If you’re trying to appeal to everyone, you won’t appeal to anyone. It’s good business practice to niche down. But most decentralized games don’t explicitly niche down. DGames might differentiate themselves based on design and game mechanics, but most don’t target a specific type of person. This general approach might have worked when there weren’t that many DGames available, but that’s no longer the case today. If you don’t target a specific audience, you significantly lower the chances of people choosing your DGame to spend their time on.
MLB Champions, formerly known as MLB Crypto Baseball, is one of the few DGames I know that does a good job of niching down. It’s a baseball game. As such, if you don’t know anything about baseball, you’ll have a hard time figuring out what the specific game terms mean (e.g. first base, hitting the cycle, the bullpen) and which baseball players you should buy. But if you’re a baseball enthusiast, then this is the DGame for you.
Not that Lucid Sight, the developer of MLB Champions, is limiting itself by niching down to baseball fans. The MLB, or Major League Baseball, is the oldest of all four major professional sports leagues in the US and Canada (older than the NBA, the NFL, and the NHL), and it has the highest season attendance of any sports league in the world, with just under seventy million spectators in 2018.
Judging from the game’s number of Twitter followers and the activity in the game’s Discord channel, it seems that at least a few MLB fans have found their way to MLB Champions. This is also reflected in its blockchain activity: MLB Champions ranks 8th in 24h ETH sales for games and 12th when it comes to the number of daily active users (DAU) for ETH games. Its DAU has a flux and flow that coincides with the actual MLB season, which runs from the end of March through to September.
Buying Collectibles in MLB Champions
MLB Champions is a baseball game on the Ethereum blockchain, where you can play with your own player figures. Every baseball game of MLB Champions is tied to an actual, live MLB game. The better your team does live, the more rewards you’ll get in MLB Champions.
As such, the first thing you’ll need to do to play MLB Champions is buy a figure of a baseball player. You need at least one, but the more figures you buy, the greater your chances of getting nice rewards. Ideally, you want to complete your favorite team.
There are a few ways to buy baseball figures. Firstly, you can buy diamonds with USD or ETH. A bundle of 500 diamonds costs $4.99, a bundle of 1,000 costs $9.99, a bundle of 2,000 costs $19.99. This goes all the way up to 25,000 diamonds for $249.99.
With these diamonds, you can buy packs of figures. On the one end, you can buy one 2019 figure and a few bonus caps for 750 diamonds. On the other end, you can buy 45 2019 figures and bonus caps for 32,000 diamonds. Each figure in a pack has a probability of receiving the following rarities: common (68.44%), uncommon (20.76%), rare (6.31%), ultra rare (2.61%), and epic (1.88%). All these figures will be newly created non-fungible tokens (NFTs) on the Ethereum blockchain.
Diamonds also allow you to buy a 2019 Season Pass (50,000 diamonds), which will give you 2x reward caps for your gamecards, 10 free postseason gamecards, and a 2019 end-of-season trophy, as well as cap modifiers that double the amount of caps you can receive during a single MLB Champions game.
Another way to buy MLB figures is through the game’s marketplace. I was impressed with the filtering capabilities of the game’s marketplace. You can filter by team, by a player’s position in real life, by name, and even by the glove, bat, and stance of a figure. The cheapest figures currently go for 0.01 ETH (around $2.35 at the time of writing).
Each individual figure has some information about the team they play in, as well as their specific attributes, such as the base they stand on, the stance they’re holding, and a game event. Reymin Guduan, for example, is a pitcher playing for the Houston Astros. There’s a Remin Guduan figure for sale in the marketplace with a common base, the “release” stance, and the “double” game event (which is when a batter strikes the ball and safely reaches second base).
As you can see from the screenshot above, each figure is beautifully illustrated in 3D. Lucid Sight created its own engine, the Scarcity Engine, to help bridge the gap between blockchain technology and platforms for traditional games. As such, their figures are designed through a combination of the Scarcity Engine and the popular game engine Unity. You can spin figures around, zoom in and out, and even see how they look in fullscreen.
The third and final way to buy MLB figures is through OpenSea, a platform that also provides wonderful filtering capabilities. Here, you can offer on figures and buy figures in bundles, instead of individually.
For the 2019 MLB Champions Season, Lucid Sight added a “Player Rarity Index” (PRI). It’s a system that will track a player’s performance and adjust the rarity values for each player. The better they play, the rarer they become, but the higher the chance they’ll generate rare attributes. Players’ PRI rating will be updated after every game.
This means you shouldn’t just buy any figure. You’ll need to use your best judgment to determine whether you think that player will have a good season or not. If he’s still injured, for example, it might be better to buy another figure. If you think he’s in stellar shape, then that serves as all another reason to buy his MLB Champions figure.
Setting Up Your MLB Gamecard
Once you’ve bought a few figures, it’s time to create your first gamecard. It’s taken a while for Lucid Sight to release this part of their game. Although the MLB season started in March, gameplay only launched May 25 this year. It’s their Minimum Viable Product: it’s not that fast yet and there are still a few bugs to iron out. But fans had been eagerly anticipating its release, and it’s finally here.
You can create a gamecard for each team. If you don’t have any figures of a specific team, the game will point that out and you won’t be able to create a gamecard. I had bought Greg Bird from the New York Yankees, so my first gamecard was a Yankees one.
Once you have your gamecard, you allocate figures to a certain position on the field, on the bench, or in the bullpen (where the pitchers warm up). This makes for a total of 22 positions (9 in the field, 6 on the bench, and 7 in the bullpen) which is significantly more than the number of positions available for the MLB Champions 2018 Season.
Greg Bird is a first baseman, so that’s where I placed him. He also has a “hit the cycle” event as an attribute, so I could choose that as a game event. The Yankees were playing the Indians when I was setting up this gamecard, so I had to use my best judgment to determine whether a Yankees batter would hit the cycle (i.e. hit a single, a double, a triple, and a home run) during this game. If he did, I’d earn more caps (MLB Champions’ in-game currency) after the game. On each gamecard, you can also apply a caps modifier to double the number of caps you receive after a game.
All this is done off the Ethereum blockchain, which means that you won’t be paying transaction fees for every action you take. Changes will also happen immediately and won’t be delayed because the Ethereum blockchain needs to verify them. All this makes for a much smoother playing experience.
After every game, depending on how well you predicted the game’s events and how well your team performed, you’ll earn a certain amount of caps. You can use these caps to unlock post-game rewards, as well as rewards outside of the regular baseball games. There are also daily drops available to players of both teams after a game, where they can purchase random MLB figures of both teams and a fixed number of legendary event figures. After 24h, these figures will become available to all players in MLB Champions.
Lucid Sight will also generate rewards based on legendary, real-life events. If a baseball player gets three hits in a single inning, for example, a very rare event, Lucid Sight will generate a special legendary event figure, on a special base with details about the actual event. This figure can then be placed on a gamecard just like any other figure. You can win such a reward by accurately predicting the game event on your gamecard.
A Unique Partnership
All of the above adds a whole new dimension to a baseball game. No longer will you simply watch a Yankees game and go home. If you’d predicted a shutout (where a single pitcher completes a game and doesn’t allow the opposing team to score a run) and it miraculously happens in real life, you know you’ll have a ton of rewards waiting for you when you log into MLB Champions.
This is perhaps why actual MLB teams have shown interest in the game. In a first for the blockchain world, a major league team partnered up with a blockchain game developer. On the 21st of September 2018, the LA Dodgers partnered up with Lucid Sight to distribute physical ETH cards during the LA Dodgers vs the San Diego Padres. Each ETH card represented a Dodger figure in MLB Champions, which you could redeem through the MLB Champions website.
It’s a wonderful marketing opportunity for MLB Champions that draws in new players to their game, while also reinforcing the Dodgers’ brand in a unique and innovative way. If more teams pick up on this, MLB Champions will be in a unique position: enhancing the experience of an industry that has millions of fans and earns billions of dollars in revenue, while using technology that’s still relatively unknown and unused by most people.
The Future of MLB Champions
Although MLB Champions already has a mobile-ready website, Lucid Sight is working on an iOS and Android app, which should make it even easier to buy figures, make changes to your gamecard, and check your rewards. You don’t even need to leave the stadium. Additionally, you can expect the Lucid Sight team to continuously improve the game. They’re active on all social media channels, are themselves devoted baseball fans, and have a great standalone website that clearly shows who they are and what they do (unfortunately not a given in the blockchain gaming industry).
MLB Champions is a game that gets many things right. It’s a game for baseball fans that makes baseball more fun. It’s beautifully designed (from the website down to the actual figures), isn’t extravagantly expensive, allows you to buy figures with dollars (for those who don’t have Ether sitting ready), and it gives players plenty of rewards if they can accurately predict real-life baseball events. If you love baseball and you’re interested in blockchain technology, this is the first game you should check out.