Gaming is one of the best applications for blockchain technology. Billions of people are gamers, many of whom are familiar with the concepts of digital item ownership, in-game currencies, and digital identities. While blockchain is an under-the-hood technology, its benefits are not. Full ownership of digital items with real-world value is already enough of a benefit to have spawned an entirely new branch of the gaming industry: decentralized gaming (DGaming).
It’s early days, still. Many DGaming projects are one-man initiatives on a shoestring budget. But there’s little doubt that the DGaming industry will only grow and DGames will only improve. Ubisoft’s interest in blockchain technology for its games is only one indicator of the growing momentum of the DGaming industry. I have no doubt many AAA game studios will soon follow Ubisoft’s example.
As the long-form content creator for DGaming.com, I’ve tried and tested 25 of the most popular DGames over the last few months. I’ve delved deep into each game, spending hundreds of hours (and dollars) understanding each individual game. It’s given me a good impression of the current state of the industry, which I will present to you in this article. I’ll also hand out my own DGaming awards to some of my favorite DGames, and I’ll finish off with what I believe makes for a great DGame.
Which Games Did I Play?
Let me start by simply listing the DGames I’ve played and linked to the reviews I wrote about them. I’ve grouped them according to the primary DApp platform they run on and listed them by review date (from last reviewed to first reviewed).
- Ethereum DGames (19)
- MLB Champions
- Evolution Land (also on TRON)
- World of Ether
- Dragon King
- Chibi Fighters (also on TRON)
- My Crypto Heroes
- Blockchain Cuties (also on EOS and TRON)
- Axie Infinity
- EOS DGames (5)
- Solitaire Duel
- EOS Dynasty
- 0xWarriors (also on TRON)
- EOS Knights
- STEEM DGames (1)
- Steem Monsters (also on TRON)
As you can see from the above list, the majority of DGames I’ve played have been Ethereum DGames. Ethereum remains the predominant DApp platform, although I believe it’s not the best DApp platform for games, an opinion that’s been reinforced as I have compared Ethereum DGames with DGames on other DApp platforms. But more on that later.
Another trend that I’ve started noticing is that an increasing number of DGames are incorporating multiple blockchains into their games. Blockchain Cuties is a prime example of this: it supports Ethereum, EOS, and TRON. This isn’t an easy feat; their game developers need to accommodate for three different types of wallets and run their game on three separate blockchains.
But game developers want gamers to play their game regardless of the blockchain they prefer, and that’s a good thing. Eventually, not only will DGames support many different DApp platforms, but gamers will be able to transfer assets from one blockchain to the other and they’ll be able to play with and against players from other blockchains, all without realizing they’re moving between blockchains.
Before I hand out awards for what I consider are some of the best games of the DGaming industry, I want to emphasize that this is a very young industry that needs people to believe in it. It’s why I refrain from directly naming the worst DGames I’ve played. The very last thing I want to do is discourage budding DApp developers from creating the next DGame. Instead, I want them to look at the award winners of the following categories for inspiration, to understand what excellent games in the industry look like.
Finally, these are the official Thomas De Moor awards, based on my own personal playing experience, and don’t necessarily represent the opinions of DGaming as a business.
With that said, here are my winners in each category.
- Best DApp Platform
I’ve already hinted at it above, but the award for best DApp Platform does not go to Ethereum. Several Ethereum DGames do not have their game mechanics on a sidechain, which resulted in me having to pay Ethereum gas fees for every action I made. Not only is it unpleasant to give away some of your money at every step, but it breaks the flow of the game too.
That’s why EOS receives the award for Best DApp Platform. EOS DGames all have a much better flow than Ethereum DGames, and you don’t need to spend money on fees to play (although you do need to stake a certain amount of money). Additionally, the Scatter desktop application and the TokenPocket mobile application for EOS have both worked wonderfully well as wallets.
- Most Newb-Friendly
Not all DGames are easy to start playing. If you’re entirely new to blockchain technology, you’ll need to cross plenty of hurdles before you can start playing certain DGames. It’s why we’ve written a guide on how to play Ethereum DGames.
This being said, certain DGames make it very easy for a complete newb to start playing. One game in particular stands out in this category; CryptoKitties wins the award for Most Newb-Friendly game. Everything about CryptoKitties is approachable: its website copy is clear, its design is welcoming, their documentation is thorough, and they have wonderful tutorials (Kitten Classes) to explain how their game works. It’s the perfect game to understand blockchain technology.
- Best Idea
Some DGames make better use of blockchain technology than others. Ironically, the trick isn’t to make your game entirely about blockchain. It’s to take the best features of blockchain technology and implement that into a fun game.
At least, that’s what I thought. But one DGame takes the concept of blockchain technology in a game even further. Not only do they implement the best features of the technology into a fun game, but they enhance the experience of an otherwise offline experience. That game is MLB Champions, and it’s why I’m giving it the Best Idea award.
MLB Champions (MLBC) focuses entirely on baseball fans. It’s a well-chosen niche, because millions of people are passionate about baseball and because it differentiates MLBC from its DGaming competitors. Additionally, actual MLB baseball teams have taken note, as a few are working together with MLBC to improve the baseball experience for their fans. That’s awesome!
I also want to give a shout-out to CryptoDozer, a DGame that propels coin pusher machines into the 21st century by combining it with blockchain technology online. Incredibly addictive, fun to play, and a runner-up to the Best Idea award.
- Best Design
It seems that DGame developers put significant effort into making their games look good. Most DGames I’ve played have had good design. I understand why: if your game is mostly about collecting digital items, you want those digital items to look good.
But one game takes the cake when it comes to the design of their game: World of Ether wins the award for Best Design. Its minimalist website makes great use of colors and all its collectibles are wonderful, menacing, interesting creatures that stand out in an industry where most games center around the “cute” aesthetic.
I also want to mention Steem Monsters and 0xWarriors as runner-ups in this category. The cards in Steem Monsters look great, as do the armor and weapons in 0xWarriors.
- Best on Mobile
The vast majority of DGames are optimized for desktop or are even desktop-only. However, the prevalence of mobile in Asia, after all the continent with most gamers, make it a good idea to at least make your game compatible for smartphones (something I’ve written about before).
This needn’t mean you have to develop an app for your DGame. I personally have somewhat of an app fatigue. There’s an app for everything nowadays and I often can’t be bothered to install yet another app that I’ll hardly use. I don’t even have the Twitter or Facebook app, because the mobile websites of both social media platforms work just as well as their respective mobile applications.
As such, perhaps it should come as no surprise that the DGame I played exclusively on mobile, despite it having a desktop offering too, was not an app I’d downloaded. Solitaire Duel wins the Best on Mobile award, because its website is so wonderfully optimized for mobile it felt as if I was playing it from an app. It’s the perfect game to play when you have a few minutes and don’t have access to your laptop or desktop PC. Fire up your browser, visit their site, and play. It’s as smooth as can be, and you needn’t even install an app.
- Best Overall DGame
Here comes the big one: the award for best overall DGame. I’ve noticed that there are two categories of DGames. There are the ones I play exactly as long as I need to write a thorough review of them. And then there are the ones I play for much, much longer than I need to write a thorough review of them. The ones I play for months after I’ve reviewed them, simply because they’re incredibly fun to play.
Of the 25 DGames I’ve reviewed, there have been 3 DGames I’ve played long after my review; 3 DGames I’ve spent my own money on too, and happily so. Of those 3 DGames, one has stood out. It’s the best DGame in the industry. In fact, it stands head and shoulders above the rest. It’s funny, too, because it runs on a DApp platform that’s not particularly popular. Of course, I’m talking about Steem Monsters.
I played Steem Monsters for months on end. I spent over $100 buying cards. I was genuinely addicted to this game, because it’s incredibly fun to play. Although it’s easy to learn, it has a lot of depth when you really get into it. It’s not very expensive either; the game gives you the feeling you’re getting plenty of value for the money you invest. Additionally, you can sell your cards and earn back some of the money you’ve spent on the game. It’s a game I’d recommend to any DGamer; a masterclass in how to create a fun game that makes great use of blockchain technology.
The other two games I played long after I reviewed them were 0xWarriors and Solitaire Duel. Both games are easy to pick up, fun to play, and don’t require you to spend lots of money to get started. I consider them the runner-ups for the Best Game category. As you can see, neither of these 3 games run on Ethereum. They run on STEEM/TRON and on EOS. The lack of fees makes these games a lot more fun to play.
What Makes a DGame Great?
DGames should first and foremost be fun to play. This might seem like an obvious thing to say, but it’s surprising how many DGames are primarily focused on buying digital collectibles that you can do nothing with except collect and breed. Perhaps some features are added later that allows you to race them or fight with them, but these features almost always feel like an after-thought. They shouldn’t be. Any DGame should be made with the aim to entertain its players.
As such, DGames should also be approachable. If a DGame wants to reach a bigger audience, it should be easy to start playing. Give players an intro collectible so they can get a taste of your game. Then walk them through the process of setting up a wallet and buying the right cryptocurrency. Make it easy for them.
This being said, you don’t want your DGame to be expensive. Consider that you can buy a AAA game that’ll provide dozens of hours of playing time for $50 or less. You don’t want your cheapest collectible to cost more than a dollar. Anything above, say, $5 and most gamers will never try out your game. Don’t let the price of your collectibles become a hurdle for playing.
So make your game fun, make it easy to start playing, and make sure the intro collectibles are as cheap as can be. Get those things right and you might be onto a winner.