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As the blockchain’s many sectors slowly recover from 2022’s grueling market, an unlikely industry has returned to the zeitgeist in a surprising way. Once considered a declining sector due to sharp drops in user counts and controversies around exploitative tokenomics, blockchain games have had a major revamp.

During the play-to-earn era, titles such as Axie Infinity dominated headlines and spawned hundreds of copycat titles trying to ride the wave it created. But when critics noted a stark imbalance between gameplay and monetization across the sector, players soon soured on dedicating time and effort to blockchain games that didn’t seem to care about user enjoyment. That perception is starting to turn for the better, with kudos to some key developers and projects.

Last year, the blockchain gaming industry earned $7.6 billion in venture capital investment and saw daily average users rise 60 percent from 2021, according to research from DappRadar. Likewise, gaming made up 49 percent of all blockchain transactions in 2022, with transactions growing 3,260 percent from 2020, an undeniably impressive figure considering the wider industry fluctuations.

This kind of industry turnaround couldn’t happen without great projects and game developers injecting creativity and fun back into blockchain games. These are our picks for blockchain games that we feel are leading the pack to relaunch a flourishing sector.

Illuvium

Taking inspiration from triple-A open-world games, Illuvium fuses story-led fantasy with exciting player-versus-player action. Players battle with a collection of creatures known as Illuvials, which can be captured in-game through enhanced gameplay mechanics.

With a universe that calls to mind Skyrim or World of Warcraft, players train their Illuvials to increase power and fuse them together to create unique creature combinations. Illuvium puts player ownership first for each in-game asset through NFTs that can be owned, traded, or sold in its dedicated marketplace. The Illuvium world prioritizes genuine exploration as players encounter quests, boss fights, and treasure hunts for the entire community to compete in. Its integration with ImmutableX and the Ethereum blockchain allows instant peer-to-peer trading without gas fees, fuelling its in-game economy through its native ILV token. Illuvium illustrates how putting discovery and gameplay first can build a rich and inventive game experience that works in tandem with the blockchain.

Wombat Dungeon Master

Developed by Spielworks, the veteran Web3 company behind the NFT mobile gaming app Wombat, Dungeon Master gives players the chance to stake NFTs to receive XP, in-game bonuses and treasures, and NFT rewards. The “clicker” style RPG follows a dungeon theme and runs on a season-based system to expand its in-game storyline and user rewards. To date, more than 3 million users have signed up, with 37,000 new players joining during its most successful season which ended in April.

Wombat Dungeon Master operates on $WAX and $EOS, enabling its 65,000 daily users to hide NFT treasure to be found by other players, with more than 1.5 million NFTs staked to date. Equipment, skins, and other materials are available for users to implement to gain crypto rewards. With Dungeon Master in open beta, the game also sets the stage for Spielworks’s expansive Dungeon World NFT gaming universe, set to launch later this year.

DeFi Land

For fans of FarmVille or Harvest Moon, DeFi Land is an agriculture simulation game that also serves as an entryway into the world of decentralized finance. As a notoriously complex sector of crypto, DeFi Land integrates well-known automated market makers, decentralized exchanges, and lending protocols to give users the chance to explore DeFi in a gamified way. Each in-game asset represents a real cryptocurrency through easily understandable terms. For instance, sunflowers represent Solana, corn stands in for USDC, and pumpkins correspond to COPE.

The free-to-play game allows players to transition to a play-and-earn tier through minigames and other challenges to build DeFi acumen in an enhanced and entertaining user experience. DeFi Land’s play-and-earn model ensures that players at any skill level can earn income while actually learning about decentralized finance in a meaningful way. By reaching milestones and completing tasks, players can earn DeFi Land’s native DFL token, which can be traded for in-game assets, NFTs, staking, liquidity, and governance votes. As of now, a mobile version of the game is slated for release later this year for improved accessibility.

Fancy Birds

If you remember the ultra-addictive Flappy Bird craze from 2013, Fancy Birds is right up your alley, but with a blockchain-based twist. As the first game by rising Web3 developer Fancy Studios, Fancy Birds is a mobile and web game that echoes the side-scrolling skill-testing obstacle course challenge of Flappy Bird.

The game includes 8,888 randomly generated birds, which users can purchase as NFTs. The game is free to start and players can then choose to purchase a Fancy Bird NFT for access to advanced game features and perks to navigate the game. By completing obstacle course quests, users earn FNC tokens that can be used to customize and power up each Fancy Bird. Additionally, players can utilize FNC to participate in tournaments, additional gameplay modes, and even staking. For multiplayer capabilities, Fancy Studios has unveiled Fancy Birds: Sky Wars, where players can battle each other for rewards and perks in addition to its flagship title. The game offers an inventive and easy-to-access update to a beloved mobile game in a way that doesn’t feel forced or disingenuous.

Sorare

One of the first wider uses for NFTs has been for digital trading cards in professional sports. Sorare takes it one step further by tapping into the ever-popular fantasy sports sector by creating a game where users can buy, sell, and trade officially licensed player cards. The game has already landed partnerships with some of the most prestigious leagues and figures in sports, including the Premier League, the NBA, Major League Baseball, and even Serena Williams to name a few.

Each Sorare card is a unique NFT that represents a real-life athlete, with the NFT mirroring their performance as a player on the field. Sorare players can use their cards to build five-player teams to compete in free twice-weekly tournaments and earn rewards. Users can play for free but have the chance to earn real-world rewards including tickets, merchandise, ETH, and VIP experiences.

These five games are just part of the wide variety of inventive blockchain gaming titles that have launched in the past year. While each of them is blockchain-based, they all cover different game modes, tokenomics models, and niches of gamers from sports fans to RPG enthusiasts. But what they all share in common is an emphasis on easy accessibility, fun gameplay, and broad appeal to players who aren’t as familiar with crypto or blockchain games. As more titles and developers appear every day with unique concepts and applications, the future of blockchain games looks brighter than ever.

Image by Jan Vašek from Pixabay