What if your favorite title was a Web3 game?
You just finished a game of League. It was a close one, but your team outplayed the opponent in the final jungle combat with a final push to the Nexus.
As the MVP support, you’re handsomely rewarded: a $5 coupon to buy rare cosmetics, an MVP badge NFT, and experience points accumulated to your PFP Soulbound token, even though your rank is just Silver.
Not bad for one hour of playing your favorite game!
The emergence of Web3 has ushered in a new era of gaming. Blockchain-based games have opened up new revenue streams for both game makers and players. And as blockchain technology continues to advance, Web2 companies are scrambling figuring out how best to leverage it. We will likely see NFTs integrated into many Web2 MMORPGs, MOBA and other multiplayer games in the future.
If studios like Riot Games do not want to be left behind, they would be wise to integrate Web3 features into hit titles like League of Legends. The possibilities for innovation are endless and could bring new fans of all levels to the franchise while extending its dominance in esports. This would revitalize and make for a new beginning for an already thriving franchise.
A leader in esports
Every day, millions of players worldwide do battle in a 5v5 team clash. League of Legends is the deepest multi-player action RTS game ever made, and there's always a new strategy or tactic to discover. It's completely free to play and always will be.
League of Legends, CS:GO, Dota 2, and PUBG are among the top competitive games in the global esports scene. Despite their steep learning curve, these games have drawn over a million concurrent players at their peak.
As evidenced by the huge tournament prizes, the freemium model of League of Legends has been a cash cow for developer Riot Games over the past decade. It has proven to be an exceedingly effective model that makes it easy as possible for people to play the game, get addicted, and pay for cosmetic items and tournament tickets to watch their favorite pro players live in action.
Now, halfway through 2022, League of Legends is absolutely gigantic. It has over 150 million registered users, around 125 million of which are active monthly players. Its audience has watched 184 million hours of League of Legends gameplay with an average of 248,000 viewers on Twitch. It is the strength and depth of its following and fandom that have made it one of the most popular games on the planet.
With the rise of Web3 and the introduction of blockchains, cryptocurrencies, and non-fungible tokens to gaming, the entire gaming landscape is changing. Let’s imagine how massive League of Legends could be after transitioning to Web3.
What if League of Legends were a Web3 game?
Web3 makes esports for everyone!
This should be one of the ultimate goals of GameFi.
Over the past decade, professional gaming in esports has become more normalized. Growing popularity and competitiveness proves that esports should be treated as an official category of sport. It takes years of intensive training and commitment to achieve the level of skill required to win tournaments.
However, the prize money can’t be for everyone. Among the 150 million registered LoL players, only around 7,000 are able to compete at a professional level. That means only 0.05% of the entire LoL community can make it a career from 832 hours of playtime on average, according to LEVVVEL. In other words, 99.95% of players will never find financial gain from playing, but will still spend time and money on the game anyway. Rewarding players of lower skill level is something that does not exist in esports.
But it’s possible in Web3. For example, Axie Infinity rewards the top 1000 players ever since introducing the leaderboard. Last season, a casual gamer like Henry | Ancient8 was able to earn around $300 while enjoying his time playing the game. That’s not half bad for a non-professional player. The ability to safely and transparently transfer rewards to massive numbers of players is a standout feature of Web3 games.
Figure 1: Casual gamer Henry | Ancient8 earned $300 in Axie Infinity
The more players who are rewarded, the greater their level of satisfaction with the game will be. Adding financial incentives also encourage users to “grind” more in the game, since their odds of making onto the premier leaderboard is higher than before. In term of psychology, being rewarded for climbing up the ranks might generate more dopamine and personal satisfaction that encourages users to play more (Mathews et al, 2019, p.67).
Tokenized user-generated content
Despite the diversity of champions in League of Legends, the gameplay is limited to the a handful of modes including Summoner's Rift, ARAM, and Teamfight Tactics. Imagine if LoL had an official content editor software for users to customize maps or skins, similar to World Editor of Warcraft III. If this were implemented in conjunction with blockchain, its value proposition will be greater still by allowing users or studios to monetize the maps and skins that they build in the following ways:
- NFT sales: Customized skins could be sold on an official League of Legends market or secondary markets that offer customizers extra revenue sources from primary sales and royalty fees.
- Digital Merchandise: Currently only professional League of Legends World Championship teams have exclusive skins. Making and selling team NFT skins would give them the ability to monetize their brand by selling digital merch, a highly lucrative additional income stream that helps esports teams to build brand awareness and serve their community.
- Revenue share: Ideally, League of Legends could distribute a certain portion of revenue to the designers of top-performing custom maps on their platform. Shrapnel is one of the web3 pioneer games in development that plans to implement this mechanism to incentivize content creators to build custom maps on the platform.
- Sponsorship banners and tickets: If TFT incorporated custom maps that drew large amount of traffic, map creators would have the ability to organize their own tournaments. With full control over the map, advertisements could be placed in the form of banners, etc. This model has already been practiced within League of Legends, however, the game publisher is the only stakeholder to benefit from it.
Figure 2: Mastercard sponsored banner in League of Legends esports leagues
These UGC initiatives would offer individual and creative studios the ability to truly monetize their content, provide more diverse gaming experiences for gamers, and greatly contribute to the robustness of the League of Legends ecosystem. When successful UGC creators share their success stories, it will help attract new players and will naturally onboard many Web2 players into Web3.
Figure 3: Warcraft III World Editor
Figure 4: Fan-made Elderwood Kindred skin
Unlocking the value of in-game assets
LoL players’ passion runs deep, and this is reflected not only by their time and effort but also the appearance of their champions which they curate with care. But apart from their value as a form of self-expression, digital cosmetic “assets” are currently non-transferrable liabilities, which dissuades the majority of players to invest in them. If League of Legends integrated blockchain and made such items NFTs, it would unlock the true financial value of cosmetic items and skins. Users would be able to invest, transfer, and even generate revenue from their PAX Sivir, Victorious Jarvan IV, Championship Riven, etc.
Additionally, since these transactions are instantly conducted on a decentralized blockchain rather than via national payments networks within each nation, a much larger market becomes available for the trading and acquiring of these assets. This all turns game items from liabilities into assets, which could multiply the number of players willing to invest in these items.
Power and reputation
Let’s say you successfully execute aggressive snowballing tactics and win the LoL Open Regional Tournament— Then what? You might proudly display your trophy in a little corner of your house, but then only you can see it. Even photos on social media are quickly buried and overlooked. Our digital identities are becoming more important than ever, especially for gamers who spend significant time online. As non-transferrable tokens that stay with you forever, Soulbound Tokens (or SBTs) are a powerful concept that will soon help to record and display the verifiable reputation of players and their achievements on-chain.
SBT badges or trophies earned from in-game achievements will stay with the gamer who earns them, saved in their Soul wallet forever. If and when these Soul accounts are integrated into GameFi user ID products, gamers will be able to publicly display their achievements alongside other game NFTs and player stats on their profile. Therefore, it opens up more opportunities for pro esports players to determine themselves on their professional esports career path, which is not wasted by any minute. And of course, it can be applied to purify and degrade players for bad actors.
Overcoming the hurdles
Despite the numerous advantages Web3 has to offer, there are also obstacles that League of Legends has to overcome to reach this level of success in the Metaverse.
Robust and sustainable tokenomics
For highly successful games, the tokenization incentives mechanism must be perfect. It must also find a balance between all stakeholders, including developers, gamers, investors, and media outlets. The issue isn’t just investors or marketers; it’s when these groups wield too much power.
As we’ve seen in the first generation of blockchain games, it’s difficult to strike a balance between the rewards and overall gaming experience. Some games are more about investing than gameplay, which is not an attractive path for most creators. Rewards in an interesting game should be a bonus and the result of effort rather than the primary purpose of the activity itself. The distinction may appear minor, but web3 games should be play-and-earn rather than play-to-earn.
Both players and content generators need an educational period to acquire knowledge and risk awareness within the decentralized space. Therefore, it might require League of Legends to commit both financial and human resources to cultivate a high-quality community of gamers that enjoy and contribute value to the game, simultaneously.
As explained in the Blockchain Gaming Unlocks the Full Potential of User-Generated Content article, IP remains a critical pain point of any Web3 game or Metaverse project trying to implement a customization or UGC functionality. Customizing items within the game might cause conflicts around IP rights and legal status with other characters or contents outside League of Legends. Therefore, the game should have a dedicated team or built-in AI to investigate and eliminate instantly the copyright-related contents to avoid conflicts in the future.
Web3 has been and will continue to democratize many different aspects of gaming and provide brand new ways for players to find success. Blockchain tech ensures security and transparency, and the value unlocked by NFTs are clear highlights of Web3 games. Never before have we seen such a model that places so much power in the players’ hands, and instead of concentrating power within one single game or group, players can carry it throughout many games within the entire ecosystem.
For many years now, League of Legends has remained one of the industry's most successful titles. Its ability to grow and evolve will require Riot Games consider integrating web3, and League of Legends definitely has the potential to spark the global adoption the industry has been waiting for.
Let’s wait and see how the new generation of games holds up with blockchain in Web3.