Pull up a gaming chair, sit back and immerse yourself into the world of gaming as we discuss the impact of blockchain within the industry.
We take a glace into the future of gaming and consider how a focussed digital marketing plan can benefit companies utilising blockchain tech to produce games and how this can support in reaching larger audiences.
The gaming industry has grown exponentially since computer games reached mainstream popularity in the 1970s and 1980s. In recent years we have seen many different branches of gaming, including the lucrative esports industry. Gaming has always been at the razor edge of technological advances, so it makes sense that blockchain tech has contributed to new developments in recent times. Indeed, there’s a new kid on the block (or should we say blockchain), which has the potential to disrupt the gaming industry as we know it.
GameFi, blockchain gaming, P2E, crypto or NFT games or whatever term you want to use – this technology signifies a shift in narrative focussed on decentralisation. The centralised gaming industry as we know has fattened the pockets of greedy company exces since conception and GameFi strives to change this by placing ownership in the hands of the player. However, there’s a problem, GameFi is still in its infancy and as such has been met with scepticism from “traditional” gamers, despite the significant benefits which we will explore in this article.
So, without further ado let’s play a game, a marketing game! The narrative is GameFi VS traditional gaming going into battle, and there can only be one winner. GameFi has a secret weapon though, which is yet to be triggered and it’s called digital marketing. Let’s activate this and see how a bespoke digital marketing strategy can support the journey of adoption, reach a wider audience and blow traditional gaming to oblivion!
The gaming industry: A pretty big player!
Ok, let’s take a step back and consider just how big the gaming industry really is. In 2021 the gaming market was valued at 198.40 billion USD, pretty big right? Well in the next 5-6 years its expected to almost double and reach an eye watering value of 339.95 billion USD. The gaming industry has truly become one the most lucrative business models on the planet.
Gaming has consistently seen growing adoption, with an estimate 3.24 billion gamers across the globe. In truth, the figure is likely a lot larger. It’s no secret that the gaming industry has transformed the way in which many people spend their free time.
Taking control: A jump from arcades to households to phones
Although video games have been within households for years, I can think back to my brother’s Spectrum and my Sega mega drive, until the late 1990s, arcade video games were the biggest and most technologically advanced area of the gaming industry.
There are so many different niches within the gaming industry whether it’s Arcade video games, consoles, PC games and more recently mobile games, VR and cloud gaming. The list goes on. It’s estimated that the number of mobile gamers in 2021 was around 2.6 billion, worldwide. Mobile phones and the advances in the last decade have truly revolutionised people access to gaming.
Earning potential: Changing the game!
So, when did the gaming industry evolve from the casual gamer and become something individuals or communities can monetise? It could be argued that esports first came into play back in the 1970s, however unlike today there wasn’t a huge industry and certainly no prize money.
In 2021 was valued at more than 1 billion USD. You could argue that its quite a small part of the overall gaming industry which we saw was valued at almost 200 billon USD. However, esports is growing exponentially which saw an increase of almost 50% in the last year. Esports is predicted to keep growing.
An interesting concept, people like to watch these competitions as they would any other sporting event. As advances in VR come into force and we start to see metaverses become an everyday norm, I expect to see people filling out virtual arenas to watch these events.
An important aspect of esports and the competitions within it is the fact players are handsomely rewarded with prize money in the millions of USD. For me the earning potential was a game changer, players able to make money from gaming, turning a hobby into a job. Let’s think about gaming and earning potential in more detail.
GameFi: New kids on the block(chain)
Its hard not to see parallels between the new and exciting niche of blockchain gaming and “traditional” gaming in the early days, which we can explore.
We’ve looked at the juggernaut that this the gaming industry and how it has stream rolled its way to mass adoption and prominence over the last 30+ years, but this didn’t happen overnight. Not everyone was instantly going to the arcades every weekend, buying a spectrum or gaming PC. It started as a niche group of individuals. It takes time to change patterns of behaviour, that and clever, targeted and bespoke marketing strategies – more on that later.
This is where I believe GameFi is right now. Tied to a niche community with blockchain but with the potential to tap into the wider gaming market.
So, what exactly is GameFi?
The term GameFi is a combination or fusion of “game” and “finance”, similar to how the term Defi was coined, which stands for “decentralised finance”. GameFi is essentially a play on DeFi in that it refers to a decentralised version of gaming. It refers to games that provide a financial incentive to play them, known as play-to-earn or P2E. It’s through these incentives that gamers can earn in game assets such as NFTs and Cryptocurrency in return for playing the game.
Though not quite in its current form, GameFi has been around for longer than some might think. The idea of play-to-earn games has been building for quite some time, beginning all the way back in 2013.
Decentralisation & ownership at its core
One thing that certainly different from traditional gaming is ownership of assets within games. P2E games within the GameFi sector have paved the way for a decentralised gaming economy through facilitating in-game asset ownership via NFTs and crypto tokens that can be traded in digital marketplaces.
The onus of GameFi places so much importance on decentralisation & ownership that many of the gaming companies use a completely different business model to the traditional structure, I’m talking about DAO’s (Decentralised autonomous organisations). For those unfamiliar a DAO is a community-led business that has no central authority, meaning no small number of execs make decisions on the direction of the company nor do they take the lion share of the profits. Instead, a large community governs, and profits are shared amongst those individuals.
I’ll take about this in more detail in a separate article, but my takeaway here is that the entire structure of blockchain gaming companies focus on decentralised ownership, not just the games.
Enter the metaverse…
Never has there been a better time for GameFi in the market in my opinion. In the last year we have seen conversations around web3 and the metaverse explode. We’ve seen how games and gameplay has progressed over the last 20+ years, through both iterations of the internet, Web1 & Web2 (the latter being the present). With Web3 on the horizon (the iteration of the internet built on blockchain technology) where decentralisation is the basis, it’s the perfect time for games that fit within this new world.
Companies that take advantage of blockchain tech for building games could find themselves rewarded in the future, prepared for technological advances in the web and therefore the market. Why build using old technology when you can build with the future in mind and have the best chance to stand the test of time? I digress, my point is many indications suggest we will likely be in a Web3 world in the next 5 -10 years and some would argue we are already beginning this transition.
Large, centralised corporations are trying to get a piece of the pie, with Facebook rebranding to Meta in an attempt to stay relevant, Google creating a Web3 team and Nike setting up a virtual store, selling trainers as NFTs. Meanwhile there are solid metaverse projects like Decentraland and Sandbox which are already decentralised and already live. I expect to see more VR metaverses, using Unreal Engine 5 popping up in the coming years, adding that hyper reality to in-game play, shopping and more.
Popular blockchain games
In the little time GameFi has been around there have been some games that have great success, mostly in blockchain circles it needs to be noted.
Let’s take a brief look at 5 of these games –
- Axie Infinity – Very popular P2E game with artwork that heavily resembles Pokémon characters. Within this the game players breed and collect NFT-based digital pets named Axies, with the purpose of battling other players.
- Gods Unchained – Trading card P2E game, whereby players accumulate cards by purchasing them from other players or winning PVP matchups. Here the quality of cards and the skill of players usually determine the winner.
- Alien Worlds – Metaverse game whereby players can acquire NFTs to mine TLM, participate in battles and complete quests. Players may purchase and assemble NFTs to best suit their gameplay, depending on their particular strategy.
- The Sandbox – Blockchain equivalent of Minecraft or Roblox, where players can build and trade virtual assets in the metaverse. In this game, players can manipulate and monetise assets. Players can also sell create and objects on an in-game marketplace.
- Star Atlas – Highly anticipated, blockchain game. P2E game that will include expansive space exploration gameplay, meticulously designed strategy elements, and high spec graphics. Could this be a blockchain game which crosses over to the mainstream?
We looked at Star Atlas at no.5, but could easily have discussed Illuvium or Cornucopias, which are another two highly anticipated games with gameplay and graphics to challenge some the most popular mainstream games out there.
The big picture: Benefits + the challenges of GameFi
It’s only right that we take a balanced approach to looking at blockchain gaming and discuss both the pros and cons of this up-and-coming industry.
Benefits of blockchain gaming: How GameFi can redefine the industry
In the section above we looked at some poplar blockchain games currently live and in the market, but also exciting games currently in the works. Could some of these games in development be the ones that successfully cross over? If so, what could a traditional gamer expect the main differences to be?
Here, we can take a quick look at some of the key differences –
- Decentralisation – Blockchain games allow players to track actions within previous gameplay, as well as the actions of other players. This is important as it provides more freedom for the players and removes restrictions for game developers.
- Ownership – A common misconception in traditional gaming is that in game assets purchased or earned belong to the player. This is unfortunately not the case. With GameFi a player outright owns every asset purchased, earned or won.
- Storage – A frustration among gamers is losing past games, which are stored using centralised solutions. The technology used in GameFi removes this problem and previous games are safety archived on the blockchain.
- Transparency – The nature of blockchain means that every action is stored and visible for all to see. Gamers can see every action taken by developers behind the scenes and this openness and ability to see what’s going on breed confidence.
- Earning potential – P2E games provide an opportunity for players to not only earn a side income but in some cases make a living, especially in Countries with a weak economy. This earning potential can be lifechanging for some people.
Blockchain gaming companies should keep these points in mid when looking to approach mainstream gaming markets as part of their digital go-to-market plans. Many gamers may be blissfully, or maybe not so blissfully, unaware of these.
Challenges: What’s holding GameFi back from mass adoption?
Let’s now take a look at some of the cons of GameFi and the challenges to mass adoption in the coming years.
- Joining costs – Although true for games Like Axie Infinity, this is untrue for all blockchain games. However, it needs to be mentioned as it does exist. That said the introduction of gaming guilds can made such games more accessible to the masses.
- Security – In game assets such as NFTs are often stored on wallets such as Metamask and Phantom, which are often added as Chrome extensions. Unfortunately, they are still vulnerable to attacks, and this is a concern for many.
- Regulation – GameFi utilises blockchain technology and as such depending on where you live in the world players may be susceptible to regulations which deem their gaming activity illegal. This could lead to loss in assets tied up in a game.
- P2E model – Listed as a benefit above, the model is not without criticism. Some believe that this model has come at the cost of producing a high end, high visual gaming experience. However, many believe games such as Star Atlas, Illuvium and Cornucopias will prove otherwise.
- Exposure – Less of a criticism and more of challenge, it’s true to say that many people still don’t know the GameFi industry exists. However, we will explore how digital marketing can help remedy this.
Digital marketing for GameFi: Your secret weapon!
Blow traditional gaming to oblivion…
Now it’s time for the fun bit, maximising the potential of your blockchain game though digital marketing strategies to place your brand in front of the right audience with the right message to resonate with them. Digital for GameFi is critical. Whether this is to build awareness of a game before its release date or keeping a player base after the release, ensuring consistent engagement.
Let’s take a look at how a well implemented and effective digital plan can help propel your GameFi project to a large audience.
Defining your specific audience
Realistically, you can look at the audience as a split between gamers (crypto native gamers and traditional gamers), game developers and investors. Games being the most important target of course. Let’s look at these three individually.
- Gamers – Usually in the age range between early teens and mid-thirties and have a good understanding of tech. This combination makes them a good target as they can deal with the technicalities involved in blockchain gaming, setting up wallets etc and are open to new tech, Web3 and not too wary of scams. Most study or have full time jobs and use P2E as a hobby or for passive income.
- Developers – Every game needs a strong dev team. Based all around the world, with many in the US, Europe and Asia’s capitals. The majority of game developers are not native to blockchain. Identifying this niche is important.
- Investors – Fundraising is essential for many games. Think small venture capital capitalists looking to invest in new and upcoming GameFi projects. VC’s in the space regularly bet on teams, communities, and followers.
When looking at your targets, you can use some of the audience research tools out there like Hootsuite, Tint or Conversocial for social listening. This will help to understand what people in gaming are taking about, find gaps in the market and help to define your messaging.
Double down on key channels
In my previous article on digital marketing for blockchain, I discuss how crypto projects have been forced to explore new channels due to Google and popular social media channels essentially banning blockchain advertising.
This needs to be considered when choosing channels to promote a blockchain game. For the sake of this article and the audience being crypto native and traditional gamers as the main target, followed by devs and investors – a strategy which includes popular and crypto alternative channels is essential.
For example, when targeting crypto native games, you may want to push your messaging though the following Channels: Discord, Telegram, Medium, Reddit, Twitch and Crypro ads sites (such as CoinZilla).
Whereas, when targeting a more traditional gaming market you might want to explore more traditional channels such as: Facebook, WordPress, Instagram, and for ad campaigns – Google or Bing ads.
However, there are digital channels that still work for for both crypto and non-crypto natives, which include: a website, plus Twitter and YouTube.
Effective digital marketing strategies to promote GameFi
I want to take a look some strategies that can help to support the launch or ongoing marketing of blockchain games.
- Define your messaging – Regardless of the industry, marketing is all about getting the right message at the right time to the right audience. Therefore, with GameFi in mind and the crypto-native and traditional gamers, it’s important to get messaging laser focussed on each market, on their separate channels.
- Influencer marketing – Collaborating with influencers has become an integral part of modem day digital marketing. Utilising the right channels for each market, I would advise seeking opportunities to collaborate with gaming influencers and streamers whenever possible.
- Giveaway and Airdrop campaigns – GameFi projects should think about the theme of their game and how they can use the free distribution of gaming NFTs and tokens to increase both engagement and community growth. Airdrops are an excellent opportunity to build your community.
- Build a strong community – Gaming is all about community and that goes for blockchain and traditional gaming. Using channels such as Reddit, Discord, Medium and more, GameFi projects can build hype for the game. Also, it allows projects to keep an eye on discussions to get insights about an audience.
- Email Marketing – One of the most important marketing strategies for blockchain gaming. GameFi projects can utilise this strategy, using target emails and direct messaging to tell potential gamers about the brand, goals, roadmap and getting them to sign up to newsletters.
- Paid ads – Let’s consider the importance paid search can have. Projects don’t have to reply on Google or traditional channels for this one either. There are a number of crypto specific media sites that have paid ads structures in place. Using this could be another string to the bow of blockchain gaming projects, to reach the right audience.
Marketing GameFi to mainstream players
One of the biggest mistakes you can make when you go-to-market with a project or service is to assume that you know your audience and neglect an entire market based on assumptions alone. That’s why we have already discussed different tools and methods available to you which can help you to make sure you don’t miss any markets, even if you do double down on some in particular.
So, what about mainstream or “traditional” gamers? If you only target the crypto niche alone, then you are likely missing out on a whole range of opportunities to connect with this audience. Make no mistake, targeting this audience is more difficult than those already with understanding, knowledge and experience within the blockchain community, your messaging needs to be different among other things.
Challenges to attracting this audience
There are many blockers to influencing traditional games to make the switch to GameFi and some include regulatory uncertainty, technology limitations, poor user experience and gameplay quality or a lack of technical expertise. Of course, there may be many more reasons, which using social listening tools GameFi projects may determine whilst defining messaging. However, let’s take a look at some of the ways projects might be able to ease these concerns and reach a mainstream gaming audience.
Ways to target mainstream gamers
We already know just how big the gaming industry and active gamers was in 2021, so how can blockchain games take a piece of that market share?
- Thought leadership – GameFi projects should focus on teaching audiences about blockchain games. Many gamers are yet to move from to P2E games with the main reason being that they don’t know the benefits or how to make the transition. Using Twitter or YouTube to educate and teach gamers about blockchain gaming will open up the gates to this audience. Projects could release weekly, or monthly podcasts dedicated to educational content.
- Livestreaming – A very successful way to connect with an audience in real-time. Livestreaming’s success is significant, with platforms such as YouTube and Twitch having millions of daily viewers. It’s a great way to target a traditional gaming audience as gamers are always looking for fresh content to try out, in real-time.
- Join a gaming community – Bring your world to them. Join traditional gaming communities online and discuss blockchain gaming. This could turn out to be a positive move and lead gamers into GameFi communities on Reddit and Discord. Again, this is all about education, teaching gamers about blockchain gaming.
Summarising my thoughts…
The world of blockchain gaming is so new, we can’t even agree on what to call it. Is it Crypto gaming, NFT gaming, GameFi, Web3 gaming? At this point it doesn’t entirely matter. What does matter is ensuring that audiences have access to the right information about the industry and not incorrect, misleading content that may discourage them.
The evolution of GameFi in the next 5 years is likely to be massive, however marketers for blockchain gaming can support this effort by helping gaming projects to get the right messaging in front of the right audineces.
Blockchain games have a fantastic opportunity to use digital marketing to their advantage, but it has to be done in the right way, having a much better understanding of their audiences will advise the channels needed and the messaging to be used, which in turn will increase adoption of GameFi projects and the industry as a whole.