The rise of mobile gaming has a lot in common with crypto gaming

Over the past decade, mobile gaming has become an important mainstay in the interactive entertainment market. Thanks to the access to smartphones, users around the world have been brought into the sphere of hardcore gamers. Today, the emergence of blockchain technology is creating a paradigm shift, providing players with the ability to both truly own the assets they earn or purchase in-game and the ability to generate tangible value from their time spent playing.

This new model may offer many opportunities, but today most of the projects available are simply not up to par with their legacy counterparts. This has led many to doubt that this new generation of games can penetrate mainstream interest. However, this may be short-sighted. Indeed, this isn’t the first time a new technology has been dismissed based on its early examples.

The growing pains of blockchain gaming

Web3 games integrate decentralized blockchain elements, including smart contracts and non-fungible tokens (NFTs), to create virtual assets that can be verifiably owned and traded by players without third-party intervention. This innovation puts a high degree of power back in the hands of gamers. That said, the crypto gaming space is still nascent, and many early offerings have been described as too simplistic and derivative without offering new or compelling gaming experiences.

As a result, many self-proclaimed gamers don’t want much with NFT games due to a perceived lack of depth and an overemphasis on financial gain. Double “play-to-earn”, or P2E, these products offer players the opportunity to earn real value in the form of cryptocurrency and NFTs, which can then be sold for fiat currency. One of the most prominent examples of a P2E game is Axie Infinity, which made headlines when it became a significant source of income for many people around the world during the COVID-19 pandemic, for eventually becoming unprofitable when bear market conditions began and gained potential nose dive.

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This is unfortunately the case with many similar Web3 games. Not designed to stand the test of time – or major economic shocks – many Web3 titles have failed to galvanize their fan base without their once lucrative financial benefits. This has led many critics of the blockchain gaming genre to assume that current offerings are the zenith of what is possible, with the sector consequently dismissed as a fad. However, a look at the recent past – particularly the monolithic rise of mobile gaming – demonstrates that early products shouldn’t define future potential.

The parallel of mobile gaming

If you looked at games on mobile devices around 2005, the situation would be just as funny. Titles were too simple, often difficult to control, and lackluster in the graphics department. The classic Snake game was among the most popular early mobile titles when Nokia brought it to its mobile phone line, with millions of players worldwide. At this point in history, anyone using their phone to game could only be considered a casual gamer, and a similar story emerged like what we see today.

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Many saw mobile phone games as a novelty for casual gamers that could never compete with the offerings available on consoles and desktop computers. Fast forward to today, and titles like Fortnite and Arena of Valor have become hugely popular with hardcore gamers and have even influenced the gaming industry at large. These days, no one would argue that mobile gaming is out of step with legacy offerings, as technology has evolved to make the differences more superficial.

Global consumer spending on games by device group. Source: data.i & IDC.

In fact, as of 2022, 60% of the gaming market is dominated by mobile. It is now the largest gaming branch in the world. While traditional gaming platforms still exist and work well, mobile has shown how new technologies can change the entire narrative of an industry when it matures. And to drive the point home, Snake did not define what would become of the mobile.

The future of crypto gambling

Regardless of what you think of the approach and success of P2E games, it is clear that this metric should not be used to judge the future viability of Web3 games. New generations of games that will take over legacy titles are already in the works. Some of these games still have P2E elements, and others implement NFTs; but most importantly, the industry is learning that games must go beyond financial compensation and introduce genuinely engaging gameplay to attract and retain players.

While many currently use Web3, P2E and blockchain games interchangeably, they are not all exactly the same. In the coming years, these branches may further differentiate from each other and even spawn new sub-categories of how this technology is implemented. Assuming that all future offerings will be broadly similar, one does not see the diversity that has emerged in the mobile market.

Only time will tell what happens to Web3, but those betting against it might want to think twice. There are many parallels between the rise of mobile gaming and what we see now. It remains to be seen which killer apps might open up the scene to a wider audience, but in 10 years it’s likely these types of titles will simply exist alongside their home console and mobile brethren.

Justin Hulog is the Studio Director at Immutable Games Studio. Previously, he worked for Riot Games on successful titles including Valorant, Wild Rift, and League of Legends. Justin graduated from Columbia University with a degree in Comparative Literature.

This article is for general informational purposes and is not intended to be and should not be considered legal or investment advice. The views, thoughts and opinions expressed herein are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.

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