Five Play-to-Earn Games That Never Took Off
Since the advent of blockchain, there have been several attempts to create game-based economies where players can buy, sell or trade cryptocurrencies or Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) with other players. Digital ownership has always existed in standard video games like Fortnite, but blockchain games seek to reinvent this ownership. You can own in-game items on Fortnite but you can't legally freely trade them with other players. But in blockchain games, the items you acquire — like weapons, skins, points, and emotes — have tangible value and can be traded with other players.
Blockchain games are often called Play-to-Earn games because players can earn cryptocurrency by playing them. So much so that their jobs to play blockchain games. This incredible new opportunity which had a at the beginning of this year has not been free of its challenges though.
In 2021, Dr. Serkan Toto, CEO, and Founder of Tokyo-based Kantan Games Inc., an independent consultancy focused on Japan's game industry made in an interview with : "A lot of these games seem to be forced exercises in basically trying to use blockchain and digital ownership and monetization". Dr. Toto wasn't wrong.
Many blockchain games have come, rode the hype, and come crashing down as failed experiments due to bad gameplay, obvious cash grabs, or just another huge Ponzi scheme. Here we explore a few of these games, why they crashed, and what you can learn from their demise.
Huntercoin by was a strategy MMO game released in February 2014. This was even before Ethereum, the leading blockchain in Play-to-Earn games, was announced. Its in-game Cryptocurrency HunterCoin (HUC), was forked from .
Huntercoin is often regarded as one of the very first blockchain games, which allowed players to mine and collect coins on a global map. Within this map, users could find resources, go head-to-head in player vs. player combat, and dominate the map.
It was originally launched as an experiment to explore the possibility of gamifying the mining experience unlike in Bitcoin where mining cryptocurrency was just a case of "may the best computer win". The experiment initially seemed like a success with players going on to collectively make worth of HUC.
But the experiment later failed. themselves, "as the game was initially very profitable it became overrun by bots. These bots made the game less fun, harder to play and eventually as predicted it became more of a "who has the most computer resources" or just like PoW."
The game became relegated to the same computer resources-based POW model it was trying to innovate on.
Motocoin launched shortly after HunterCoin on May 20, 2014. Just like Huntercoin, users could access Motocoin by running their nodes. Unlike in Huntercoin, however, Motocoin's gameplay was a mechanism for consensus and mining.
It was a 2D bike racing game that produced blocks in a program-generated environment. Within each block produced was a race, and the first player to complete each race won the MOTO reward attached to it.
The game continued to see good activity even a few years after launch. But eventually, just like Huntercoin, Motocoin too became dominated by bots. The Motocoin ecosystem today is now a graveyard. There's been no activity on their GitHub in the past, zero updates on Twitter or other social media channels and little to no trading activity on the game's coin MOTO.
Spell of Genesis
was one of the first attempts at tokenizing in-game assets/cards on the blockchain. Their in-game currency was Bitcrystals. It was the first game created by in March 2015. It later went on to use the Counterparty Protocol to tokenize collectible cards on Bitcoin. Players could collect cards and use them to destroy enemy cards.
Spell of Genesis fell because the in-game fees for trading in-game assets gradually became too expensive as the price of Bitcoin continued to rise.
Beyond the Void
This was a real-time battle strategy and Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) game. used a custom Ethereum smart contract backed by Nexium crypto tokens to create a blockchain-based economy within the game.
As a real-time Strategy game set in space, players selected ships and built out their strategies for defense and attack to compete in a one-to-one with other players, lead their army to defeat their opponent, and conquer an entire solar system.
The game was well developed, with great design, and had truly great gameplay but couldn't quite take off due to marketing constraints. The company behind it, B2Expand, couldn't do much to expand the player base and the game gradually died out as a result of that.
consisted of hundreds of casino-based, 3D mini-games that could be played to earn Bitcoin. Many of the games ranged from skill-based to luck-based. Users could complete quests which included gambling and get access to even more minigames as they leveled up their avatar.
Like most other games on this list, Dragon's Tale also died out gradually and there's hardly any information about it that doesn't go a few years back. In its case, the high fees from Bitcoin transactions as well as other factors contributed to its early demise.
Most of these now-dead or dormant blockchain games had a lot of similarities in their eventual downfall. One of the most obvious reasons, for some, was the gameplay mechanics. While having easy gameplay meant a newbie could jump into some of the games and quickly get used to them, it made them vulnerable to botting by players hoping to gain unfair advantages.
Others died simply because they didn't realize that being a blockchain game simply doesn't translate into automatic success without proper marketing and exposure. The high cost of in-game transactions also made it hard for some to scale.