When it comes to blockchain games, what comes to mind is the deadly death spiral of the blockchain game 1.0 era. Our Guatian Laboratory has been discussing this topic since February 2021, and few projects have survived after the tide has receded.
Nowadays, there is a surge of blockchain games on the market 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 whether this kind of playability-focused blockchain game is most likely to find the “Holy Grail” in the upcoming next bull market. If so, as a user, how can we logically find a specific project and lay ambush in advance?
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1. About the “Holy Grail”
1) Cryptocurrency “Holy Grail”
In February 2021, Guluo, the founder of Bi Hu, the largest Chinese blockchain content platform, shared a wonderful speech in the community titled “Finding the Cryptocurrency Holy Grail: Guluo, the Founder of Bi Hu, Analyzes the Potential of Ethereum and other Productivity Platforms”. The Holy Grail here can be understood as “explosive projects”.
Guluo 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 start the second growth curve of Ethereum. In fact, the current annual deflation of Ethereum 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). The prosperity of L2 means the prosperity of Ethereum. Ethereum will rise rapidly in the future. Hold on and support it!
2) “Holy Grail” of the blockchain game 1.0 era
Undoubtedly, these two projects:
Axie Infinity, with an estimated total revenue of over $400 million and a highest market capitalization of $10.4 billion;
STEPN, with an estimated total revenue of over $200 million and a highest market capitalization of $2.3 billion.
(Token sale revenue not included)
3) What about the “Holy Grail” of blockchain games 2.0?
Referring to the results of the previous round, let’s estimate that the total revenue will exceed $300 million. The overall lifecycle will be longer, calculated over a year. Excluding the first three months as a low-income period and the last three months as a decline period, the daily revenue may be between $2 million and $10 million.
Now it is August 2023, and it seems to be a deep bear market. However, BTC has already risen from $15,500 to around $30,000. There are rumors that top financial institutions around the world are secretly laying out Bitcoin, betting on the last frenzy bull market in the cryptocurrency industry (the mainstream voice said the same thing last time). The estimated market capitalization of the “Holy Grail” projects in the next round of blockchain games will exceed $15 billion.
2. Subclassification 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 are diverse and varied. If you analyze each one of them, you will need to be prepared with quick and effective solutions.
We need to establish a methodology for finding these projects, starting with broad categories and then narrowing down. Let’s start by discussing the categories: there are many ways to classify blockchain games, and W Labs has detailed classifications in their previous articles. In this article, we will categorize blockchain games into the following four types based on their asset compositions. Let’s see which of these types are more likely to find the “holy grail” project:
1. Games with a primary focus on NFT breeding: Axie Infinity, STEPN
These two projects ushered in the era of blockchain games 1.0. Both projects achieved great success in the previous bull market. Axie Infinity emerged in the early stages of the bull market, while STEPN gained recognition towards the end. They are now waiting for the next bull market to arrive and are preparing to relaunch the “holy grail” aura. Therefore, their products are being iterated and improved:
It is already available on the Apple Store and Google Store in some countries, which helps to attract more new players from the Web2 world.
Previously, players had to buy three Axies to play the game. However, in the latest update, a free mode has been introduced. Free players can accumulate materials and upgrade Axies through daily and weekly tasks, giving them the opportunity to obtain Axies with decent combat power. This helps new users to get started faster and enjoy the game.
It proposed the concept of the FSL ecosystem and launched DOOAR, mainly used for multi-chain decentralized exchange. It also launched MOOAR, a multi-chain NFT marketplace and launch platform. The studio behind STEPN will soon release a new game called Gashero and has also collaborated on multiple games.
STEPN is currently available on the Apple Store and Google Store and allows users to purchase running shoes with credit cards. It is also committed to attracting more new players from the Web2 world.
Both of these previous “leaders” belong to the breeding category, which shows the charm of breeding. Behind breeding lies the distinct characteristics of a Ponzi model. As mentioned in an article by Guagua on W Labs titled “Why are WEB3 all Ponzi models?”, the Ponzi model itself is not good or bad (scams are bad things), and it directly touches on human greed and vanity.
It is worth mentioning that the broadly defined Ponzi model is also commonly seen in real life: many internet companies in the past decade or so have used massive subsidies to attract users, which is also a form of Ponzi model; the recent popular domestic fantasy masterpiece “Fengshen Bang 1” also used a similar model in the end, with a scene where the prime minister returns to court with the four heavenly kings, creating infinite anticipation for the second part and laying the foundation for the second part’s box office success. This can be considered a clever and elegant Ponzi model, the “prime minister in the Ponzi model” level.
However, whether this category can continue to shine in the next round is a great challenge considering the characteristic of “speculating on new instead of old” in the cryptocurrency circle, and it needs to show users a different new narrative.
2. NFT mining and DeFi combined games: MBOX, Tiny world
In the era of Chain Game 1.0, MBOX also achieved great success and was once the leader of chain games on BSC, with the highest market capitalization of up to 1 billion US dollars. Following this path is Tiny world, which is similar to MBOX in terms of its model, with a highest market capitalization of about 150 million US dollars (50% of tokens burned, the burned part is not included in the calculation).
However, only Web3 users and advanced users can understand and play DeFi, and it is easy to discourage novice users. It is also difficult to attract Web2 users in the short term.
Those who are not losers are difficult to achieve success. Currently, the possibility of finding the “holy grail” in this category is even smaller than in the first category.
3. Full-chain games: Dark Forest, Loot
Full-chain games have been very popular recently, which are games where the rules, calculation logic, and data storage are all completed on the blockchain. To expand further, full-chain games do not require permission on the blockchain, and assets can be freely combined. It was gradually mentioned at the beginning of this year and received widespread discussion on Twitter in June and July.
We have always believed that the current full-chain games cannot be classified as traditional 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 have the genes of orthodox encryption. For example, Dark Forest was written by Brian Gu in 2020. At that time, he was still working at the Ethereum Foundation and found ZK technology interesting during his research. He 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 fog of war in the game. From that moment on, full-chain games started to have the appearance of a game.
But we must insist on supporting and encouraging these types of products to move forward. This is the hope for the future of WEB3 to replace WEB2 in certain areas. For example, the application of zero-knowledge proofs in WEB3 Texas Hold’em. Traditional online Texas Hold’em in WEB2 is basically not safe to play, especially after watching “Dying to Survive”, everyone knows that people like Wang Chuanjun (“sleeping on the floor today, sleeping with the boss tomorrow”) can manipulate the system and deal any desired card. However, if zero-knowledge proofs are used in WEB3 Texas Hold’em, the dealing mechanism can be open and 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 the game. Therefore, it is currently mainly in the stage of building infrastructure and exploring. The product experience for ordinary users is not enough, and it is unlikely to see the emergence of a “holy grail” project in the short term.
4. Games that only have core assets on the chain and have high playability
The highly anticipated era of Chain Game 2.0 is derived from the idea that there will be another bull market based on WEB3. The necessary condition for the next wave of bull market is that certain new opportunities in the WEB3 track will attract a large number of new users and institutions. When these new users come in, there must be applications for them to play with. 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 functionality at the current stage, only core assets need to be on the chain;
– Focus on building a user ecosystem, bringing projects closer to 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 reach the holy grail in the next bull market, and it is also the category that W Labs has focused on researching the most from last year to this year. It has several characteristics:
The production teams are mostly outstanding teams from WEB2 games, and they have standards for the playability, completeness, and aesthetics of games. After all, Chinese games have led the mobile game industry for ten years, and there are too many experiences and talents accumulated;
The playability of these products is significantly 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 not sufficient;
So how do we select “holy grail” projects in this category? The definition of playability is a matter of personal judgment. Some may like MOBAs, while others prefer SLGs. You may like card games, while I play mahjong every day. Therefore, this article sets a standard: as long as a certain WEB3 chain game inherits the essence of a global hit WEB2 game, or even directly replicates it, then its playability has been verified by a large number of ordinary users. We will analyze 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 we will analyze them one by one. They represent different types of games, different WEB2 benchmark projects, and different development stages.
III. Case Study: Fierce Competition for the “Holy Grail”
1. Matr1x Fire: WEB3’s CS:GO
Friends who have played CS are getting older, they have been influenced by shooting games since they were young. Just like 30 years later, friends who play PUBG are also no longer young, they have been saying “Winner winner, chicken dinner” since they were young.
Matr1x Fire has made moves in the market since Q3 2022. W Labs initially conducted a background investigation on the team and sent people to experience the game on-site. It is indeed a team from a major company, with years of experience in FPS research and development, and has financing and good fundamentals. Our style is rather to invest in a loss than to make a wrong investment; we would rather be cautious before birth than to have a grand funeral.
After confirming that we can continue to follow up, we opened a dedicated channel for discussion in the Guatian community’s WGGDAO, and called on Guatian friends to pay more attention to Matr1x and actively participate in the first and second tests. Currently, 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 trust of users in the project.
Let me give a brief introduction to the basic situation of the project:
Matr1x Fire is a Web3 FPS shooting game. The game incorporates the mature business model of CS:GO, as well as the innovation of issuing assets on the blockchain through Web3, and 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 comes from major game companies, participating in the development and publishing of more than 10 large-scale games, with a total revenue of more than $3 billion and nearly 100 million active users. 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 $10 million Series A financing in 2022, with investors including the second largest financial group in South Korea, Hanwha Financial, early Ethereum investor Hashkey Capital, Amber Group, and Seven X.
In Matr1x Fire, in addition to experiencing traditional shooting content such as multiple game modes, multiple game maps, support for small-scale competitive play, team esports, and hosting events, players can also open loot boxes in the game by paying a certain fee, and obtain item skins. Both the loot boxes and item skins exist in NFT form, and can freely circulate and be bought and sold on the blockchain.
Let’s take a look at its benchmark WEB2 game CS:GO. On March 25th of this year, the number of concurrent players reached a new high, surpassing 1.5 million. The number of boxes opened in March increased by 17 million compared to February, estimating that the revenue in March was at least $100 million. The old sword is still sharp.
Actually, the treasure chests, keys, skins, and props 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 complete the initial launch and community cohesion, and establish consensus. This is also the reason why Matr1x assets are so popular:
● YATC trophy NFT, reflecting the value of champions, can help establish attractive events in the early stages;
● 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 player value, and accurately targeting FPS players in the early stages;
● Character NFT, increasing the gold-making threshold of the game, without conflicting with free users, mainly to prevent mass farming by low-level accounts;
The project team has found FPS players, developed 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 batch of seed users for the product.
Matr1x Fire is on its way to the “Holy Grail”. The breakthrough actions in operation in August make people feel that it is breaking the awkward situation of the small stock market in Web3, where playability and economy cannot be achieved at the same time. The model direction of “win to earn” also extends the cycle of the death spiral inherently. The team’s skillful financing also makes users feel that they can survive at least until the next bull market. Within W Labs, we often use the term “hexagonal warrior” to describe Matr1x.
I seem to hear a new follower say that Matr1x is now a blue chip blockchain gaming project. What if we missed the opportunity at the beginning? Don’t worry, that’s why we have analyzed three cases. Matr1x is the earliest riser, let’s take a look at the others and learn the analytical logic.
2. SERAPH: The Big Pineapple of Web3 (Diablo)
Seraph is another project that was popular during the internal testing phase in the past few months: it has conducted two internal tests in April and July respectively, and the test results were good. According to the information obtained from the project team’s AMA, there were 3,500 and 4,200 players participating in each test (not addresses, but accounts), with an average online time of 4 hours and considerable user retention data.
The game is an ARPG, with the main idea of killing monsters, collecting equipment, and monetizing the gameplay. The “grinding” gameplay of accumulating equipment sets still has many loyal fans.
Introduction to Seraph: Seraph is an ARPG game inspired by Diablo, developed by the Korean game company Actoz Soft, which has released well-known titles such as “Millennium”, “Legend”, and “A3”. The overall tone and gameplay of the game also follow the dark fantasy style. The background 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 then embark on an adventure, constantly killing with the mouse and keyboard.
The main assets of the game are equipment, as well as gemstones, jewelry, and rune stones that can be embedded. After the hero levels up, different skills and spells can be learned by allocating skill points. After completing basic exploration, players can unlock the Mystery of Chaos, Void Realm, and Mystery of Depth modes, which drop different types and levels of items and equipment. As for the web3 part, it mainly utilizes special NFTs (Unique NFTs) to empower the production of Soul SLianGuair, which is used to further upgrade NFTs and obtain tickets to the Chaos mode. The core token $SRF is mainly used for NFT identification, equipment forging, and governance participation.
Seraph is benchmarked against the WEB2 game series “Diablo 4”, which was released in June this year. Let’s take a look at the data: it has sold nearly 700 million dollars, and the first season that started in July has 7.1 million characters. Looks 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 of Blizzard players, hahaha.
Even if the benchmarked game is constantly criticized, it cannot hide the fierce user base of such games, as evidenced by Seraph’s two closed beta tests. However, up to now, Seraph’s operational aspect has been lacking. The community has been quietly conducting joint promotion activities and even announced a reward activity of 500,000 U on Twitter, but it has not gained much exposure 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 people still don’t know how this NFT is empowered. We tend to think that the overall operational plan has not been fully implemented, and the project side is currently only laying the groundwork. We hope that the project side can spend more effort on researching the operational steps and nodes.
Overall, the quality of Seraph is excellent, and by riding the wave of nostalgia for Diablo, it has provided game-loving players with a true gaming haven in the boring bear market. In addition, the economic model revealed during the project’s AMA will be based on “equipment NFTs”, which is also highly anticipated. We will keep observing to see if Seraph has the ability to touch the “Holy Grail”.
3. Oil War: WEB3 Oil Tycoon
I have always been fond of simulation management games. A few years ago, I played a game called “Turmoil,” an oil tycoon game in the era of WEB2. I never got tired of it. Recently, when I was organizing the newly launched blockchain games, I accidentally discovered a game called “Oil War – The Oil War.” I downloaded it immediately and spent 10U playing it.
Regarding the current user base of blockchain games in the WEB3 community, hardcore gamers are still the minority. Most players tend to be more casual. Therefore, management and cultivation games are naturally more suitable for the current blockchain games. The success of “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 houses, fishing, stealing vegetables. You can earn tens of U every day. The low threshold for gameplay and strong social interaction are the two characteristics of management and cultivation blockchain games. At the same time, this type of game is also suitable for the Ponzi model in terms of token flow.
Let’s talk about the basic situation of Oil War: It is a WEB3 simulation management game that simulates the complete process from oil extraction to sales. First, let’s take a look at the background of the game. The developer of the game is MetaSensor, and the publisher is Surf Guild, a blockchain game studio with an 8-year background in traditional games. It raised $1 million in seed funding and has cooperated 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 management and cultivation games in traditional games, are very good at attracting users. Currently, blockchain games are particularly lacking in users, and it is hoped that Oil War can highlight this characteristic of the game itself.
However, unlike Oil Tycoon, in addition to the basic gameplay of PVE mining map challenges, upgrading, and making money, Oil War also has unique gameplay such as team championships, item systems, and land management. The consignment function allows players to trade freely, and by integrating the game with WEB3, players have the opportunity to earn rich crypto assets.
In the game, players can earn game tokens called oil coins by completing daily tasks, achieving rewards, team rankings, land development, and management. These tokens can be exchanged for governance tokens OT at a fixed ratio of 1000:1 and further exchanged for other on-chain assets for monetization. Currently, the game only offers PVE and championship gameplay. I am looking forward to the future release of other advanced gameplay. It will be a good management and cultivation work.
The game economy model of Oil War is a typical fusion model of WEB2 and WEB3. The game will be available on Google Play and the App Store with traditional in-app purchases, allowing players to deposit money through traditional channels. At the same time, the project team has developed a game service platform for WEB3 called ComLianGuaiss (similar to wemix by Yumeide), specifically for trading game virtual assets (NFT assets, governance token OT, etc.). It can also facilitate NFT and token-to-token transactions with mainstream games and WEB3 assets on the market, connecting to the broader WEB3 world.
From the construction framework of the ComLianGuaiss platform and ecosystem, it can be seen that the project party has a relatively pragmatic and long-term layout for web3 – using comLianGuaiss as an entry point to leverage web3 resources and leverage them, and filling the platform with content through its expertise in game development, while integrating Web3 and community resources through platforms like Surf Guild. This three-round layout of development, trading, and operation forms a complete ecological closed loop. If it can be put into motion, it will create a powerful wheel effect, providing a continuous source of expansion power for the project party.
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 add an advertising SDK interface. Does this mean that the project party has found advertisers? If so, that’s awesome. We have always emphasized that external income is one of the best ways to solve the death spiral, rather than cutting between the project party and the players. This game also involves oil, could it have received sponsorship from the Middle Eastern oil magnates? Haha.
Compared with the already hot Matr1x and the two rounds of official internal testing of Seraph, Oil War is in an earlier stage and may be more suitable for players who hope to get in early and bottom out in the “Holy Grail” search journey. Currently, Oil War is still in the early trial stage, and the community is also in its early stages. Interested players can try this style of game. The graphics production is very good, and it will support more language versions (including Chinese) in the future.
We believe that in the ever-advancing wheel of web3 games, there are always outstanding projects that stand out, some lasting longer and some appearing only briefly. The length of a game’s lifecycle is not just determined by its economic model, but more importantly, the game’s content, quality, and the success or failure of its subsequent operations.
From the perspective of users, how to find chain game projects that may become the “Holy Grail” in the next bull market? This article presents a train of thought:
First, the next bull market in the crypto community still relies on a large number of new users;
Second, new users will not immediately enter high-threshold full-chain games or DeFi games. They are more accepting of products in the chain game category with high playability and product quality similar to the WEB2 games they are familiar with. Therefore, the most likely “Holy Grail” will emerge in this category;
Third, find some WEB3 products that imitate traditional popular games and analyze them from various aspects to verify their potential as the “Holy Grail”.
This article lists three case studies. At present, Matr1x started the earliest and has done the best. The entire team, from the founder to the community members, is deeply impressed by the idea of putting players and the community at the center and spare no effort in promoting the game.
Seraph can be considered a high-quality work based on the quality of the game and the data from the internal testing. We look forward to seeing the actions of the project team in operation and community, so that we 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 downloads, ComLianGuaiss trading platform construction, and Surf Guild community), we can vaguely glimpse its ambition in web3. It will also be an excellent web3 game ecosystem product that focuses on quality and players.
Finally, I would like to emphasize that the “Holy Grail” project is hard to come by. There were only two projects in the last bull market, and hitting one of them would result in a hundredfold return. Therefore, it is important to conduct in-depth research in every aspect. We have previously delved into the growth process of the two Holy Grail projects, which was actually a thrilling journey that turned the startup team into invincible warriors in a short period of time. As the saying goes, “Too many skills won’t weigh you down,” and “Pan Lv Deng Xiao Xian.” So even if you draw a blind box with Xiaolongnü, you can still mint Madam Ma (why did I suddenly come up with this sentence, how strange).
End of this article.
Case official websites:
Oil War: oilwar.surfguild.io