Finding the ‘Holy Grail’ of blockchain gaming tracks in the next bull market
Quest for blockchain gaming's 'Holy Grail' in the next bull market
When it comes to blockchain games, what comes to mind is the deadly death spiral of the 1.0 era. Our Guatian Lab has been discussing this topic since February 2021, and so far, there are only a few surviving projects after the tides have receded.
Nowadays, there is a surge of blockchain games that emphasize playability. Most of them are excellent teams from WEB2 games who have switched to the WEB3 game track, showing a trend of leading the development of blockchain games 2.0.
This article explores the following: in the upcoming next bull market, is this playability-focused blockchain game most likely to find the “Holy Grail”? If so, as a user, how can you logically find a specific project and position yourself in advance?
1. About the “Holy Grail”
1. Cryptocurrency “Holy Grail”
It was also in February 2021, the founder of BiHu, the largest Chinese blockchain content platform, GuLu, shared a wonderful speech in the community titled “Looking for the Cryptocurrency Holy Grail: BiHu Founder GuLu analyzes the potential of productivity platforms such as Ethereum.” The Holy Grail mentioned here can be understood as “explosive projects”.
GuLu believes that after Ethereum (ETH) transitions to the Proof-of-Stake (PoS) consensus mechanism in 2022, it will have an annual deflation rate of about 0.15%, which will open up the second curve of Ethereum’s growth. Currently, Ethereum’s annual deflation rate is about 0.43%. Currently, EIP-1559 has burned 3,550,364 ETH, and the bull market will accelerate deflation. In addition, Ethereum is the infrastructure of Layer 2 (L2), and the prosperity of L2 means the prosperity of Ethereum. Ethereum is expected to rise rapidly in the future. Hold on and support it!
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2. The “Holy Grail” of the 1.0 era of blockchain games
Undoubtedly, these two projects are:
- Axie Infinity, with estimated total revenue exceeding $400 million and a highest market capitalization of $10.4 billion;
- STEPN, with estimated total revenue exceeding $200 million and a highest market capitalization of $2.3 billion.
(These figures do not include token sale revenue)
3. What about the “Holy Grail” of blockchain games 2.0?
Based on the results of the previous round, we can estimate that the total revenue will exceed $300 million. The overall lifecycle will be longer, and for a period of one year, the low-income period will be the first three months, and the decline period will be the last three months. Daily revenue may range from $2 million to $10 million.
Currently, it is August 2023. Although it seems to be in a deep bear market, BTC has already risen from around $15,500 to around $30,000. There are reports that global top financial institutions are secretly deploying Bitcoin, betting on the last frenzied bull market in the cryptocurrency circle (the mainstream voice said the same in the last round). The estimated market capitalization of the “Holy Grail” project in the next round of blockchain games will exceed $15 billion.
2. Sub-categories of blockchain games: Asset Composition
The ultimate goal of this article is to find the “Holy Grail” project. However, even in a bear market, new blockchain game projects emerge in various forms and with mixed qualities. It would be exhausting to analyze each one, so you need to be prepared with an effective heart-saving pill.
We need to establish a methodology for finding projects, starting from larger categories and then narrowing down. Let’s first talk about categories: there are many ways to categorize blockchain games, and W Labs has provided detailed classifications in previous articles. This article categorizes blockchain games into four types based on asset composition. Let’s see which of these four types are more likely to find the “Holy Grail” project:
1. Games with a focus on NFT breeding: Axie Infinity, STEPN
These two projects started the era of blockchain games 1.0. They both gained fame in the previous bull market, with Axie rising at the beginning of the bull market and STEPN gaining traction at the end. They are now waiting for the next bull market to arrive, preparing to relaunch the “Holy Grail” aura, and their products are being iterated and improved:
It has been listed on the Apple Store and Google Store in some countries, helping to attract more new Web2 players.
Previously, players had to buy three Axies to play the game, but in the recent update, a free mode was introduced. Free players can accumulate materials and upgrade given Axies through daily and weekly tasks, giving them a chance to obtain decently strong Axies and allowing new users to get started and enjoy the game more quickly.
It introduced the concept of the FSL ecosystem and launched DOOAR, mainly used for multi-chain decentralized exchanges. It also launched MOOAR, a multi-chain NFT marketplace and launchpad. The studio behind STEPN will soon release a new game called Gashero, and they have also collaborated on multiple games.
Currently, STEPN has also been listed on the Apple Store and Google Store, and users can purchase running shoes with credit cards. They are also committed to attracting more new Web2 players.
Both of these top players from the previous round belong to the breeding category, highlighting the charm of breeding. Behind breeding lies the distinctive characteristics of a Ponzi model. As mentioned by Guagua in an article on W Labs titled “Why are all Web3 projects Ponzi models?”, the Ponzi model itself is neither good nor bad (scams are bad), but it directly targets the greed and arrogance in human nature.
It is worth mentioning that the broadly defined Ponzi model is also common in real life: many internet companies in the past decade have used massive subsidies to attract users, which is also a form of Ponzi model; the recent hit local fantasy epic “Fengshen Bang 1” also used a similar model. In the end, there was a scene that shocked the audience: “The Grand Tutor returned to the court with the Four Great Heavenly Kings,” creating infinite anticipation for the second part and laying the foundation for its box office success. This can be considered an exquisite and elegant Ponzi model, like the “Grand Tutor of Ponzi models.”
However, whether this category can continue to shine in the next round, in terms of the “speculate on new, not on old” characteristics of the cryptocurrency circle, it needs to show users a different new narrative, which is very challenging.
2. NFT mining and DeFi combination games: MBOX, Tiny world
In the era of blockchain games 1.0, MBOX also achieved great success. It was once the leader of blockchain games on BSC and had the highest circulating market value of 1 billion US dollars. Following this path is Tiny world, which is very similar to MBOX in terms of its model, with a maximum circulating market value of about 150 million US dollars (50% of tokens were burned, and the burned part was not included in the calculation).
However, the DeFi part can only be understood and played by Web3 users and advanced users, which makes it easy for novice users to be discouraged, and it is also difficult to attract Web2 users in the short term.
Those who are not losers are hard to win the world. From the current perspective, the possibility of finding a “holy grail” in this category is even smaller than the first category.
3. Full-chain games: Dark Forest, Loot
Full-chain games have been very popular recently. They are games where the rules, calculation logic, and data storage are all completed on the chain. To expand a bit, full-chain games do not require permission on the chain, and assets can be freely combined. It was gradually mentioned by everyone at the beginning of this year and received widespread discussion on Twitter in June and July.
We have always believed that current full-chain games cannot be classified as games, but as a special category similar to DeFi, because the current user group is not the same as ordinary game users. They are basically a group of WEB3 builders and believers. However, full-chain games are seeds with orthodox encryption genes. For example, Dark Forest was created by Brian Gu in 2020. At that time, he was still working at the Ethereum Foundation. During his research, he found ZK to be interesting and happened to want to make a game, so the experimental product was born. He tried a new technology, zero-knowledge proofs, to solve the problem of war fog in the game. From that moment on, full-chain games started to have a bit of a game-like appearance.
But we must insist on supporting and encouraging these types of products to move forward. This is the hope that WEB3 may replace WEB2 in certain areas in the future, such as the application of zero-knowledge proofs in WEB3 Texas Hold’em. Traditional WEB2 online poker is basically not safe to play, especially after watching “Dying to Survive,” we all know that people like Wang Chuanjun (“Sleeping on the floor today, sleeping with the boss tomorrow”) can manipulate the system and get any desired cards. However, if zero-knowledge proofs are used in WEB3 Texas Hold’em, the dealing mechanism can be transparent.
The whole-chain game applies the characteristics of blockchain, but currently there are many limitations that are not conducive to the design of complex logic and rules in games. Therefore, it is currently mainly focused on building infrastructure and exploring, and the product experience for ordinary users is not sufficient. It is unlikely that the “Holy Grail” project will appear in the short term.
4. Games with only core assets on the chain and high playability
The highly anticipated era of Chain Game 2.0 is derived from the idea that there will be a new bull market based on WEB3, and the necessary condition for the next bull market is that certain new opportunities through the WEB3 track will attract a large number of new users and institutions. When these new users enter, there must be applications that allow them to play. This category is aimed at this goal:
– Focus on playability, allowing new users to have fun;
– Focus on product experience, not pursuing complete on-chain at this stage, just need to have core assets on the chain;
– Focus on building a user ecosystem, bringing the project closer to the users, and ideally making users feel like they are part of the project.
In our view, this category of games is the most likely to touch the Holy Grail in the next bull market, and it is also the most important category that W Labs has focused on from last year to this year. It has several characteristics:
- The production teams are mostly outstanding teams from WEB2 games. They have standards for the playability, completeness, and ornamental value of games. After all, Chinese games have led the mobile game industry for ten years, and there is a wealth of experience and talent accumulated;
- The playability of the products is obviously higher than that of native WEB3 games, and they are familiar with the preferences of ordinary users (this is the most important point);
- The original WEB2 thinking is deeply rooted, and the WEB3 operational thinking is insufficient;
So how to select the “Holy Grail” project in this category? The definition of playability is subjective, and everyone has their own judgment. You may love MOBA while I like SLG, you play cards while I play Mahjong. Therefore, this article sets a criterion: as long as a certain WEB3 chain game inherits the essence of a popular WEB2 game worldwide, or even directly replicates it, then its playability has been verified by a large number of ordinary users. We will analyze the Holy Grail projects from these projects.
We have selected three representative WEB3 chain game projects “Matr1x Fire, Seraph, and Oil War” from W Labs’ project database as case studies, and analyze them one by one. They represent different game types, different WEB2 benchmark projects, and different development stages.
III. Case Analysis: Fierce Competition for the “Holy Grail”
1. Matr1x Fire: WEB3‘s CSgo
Friends who have played CS are getting older, they have been influenced by shooting games since they were young. It’s like 30 years later, friends who play PUBG are no longer young, they have been saying “Winner winner, chicken dinner” since they were young.
Matr1x Fire started making moves in the market in Q3 2022. W Labs initially conducted background checks on the team and sent people to experience the game. It is indeed a team from a big company, with years of experience in FPS research, development, and operation, and has financing and good fundamentals. Our style is to prefer to invest in losses rather than make wrong investments; we would rather be cautious before birth than have a grand funeral.
After confirming that we can continue to follow up, we opened a dedicated channel for discussion in the Guatian community WGGDAO and called on Guatian friends to pay more attention to Matr1x. They actively organized sign-ups for the first and second tests. At present, Matr1x seems to be the most promising “Holy Grail” project in the first half of 2023, at least in terms of the price of the main NFT2061 (from Mint Price 0.1E to the current 1.3E), which reflects the users’ trust in the project.
Let me give you a brief introduction to the basic information of the project:
Matr1x Fire is a Web3 FPS shooting game that incorporates the mature business model of CSgo, as well as the innovation of issuing assets on the Web3 and putting them on the chain. It combines game NFT art, esports events, and million-word novels to create a Web3 brand.
The team members have more than 8 years of experience in game development and publishing, and the founding team members all come from major game companies, participating in the research, development, and publishing of more than 10 large-scale games. The total revenue of their game projects exceeds 3 billion US dollars, and the active user base is close to 100 million. They have also accumulated rich experience in global market product distribution, with team members distributed in South Korea, Japan, the United States, Singapore, Hong Kong, and other places.
Matr1x successfully completed a Series A financing of $10 million in 2022. The investors include Hana Financial Group, the second-largest financial group in South Korea, early investors of Ethereum such as Hashkey Capital, Amber Group, and Seven X.
In Matr1x Fire, in addition to experiencing traditional shooting content such as various game modes, multiple game maps, support for small-scale esports, team esports, and hosting events, players can also obtain item skins by opening loot boxes in the game for a certain fee. Both the loot boxes and item skins exist in the form of NFTs and can be freely traded on the blockchain.
Let’s take a look at its benchmark WEB2 game CSgo. On March 25th of this year, the number of simultaneous online players reached a new high, surpassing 1.5 million. The number of boxes opened in March increased by 17 million compared to February, and the estimated revenue in March was at least $100 million. The old sword is still sharp.
In fact, the treasure chests, keys, skins, and items in shooting games can naturally be made into independent NFTs, with a high degree of compatibility. In the Web3 business model, the project team issues more NFTs to help with the initial launch and community cohesion, and to establish consensus. This is also the reason why Matr1x assets are on fire:
● YATC trophy NFT, reflecting the value of champions, can help establish attractive events in the early stage;
● MAX Token, reflecting the value of the entire ecosystem, can connect more resources and continuously attract resources to the ecosystem;
● 2061 NFT, rewarding early supporters, reflecting the value of players, and accurately targeting FPS players in the early stage;
● Character NFT, raising the threshold for gold farming in the game without conflicting with free users, mainly to prevent mass farming by secondary accounts;
The project team has found players who like FPS games, explored incremental markets, and tirelessly conveyed a shared vision that can be built together. They have outlined a Web3 version of the esports blueprint and solved many long-standing problems faced by Web3 projects, such as how to attract new users when the number of Web3 users is too small, how to break the death spiral of assets, and where to find the first wave of seed users for the product.
Matr1x Fire is on the path to the “Holy Grail”. The actions taken in August to break through the limitations of the Web3 stock market have created a sense of breaking free from the dilemma of balancing playability and economy. The win-to-earn model also extends the cycle of the death spiral inherently. The team’s adeptness in fundraising has also given users the confidence that they can survive until the next bull market. Within W Labs, we often use the term “hexagonal warrior” to describe Matr1x.
I seem to hear a new friend say, “Matr1x is already a blue-chip blockchain game project, what should we do if we missed out on the early stage?” Don’t worry, this is why we have analyzed three cases. Matr1x was the earliest to start, let’s take a look at the others and learn the analytical logic behind them.
2. SERAPH: The Big Pineapple of Web3 (Diablo)
Seraph is another project that has been popular during the internal testing phase in the past few months: it has conducted two internal tests in April and July this year, and the test results were quite good. According to the information obtained from the project team AMA, there were 3500 and 4200 players respectively participating in the tests (not addresses, but accounts), with an average online duration of 4 hours and considerable user retention data.
The game is an ARPG, with the main idea of killing monsters, collecting equipment, and monetizing them, which has continuously increased the “grind” level of the game. It has to be said that this kind of gameplay, where you keep grinding for equipment sets, has many loyal fans.
Introduction to Seraph: Seraph is an ARPG game similar to Diablo. It is developed by Actoz Soft, a Korean game company that has released well-known titles such as “Millennium,” “Legend,” and “A3.” The game follows the dark fantasy theme and is set in a dark era, a time calling for heroes. There are a total of 5 heroes to choose from (currently only Barbarian, Mage, and Valkyrie are available), and players embark on an adventure, constantly killing enemies using mouse and keyboard.
The main assets in the game are equipment, as well as gems, jewels, and runes that can be socketed. After leveling up, heroes can learn different skills and spells by allocating skill points. After completing basic adventures and meeting certain conditions, players can unlock Chaos Mode, Void Realm, and Abyss Mode, which drop different types and levels of items and equipment. In the web3 part of the game, special NFTs (Unique NFTs) are used to empower the production of Soul SLianGuair, which can be used to further upgrade NFTs and obtain tickets for Chaos Mode. The core token $SRF is mainly used for NFT identification, equipment forging, and governance participation.
Seraph is comparable to the WEB2 game series Diablo with the release of “Diablo 4” in June this year. Let’s take a look at the data: it sold nearly $700 million, and the first season starting in July had 7.1 million characters. Sounds good, right? But players have been criticizing it, especially after the patch before the season, the rating dropped to 2.6. In fact, criticizing Blizzard has become a daily social behavior for Blizzard players, hahaha.
Even if the comparable game is criticized, it cannot conceal the fierce user base of such games, as evidenced by Seraph’s two closed beta tests. However, so far, Seraph’s operation has been lacking. The community has been quietly conducting joint promotion activities, including a Twitter announcement of a reward of 500,000 U, but there has been no dissemination in various web3 communities. At the same time, the total trading volume of the previously released NFT “Seraph Priority LianGuaiss” is only 31 ETH, and everyone does not know how this NFT will be empowered. We are more inclined to believe that the overall operation plan has not been fully deployed, and the project side is currently only laying the groundwork. We hope that the project side can spend more effort on research in the operation and node steps.
Overall, Seraph’s product quality is excellent, and through the nostalgia of riding on the wave of Diablo, it has provided players who enjoy playing games with a true gaming community in the boring bear market. In addition, the direction of the economic model revealed in the project’s AMA will be based on “equipment NFTs,” which is also worth looking forward to. We will keep an eye on it to see if Seraph has the ability to reach the “Holy Grail.”
3. Oil War: Oil Tycoon of WEB3
I have a special fondness for simulation business games. A few years ago, I played a game called “Turmoil,” which is an oil tycoon game in the WEB2 gaming world, and I never got tired of it. Recently, while organizing new blockchain games that have been released, I stumbled upon a game called “Oil War: Oil War” and downloaded it immediately to give it a try, spending 10U.
Regarding the user base in the WEB3 community, hardcore gamers are still a minority, and most players lean towards casual gaming. Therefore, business development games are naturally more suitable for the current blockchain gaming scene. The success of games like “Farm World” and “Sunflower” during the previous bull market is proof of this. What’s the point of killing and fighting every day? Planting flowers, building towers, fishing, stealing vegetables – you can earn dozens of U every day. The low entry barrier and strong social aspect make business development games a popular choice. Additionally, these types of games are also well-suited for the Ponzi model in terms of token flow.
Now, let’s talk about the basic information of “Oil War: Oil War.” It is a WEB3 simulation business game that simulates the complete process from oil extraction to sales. First, let’s take a look at the background of the game. The game developer is MetaSensor, and the publisher is Surf Guild, a blockchain gaming studio with an 8-year background in traditional gaming. They raised $1 million in seed funding and collaborated with well-known partners such as Wemade, BlockchainsLianGuaice, and Playmining.
Similar to “Matr1x” and “Seraph,” “Oil War” is also an imitation and continuation of the classic WEB2 game “Oil Tycoon.” QQ Farm and SimCity, which are popular business development games in traditional gaming, have a strong user base. Currently, blockchain gaming lacks users, so it is hoped that “Oil War” can highlight this characteristic of the game itself.
However, unlike “Oil Tycoon,” “Oil War” not only includes basic PVE mining map challenges, leveling up, and making money, but it also introduces unique gameplay such as team tournaments, item systems, and land management. The consignment function allows players to engage in free trading, and by combining the game with WEB3, players have the opportunity to earn abundant crypto assets.
In the game, players can earn game tokens called “oil coins” by completing daily tasks, achieving rewards, ranking in teams, and developing and managing land. These tokens can be exchanged for governance tokens (OT) at a fixed ratio of 1000:1 and further exchanged for other on-chain assets, allowing players to monetize their in-game achievements. Currently, the game only offers PVE and tournament gameplay, but there is great anticipation for the introduction of more advanced gameplay in the future. It has the potential to become an excellent business development game.
The game economy model of “Oil War” is a typical fusion of WEB2 and WEB3. The game will be available on Google Play and the App Store, following the traditional in-app purchase model, allowing players to deposit money through traditional means. At the same time, the project team has developed a game service platform called ComLianGuaiss specifically for WEB3 (similar to Wemix by Yoozoo Games), which facilitates the trading of in-game virtual assets (NFT assets, governance token OT, etc.). It also enables NFT and token-to-token trading with mainstream games and WEB3 assets on the market, connecting to a broader WEB3 world.
From the construction framework of the ComLianGuaiss platform and ecosystem, it can be seen that the project party’s layout for web3 is relatively pragmatic and long-term-oriented—using comLianGuaiss as an entry point to leverage web3 resources and leverage them, and filling the platform content with their expertise in game development, while integrating Web3 and community resources through platforms like Surf Guild DAO. This three-stage layout of development, trading, and operation forms a complete ecological closed loop. If it can be put into motion, it will generate a powerful wheel effect, providing the project party with a continuous source of expansion power.
Another point that must be emphasized is that from the preview of the next version update of the game, it is found that the product will soon integrate advertising SDK interfaces. Could it be that the project party has found advertisers? If so, it’s amazing. We have always emphasized that external income is one of the best ways to solve the death spiral, rather than the project party and players cutting each other. This game is also related to oil. Did they get sponsorship from the Middle Eastern sheikhs? Haha.
Compared to the popular Matr1x and Seraph, which have undergone two rounds of official testing, Oil War is in an earlier stage and may be more suitable for players who hope to enter at an early stage to buy low. Currently, Oil War is still in its early trial stage, and the community is also in its early stage. Interested players can try this style of game, which has excellent graphics and will support more language versions in the future (including Chinese).
We believe that in the rolling wheel of web3 games, there are always outstanding projects that stand out, some last for a long time, while others are short-lived. The length of a game’s lifecycle, in addition to the different economic models of the game itself, is more dependent on the game’s content, quality, and the success or failure of subsequent operations.
From the perspective of users, how can we find blockchain games that may become the “holy grail” in the next bull market? This article presents one train of thought:
First, the next bull market in the crypto circle will still rely on a large number of new users;
Second, new users will not immediately enter high-threshold blockchain or DeFi games. They are more accepting of products in the blockchain gaming category that have high playability and product quality similar to the WEB2 games they are familiar with. Therefore, the most likely “holy grail” will emerge in the category of blockchain games that are on-chain with core assets and have high playability;
Third, find WEB3 products that imitate traditional popular games and analyze them from various aspects to verify their potential to become the “holy grail”.
This article lists three cases. Currently, Matr1x is the earliest and most outstanding one. The entire team, from the founder to the community members, is deeply committed to a player-centric and community-centric approach, leaving no effort to promote the game.
Seraph can be considered a high-quality work based on the quality of the game and the data from the internal testing. Looking forward to seeing the actions of the project team in operation and community, so that they can make good use of the accumulated momentum and truly take off.
Oil War is obviously still in the early stage of building up momentum, but from the project team’s layout (game development and download, ComLianGuaiss trading platform construction, and Surf Guild community), we can vaguely glimpse its ambition in web3, and it will also be an excellent web3 game ecological product that focuses on quality and players.
Finally, it is worth emphasizing that the “Holy Grail” project is hard to come by. In the last bull market, only two projects emerged, and hitting one of them resulted in a hundredfold return. Therefore, it is even more important to conduct in-depth research in every aspect. We have delved deep into the growth journey of the previous two Holy Grail projects, which was actually an exciting journey, until the entrepreneurial team was transformed into invincible iron warriors in a short period of time. As the saying goes, having many skills does not overwhelm oneself, and being carefree like Pan Lv and Deng Xiaoxian. This way, even if you draw a blind box with Xiaolongnü, you can mint Madam Ma (why did I suddenly come up with this sentence, it’s strange).
End of this article.
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Case Study Official Website
Oil War: oilwar.surfguild.io