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Can Web3 Win the Hearts and Minds of Everyday Gamers?

Photo by kabita Darlami / Unsplash

The global video game industry is a $220 billion business, its revenue generated by a combination of committed daily gamers and their recreational, non-hardcore counterparts. While the former are most likely to be sucked into the web3 world, casual gamers will be fundamental to popularizing games that are powered by blockchain technology.

Going After the Gamers

The gaming industry is on a roll right now, and if forecasts are to be believed, the industry will be worth a cool $435 billion by 2028. With the regularly release of new consoles and games, there is always something for players to spend their money on.

Casual gamers might be less valuable on a per-head basis, but they are just as important a market. Players who spend a few hours here and there gaming on smartphones, social networking sites, laptops and consoles are probably the key to unlocking the potential of blockchain gaming, particularly concepts like play-to-earn and gamified finance (gamefi). After all, you can’t go mainstream without first converting the mainstreamers.

Appealing to gamers who casually play free titles, or those with a low barrier to entry, will be the litmus test of crypto and metaverse games. You see, once these players dip their toes in, it’s likely – or at least possible – that they will find themselves hooked and willing to spend cash on coveted in-game items (NFTs) or upgrades.

Interestingly, a 2018 survey found that 64% players who enjoy free games said they would be willing to watch a video in return for new points, higher levels, extra lives, and skills. If most are willing to watch a spammy advert to acquire such perks, why wouldn't they gravitate to games that reward them simply for playing?

Web3 Tech: Blockchain, NFTs and Play-to-Earn

The internet changed the gaming landscape, moving players from their bedrooms and consoles into, well, every space imaginable. Suddenly, it was possible to play casual games on the go via smartphone, tablet or laptop, and to interact with players from around the world simultaneously.

This shift has caused a multi-year boom in the market – and blockchain gaming developers are looking to maintain that momentum. The goal? To create dedicated gamers who buy and trade NFTs, who build and nurture communities, who spread the good on social media. Developers also want to entice creative casual gamers in by offering them a suite of editing and customization tools, which in some cases can be used to monetize virtual experiences.

Web3 technologies have given rise to a new kind of financialized gaming industry, with blockchain powering play-to-earn games and decentralized gaming applications (dApps). Instead of playing for fun, you can now play for fun and earn cryptocurrency into the bargain. Creative gameplay can become a side hustle or even a full-time job. Will such a concept appeal to casual gamers who just want to keep monotony at bay? Time will tell.

Thus far, web3 games have mostly been niche products, although some have captured global attention. At its peak, Axie Infinity, a tradeable NFT game inspired by Pokemon, drove weekly NFT sales volume of $753 million. Decentraland – a virtual world powered by the Ethereum blockchain – sold a plot of digital land for $2.43 million.

Even a casual gamer who plays a simple game on his smartphone during the morning commute might explore more options upon learning that fact.

Ultimately, it remains to be seen whether the hearts and minds of such gamers will be won. Perhaps it will take many years. Possibly the metaverse will be the magnet for their attention, the vast virtual reality worlds navigable via VR/AR headsets. Maybe everyone will soon have a digital avatar, a web3 wallet, and a collection of random collectibles from a dozen different games.

Unlike traditional console or PC gaming, which requires a significant initial investment, the metaverse can be accessed from any internet-connected device, making it easier for casual players to get involved. The social nature of the metaverse adds another incentive, and an increasing number of businesses are setting up shop there.

Of course, the evolution of the metaverse might have the opposite effect for some, compelling them to escape our fast-mutating modern world and find solace in analog technologies: a Casio wristwatch, a cheap pair of 3D glasses, an old Nintendo games console. Who can really predict what's on the horizon?