Think back to the communities you have truly enjoyed being part of throughout your life. It is likely that these were groups formed on the basis of common interests, is not it? It is because we feel a sense of belonging when we bond with others on a particular thing that we feel in particular roughly. For example, I love games and I never get tired of exploring or creating communities where I can meet other players.
This is how I know the current GameFi space is not fertile ground for gamers like me and my enthusiastic peers: It’s a breeding ground for bots.
And the main problem at stake is structural.
A strong community signals potential for venture capital (VC) funds, so GameFi projects find themselves trying to raise funds at the community level before they can meet investors. Therefore they sell non-fungible tokens (NFT) and other cryptocurrencies to get through the initial stages and try to make enough money to keep building. The more they sell, the better their chances. It’s easy to see how this makes builders inherently vulnerable to what a little hype can do: it can, quite literally, make or break a project.
So they take their motivation, accept the challenge posed to them by the very industry they love, and through no real fault of their own fall victim to the call of an empty hype. They appoint influencers to spread the word about their trailer and how it’s going to end up being a $200 million movie – when in reality it might have only cost $10,000 to do. They create communities of fans and exploit them for their own gain. They give away game assets through giveaways in a system that looks like a tiered marketing system and often promises unreasonably profitable returns that are impossible to deliver.
This further fuels an influencer-based, incentive-driven economy that only drives projects to brag about numbers and not actually create breakthrough products. Take Star Atlas, for example: it’s been three years of promises and nothing has been made public.
Moreover, when people come together because of incentives instead of genuine interest, they fail to form real strong communities. Look at 90% of GameFi Discord servers, and you’ll find nothing but empty conversations alongside an obvious lack of what could pass for sincere excitement. With over 100,000 members but only four people talking, it’s obvious that operators wanting to project a positive image for their brand hire accomplices to make their communities seem more populated than they are.
This makes both builders and ecosystems fragile, as they stand on very fragile ground: without reliable ventilators, everyone’s stake is for sale. Give an influencer a better deal than what they’re currently promoting, and they’ll have no problem jumping ship. Often, the same goes for manufacturers, who are ready to run as soon as the symbolic price is high enough for their liking. This exact scenario happened when the Squid cryptocurrency, unaffiliated with the Netflix series but hoping to bank on the association, reached a value of $2,800 and then crashed to almost zero after discovering that it was just a scam.
In this case, the scammers made $3.38 million – so you can safely say that empty hype and incentive-based MLM-type programs do work.
But don’t gamers deserve better?
True gamers – those who are loyal to their community and come together in the name of something they truly believe in – will stay as far away from this dynamic as possible. People who love what they do, not the incentives it can bring, will have no reason to join the GameFi economy as long as that is the reality presented to them when they approach it. Those who have spent a lot of time building real communities have no reason to fool their fans in the name of inflated numbers, and they know it’s a losing game (pun absolutely intentional).
Just as interesting as the economic incentives is the psychological aspect of the dynamics at play. As human beings, we are ruled (as in, motivated and activated) by emotions: our “value system is made up of a hierarchy of emotionally created sensations that rank what is important to us”, i.e. our brain is physiologically primed to seek emotional rewards, even more so than financial ones. Think entertainment, reliability and a sense of belonging. If there is no emotional attachment to a specific game beyond cashing in and out, players will do just that. They will earn what they can from the game, then withdraw their native tokens and move on to the next incentive.
Who do you think will find this most appealing? Who will benefit the most from this incredibly dark treatment? That’s right, robots.
Bots are specifically “programmed to take advantage of incentive structures to extract value, harming the gaming ecosystem”, and for blockchain games, they are a major roadblock on the path to widespread adoption. It is not very difficult to estimate the number of bots a specific game might attract, as data companies can simply link all the wallets belonging to the same person and cross-check the list. Using this method, anti-botting company Jigger analyzed over 60 games and services and found 200,000 bots. Jigger also estimates that bots make up 40% of GameFi’s total user base, while for some games (MetaGear, AnRkey X, and ARIVA) the percentage is as high as 80%, and for Karmaverse Zombie, 96%.
That’s almost the total user base. And that is unacceptable.
Until this sad situation improves, the GameFi industry will remain vulnerable to bots, scams, and fad incentives that are unable to move projects forward. And it will keep realenthusiastic players like me away.
Shinnosuke “Shin” Murata is the founder of blockchain game developer Murasaki. He joined Japanese conglomerate Mitsui & Co. in 2014, doing automotive financing and trading in Malaysia, Venezuela and Bolivia. He left Mitsui to join a second-year startup called Jiraffe as the company’s first sales representative and later joined STVV, a Belgian football club, as COO and helped the club create a community token. He founded Murasaki in the Netherlands in 2019.
This article is for general informational purposes and is not intended to be and should not be considered legal or investment advice. The views, thoughts and opinions expressed herein are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.