NEAR & Gaming: How Web3 is Disrupting Gaming

August 11, 2022

The world of gaming is undergoing a radical shift thanks to cryptocurrency and Web3 technologies. Traditional top-down, centralized Web2 models of gaming are being challenged left and right. Community-operated games, new economic structures like play-to-earn, and other developments benefiting both players and indie game developers alike are just the beginning.

“A lot of smaller, independent game developers are restricted in Web2,” says Chase Freo, founder of OP Games, a native crypto gaming platform. “They simply don’t have the money to hit number one in the App or Google Play stores. But crypto and Web3 are changing all that. We’re eliminating gatekeepers and changing the way both developers and players participate in gaming.”

And while decentralization is a key part of how Web3 is disrupting the gaming industry, there’s much more to the story than that. Game development can be community managed and co-created via decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs). Radical new economic and financial models within games are emerging daily. Global brands even realize that they need to become involved with crypto gaming in some way.

In Part 3 of the “NEAR & Gaming” series, we’re exploring a few ways that Web3’s unique set of tools and infrastructure are disrupting the status quo. And why the NEAR ecosystem is at the forefront of this massive sea change.

Enabling composable fandom in eSports

The rise of eSports and competitive gaming has been a major industry trend in recent years. In many ways it lends itself perfectly to decentralization, cryptocurrencies, and Web3 technologies. In particular, digital collectibles and NFTs represent a significant opportunity to bring fans, creators, and brands closer to eSports teams and competitors.

“The industry now has tools to create digital collectibles as a medium for fan engagement,” explains Bridge Craven, CEO of ARterra Labs. “This can span a broad spectrum of use cases, like a utility NFT that grants fans tickets to a tournament or certain access to their favorite player through special Twitch emotes or Discord channels.”

ARterra is a Web3 fan engagement infrastructure platform for the eSports and gaming market. A major part of Craven’s vision is to make Web3 a user-friendly entry point for gamers, fans, and collectors, with win-win economic incentives for all parties involved.

“We chose NEAR because of the benefits in terms of scalability and user experience,” Craven continues. “We subsidize gas costs and are the custodian of the users’ private keys, so people don’t need to worry about the crypto interaction.”

Craven explains that Web3 is leading towards what he calls Composable Fandom. The idea that Web3 facilitates more interactive, long-lasting, and flexible ways for fans to interact with their favorite gamers, eSports teams, and even brands.

“Ownership is something that’s been missing from gaming, whether it’s in-game assets or something that travels with you like a passport,” Craven says. “But with NFTs and Web3, players have more opportunities to make a living, and fans can own their assets, and their fandom.”

Mobile taking blockchain gaming mainstream

Gaming is also onboarding more users into Web3 through mobile devices, and vice versa. So far, most successful Web3 games have been browser-based, while Web2 corporations and gaming studios continue to dominate mobile. 

But this model is changing. And PlayEmber, a Web3 gaming platform focused on the mobile market, is helping to lead the charge. PlayEmber’s Web3 software development kit (SDK), combined with a native NEAR wallet, is reshaping the Web3 mobile gaming landscape for developers and players alike.

“Everyone is talking about blockchain gaming, which is great. But if you look at GameFi 1.0, for example, it was all desktop,” observes Jon Hook, advisor, and CMO at PlayEmber. “But nobody was really talking about bringing blockchain gaming to mobile. So we thought, why not use blockchain to make the games people love to play even more fun?”

Hugo Furn, founder PlayEmber, adds that once Web3 gaming focuses more on building experiences that are as fun as Web2, the blockchain industry will finally crack the code for bringing blockchain gaming to the masses.

“We already know that NEAR is going to be this amazing on-ramp,” Furn says. “But instead of starting with things like tokenomics or yield farming mechanisms, we’re helping developers keep the mobile gaming experience at the center of what they do, then incorporate in-game tokens or NFTs to boost what players can do.”

Both Hook and Furn envision a future where mobile blockchain gaming—powered by PlayEmber’s SDK and NEAR on the backend—makes blockchain gaming as seamless and accessible as Web2. The games will not only be fun but based on a decentralized economic model that provides greater benefits to gamers of all stripes.

“You could play a mobile game and earn NFTs to sell on an open marketplace, for example,” Hook predicts. “Or if brands partner with games, you could redeem those tokens for a free coffee or flight upgrade. Mobile is critical to making blockchain games as popular as the ones featured at events like E3 and Comic Con.”

Building a resourceful, collaborative metaverse

While the seeds of what we now know as the blockchain-enabled metaverse were sown in Web2, new advancements, projects, and thought leaders are taking the metaverse to the next level. Atlantis World is one such project, aiming to build a more social, accessible metaverse for gaming, productivity, and whatever uses that inhabitants can dream up.

“At Atlantis World, we’re building a more resourceful metaverse,” explains Rev Miller, founder of Atlantis World. “And what I mean by that is connecting things like audio, video, text chats, and conferencing into a lightweight metaverse experience that can be completely stored on a thumb drive.”

Miller sees Atlantis World as an intersection between a metaverse gaming experience and a platform where people can create their own customizable virtual spaces. 

“We see Atlantis World as kind of a Layer Zero for the metaverse,” Miller continues. “We want to enable users to find their own creative ways to engage and solve problems. For instance, we’re planning to integrate AstroDAO into Atlantis World to potentially help solve governance challenges. DAOs will be able to meet, discuss, and vote entirely in the metaverse to hopefully increase engagement and voter turnout.”

Atlantis World represents an important shift in the metaverse from Web2 to Web3, and even current ways in which the blockchain metaverse functions. 

“We want to make it easier for users by providing them with no-code tooling and enabling them to build spaces on their own,” says Miller. “At the same time, we want to challenge the current notion of metaverse lands. It doesn’t make sense to have scarce resources and limited plots, so we want Atlantis World to be flexible and expansive in that respect.”

Enhancing gaming’s economic incentives 

In Web2, economic activity and incentives are typically a one-way street: game studios and companies monetize players and users. Web3 has the potential to upend this model by making economic interactions and incentives fairer. Current Web3 projects on NEAR are already demonstrating how this will take place.

“We want to allow both players and developers to participate in the economic incentives that Web3 provides,” says Chase Freo of OP Games. “Imagine yourself as a player who walks into an arcade, except the games aren’t owned by a company or the arcade owner. They’re owned and operated by the developers themselves. That’s the gap we’re bridging.”

At OP Games, Web2 native gaming developers can easily migrate to Web3 with an SDK that features what Freo calls “Lego Blocks”—modular components for building and operating blockchain-based games. Those games can then be placed on the Arcadia platform, which is primarily for consumers. There are over 4,000 games, primarily tournament-based, which players can join based on their individual skill level. Players can participate in tournaments, NFT wagering, and other gaming activities that reward participation rather than simply taking their money to play.

“Another thing we’re working on is what we call NFT sharding for games,” Freo continues. “It’ll be the ability for game developers to transform their entire games into an NFT, fractionalize it, and sell those multiple pieces to the community. So then the community, along with the developers, run the game together as an enterprise.”

Freo adds that this community-owned and driven model for Web3 games will completely disrupt the economic models that gaming has traditionally existed under. This will move closer to becoming a reality as blockchain gaming experiences match what players are accustomed to from Web2 apps.

“Games don’t necessarily have to be fun, per se, but they need to evoke emotions. Games that are scary, keep you up at night or test your morality,” Freo says. “These are the types of things that keep players coming back for more, and I think that we need more of in the Web3 space.”

The dawn of Web3 gaming disruption 

Last year’s newsworthy boom in blockchain gaming and the metaverse was just the beginning of how Web3 is changing the gaming industry—hopefully for the better. Fans of eSports can get closer to their favorite stars and own collectibles with real-world utility and value. Mobile gaming on the blockchain promises to reward users more, instead of simply extracting time and attention.

The metaverse also promises to become more open, lightweight, and collaborative if projects like Atlantis World are any indication of what’s to come. But most importantly, economic models and incentives around the interaction between creators and players are ripe for disruption. 

In Web3, players will have a bigger voice in allocating in-game resources and how their overall world exists. And developers will be empowered more creatively and economically in terms of the games, worlds, and experiences they create. 

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