Welcome back to the second installment of our three-part series on Web3 gaming. In the first part, we laid the foundation by discussing what Web3 is and why it's a game-changer for the gaming industry. We also touched upon the challenges that come with this new paradigm. If you missed it, you can catch up here.
- Part 1: Introduction to Web3 Gaming Infrastructure
- Part 2: Tools for Web3 Game Development (You are here)
- Part 3: What we Learned and Examples
Building a Web3 game is not just about integrating a blockchain; it's about choosing the right tools and technologies that align with your game's vision. This article aims to guide you through the essential tools you'll need, from blockchains to wallets and beyond.
Audience Insight: Knowing your target audience is essential. Identify features that resonate with your players, such as seamless login, unique in-game items, or overall gameplay mechanics. Adapt your approach to integrate web3 elements in a way that enhances player experiences without alienating those unfamiliar with blockchain technology.
Technical Evaluation: Consider the technical capabilities of your chosen blockchain, especially its transaction handling capacity and smart contract execution. Assess whether the blockchain can support the game’s expected transaction volume, and consider the impact of transaction costs on your game's monetization strategy. This assessment is crucial for games with frequent player interactions or those relying on microtransactions.
Aligning Game Goals with Web3 Integration
Game developers should prioritize creating enjoyable and engaging gaming experiences. When integrating web3 elements, consider if each element enhances the game. For example, trading card games might benefit from tokenizing cards and collectibles, whereas complex genres like MMORPGs or FPS might not need every system on-chain.
The key is to strike a balance between leveraging the benefits of blockchain and maintaining the core gameplay experience.
Choosing a Blockchain
The Importance of Flexibility
The question of which blockchain to deploy your game on is a common one and largely hinges on your team's objectives. Given the ever-changing blockchain landscape, maintaining flexibility is often the wisest course of action, as it allows for greater adaptability down the line.
The Tried-and-True: Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM)
The Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) stands as the original smart contract platform and boasts widespread developer adoption. Due to its longevity and the Lindy Effect, it's often considered the most future-proof option.
Emerging Contenders: Aptos, Solana and specialized platforms
However, newer ecosystems like Aptos, Solana and specialized blockchains like Beam, Treasure or ImmutableX are also worth considering. The choice between these and more established options will depend on the specific needs of your game.
Custom blockchains: App Chains/Rollups
If your game requires functionalities beyond asset ownership, you might consider launching on a dedicated blockchain, often referred to as an app chain. Options like Polygon Supernets, Avalanche Subnets, Cosmos, Arbitrum Orbit, and Rollup-as-a-Service platforms like Eclipse or the OP Stack provide the flexibility to tailor your infrastructure to specific needs, such as native tokens or ultrafast transaction finality.
Financial Incentives: Grants and Support
Many blockchain platforms offer grants to incentivize development. While this can be appealing, it's crucial not to let short-term financial support overshadow long-term strategic considerations.
As the blockchain gaming space matures, we anticipate a trend toward consolidation and commodification. While the initial wave of Web3 games targeted crypto-native communities, the next phase will aim for broader appeal, necessitating platforms capable of serving mainstream audiences.
EVM chains, with their extensive developer tools and liquidity, are well-positioned for this. However, it remains prudent to keep options open and only commit to a specific blockchain when absolutely necessary, keeping the developer experience as a key consideration.
Onboarding Players to your Game
Onboarding is the first real test of your game's user experience. The process should be as frictionless as possible, accommodating both web3 enthusiasts and web2 newcomers.
Consider using social logins for the latter, and ensure that the onboarding process educates new users about the blockchain elements they will encounter, such as gas fees and tokens. You can use existing providers like Firebase, Dynamic, Web3auth, Particle Network, build your own, or simply use Openfort's one.
The important question here is: how is the newly created private key (pk) managed for non-crypto users?
Note: If the user come with their own wallet already (ie. Metamask, Dawn Wallets, Family, etc.) it's already self-custodial.
- Non-custodial: Use an MPC provider to split the private key into parts (the key is shared and can only be executed with a majority), or store the pk on an KMS where only the user can control them.
- Custodial: Storing the keys in your game's KMS or other external KMS providers.
How to think about wallets
The wallet is the user's primary touchpoint with the blockchain and, unfortunately, the main source of friction. The ideal game wallet should be invisible to the user.
It should handle onboarding smoothly and offer features like programmability for recovery and session keys, as well as gasless transactions and fiat onramps. The aim is to minimize friction while maximizing usability and security.
Luckily, we're now deep into the UX concept of the blockchain, and with concepts like smart accounts (technically called account abstraction - erc4337, hello Openfort!), we can finally hide this complexity from the end user.
- Setting time-based spending limits
- Human-readable messages when requesting user signatures
- Defining access controls – whitelisting contract functions your account can call
- Creating session keys – removing the need for users to sign every transaction
- Gas abstraction – allowing users to pay gas in any token
- Gasless transactions – the studio or another entity, separate from the user, can subsidize gas fees
- Batching transactions to improve UX – e.g., rolling a uniswap approval and swap into a single transaction
While the standard is a public good, the innovation happens at the implementation level. In here Openfort offers a server side solution that makes sure to manage nonces, optimize gas fees to ensure transactions reach the blockchain, prioritize transactions, handle retries, and more optimizations.
Improving the Gameplay Experience (GX)
Once onboard, the player's experience should be seamless. This involves handling gas fees, transaction priorities, and even offering fiat onramps for purchasing in-game assets. The idea is to make the blockchain elements as unobtrusive as possible, allowing players to focus on the game.
Imagine building your own payment stack and making sure the user's purchase hits your bank account while also dealing with their credit cards. Well, that's what we do on the blockchain, and that's why a single API call makes it feel like magic.
So before, we solved the seed phrase when onboarding the user, but now we solve the need for network tokens when interacting with the blockchain and the need to verify every single transaction we do onchain (because sometimes, not all transactions have a monetary value but rather we use them to build a gaming profile onchain).
Monetization: ARPU and LTV
crypto can not only increase ARPU Average Revenue Per Customer but preliminary data are already showing that it can increase loyalty and stickiness which means increasing retention to D30 and way way beyond. This means your average LTV will increase wit the right designs.
In-app purchases (IAP) and traditional payment railways
Purchases via stores like the Apple Store, Google Play, or other platforms like Steam, Epic Games, etc. are a traditional way to monetize the game. They have been the sole source of income for the most part.
Many are looking at blockchain games differently and setting their TOS and policies in a friendly way for games to start incorporating blockchain technology into their gameplay while, of course, respecting the middleman fee.
In-game shops to sell assets (NFTs)
The in-game shop is not just a revenue stream, but also a feature that can make or break the player experience. It should offer a smooth, intuitive interface for players to buy and own in-game assets, and it will be a main source of revenue for your in-game economy.
When it comes to marketplaces, you have two main options: external marketplaces like OpenSea, which offer the advantage of network effects, and in-game marketplaces, which allow for more complex, game-specific integrations.
The choice of having one or both will depend on your game's specific needs and the kind of player behavior you wish to encourage. But having an ingame marketplace has two major advantages: 1) Owning the player experience on your own platform; and 2) Forcing gaming royalties for the in-game assets.
PS. Are you thinking about making a casual web3 game? Then, we thought about how ingame ads would look like in web3.
Using Game Launchers/Aggregators
The Rise of Web3-Native Launchers
With Valve's decision to ban NFTs and cryptocurrencies on Steam, Web3 game studios are exploring alternative platforms like Epic Games Store (EGS). While EGS provides access to a large traditional gamer base, it may lack specialized Web3 features.
Launchers will be pivotal in shaping the Web3 gaming UX. Web3-native launchers like Elixir are a good way for games to reduce their CAC while increasing the optionality and network effects of getting new players to view and play their game.
Tokenized Gaming Ecosystems
Gaming ecosystems like Merit Circle or TreasureDAO are leveraging token economies to incentivize both studios and players. Tokenized ecosystems offer a unique, arcade-like digital experience that encourages cross-promotion and game discovery.
How to Think About (Web3) Player Acquisition
While the traditional gaming marketing playbook has been at large discussed during years (ie. perfomance marketing, etc.), in the Web3 gaming landscape where traditional metrics like LTV (Lifetime Value) and CAC (Customer Acquisition Cost) are still evolving, focusing on low-cost, crypto-native acquisition strategies is crucial.
One effective starting point is your game's existing community. Thanks to crypto-economics, you can align incentives to transform early community members into your game's most passionate advocates and highest spenders, akin to the "golden cohorts" in traditional gaming.
The Web3 audience is often wary of conventional advertising due to the prevalence of scams in the space. Partnerships offer a more organic route to gain visibility. Guild collaborations, for instance, can assist in asset distribution, liquidity provision, marketing campaigns, esports events, and content creation. These partnerships not only expand your reach but also validate your game's credibility.
The rise of gaming and IP (Intellectual Property) collaborations in Web3 is noteworthy. Interoperability in Web3 allows game assets to be versatile across multiple projects.
Airdrops, the distribution of free tokens to specific wallet addresses, may seem like a cost-effective strategy, but their actual impact is still up for debate. While the only immediate cost is the transaction fee, the long-term effectiveness of this method remains uncertain.
The Web3 landscape is in constant flux, with new business models appearing and disappearing rapidly. It's vital for founders to remain flexible and aware of platform risks. As the Web3 infrastructure continues to evolve, so will the strategies for player acquisition. Being adaptable and staying updated on industry trends will be key to navigating this ever-changing environment.