' and SLP/AXS prices to the moon.
Over time, Axies' investors got creative with Axies' breeding. They found a way of exploiting the system for higher earnings without necessarily contributing to the game ecosystem in playtime, leading to excessive Axies in supply.
The high Axies price ultimately slowed players' growth leading to less demand for breeding the excessive Axies supply. In turn, Axies' price slumped, leading to even less demand for the SLP and AXS tokens, ultimately devaluing the tokens.
Since earning SLP was Axies' primary incentive—as their players were investors, not real gamers—they quickly abandoned the platform for a better ROI.
Unfortunately, this led to a further drop in the breeding demand of Axies, restarting the cycle. Fun-seeking gamers couldn't and wouldn't buy Axies because its gameplay was hardly any fun.
You don't want to be the next Axie infinity.
So far, many new blockchain games only followed big brother Axie's path.
Sadly, they don't make their quick bucks and run as most of the new generation web 3.0 games are opting for. You must care about your players' gaming experience and emotions to make fun blockchain games.
I'll define a fun game as a game I'd love to play continuously, even without any financial incentives.
However, Nicole Lazzaro, XEO design's founder, after years of studying fun in games, proposed four major classes of fun video games.
1. Hard Fun: frustration to win
Hard Fun stems from the frustration of trying to overcome a certain difficulty or obstacle in a game. Hard Fun makes you push yourself, wanting to have that feeling of achieving something you've worked so hard for.
2. Easy Fun: Exploration in role play; wonder and surprise.
You have easy fun when you freely explore a game's virtual world, admire the graphics, wonder what purpose some elements serve, and get one or two surprises as you make your way deeper into the game by completing some missions.
A game without adequate pacing and anticipatory elements stands zero chance of giving players an easy fun experience.
3. Serious Fun: Earning reward.
Serious Fun is all about your game's reward. The notion of getting something in return for completing a mission or just getting a reward for success is serious fun, e.g., P2E incentives, in-game asset rewards, upgrades, etc.
4. People Fun: Amusement
People Fun is more pronounced in MMO and metaverse games, games with a massive online presence where players can socialize among themselves.
E.g. Ember Sword and Superior.
People get amused when they socialize and experience people's fun by meeting other players in the game's metaverse.
I'm no Sherlock, but I know having only blockchain development experience and skills DO NOT qualify you to develop blockchain games.
Ideally, to develop top-quality web 3.0 games and secure your spot as a credible fun NFT game developer, you must have successfully created fun web 2.0 games or enlisted an expert web 2.0 game designer's help.
Regardless, read on if you feel you can break the boring NFT Games stereotype.
Arts design, coding, and the game design framework set every game development foundation; plus tokenomics for web 3.0 games.
Say you've got a digital artist. You're also a hotshot at C#, C++, Solidity, and basically every blockchain and gaming scripting language. Your game design must still address some basic questions that define your players' experience like:
It's easy to go ahead and list how you can design more fun blockchain games by:
Instead, let's examine some less-obvious guidelines that would help you design more fun and long-lasting NFT Games.
1. What is your players' role in the game, and how does it influence the gameplay?
Most GameFi are replicas of DeFi processes like farm yielding, staking, loaning, etc.
Yes. Your game mustn't be hyperrealistic 3D Mega games to be fun. You can design fun casual RPGs or MMO RPGs. Carefully planning what your players can & cannot do and how their roles interact with the gameplay is the first step to creating fun crypto games.
Useful questions to ask:
Having an experienced game designer would do you wonders in this phase.
PS: Your players' actions must drive the game forward
2. Define how to effectively communicate your NFT game's purpose to the players.
You can communicate your players' in-game roles through:
A Storyline: Paint a story with which to guide your game design. GamePlots are usually the first level of communication of a player's roles in a game. Your players can follow the plot and anticipate the next move, reaction, and objectives.
Other secondary in-game indicators like the following can support your game plot:
3. NFT Game's Appeal: The "Yeah, I want it!" Factors
Source: Unsplash image by Meysam Moghimzade.
Games' appeal can come off in many different incentives. You can appeal to people's emotions by playing your game through the storyline, game's niche, reward, and economic incentive.
Sadly, most blockchain games' appeal starts and ends with the Play-To-Earn incentives which fall short as a long-term incentive.
Yeah, you guessed it, the more appeal your game has, the more fun people perceive it.
Some of the ways to create appeal for your game are:
i. Leveraging Your P2E Game's Graphics As An Appeal:
You don't want to be the guy who spent thousands of hours and dollars on crazy graphics and failed to leverage it as an appeal. People will always prefer higher graphics games over ones with low graphics.
But it's not worth sacrificing potential fun gaming experiences for graphical fidelity. Your game must be visually memorable, and just a 4K visual of regular downtown New York will stick with me long enough until another game offers me an 8K view of New York.
Instead, focus on your graphics' artistic direction. You should point your graphics toward your game's theme; it must paint a unique and memorable picture in your players' minds.
There will always be a game with better graphical Fidelity.
Therefore, your artistic direction in giving every graphical illustration, art deco, and scenery, a purpose that compliments what you want your players to feel create a unique and fun experience that is second to none.
ii. Creating In-game anticipation appeal:
Unsplash image by Williams Topa
Anticipation is best effective when the game satisfies the player's unconscious expectations. You control your players' perception and reaction to upcoming events with subtle anticipatory triggers like:
a. Sound, visual or motion effects to indicate an action or upcoming confrontation.
b. Creating consistent rules:
I'd advise your first game follows the natural laws of physics. However, be consistent, should you choose to stray.
For example, I would hate a game where my avatar can easily survive a 10-storey fall while in free roam; then I try it in a critical mission and end up splattered across the pavement.
c. Structured Pacing
Players find more fun in the structured rhythmic progression of a game. Ideally, you can pace active gameplays and in-game environments.
Say you design a zombie attack game; a typical fun-appealing tactical pacing of zombie waves could be:
In this case, the gamer unconsciously expects fewer but more deadly zombies as he goes up the waves; hence, he has fun strategizing and enjoying the battle without feeling overwhelmed unnecessarily.
Although, you could also simply increase the number of zombies per wave.
iii. Creating A Natural Sense Of Progression
Games' natural sense of progression is a combination of every of the game design foundation guidelines discussed in this article.
A player draws purpose, builds anticipation, and thus, a natural sense of progression when you communicate their goals in structured segments.
Once every action is backed by a purpose, and the player feels and sees that every action matters, there'd be a natural sense of progression and fun.
iv. Try Dynamism: makes your game replayable.
Incorporating dynamism in your games births replayability, which is especially useful in storyline games.
Storyline games get boring after finishing the game's main storyline and replaying the missions for side quests might not appeal much to people.
Especially if every achievable purpose must follow a strict pathway; players knowing exactly what will happen kills anticipation.
4. Designing Fun NFT Games: On-chain rewards and incentives
Play-To-Earn works best long-term when you tie your tokenomic incentives with already existing fairly stable gaming micro-transactions.
Here are a few proven recommendations by seven Lemniscap researchers on how to effectively incentive a P2E economy into your games:
i. Can your game stand alone without your P2E integration?
If Yes: You can go ahead with monetizing your game, as it will attract both real gamers and investors looking for the next big investment opportunity.
If No: Step back and satisfy this condition; the guidelines suggested in this article is a great starting place.
ii. How much is your gameplay based on NFTs?
NFTs actively involved with GamePlay: The Lemniscap paper suggests that you should employ a pay-to-earn model monetization for a game in which players will actively use the NFTs in their gameplay.
The players can buy the NFTs but will not earn with the NFTs unless they play with them.
This way, you'd effectively tie the NFTs function with its earning potential and will, in turn, provide an incentive for play and, ultimately, fun for the players.
Gameplay not influenced by NFTs: On the other hand, if your gameplay is in no way influenced by owning NFTs, that is, if your NFTs aren't in-game assets.
Or suppose they are in-game assets that don't require much use or affect the gameplay much. In that case, you could passively distribute the revenue generated from other players' purchases or micro-transaction to all holders.
NFT holders can earn passively by just holding their NFTs.
iii. Does your gameplay effectively measure players' skills?
You can skip this question if you plan to design a Play-and-Earn gaming ecosystem, not a Play-To-Earn where a player's earning potential is tied to playing time.
If Yes, It does: All right. You might need to distribute your P2E game's resources based on how skilled players are and how much progress they make.
You could measure skills with playtime-progression juxtaposition; a skilled player must've progressed further in the game than their less-skilled counterpart with equal playtime, etc.
You don't want to distribute the game's revenue based on participation because the highly skilled players would lose incentive and motivation to play, especially if the players can view the skill measurement.
If NO: The paper advises you to distribute resources based on participation strategically.
You could try a one-off payment per level to cut lazy earnings by replaying a single level multiple times.
Or even implement a system to ban any player trying a level more than a certain time after they've earned their reward from that level.
You get the gist.
iv. Did you design your game for a wide player base?
Yes, the whole world is hardly enough: You might want to lower your game's entry barrier in this case and adopt a free-to-play model. However, here are a few pros and cons of a free-to-play model.
Free To Play Cons solution: Provided you effectively incorporate your P2E incentives with useful in-game micro-transactions for your NFTs and tokens, players will play your game and actually enjoy it.
Therefore, your large community of true gamers spells larger demand for your tokens and in-game assets, increasing their values and, ultimately, drawing in investors.
Congrats, you're on track to creating a more realistic economy. Incorporate a Pay-To-Play model.
The easiest method is for players to buy in-game assets to play. However, you're in danger of generating more investors than actual gamers.
And should they (investors) find a loophole to earn more than you anticipated in your economic design, your game could crash, and they would quickly abandon you for the next better ROI.
However, you need not worry about this if your game is fun, to begin with; even if investors were drawn in with lucrative earnings on their minds, your fun gameplay would convert them into active gamers.
This would make them stay should your economy suffer and their earnings dip, giving you ample time to correct your economy.
5. Diversifying your Team and getting actual game designers:
Ideally, your blockchain game's development team should include:
6. Hire a Blockchain Game Writer:
Stories bond people with your game, especially as a marketing appeal.
Your Blockchain writer helps connect your game's appeal to your audience with; engaging game plots, characters' stories, in-game audio plots, sound-effect scripts, and other marketing content like press releases and social media posts to engage your community.
Send me a DM if you need a blockchain game writer.
Sustainability, Profitability, and Longevity
Blockchain Games, in general, are the gaming future, and if you want to stick around for longer, then you must be ready to compete with other P2E Games actively.
Suppose you go with the usual Crypto P2E Games' fashion and just whip out a game with only P2E monetization incentives without giving two sticks about your player's gaming experience; your game will not last long.
Your economic model cannot be foolproof; your game's fun would help you create non-linear economy support in the later stages' challenges of your game.
Besides this, many countries are cracking down hard on crypto economies without any useful and real monetization policies, e.g., schemes that the organization sustenance solely depends on new players.
People will always find a way to outsmart your economic policy.
Take the almighty Axie infinity; when people start investing as much as over $1,000 in crossbreeding teams, the axies supply quickly outmatched its demand leading to its tokens' devaluation.
Since Axies' gameplay has little impact on experience, its investors ran after their ROI dipped.
Fortunately, Axie Infinity has realized its shortcomings and is massively restructuring its economics, but the damage has been done.
But look at a game like Minecraft or GTA. They've been around for decades, yet people spend billions yearly on these games.
Because they ENJOY playing them. It's that simple.
The more fun people find your P2E game, the longer they'd stick around, continuously transact your digital assets in various in-game micro-transactions, increasing their value.
Ensuring true economic sustainability and profitability.
In addition, they'd easily refer newer members; you can literally earn forever without stress.
Your blockchain game's success and how fun it is perceived are tied together; one cannot exist without another.
Not for long, anyway.
Lead Image: Arstin Chen on Unsplash