You’ve probably heard of play-to-earn games by now. Within crypto, they’re especially popular, with people raking in cash while gaming in the metaverse and beyond. Why sit down on FIFA for free when you can be earning coin, innit? But most of these games have one thing in common: they’re created to be played on a PC or laptop.
Weird, right? Outside of the crypto world, people are flocking to their phones to play games, while PC gaming is decreasing. Depending on whose stats you want to believe, more people game via mobile than on consoles and PC combined – almost, at least (46 per cent, in this dataset’s case). So why then, have the tech-bros of the future, people who know how to make things using blockchain technology and web3 and all that, done so little when it comes to mobile games? Let’s break it down.
So there’s absolutely no mobile crypto games on the market?
Well, there are some. They’re just really basic. Bitcoin Pop, for example, is a bubble-shooter game (you know the type: there’s an arrow at the bottom of the screen pointing up, you hit the right colour balloons and they go pop) which utilises crypto. In Bitcoin Pop, you pop the balloons to complete the level, earning “bling points” along the way. When you hit a certain number of bling points, you can cash them out for actual bitcoin.
The company behind the game is Bling Financial, who according to their website, are a non-gambling promotion games company that lets you “earn free crypto by playing games”. Hence the awful phrase “bling points” in Bitcoin Pop.
While a game you play for free (except the time you spend actually playing it) is ultimately good, the issue is you earn almost nothing. It takes a good few levels – and hours – to earn a single penny. Bitcoin Pop’s description on Google Play Store starts with the disclaimer “BE ADVISED: It takes a long time to collect enough Bling Points to exchange for a meaningful amount of Bitcoin.” That doesn’t bode well for those after a quick buck. There are also games out there that are scams, as with every other facet of the crypto world.
For many, the entire point of a “crypto game” is the play-to-earn element. The most popular crypto game is Axie Infinity, for instance. In that game, some people earn enough to live on. The solution, you’d think, would be for developers to just make games for mobile which people can earn a lot of money on, right? Yeah, but it isn’t that simple when it comes to mobile.
Have you noticed that mobile games generally suck a bit?
Yep! An incredible 250 million people play Candy Crush Saga and its revenue is over a billion dollars (which is actually only, like, four dollars per person), but the game itself is very, very basic. Match three puzzles, repeat till fade. Most mobile phone games are incredibly simple by design and, even when they aim to be a little more advanced (FIFA replicas, for instance), they’re still very PS1-era when it comes to graphics and realism.
Why? Well, there’s a lot of different phones out there, they all have small screens and no controls beyond a touch screen. Imagine being a developer and having to optimise a game to fit an iPhone 11 Pro, iPhone SE, iPhone X, iPhone XR and a Samsung Galaxy S22, Samsung Galaxy Z fold, a Google Pixel 6… You get the point. It’d be an absolute mare of a task.
So they keep things very simple, which also keeps the cost down. As most people who play crypto games want to earn money from them and, as Bitcoin Pop shows, the free-to-play games are simple as hell, hard to monetise and are essentially the digital equivalent of fishing for pennies in a river, there’s no demand for it. You’d definitely be better off playing on a PC or games consoles if you’re looking to seriously top up your income.
How does blockchain fit into all this?
Er… not very well. Sure, crypto exchanges like Coinbase, Binance and Crypto.com are easy to use on phones, as are crypto wallets. But Metaverses like Decentraland? You’ll have to log on the good ol’ fashioned way to access them.
In general, there’s not many dApps (decentralised applications) yet. Decentralised apps aren’t as complicated as they might sound. They’re just the apps you already have on your phone – from social media to banking – but made using blockchain technology and are therefore decentralised, offering the security and anonymity perks that blockchain fans love. Turning games into mobile dApps is tricky, but it will happen eventually.
As Axie Infinity is the most played play-to-earn, it’s constantly trying to attract new players and has actually managed to create a mobile version of sorts, but you won’t find it via the App Store. Instead, you have to download TestFlight in iOS, which will allow you to use Beta apps (in order to “test” them), which is where most mobile dApps are at right now. From there, you have to visit Axie Infinity’s website, download it and then apply to be a “tester” for the app. If approved, you can use the mobile version, but it’s still in development. There’s a similar process for android.
Cryptokitties is another popular dApp on desktop, in which you buy and breed kittens, and sell or rent them to people to earn passive income. That’s also making its way to mobiles, with HTC, manufacturer of phones and other techy things, bringing the game to Android.
But another downside of mobile crypto games is that you’ll have the hassle of installing a special crypto wallet and exchanging your crypto of choice for a specific cryptocoin or token to use on that specific game – which is even more of a headache than that sentence was to read.
Why are mobile apps so difficult to make?
This is partly because of the hyper-secure ethos behind blockchain. Most smartphones are Android or Apple, meaning that apps generally have to work with those companies when designing products. Trying to get crypto games in the mix presents a clash of ideologies, really. You can get blockchain phones, like the HTC Exodus, but even then there’s still the issue of making a good game to play on it.
So yeah, there’s many reasons why there are very few crypto mobile games right now. But given that there are many currently in Beta mode, that issue might soon be solved. It’s still a newly emerging technology, after all.