Opinion: Will NFT games go mainstream?

I’ve been a gamer since I was a young kid, growing up with Nintendo products and begging for every new console during the holidays. Few things beat the memory of competing at Mario Kart with family and friends. The rise in game quality has taken us from pixelated classics to shockingly realistic graphics today. However, as Web3 explodes, can the industry deliver on the quality that is demanded by consumers with the additional benefits of NFTs?

There are many projects promising the “future of gaming” experience, but players are often left wanting more: more graphic quality, more depth to the game, and more competitive entertainment. Many games feel rushed or gimmicky in Web3, equivalent to “Solitaire on the blockchain.” 

While the industry leaders like Activision and SEGA move slowly and survey their community, are there any projects in the here and now worth note? One project that stood out to me recently is Penguin Karts. Call me nostalgic, but this one struck me as a modern-day Mario Kart with a twist.  

Penguin Karts is an interactive play-to-earn kart racing game that allows players to battle across a world made up of 20 unique tracks. Races consist of up to eight to ten players armed with in-game power-up items to help them beat out their competition. The game has built out an ecosystem that focuses on its gamer community – and with NFTs at the heart of it.  

OK, what’s all the hype?

Aside from the game designers taking those Nintendo classics and modernizing the experience, there are some critically important elements that make Penguin Karts a potential home run NFT project.

  1.     Graphics

From what we can tell from the prototype gameplay, the company has many similar design nods to modern Nintendo gameplay, with character designs noticeably close to Rovio’s blockbuster hit Angry Birds. While we’re not yet close to seeing God of War quality graphics on the blockchain, Penguin Karts has established itself as a leading example in visual design.

  1.     NFTs 

If you’re like me, you may have scratched your head while you watch seemingly basic images sell for millions of dollars. Despite the recent ups and downs, the NFT industry isn’t slowing down. In 2021 sales reached $40 billion, and already by July, this year’s sales surpassed the $42 billion mark, according to Chainalysis. Now that we’ve established NFTs as a rising opportunity, how is Penguin Karts standing out using them? 

The game revolves around the main NFT, which is a 3D penguin avatar sporting unique styles and ranking in rarity. You can also acquire Penguin Karts NFTs in the form of vehicle skins, weapons, and power-ups that are able to be used as advantages in the race or resold to other drivers. 

How does NFT ownership fit into the gaming world? NFTs can provide great value to the studios and the gamer community by transferring ownership of in-game assets to the player, with the studio collecting fees on all secondary sales of those assets in perpetuity, a win-win. Game developers can also build in rewards for token holders as they reach specific achievements. 

Let’s say, for instance, someone wins 1,000 races — not an easy feat. Game studios can enlist the support of the smart contract to reward the racer with a special “golden kart” NFT that is rare and tradeable upon reaching that milestone. The opportunity is as big as the creativity of the developers. The community is tired of buying games like Call of Duty, putting hundreds of dollars into game assets, and then losing them in the next year’s title launch. Luckily, those days are nearing an end for gamers, and Penguin Karts might be one of the stars changing the narrative.

  1. Play-to-earn 

Race, win, and earn in-game loot like NFTs and PGK tokens that translate back into USD or other cryptocurrencies. The global player forecast continues to rise significantly, and as games begin to fund a livable salary in some areas of the world, we may see even higher participation rates. Axie Infinity was one of the first movers in the space to rise quickly, earning a combined $1.3 billion in marketplace fees and $3.5 billion in NFT transactions.

  1.     Esports 

Spectators can watch live races but also place bets using PGK tokens on their favorite driver. Wagering is a strategy that will surely engage the esports viewer community. The online gambling space saw a large increase (for better or worse) during the pandemic. According to Statista, this space is estimated to grow to $92.9 billion by 2023, rising nearly 40% from 2020 values. This positions Penguin Karts nicely to benefit from not only NFT sales in the primary and secondary markets but also fees collected from live bets.  

Not quite convinced the world wants to sit and watch video games? Think again. Live-streaming platforms like Twitch have proved the demand for spectator-friendly projects already, even without gambling.

  • Twitch made an estimated $2.6 billion revenue in 2021, primarily from advertising.
  • In 2021, Twitch had an average of 2.78 million concurrent viewers.
  • 22.8 billion hours of content was consumed on the platform in 2021.

Web3 is still proving out its potential to evolve the existing gaming industry and provide value back to gamers. But it seems gamers either don’t understand the technology or simply don’t want it in their favorite game titles, per survey results. While metaverse brands like Sandbox are finding wild success, the larger game developers seem to be a stark contrast. For now, Penguin Karts have seemingly built out a high-quality concept, but will it translate into consumer interest? 

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