The Sports Games Market
Over the past few decades, the sports genre has been one of the favorites when it comes to gaming. People are hooked to sports games because it immerses them in the same traditional physical sports environment that the players and superstars they idolize belong to, compared to other gaming genres where players are just living in the world that developers have created. These sports games can either emphasize actually playing the sport (FIFA series, NBA 2K series), or the strategy behind the sport (Football Manager, Pro Basketball Manager).
In a recent survey conducted by Statista, 25% of gamers in the U.S. prefer sports games, next to popular gaming genres like action (38%), action-adventure (34%), adventure (33%), and casual and strategy genres (31%). Sports titles also account a big share of player spending, from premium and in-game revenues, in a much equal platform distribution both in PC and in console, compared to battle royale games and adventure games.
The FIFA series holds the record for “the fastest-selling sports game ever” in history, with over 3.2 million copies sold within first week of its release. The popularity of the game continues as EA Sports, the publisher of FIFA, has confirmed that they have generated a whopping $1.6 billion from game sales (Ultimate Team game mode) from April 2020 to March 2021. This can be attributed to the success of player sports card collectibles, which originated from FIFA producer Matt Prior:
“The idea was to come up with a mode that kept things fresh throughout the season, and made it kind of a more unique experience. So I came up with a concept that was based around the whole playground feel. Sharing and trading players in the playground with your friends. The excitement and compulsion of opening a pack. The disappointment of not getting anyone you want. It’s that Charlie and the Chocolate Factory moment of getting an amazing player.”
Users assemble their own team from the player packs that can be obtained either by winning matches or purchasing and trading them from the Transfer Market. These player packs contain the players, managers, staff, and consumables. The players have distinct abilities and attributes, and this makes the game even more exciting because it will encourage you to get better players and items so that you could build a better club and increase your chances of winning.
The Rise of NFT Trading Cards
What’s a better use case for NFTs than player card collectibles? Majority of the NFT-based games in existence lack the realistic and practical applications that collectible card-based sports games offer. The possibilities that blockchain gives to enhance the gaming and collectible experience of players who are into sports games are endless.
Here are 5 reasons why it makes a lot of sense for sports games to integrate NFTs:
Reason #1: NFTs target an audience and demographic that fits. Men make up 84% of the total NFT market. At the same time, 92% of sports gamers are male. From a game developer’s perspective, it is important to note what type of audience you are targeting. The NFT community is a low-lying fruit for sports game titles because of the overlap in the gender dominance. It will be very easy to market these sports games to the male-dominated crypto community because sports is one of the most popular hobbies. In an increasingly digital world, there has to be some form of entertainment in the metaverse that matches the feeling of accomplishment that you get when playing sports in real life.
Reason #2: Collecting things is a part of human nature, and true ownership takes the experience to a whole new level. A big part of sports is people spending money on collectibles to support their favorite players and teams. Nothing beats the satisfaction of collecting physical cards, stickers, tickets, and merchandise, and trading them with your friends to complete a whole team or album. But, being able to track the previous owner/s of an NFT, trade them in the global market, combine with other NFTs to produce a rarer one — the list could go on but it’s clear that the pros of publicly verifiable digital assets outweigh that of the traditional collectibles.
Reason #3: The nature of sports inherently attaches a unique type of identity to the player card NFTs. Compared to the fictional story behind the characters in existing NFT-based games like Axie Infinity, the players in the sports card NFTs have a real life equivalent. There is no learning curve to try to familiarize yourself with the different classes, attributes, and breeding capabilities of Axie’s, which all originated from the game designer’s imagination. In sports games, it is more conventional to get an idea of what the player card is all about, and how capable and rare it is, because you can easily associate the player card NFT with how famous or skilled the player is in the physical world. It all circles back to how the gamers could simulate the real life experience of handling players, managing a club, and playing the sport they love.
Reason #4: Most sports fans and gamers are “player-statistics-nerds.” Being able to attach the real life statistics of the players in the NFT within the game increases the marketability of these digital assets. The attributes and abilities of the player cards dictate the rarity of the NFT, and the rarity dictates the value of the player cards. Moreover, these statistics influence the win-ability of the gamer, because their strategies in the game will be based on their current line up of players.
Reason #5: There’s a lot of utility that NFTs could provide, other than just using the player cards within the game. NFTs represent the sports companies’ IPs, and are instrumental in enhancing the fan experience and engagement. Loyalty systems could be implemented using the NFTs, and holders could be incentivized. Holders could be offered special seats in the team’s future games, get access to exclusive events, and even have a meet-and-greet with their favorite players. This is also a huge opportunity for sports companies because they are approaching a different type of audience. They could sell game tickets in the form of NFTs, which can be used both in-game and in real life, and they would retain the value of the NFT tickets through royalties. When a holder is unable to physically attend a game, he could rent it out on the secondary market for other people to use.
Splinterlands x MLSPA Partnership
Splinterlands, the top and most active trading card blockchain game, has partnered with the Major League Soccer Players Association (MLSPA) to release the first game within the Genesis League Sports Platform. The Genesis League Sports Platform is a play-to-earn gaming platform dedicated for sports games and NFTs.
The game will be called Genesis League Soccer, where players will compete using the cards featuring their favorite MLSPA players while earning on-chain rewards. The pre-sale card packs are currently on sale, starting at an extremely affordable price of just $5/pack. Buying card packs in bulk will give you incentives such as a free manager’s license and access to closed Beta every 100 packs, a limited edition NFT title every 500 packs, and a special promotional NFT every 1,000 packs. You also get 10%, 15%, and 20% more bonus packs when you purchase 100, 500, and 2,000 packs respectively. As of writing, there are 277,965 packs remaining in their website. The game is expected to be released Q2 2023, so we could expect that some elements of Splinterlands will be recycled and translated to sports, due to the given timeline.
There’s a couple of good implications worth noting regarding this partnership. First, the MLSPA has partnered with the right trading card blockchain game, because Splinterlands is a highly capable company who has proven themselves with some level of success. Despite the bear market, they managed to rank first in daily active users (350,000) last April 2022. They have also had successful sales in their previous card packs, like the Chaos Legion card pack, generating over $24 million of revenue within the first 30 minutes. Second, they have chosen a sport with the highest potential — soccer. It has the biggest fan base in the world at 3.5 billion, mainly popular in Europe, Africa, Asia, and America. Imagine onboarding those people into GLS. Lastly, with all the aforementioned reasons why NFTs are a really great fit for blockchain-based sports games, and with the proven success of Splinterlands, there’s definitely a big chance for Genesis League Soccer to easily become the number one blockchain game in the months to come.
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