Why Indie Web3 Games will Steal the Spotlight from AAA Titles in 2024?

The video gaming industry has seen a seismic shift in the past few years. Games initially seemed more interested in AAA games due to its highly immersive graphics and cutting-edge features. Now, the trend is heading more towards indie web3 games. As we know, web3 games already stand out with real money-earning and asset tokenization opportunities. Now that smaller studios are experimenting with multiplatform and multiplayer niches, indie game adoption is increasing rapidly and it is set to steal the spotlight from AAA titles in 2024. With that, several indie games, including Enshrouded, Palworld, and Manor Lords have sold more compared to AAA, with over 100M budgets. 

Considering this, our article dives into the future of web3 gaming to understand what drives the adoption of indie web3 games and how AAA gamers are shifting to indies. Also, we will explore some of the top web3 indies games for 2024.

From AAA games to Web3 Indie Games- understanding the power shift

AAA games have long had a monopoly over the Web2 gaming industry, and they are still popular due to their extensive budgets for incorporating powerful 3D graphics, high-performance infrastructure, advanced machine learning technology, and rigid connectivity on portable devices. These games are the products of world-famed studios like Activision Blizzard, Square Enix, Ubisoft, and Warner Bros.

Despite the unmatched features and benefits of AAA title games, the players’ interests are now shifting considerably to indie web3 games in 2024. Indie games are the product of smaller studios that implement interesting gameplay loops and focus much on the trend; for example- most indie web3 games these days are based on RPG and shooter games as they are popular across gamers a lot. These games don’t care much about the branding or incorporating very high-intensity graphics. Their end goal remains to keep players engaged, that’s it. Often starting with a single developer, indie web3 games are now set to contribute to massive successful games such as Minecraft, Terraria, or Stardew Valley.

As you can see in the below image, Indie games make up 42% of the total gaming market, which clearly shows their significant role in shaping the future of web3 gaming.

If we look at the reasons why web3 indie games struggled to get enough popularity, then there will be a lack of funding support, demand outpacing, and less familiarity of players with the web3 space. Now that new funding methods are revolving around, such as in-app purchases, in-app advertising, as well as the innovative user-initiated marketplace;offerwall,  indie games are able to make a hit. Additionally, gamers continue to show their interest in trying web3 games due to sure-shot earning opportunities, new game mechanics, and ownership aspects. 

Key factors driving the popularity of Indie web3 games over AAA in 2024

Following are the main factors that are contributing to the rapid adoption of web3 indie games in 2024. All these explanation justifies the future of web3 gaming, allowing you to better understand the whole picture:

  1. Web3 indie games can easily experiment and take risks:

Indie web3 games are the product of smaller studios or sometimes even individual game developers who can easily afford to experiment with new genre blends and concepts that have the potential to peak gamers’ interest. Constant testing and inclusion of new features result in higher success rates, allowing studios to come out with unique products every time. 

But, AAA studios are large, with a minimum budget allocated over 60M. At such huge spending, they cannot take the risk of innovating something different, which may or may not be sustained in the long run. Therefore, in most cases, AAA games are based on a similar concept that has gained popularity. There can be changes in graphics, characters, or some basic things. 

  1. Less cost required to develop and scale: 

From upfront development costs to marketing, user acquisition, and ecosystem management– costs for all these aspects are lower in case of indie web3 games. All that is needed for a successful indie web3 game is: 

  • Strong planning & strategy

  • Short game loop

  • No IAP (in-app purchases) or DLCs (downloadable content).

  • Minimal marketing 

  • Usually, a small team and a low burn rate. 

Here, we can take the example of ‘Only Up’- a small indie web3 game with over 50K downloads and a good number of daily active players. The reason for its success highly depends on the lead character’s ‘Goblin’ Jacket. As we discussed, the game doesn’t have huge funding or very intensive marketing but an interesting game loop that delivers players a few hours of exciting gameplay for just $10. 

  1. Higher rate of retention with low UA cost:

As evident, the success of a large base like AAA title games requires a huge player base to be profitable. But, since indie web3 games are small projects, they can achieve success easily by convincing a targeted portion of players. The success of indie games also depends highly on the web3 technology because players stay assured about their data privacy and asset ownership. The global ad for gaming apps is about to reach US$495 billion– 431% higher in 2019, whereas player spending is recorded at only 1% higher in 2020. Looking at indie web3 games, user acquisition is more and they have 4.5x higher retention than AAA (as per GDC report and highlights).

  1. Play-and-earn leads over Free-to-play model: 

Most of the AAA games in Web2 are based on the traditional free-to-play model. While this can be a good option from the entertainment point of view, a significant portion of gamers show higher interest in play-and earn games. These gamers are professional players and passive income seekers who want to adopt gaming as their part-time/full-time career. In web3 indie games, GameFi presents a great opportunity for players to win digital assets, NFTs, rare in-game items, and tokens– all holding real-world value. Play-and-earn is already a multi-billion-dollar industry, and it is forecast to cross $38B by 2028. 

  1. Asset ownership is becoming a great deal: 

Indie web3 games are already getting the highlights with their interesting gameplay loops and AAA-like features. Additional factor that pushes its popularity beyond AAA games is the asset ownership thing. Asset ownership in web3 indie games is enabled through NFTs or non-fungible tokens. NFT-backed assets establish true ownership, allowing players to engage in the buying, selling, and trading of in-game assets beyond any boundaries or the fear of double-spending. This creates a ‘true ownership’ sense and thus opens up endless possibilities to diversify revenue streams along with increasing the user retention. 

  1. Higher average revenue: 

GDC’s report further suggests that indie web3 games have around 7.2x higher average revenue per user and acquire an additional incremental revenue of over 20% annually. Here also, indie games are giving tough competition to AAA title games because their 70% of games are not giving expected profits, while their development cost has increased by 20% as of 2020. According to Gods Unchained’s data, web3 players contribute $130+ monthly revenue while recording more players than 25% of top mobile games. 

Image source: Immutable 

A look at Top Indie Web3 games in 2024

You may already be familiar with great indie web3 games such as Rocket League, Roguelite and Sim Management, Golf Story, and Moonlighter. However, let’s have a look at the 05  best indie web3 games that are leading most recently in 2024. All of these games are powered with features like NFTs, GameFi, Metaverse, and play-to-earn. Let’s dive in:

  1. Overworld: A free-to-play + play-to-earn game running on the Ethereum blockchain to drive transformation across social gaming. With a +2943% rise in its monthly trend, Overworld is doing well in keeping the players’ challenges and engaging through meaningful gameplays.

  2. MetalCore: An immutable-based multiplayer PVE (Player versus environment game) that combines the high engagement of the traditional web2 games with the digital assets and in-game trading features of web3 gaming for an exciting experience. Every asset in MetalCore, from land, excluding gear, war machines, etc are NFTs and can be traded for real money. With a +1136% rise in trend, MetalCore appears as one of the best indie web3 games.

  3. Evermoon: Evermoon is the next-gen 5v5 MOBA powered by Immutable blockchain.  Players on Evermoon experience thrilling battles and dynamic gameplay and earn rewards in the DeFi ESports arena. Evermoon has opened its Beta testnet, NFT drops, and IGO and is preparing to roll out the mainnet soon. With a +405% rise in monthly trend, Evermoon secures a good position in the top web3 indie game list.

  4. Legends of Venari: Legends of Venari is an indie web3 game based on an innovative role-play concept built on Ethereum. The platform allows players to attract, tame, and collect all the Venari’s creatures to compete for rare resources in a player-driven sandbox environment.  Legends of Venari has a +194% rise in monthly trend as per MetaEdge’s stats.

  5. Stella Fantasy: With a +69% rise in monthly trend, Stella Fantasy is the final name to appear in the top Web3 indie games. Stella Fantasy is an NFT-based role-playing battle game built on the Binance Smart chain (BSC). The game creates a unique experience for players through powerful characters, interesting material, and in-game items. 

Developments down the road

Our whole discussion around the future of web3 gaming concludes that Web3 has the power to lay the ground for notable development in indie web3 games and, meanwhile, solve the existing challenges, including funding issues and technological pain points like lack of interoperability. Considering this, we expect a lot of innovative indie games down the road in 2024 that will steal the spotlight from AAA titles. If you are interested in building indie web3 games or even AAA web3 games, connect with us. Our web3 developers have extensive experience in working with all blockchain-based games. Hence, you can choose what suits your project the best. 

Also, Zeeve’s Rollups-as–a-service (RaaS) stack assists you in launching your own L2/L3 chain using any leading framework, be it OP Stack, Zk Stack, Polygon CDK, or Arbitrum Orbit. You can also try our one-click deployment sandbox for all of these frameworks with free access for 30 days. 

For more information on our comprehensive blockchain services, send us an email or connect with our experts on a one-to-one call. 

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