In this inaugural edition of Cointelegraph’s monthly Web3 gaming column, we highlight some of the top stories and events in the blockchain gaming space over the past few weeks, as well as upcoming releases.
Fortnite player sells Dookey Dash prize
It’s been a little over a month since NFT behemoth Yuga Labs, the company behind Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC) and other top NFT collections, rolled out the skill-based game and NFT mint, Dookey Dash.
Sent on a quest by a dog called Gary, players have to navigate through the sewers, dodging obstacles and collecting power-ups in pursuit of a golden key.
For three weeks, holders of Sewer Pass NFTs competed for the top spot on the leaderboard and various prizes. Although BAYC and sister collection Mutant Ape Yacht Club holders could claim a free pass, buying one wasn’t cheap. The floor price currently stands at 2.4 Ether (ETH) ($3,888).
That’s a lot to play Temple Run in a toilet.
Yuga Labs reported the game was played more than 7.5 million times, equivalent to 80 years of game time and an average of about 28 hours per pass. Over 9,000 pass holders used $APE to purchase boosts, about one-third of active players. That said, it is not clear how many individual people played the game. Only 51% of the Sewer Passes have unique owners, meaning a whole lot of people are hoarding multiple passes.
A bonus round of the game, Dookey Dash: Toad Mode, closed its leaderboard on March 1.
The top prize, “The Key,” went to Kyle Jackson, better known as “Mongraal” on Twitch and YouTube. The 18-year-old professional Fortnite player, no doubt treasuring the very important loot he had just acquired, promptly listed The Key for sale on OpenSea.
Although he wanted 2,222 ETH ($3.6 million) for it, he ultimately sold it this week for 1,000 ETH ($1.6 million) to American scrap metal CEO Adam Weitsman.
According to Spencer Tucker, Yuga Labs’ new chief gamer officer, the game is just the beginning of how the company is thinking of connecting the dots between NFTs, gaming and community engagement.
“We want these things to be fun and weird, while also continuing to push the boundaries of what people perceive of the NFT industry,” he said.
“More than a jpeg, it’s all about utility, innovation, creating interactive experiences and hopefully onboarding new players to the web3 space.”
Dungeons & Dragons reverses NFT ban
Wizards of the Coast, the publisher of Dungeons & Dragons (D&D), was forced to walk back proposed changes to its Open Game License (OGL) in January. For more than two decades, its OGL has allowed people to make D&D derivative projects, like graphic novels and plays.
Among the now-dropped changes was a ban on NFTs and other blockchain integrations. Ironic, considering Wizards of the Coast is owned by Hasbro, which itself debuted a Power Rangers NFT collection on the Wax blockchain last year.
The company also sought to introduce royalties payable by content creators of a certain size and new powers for Wizards to terminate the license of projects.
The drama impacted US company Gripnr, which is building a D&D game with NFT integrations called The Glimmering. Its CEO and co-founder, Brent McCrossen, said he was “thrilled” that the updates had been reversed and that the published rules and lore of D&D had been moved to a Creative Commons license, making it freely available for use in perpetuity.
“We were not going to simply pack up our belongings and head home,” he said.
“NFTs and other potential emerging technologies are not a valid reason for revoking the OGL. We will object in a similar manner to any potential future attempts to restrict blockchain use; it is fundamental to GRIPNR’s core business,” he added.
While the Wizards of the Coast’s ban hasn’t ultimately panned out, it follows similar moves to ban NFT mods from Minecraft and Grand Theft Auto servers.
Yet whereas Grand Theft Auto makers Rockstar Games sent out cease and desist letters to builders shortly after the ban was announced, Mojang Studios — which is owned by Microsoft — doesn’t seem to be enforcing it, as NFT games still exist on Minecraft servers.
Square Enix to launch NFT-based game Symbiogenesis
Elsewhere on the dark and violent crossroads between traditional and Web3 gaming, Square Enix has released more details about its upcoming NFT game. Symbiogenesis was first announced in November as an Ethereum-based game. It’s since switched to Polygon and plans to launch in Spring this year.
Among traditional game makers, Square Enix has been one of the most bullish on Web3. Its president, Yosuke Matsuda, doubled down on that position in his New Year’s letter in January where he predicted the growth of a more mature blockchain gaming market over the coming year.
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The game will be set on a fantasy floating continent and players will have to unlock storylines through NFTs, which can be bought, traded or earned through completing missions.
Other AAA gaming studios in East Asia are also getting involved in Web3 projects. But while they’ve generally been more willing to experiment than their US counterparts, there are still some holdouts.
The rumor in Kyoto is that the powers that be at Nintendo HQ aren’t keen on NFTs, despite some vague public statements of “interest” — so don’t expect Pokemon NFTs any time soon.
And even the crypto-curious firms remain cautious. Nobody is risking their most valuable IP just yet, preferring to test out the response with lesser-known titles.
Wagyu Games rolls out ‘kill-to-earn’ zombie shooter
One of the most highly anticipated Web3 games of the past few months, Wagyu Games rolled out its first-person shooter zombie game, Undead Blocks, at the end of February.
With all the hallmarks of a classic zombie shooter – including a multiplayer mode – Undead Blocks claimed around 2,500 active daily players during its beta.
But the full launch now includes “kill-to-earn” features for NFT holders. Players can earn the in-game token ZBUX for slaying the living dead, which can be traded or used to buy NFT weapons and upgrades. The game also has a second token, UNDEAD, for governance that can be staked for rewards.
The company has been hyping up the rewards for players at a time when other games are becoming more cautious in their approach to rewards and tokenomics. There are plenty of contenders out there vying to become the project that proves there’s a sustainable way to share rewards with players, but nobody’s done it yet.
Play-to-earn has also fallen out of favor as a driver of growth. A Blockchain Games Alliance survey in 2021 found 67.9% of gaming professionals predicted play-to-earn would be a significant growth driver. A similar survey in January saw that number drop to just 22.5%.
Hot take — Illuvium: Zero
In January, Illuvium rolled out the private alpha for Illuvium: Zero, a building sim based around collecting and processing natural resources on Illuvium land NFTs. The Aussie company’s third game followed quickly on the heels of the December private beta release of Overworld.
Think SimCity BuildIt but more… purple.
Reviewing an alpha is arguably a grossly unfair thing to do. Alpha versions of games are still in their early days. They’re supposed to have glitches and lack full gameplay. The fact that it’s almost as good as BuildIt (not to be confused with non-mobile versions of SimCity) says far more about BuildIt than it does about Illuvium.
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But it follows similar principles. There’s a select set of buildings you can add to your land, some of which require unlocking by building other buildings. You can then use these buildings to extract resources and store them. I’m curious to see what these resources will ultimately be used for.
Despite numbers being capped at 6,500 players, Illuvium says that the game has been the most popular of the three it has released, potentially due to its availability on mobile devices and the use of NFTs that players have already invested in.
“Regarding future versions of Illuvium, the team has several plans to enhance graphics and gameplay,” said co-founder Kieran Warwick.
What’s coming up
Gods Unchained mobile version — Gods Unchained announced plans for a mobile version in February. It’s currently rolling out the pre-alpha to active community members and requesting feedback. The test period will end on March 22.
Chain Monsters — Looking a little bit Pokémon-esque, the early access version of Chain Monsters will hit the Epic Games Store on March 6. Also available on iOS and Android, players can explore the open world of Ancora, catching and battling monsters.
Illuvium: Beyond Illuvium’s fourth game will be a card-collecting game where players earn points based on how their cards are customized and by completing milestones within their collections.
Otherside Second Trip — Yuga Labs will launch a Second Trip to the Otherside at some point in late March, featuring updates to avatars and other new features. It will be followed by a second experience, Legends of the Mara, which will be a “stand-alone 2D experience powered by Apecoin.”
Got tips, questions or comments? Please direct all vitriol, abuse and declarations of love to me on Twitter @quinnishvili.
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