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2023 will be the year that blockchain games deliver quality and fun | Polygon

gaming web3

There are a lot of people who want blockchain games to stand and deliver. And 2023 is likely to be the year when we get some answers about whether high-quality games will show up using the technology.

Urvit Goel, vice president of games at Polygon, recently talked to games beat about how the blockchain protocol company is trying hard to make that happen.

“Specifically in gaming, 2023 will be the year that blockchain and gaming will be judged heavily on all of the promises that are being made about great games,” Goel said. “We need to start seeing some of those games. There will be enough to start making a determination about quality. A lot of these builders in stealth mode haven’t launched a product yet.”

He notes that Polygon has been at the forefront of Web3 gaming with its recent integration of the popular NFT marketplace Magic Eden as well as top games in the industry such as The Sandbox, Dencentral Games, and more.

While the collapse of FTX set the industry back, DappRadar reported that the Web3 blockchain gaming sector has seen continued investment north of $500 million between October and November, even after the FTX debacle.

“Our focus will be on helping these builders come to market, whether that is with broad tooling to make it easier to launch or new technology for scaling,” Goel said.

Goel joined Polygon about a year ago, diving into Web3 for the first time after a decade of service at Amazon in game-related roles. He serves as the head of games at Polygon, with the goal of driving the adoption of blockchain technology by game developers. He reports to Ryan Wyatt, who previously headed YouTube Gaming and now oversees all of the vertical industries at Polygon.

A $100 million fund

Goel’s job is to connect developers to technology and marketplaces to build better products. Polygon set up a $100 million fund to invest in Web3 gaming and other verticals, using a lot of its own money from when it raised a $450 million funding round.

Goel believes that the blockchain game industry is getting closer to being an adult. In its early years, during the bull run for blockchain and cryptocurrencies, people brought out very simple experiences that took advantage of the financial opportunity but were viewed as a bunch of noise by gamers.

With the bear market, Goel believes the “true builders” who have been working for multiple years are pushing through and removing a lot of the noise.

“What’s left is the high-quality builders in the space who are committed to building great and fun experiences for customers,” Goel said. “These are well-funded teams that have the runway to build great games. Or it’s large Web2 developers who have Web3 initiatives and can continue to build. I’m not seeing a slowdown.”

As for the competition among blockchains, he believes we’ll see many successful blockchains. He doesn’t view others as competition. Rather, the main task is to evangelize the tech so that more people are willing to adopt Web3 gaming. Different blockchains are trying different experiments.

“A rising tide lifts all boats because we are in this phase of the mission where there are a lot of trials,” he said. “We’ve seen what hasn’t worked quite clearly. And if we continue to go through the trials, we can find what it is that will work. It’s similar to how mobile games took off. We’ve only seen the first iteration. The number of chains out there is actually helpful.”

Recovery mode

Fractal and Polygon launch partners.
Fractal and Polygon launch partners.

The FTX crash is definitely a negative event that is hanging over the industry, Goel said. He said it’s worth noting there is a difference between a centralized exchange versus true blockchain technology enablement. The fallout from FTX will take months to unfold, he said.

The $100 million fund is an ecosystem fund that focuses on multiple verticals including gaming, where the company deploys capital to game builders. The fund is still operational and the company is looking at the builders applying to it. Goel said the fund has made hundreds of investments so far.

“The thought behind it is there are a lot of Web3 native builders, and they need support and they need capital,” he said. “We are in a lucky position to deploy part of our treasury to help the ecosystem. It gives builders confidence to see we support them.”

Goel said blockchain games are already strong, as the number of active wallets has been consistently going back up in recent months. And games are accounting for a large part of all blockchain transactions, according to DappRadar.

“The sector is down, but it has held quite strong,” he said. “The thesis is that players are going to play games whether we are in a bull market or a bear market. The other piece is there are a lot of free digital collectibles ready to drive the top of the funnel.”

It reminds him of the early day of free-to-play games where players eventually started making premium purchases.

“We’re still in the early early stages of blockchain gaming. So if you zoom out a little bit, it’s like making predictions about mobile games back in 2000 [before the iPhone came along] That was hard,” he said. “The focus is on helping developers get to the market. Consumers will tell us what they like.”

Goel said he doesn’t think of various segments of the blockchain gaming population yet because the industry is still so small. There is a contingent of crypto-savvy blockchain enthusiasts, and there aren’t enough blockchain games on the market yet. Goel believes the game startups and indie studios will lead the way in blockchain games, as they’re the ones who aren’t afraid to adopt new technology.

And coming up with new kinds of games is better than launching the blockchain equivalent of a Call of Duty game, he said.

“I think you will continue to see a disproportionate amount of funding go into blockchain games,” he said. “I’m bullish for blockchain games. There are more shots on goal at the end of the day.”

Big challenges


Of course, not everything is going swimming. Yosuke Matsuda, CEO of Square Enix, announced he will step aside and promote a younger executive to the top role in June. He was a big advocate of blockchain games and sold off the company’s Western studios to focus on new technologies. (It’s not clear if the new CEO will also focus on blockchain games). The number of active wallets in the blockchain is still pretty small. And the funding could dry up if the economic downturn starts to hurt companies even more.

The blockchain companies are also competing with each other for gaming customers, with ImmutableX poaching studios from both Solana and Polygon and so on.

Goel noted that some of the largest companies in South Korea and some of the largest gaming companies in Japan are still taking their intellectual properties into the blockchain space.

“We’re starting to see some of those dominoes fall. And then what’s that mean for Western game developers? I think that remains to be seen. But this industry is very global,” Goel said.

Meanwhile, the industry needs to improve its infrastructure, whether that is marketplaces, data analytics, wallets, or payment solutions. Game companies shouldn’t have to dedicate their internal staff to do that kind of work.

“We want to partner more closely with developers and help them,” he said.

Blockchain gamers surge as users attempt ‘stacking crypto’ — DappRadar

Mighty Block

Despite the FUD, blockchain games surged in active users in September, while God’s Unchained cracked the top 10 in terms of total NFT sales volume of all projects (Cointelgarph).

User activity on blockchain gaming decentralized applications (DApps) surged in September, with a host of games posting significant increases in the number of active users.

According to data from DappRadar, seven out of the top 10 games in terms of the number of “unique wallet addresses interacting with dapp’s smart contracts” increased over the past 30 days, with all of the top five games being in the green during that time frame.

At the time of writing, the DApps registering growth in the period include Web3 gaming platform Gameta, and blockchain-based games Alien Worlds, Solitaire Blitz, Benji Bananas and Splinterlands, Farmers World and Arc8 by GAMEE. 

In a Sept. 27 blog post, DappRadar noted that eight of the current top 10 blockchain games are mobile-first, which could eventually “bring millions of users to the blockchain,” noting: 

“Dapp games like Gameta, Benji Bananas, Upland, and Trickshot Blitz let anyone with a mobile device earn crypto with little prior knowledge, investment, or risk.”

“Using daily activities like hyper-casual mobile games as a hook ensures users find fun once they interact, while solid tokenomics can encourage everyday use and retention,” it added. 

DappRadar said one of the possible reasons for a rise in popularity of blockchain games despite the bear market, is the idea of “bleed in the bear and run in the bull:”

The biggest uptick in users came from Animoca Brands’ Benji Bananas (Polygon), which saw a 2016.54% increase over the past 30 days. Notably, this game was a Web2 mobile app until March this year. Animoca then introduced play-to-earn (P2E) elements via the Bored Ape Yacht Club-affiliated Ape Coin (APE).

While it is unclear what specifically saw the number of Benji Bananas users increase by so much, it did host a P2E gaming event this month that offered a series of valuable in-game NFTs to the winners.

Out of the top 10 games, only Axie Infinity, Trickshot Blitz and Upland saw decreases over the past 30-days.

The increase of blockchain gamers this month comes as publications such as Bloomberg note in a Sept. 28 article that the highly correlated NFT market trading “frenzy is almost dead.” It points to overall NFT trading volumes dropping 97% since January as evidence of such.

As Animoca Brands co-founder Yat Siu pointed out via Twitter on Sept. 30, purely looking at the metric of NFT sales volume doesn’t necessarily paint the whole picture in NFTs or gaming.

Siu highlighted that NFT prices have generally declined in accordance with the price of their paired assets such as Ether (ETH), while many games — that don’t often grab the headlines — require NFTs that are relatively cheap. He instead emphasized that user activity and the number of people entering Web3 is where the focus should be.

Gods Unchained breaks 10 top NFT sales

Meanwhile, NFT-based card battle game Gods Unchained has seen its NFT sales volume creep into the top 10 in NFT sales volume over the past 30 days, according to Cryptoslam.

Gods Unchained has seen a 373.25% increase over the past 30 days to sit at $10.8 million at the time of writing. This marks the first time the game has seen NFT sales top $10 million since January, and after a very slow February to August period.

Reasons behind this could be due to discussions of a “Season 2” upgrade to improve the game and lore in the works and GameStop offering free NFT packs to Pro members this month. Meanwhile, an esports tournament with a $70,000 prize pool was also announced at the start of this week.

Gods Unchained has also seen a significant increase in active users over the past 30 days, gaining 28.50% to sit at around 14,180 according to DappRadar. The game still has a long way to catch up to the top 10, however, as its user count places it at twenty-eighth.

How Blockchain Projects Are Solving The Challenges in The GameFi Industry

Mighty Block

The blockchain gaming ecosystem has experienced explosive growth in value over the past 18 months as non-fungible tokens (NFTs), play-2-earn (P2E) games, and the “metaverse” went mainstream. However, the ecosystem is experiencing huge challenges in onboarding players and projects, with issues such as cost of entry, scalability, and technical prowess limiting the growth potential of the ecosystem. We highlight these challenges and present some of the projects developing solutions to enhance the GameFi industry.

The explosive growth of the GameFi ecosystem

Traditional gaming is expected to cross the $300 billion mark by the end of the year, according to a news report by DFC Intelligence. By mid-2020, there were over 3.1 billion video and online gamers worldwide, representing close to 40% of the world’s population. According to Statista, the number of gamers grew to 3.24 billion across 2021, with Asia and Europe leading with 1.48 billion and 715 million gamers respectively.

The gradual growth is set to continue in the coming years, and blockchain gaming could benefit greatly, alongside VR, XR, and AR gaming. The ecosystem is rapidly evolving with new upgrades and projects launched by the day. Blockchain games, unlike their traditional predecessors, operate on a ‘play-to-earn’ model rather than a ‘play-to-win’ model. This concept involves giving players financial incentives to play and progress through games, allowing players to earn passive or full-time income from participating in the ecosystem.

However, the demand for GameFi products is growing so fast that most projects or the ecosystem itself can’t keep up. This limits the mass adoption of blockchain gaming as the challenges present barriers to entry for new users in the space.

Understanding the pitfalls of the GameFi industry

As explained above, the blockchain gaming ecosystem suffers from various challenges, one of the most prominent being that most games are very expensive to start playing. For example, the top GameFi project Axie Infinity requires about 3 Axies (it’s in-game NFT), or about $90 for the cheapest Axies to start playing the game. This limits the number of gamers who would like to play, as these games could be more expensive to play than their traditional counterparts.

Secondly, the GameFi industry focuses too much on “earning” that they forget the entertainment value for games. If you have visited several blockchain gaming platforms you may have noticed they are simple clicking games that have little to no entertainment value. This arises from the difficulty of creating Call of Duty-Esque games on blockchains, lack of creative writing, and technical weakness in developing the gameplay.

Lastly, play-to-earn games are usually built as standalone projects with no gaming studio backing. This sets out the problem of non-continuity. This means that once a game is stale or overplayed, it simply goes dead instead of giving players more utility to keep them on the platform. New players entering such markets find themselves with no liquidity to play for, making it incredibly hard to earn on the game.

To solve these challenges, several development teams are creating solutions to this end. One of the projects providing the GameFi industry with solutions is Attack Wagon, a development studio for Free to Play and Play To Earn games. The development studio is soon to launch its first game, which is called Scrap Guilds.

A look into the future of the GameFi industry

Attack Wagon’s Scrap Guilds is a sci-fi role-playing game that facilitates the use of the Attack Wagon token ($ATK) and includes a variety of different avenues for players to earn money, through playing as well as through passive means. With the recent challenges faced in the GameFi industry, Attack Wagon aims to provide lasting solutions to boost the mass adoption of blockchain gaming across the world.

First, the decentralized gaming project tears down any expensive paywalls, allowing every player to participate in the game. The development team has made the initial setup of the game free to play, with the player being able to build up the value of their account by playing, solving the cost barrier for new players. Another project that offers P2E gaming with no cost of entry is Liberty Gaming Guild. They call themselves the ‘gateway’ for gamers to gain access to expensive and inaccessible NFTs blockchain gaming and provide an ecosystem for gamers to learn and flourish within the gaming community. They do this by lowering the entry barrier for participants and offering scholarships.

On the issue of boring and non-entertaining games, many blockchain games such as Gala Games, Mobox, and Attack Wagon are creating games that offer more than earning features. Games on these platforms offer rich lore and backstory surrounding them, entertaining the gamers and grabbing more of their attention, which allows them to have fun while boosting their earnings. Imagine earning rewards to play Call of Duty, Unchartered, or FIFA. This is the future of blockchain gaming, with the most entertaining games attracting the most gamers.

Blockchain games also require a community to rally around them and a development studio to keep the games fresh and playable. With projects such as the above building development studios, these communities will be bringing out newer titles adding to their initial releases. Attack Wagon is also creating a long-term view on each of its games, allowing players to earn on multiple games, with the value generated being transferred over and continued across several titles and for the long term. Also, Liberty already had a wide game collection and is set to continue to expand. This way they can offer a wide choice to their community and meanwhile add more and more scholarships. They can be seen as the go-to guild for crypto play-to-earn games.

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