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Trend of the Week #2: Producing AAA-Style Games

December 16, 2022
7 min read


There is an observable trend among Web3 game developers to create more AAA-style games instead of decentralized finance applications masquerading as games. The last comment might seem a little too harsh, but it alludes to a point that both Web2 and Web3 gamers can agree upon: early games in Web3 were not fun to play.

Smart game publishers in the space have caught on to this fact, it seems, after being distracted by the hyper-virality of early P2E titles. They now understand that relying on financial incentives alone is not a sustainable plan for creating a successful game that attracts and retains a large audience. They must create games that are, first and foremost, entertaining and engaging.

A new era is dawning upon web3 gaming, in which players can expect to see games with high-end graphics, engaging storylines, and a variety of activities to participate in.

What exactly are AAA games?

AAA games are video games that are considered to have the highest quality and production values of any video game. Titles like God of War, Call of Duty, Red Dead Redemption, and Grand Theft Auto (GTA) are some of the AAA games from the world of Web2 gaming. These games typically feature high-quality graphics, complex gameplay mechanics, and an immersive storyline. They are typically developed and published by major gaming companies and require a considerable amount of resources and money to create. While we’re still in the early years of Web3 gaming (the most popular game on the list launched only 4 years ago), there’s no excuse for Web3 game developers to not create the best game they can. Then why is it that we don’t see many high-end titles in the space? Let’s explore 

What the early games in space got wrong

In this section, we’ll discuss some of the problems and issues that forced web-based game developers to create boring games.

Over-emphasis on financialization, less on fun

The primary issue, in our opinion, that made web3 game developers avoid creating more complex but entertaining games was the presence of too much low-hanging fruit in the space. Let us explain: during the NFT boom of the year 2021, games that could be developed by high schoolers in Unity were raking in millions of dollars every month. This was due to an interesting economic model employed by these games called Play-to-Earn (P2E), which rewarded players with real money for playing. There has been much debate about the sustainability of P2E gaming in the last year. We believe that P2E is not the main problem of web3 gaming, but it becomes one when games turn it into their primary selling point.

Many of the projects that started in 2021 used financial incentives to essentially buy players' attention, but what happens when the money stops coming in—they leave? That’s exactly why this strategy is not optimal for serious projects in Web3 gaming. If you want to stay in the game for the long run, focus on creating fun experiences.

No significant effort was put in by the developers.

NFT sales, loot drops, and P2E are all good ways to spark a spurt of user growth, but they cannot ensure the longevity of the project. Think about some of the most successful game franchises in the gaming world: GTA, NFS, God of War, Assassin's Creed, Fortnite, PUBG, and Valorant. What do they all have in common? These are high-quality games that engross the player through effective world building, realistic graphics, and complex gameplay. You need all of these qualities to keep a player hooked on a game. Unfortunately, early games in space had almost opposite qualities to the ones that we mentioned. Developers released games with half-baked storylines, nonexistent gameplay (click-to-earn style grinds), and 2D graphics. Many P2E games today demand that players invest hours of effort in tedious and predictable activities to acquire rewards. At its best, this type of game can be viewed as deceptive, with a superficial layer of attractive design and appealing characters. It is well known that repetitive tasks are present in traditional MMORPGs such as World of Warcraft, yet it should not be the case that farming in-game is less enjoyable than watching grass grow in the real world.

Barriers to Entry

To play many early-web3 games in the space, players had to purchase a non-fungible token (NFT) as a gate pass.While we're not against games raising funding directly from their community through NFT sales, the prices of some of these NFTs need to be put in check. Most early-game pass-through NFTs go for hundreds of dollars. It goes without saying that most gamers can’t afford to make and shouldn't be forced to make such investments.  This requirement to pay can be off-putting to users who are unsure about the game, particularly when there is no way to try the game out and there are multiple microtransactions and extra NFT purchases that need to be made during the game. We’ll discuss how upcoming web3 games are solving this issue in the subsequent trend reports.

Complex user experience

While crypto wallets and NFTs offer much utility, they also create undesired complexity for the user. Imagine a typical gamer—if they come across something interesting, they’ll want to play it immediately. But the way many web-based games are designed, it takes a player a good while to fulfill all the prerequisites before they can get started. Let us take you through the onboarding process of a game that we came across recently. So in this game, the user first visits the website, then they are told to create a crypto wallet; after dealing with that, they must buy an NFT from the marketplace; now they need to fund their wallet, so they go to a crypto exchange and get some crypto assets. But the game’s marketplace requires them to use their native token, so they first need to swap their recently bought cryptocurrency with the game token, and after buying the NFT, now they can finally start. This can’t be the case going forward, as most players will not put in this much effort, especially when there are tons of amazing games out there.

The move towards AAA

 The tide is changing, folks, and as we said, game developers are now focusing on gameplay rather than over-monetization. It used to be the case that the whitepaper of games was filled to the brim with talks of earning potential and the perks of P2E, but now we see an increased focus on gameplay, the use of high-end game engines to design beautiful-looking games, and the sustainability of the project. However, it's a gradual change, folks, and we’d like to share some insights on how web3 games can adopt a AAA strategy:

Focus on Immersion: Effective games take the player into a parallel world. One in which their problems do not exist, but mythical creatures and out-of-this-world adventures do.This element of escapism is essential to creating a game that captures the attention of gamers. The way web3 gaming studios can create this feeling of immersion is through effective world building, captivating graphics, and giving players the opportunity to get lost in the world that they’ve created with complex gameplay options.

Take your time. Developing a masterpiece takes time. Some AAA-style games can take as long as five years to make. However, in the past, we have seen many web3 games rush to market with a half-baked product. While we get the need to constantly keep the community pumped through updates, Delivering a rushed product is never a good strategy. We’d suggest developing trust with your community and being honest about the actual time it’ll take the team to build the game. Star Atlas has done a great job of informing their community about the realistic timeline for their game while simultaneously keeping them pumped with new updates.

Focus on quality: AAA games are known for their high level of polish and attention to detail. Make sure to allocate sufficient resources to testing and quality assurance to ensure that your game is of the highest possible quality when it is released.

Stay up to date with industry trends: The gaming industry is constantly evolving, so it's important to stay informed about the latest trends and developments. Keep an eye on what other studios are doing and consider how you can incorporate new technologies and approaches into your own work.

Ethereum and Solana Games are ahead of the curve.

While the trend of developing AAA-style games is noticeable across the industry, Web3 game publishers are choosing established networks like Ethereum and Solana over layer-2 solutions like ImmutableX. which makes sense from a developer perspective as they would like to build on a network that has market recognition, has shown some stability, and has a thriving ecosystem of developers. However, both of these platforms have some issues of their own. For example, transactions on the Ethereum chain can be notoriously expensive, while Solana is prone to downturns that can be devastating for the user experience. In the future, we expect many games to pivot to more affordable infrastructure, such as Layer 2, but that remains to be seen. We’ll soon do a list of AAA Web3 games that are live right now, so keep an eye out for that.