Web3 Gaming Is Here – But Should We Start with Web2.5?

By Sean Ryan, CEO of AQUA.xyz,

Video games are among the most popular and fastest growing forms of entertainment today. And the gaming industry continues to expand at an extraordinary rate, with one estimate forecasting global gaming revenues to reach a staggering $321 billion by 2026. Within gaming, blockchain technology – and the broader movement that’s loosely defined as Web3 – has shown particular promise with regard to the potential benefits that it can create for gamers.

However, it hasn’t been a seamless transition to the next era of video games. In fact, blockchain can be an incredibly polarizing term among gamers today – depending who you ask, digital assets are either the future of gaming or the worst thing to ever happen to it.

This rift in the gaming community has largely been a result of the fits and starts of blockchain adoption that have occurred in recent years – in some ways, the industry has tried to run before it learned to walk. It’s important to remember that previous generations of gaming experiences introduced critical aspects to gamers that they still yearn for. Striking a balance between the old and the new – in the form of Web2.5 – is a better way to integrate the blockchain tech into gaming. 

“Web2” refers to the internet experience that most consumers and gamers are familiar with today. While it certainly has major and glaring shortcomings, one shouldn’t discount the benefits Web2 created for consumers and for gamers in particular.

The most critical of these is ease of use – while now ubiquitous, there was a time when gamers around the world could not simply open a web browser and have access to countless games and communities at their fingertips. But the rise of Web2 made gaming incredibly accessible – making it easy to get on a platform, play games, find new communities, and generate content. Most importantly, Web2 made it easy to have fun playing games.

Lastly, Web2 facilitated adoption, giving instant access to the internet and to scores of games for billions of people around the world.

Since the very first Atari, gamers have poured thousands upon thousands of hours into countless games – but after unlocking an achievement or beating a game, were left with little to no tangible outputs. But Web3 – and blockchain technology – changes that entire dynamic, presenting a major departure from Web2-based gaming in one critical aspect: ownership

Blockchain technology provides a means to own in-game assets in a way that was previously impossible. Immutable, distributed ledgers provide the means to connote both uniqueness and digital ownership, giving gamers an entirely new way to lay claim to the items they earn through playing – a sense of ownership that the community has been seeking out for years. 

Of course, with ownership inevitably comes monetization – which is a source for much of the divide over blockchain gaming today. Some of the early iterations of integrating digital assets have arisen in play-to-earn games. This category of early Web3 games is generally poorly designed and not all that enjoyable. The problem is that the people who understand how to monetize games don’t understand how to make them fun.

Moreover, Web3, as it stands now, is not built for gaming. Owning digital assets requires wallets, concerns over custody, and difficult-to-navigate exchanges – and is incredibly complex. The user experience is too clunky, and the integration into games doesn’t currently enhance the gameplay experience in a meaningful way.

Ultimately, what’s needed is to reduce the friction of this new aspect of gaming and get to the coolness of web3 – which is ownership. Blockchain will bring immense benefits to gaming, but not until it’s seamlessly integrated into gameplay. That’s why it’s so critical to recall the best of what Web2 gaming brought us: ease of use and fun games. Striking a middle ground of Web2.5 – that marries the best of both worlds – is the manner in which the gaming industry can take full advantage of digital assets while also keeping it fun.

Sean Ryan is CEO of AQUA.xyz, a player focused community marketplace built for web3 gamers. Sean is a gaming veteran, starting his career at SEGA and later going on to build the Games Partnerships team at Facebook.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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