If there’s one thing that can introduce crypto to mass audiences, it’s GameFi. A fusion of gaming and finance, GameFi projects leverage blockchain technologies to bestow players with the assets they win in the game. Those assets can then be traded on crypto exchanges and NFT marketplaces for major cryptocurrencies, and ultimately “real-world” money.
Most GameFi projects are based on a Play-to-Earn (P2E) model, which makes the financial incentive the primary motivation for GameFi rookies, but in recent years, Play-and-Earn (P&E) rose in popularity as an alternative that balances money making with the gaming experience itself.
Like everything in crypto, GameFi is a dynamic field. GameFi projects can live on many different blockchains, including Ethereum, BSC, Polygon, and Solana. As of May 2022, there were over 1,600 GameFi listings on DappRadar. New blockchain games are added day by day, and behind the scenes, larger teams work on what some refer to as GameFi 2.0.
Many blockchain games are free to play, allowing players to get to know GameFi before they invest, but keep in mind that entry requirements should be considered together with other factors, including project’s viability and associated risk.
If you’re an experienced investor looking to explore another neighborhood of crypto town, you’ll be glad to hear that GameFi projects often extend beyond the virtual universe of the game, offering DeFi services like staking and yield farming.
Those entering crypto via GameFi often end up in DeFi. Before you invest, make sure you like the entire ecosystem, rather than just the genre of the game, and do your own research. None of what follows is financial advice!
Looked here and there, but still don’t know where to start? Here are a few of the most promising GameFi projects worth watching this year.
If it wasn’t for Axie Infinity, who knows where GameFi would be today. It's the most popular blockchain game out there. Axie Infinity’s governance token, AXS, is among the top 100 digital assets listed on CoinMarketCap. At the time of writing, its price stood at $24.
Axie Infinity players collect and breed chubby, fluffy creatures called Axies, then send them to battle. When a battle starts, Axie Infinity becomes a turn-based card game. The latest version of the game, Axie Origin, builds on those foundations, introducing new game modes, cards and traits, but the core features remain the same.
To start playing, you need to create the Axie Infinity ecosystem’s native Ronin Wallet, then fill it with enough wrapped ETH (WETH) to purchase three Axies. Alternatively, you can take advantage of a scholarship program, which connects token holders who don’t have enough time to play with prospective players, or scholars, who lack the means to purchase their own Axies. The rewards are then split according to the agreement between both parties.
As of this writing, the project had over 13,000 users, a big drop compared to over 60,000 Axie owners in January. In March, the network was hit by one of the biggest DeFi exploits in history, which saw North Korea-backed hackers drain 173,600 ETH and 25.5m USDC from the Ronin bridge. Those funds were ultimately restored with the help of Binance.
Although the game didn’t record a major outflow of users immediately after the attack, and it remains the biggest GameFi project by volume, its position is not what it used to be. Some have pointed out that as GameFi grows, its first flagship product is ready to be sidelined by newer projects.
But as the Axie team released Origin and handled the Ronin attack well enough to earn praise and support from Binance CEO Changpeg Zhao, proclaiming the game’s demise is likely to prove premature.
Splinterlands is an NFT-based collectible card game that lives on the HIVE blockchain, but has cross-chain compatibility with Ethereum, WAX, and TRON. Each card represents a separate NFT, which the holder can use in battle, trade, or rent. Cards can also be combined to level up, or burned in exchange for Dark Energy Crystals, the native token, which can in turn pay for items at the shop.
The game features monsters, who do the fighting, and summoners, who command the monsters to fight, plus elements, abilities, and habitats. Savvy players can make them into a strategy that leads to victory in tournaments, ranked play, and quests. Rewards include more cards, potions, and in-game currency.
It’s not FUD-free, though. Splinterland’s token, SPS, peaked in August 2021 at $1.12 and hasn’t climbed above $0.20 since January. Still, the game retains a reliable monthly user base of approximately 500 thousand players, suggesting that the community around the game could prove strong enough to weather the storms GameFi is facing.
Splinterland is free to play, with Google Play and Apple’s App Store applications also available. In fact, the game can be enjoyed with little to no investment, making it easy to experiment with the GameFi space. At the same time, it’s one of the oldest GameFi projects out there, and the team has years of refinements and developments under their belt.
You might know The Sandbox as a metaverse rather than a GameFi project, but in fact, it’s both. Heir to an old mobile game by the same name, The Sandbox is based on the idea that every player can become a contributor to the gaming universe. That’s why it’s called The Sandbox!
The Sandbox users can build their own items and bring them to life as NFTs to turn them into assets in the game. There’s a simple editor that removes the need for any coding skills, with builders using Voxels, or 3D pixels, to construct pretty much anything, from dragons to trees to flying buses. These items can then be sold on The Sandbox’s marketplace, or leveraged to build an independent gaming experience on a piece of digital land.
It sounds complicated, and it is. The Sandbox is big. Since the platform was acquired by Animoca Brands in 2018, it attracted $95 million in funding across four rounds from investors like Binance Labs, Kingsway Capital and SoftBank. Most recently, the company was rumored to be looking for as much as $400 million of additional funding.
The Sandbox ecosystem uses several types of Ethereum tokens and runs on SAND, the primary in-game cryptocurrency, which can be used to purchase items and characters, acquire digital land (capped at 166,464 lots), and participate in platform governance. The token can also be staked for passive income. Despite the current crypto bear market, SAND has so far managed to stay above $1, a threshold it could barely touch before the late 2021 bull market set in.
It’s an extensive ecosystem built by experienced developers and managers. It’s also backed by considerable funding and celebrity endorsements, including from Snoop Dogg and Deadmau5. It’s unlikely The Sandbox will pack its bags anytime soon.
DeFi Kingdoms looks like GameFi and feels like DeFi. It’s a Harmony-based medieval-themed game that can only be played in a browser, but it’s also a decentralized exchange, liquidity pool, and NFT marketplace. The game revolves around two tokens, the in-game DeFi Kingdoms currency JEWEL and ONE, the Harmony token.
DeFi Kingdoms is primarily a DeFi ecosystem. Players can grow their JEWEL balance through investments in liquidity pools, or buy Seeds to plant for time-locked rewards. It’s a complex world that involves real money, so players should proceed carefully.
Another area to explore in DeFi Kingdoms are Heroes, non-fungible tokens that carry varying classes, levels, and stat blocks, plus, of course, a piece of pixel art. Heroes can become mining, fishing, gardening, or foraging professionals to earn rewards. They can wander around, spend time in a tavern, and meet other Heroes.
Earlier this year, DeFi Kingdoms announced its own Proof of Stake subnet, DeFi Kingdoms Blockchain, built on Avalanche. The expansion allows DeFi kingdoms to expand its blockchain gaming experiences in cooperation with Ava Labs. Thanks to the subnet, gas fees will be paid in JEWEL, expanding the token’s utility.
Win NFT Horse
The last game to make the list was created by TRON, the DAO behind the algorithmic stablecoin USDD and TRX, one of the few cryptocurrencies to grow in value during the 2022 bear market.
Win NFT Horse is, unsurprisingly, a horse racing game. It combines NFT and GameFi components, allowing players to buy and breed horses which can then race in four different modes: challenge, match, duel, and arena. Winners receive token rewards, then trade their horses for TRX or BNB.
The game runs on both Ethereum and Binance Smart Chain. Its initial game offering, the GameFi equivalent of ICO, was launched on Binance’s NFT marketplace in November 2021, making it a fairly new project compared to GameFi giants like Axie Infinity. The first open beta test was live in December.
Win NFT Horse is a dynamic project still at its early stages, with crypto heavyweights invested and a strong community starting to form.