Source: Dots out to sea
From the perspective of market performance, Web3 games (chain games) always seem to be at odds with the traditional game market. With the phenomenon-level chain game “Axie Infinity: Origin” being defeated in the traditional game market, the gap between Web2 and Web3 games has become more pronounced.
"Axie Infinity: Origin" went online for 1 month, with less than 10,000 downloads
However, a Web3 game called “NFL Rivals – Football Game” (referred to as “NFL Rivals”) has recently emerged from the traditional game market and achieved impressive results. According to data from Dots, since its launch on April 26th until June 19th, the global download volume of the game on both platforms (App Store and Google Play) has reached nearly 1.5 million, with estimated revenue exceeding $500,000 (*at current exchange rates, approximately RMB 3.58 million). How did this mixed Web3 game break out of the Web2 game market?
Global download volume on App Store
Global download volume on Google Play
True Replicas, Fulfilling the Dream of NFL Sports Managers
“NFL Rivals” is a mixed Web3 game developed and operated by Mythical Games, the developer of the first blockchain game on Epic Store, “Blankos Block Party,” with official authorization from the National Football League (NFL) and NFL Players Association (NFLBlocking).
The game uses a 3D arcade style and faithfully replicates the NFL’s 32 teams and season schedule rules. To cater to the preferences of European and American players, the game adopts a fast-paced (each match lasts about 2 minutes) and easy-to-learn casual gameplay. During the game, players control the quarterback to execute strategic decisions such as passing (planning the angle and path of each pass by sliding the screen) or running. At the same time, opponents’ defense such as interception and tackling further increases the game’s playability.
Thanks to blockchain technology, players can build their own NFL dream team by buying, collecting, and trading digital player cards in the game, leading the team to the Super Bowl, and realizing their NFL career dreams as sports managers.
The digital player cards in the game are divided into NFT cards and non-NFT cards. At the beginning of the game, a group of ordinary characters with no significant skills (non-NFT cards) will be provided. As the game progresses, earning in-game tokens (points and gems) can unlock store gift packages and further improve the team’s ability. Therefore, even “zero-spending” players can enjoy the game experience.
Bridging the gap between Web2 and Web3, returning the right to choose to players
Unlike “double loss” in “Axie Infinity: Origin”, “NFL Rivals” has circled out their comfort zones for different player groups. By wallet hosting, Web2 users can use credit cards to purchase in-game items. Players can enjoy the ownership of NFTs and have an excellent game experience without deep understanding of the complexity of blockchain technology.
This is also the main reason why it can pass the App Store and Google Play review. Through wallet hosting, all blockchain transactions occur in the wallet, and the game itself does not involve blockchain-related content. From the game presentation, if Web3 is not deliberately mentioned, it can be completely regarded as a card collection mobile game. The only difference is that some items (NFTs) are unique. For advanced players in the Web3 world, “NFL Rivals” also allows them to freely link their wallets through bridges between Mythical Chain and the public main network.
It is worth noting that compared with the “Play to Earn” model, which is the core controversy point of blockchain games, “NFL Rivals” emphasizes “Play to Own”, which also conforms to the values in the mainstream game market. The game has no blockchain tokens, and rewards are mainly distributed in the form of in-game items. Its main purpose is to sell NFTs and make profits, which can be seen from the recently released Rarity League.
According to reports, Rarity League is a unique helmet series licensed by the NFL and inspired by fans. Each helmet corresponds to an NFT and is associated with celebrating NFL teams and fan culture. Rarity League NFT holders will receive certain rights, including the ability to establish guilds in the game (to be opened later) and related resources bound together, to purchase NFL Rivals NFTs (digital player cards) in advance, and to participate in exclusive in-game tournaments for rare NFTs, items, and resources.
A Trojan horse for Web2
Chain games have always been expected by Web3ers to bring more players into the Web3 world, but the reality is that few chain games can truly break through. The main reason is that the vast majority of traditional AAA games cannot and will not benefit from blockchain technology, such as single-player games, where mandatory blockchain and financialization will only destroy them; while mobile games, MMOs, and other categories are not affected, traditional financial methods are already sufficient, and the addition of blockchain will only increase the cost of development and operation for manufacturers and increase the entry threshold for players.
《Meta World:My City》
However, “NFL Rivals” may be a Trojan horse for NFTs to enter the mainstream gaming market. In the past, chain games were mostly web3 gameplay overlaid on traditional games. Since they did not bring positive effects to the games themselves (such as improving gameplay), the final result was nothing more than Web2 and Web3 players clearly separated. Take “Meta World: My City” as an example, which successfully broke through the traditional game market at one point. After the game’s peak period, its download volume showed a significant downward trend in just over a month, while the download volume of the same type of Web2 mobile game, “MONOPOLY GO!”, which was launched a few days earlier, remained steadily increasing, and even topped the free list in multiple countries and regions.
《NFL Rivals》 chose a different route. The card collection and trading gameplay itself has certain financial attributes. Due to its complete replication of the NFL and the addition of NFT unique ownership features, the introduction of blockchain and other Web3 elements has actually added more playability to the game. Taking NFT player card trading as an example, the process of trading and collecting itself can also be regarded as simulating the links of professional sports managers. The release of related products such as Rarity League has further enriched the game content and gameplay.
Another major advantage of “NFL Rivals” is its IP. Its huge fan base will bring a steady stream of traffic to the game. As real-world matches progress, fans’ regret for the real-world matches will be projected into the game, further promoting the game’s activity. And fans’ love for players will further push them into the world of Web3 (NFTs are unique, and if you want to get the player card in the hands of other players, you can only do it through trading).
Mythical Games CEO John Linden revealed in an interview on June 13 that “NFL Rivals” players play the game for an average of two hours a day and have played the game more than 10 million times. The secondary sales of game props account for about 15% of the game’s revenue, which means that a small number of players are using Web3 functions that allow them to sell their items to other players. According to data from Point, as of now, the iOS DAU daily activity has reached about 120,000, and it is still rising.
From the game’s design and current achievements, “NFL Rivals” is undoubtedly successful and has a great chance of continuing this success. However, due to the game’s great dependence on card values, how to balance the game experience of paying players and ordinary players, as well as the possible NFT speculation and resale issues, still need to further test Mythical’s game operation capabilities.
Whether it can become a Trojan horse dedicated to Web2 players remains to be seen.