Games are forever evolving. Developers are always seeking ways to create more innovative and interactive gaming experiences using current technology. And as the internet improved to what people now call Web 2.0, so did the games, with blockchain and cryptocurrency being true “game-changers”. Here’s a peek at how new technology has altered the landscape of games across three generations of the web—and what is still to come.
Web 2.0 Games — Where It Starts
The current state of the internet, Web 2.0 vastly improved on Web 1.0 by introducing a degree of collaboration and social interactivity. Web 2.0 introduced a new generation of online games: Fortnight, Call of Duty, League of Legends, and DOTA, just to name a few. Now players can obtain various assets (e.g. weapons, armor, pets, and cosmetics) through play and trade them online, typically with the help of game-limited, non-crypto currency.
However, it became clear over time that the very structure of Web 2.0 games created its own problems. The games run on centralized servers owned by large multimedia companies. Should this centralized process fail—say, through a loss of their license, catastrophic server failure, a DDOS attack—the game itself goes down. We’ve seen numerous examples of always-online games such as Overwatch 2 and Diablo IV offline for hours after such an attack.
Equally important, the community of players has very little control over the in-game assets they have earned. If, one day, the game developers decide on a major gameplay change that will erase the value of these assets—or simply shut down the game—there’s little the public can do about it. Club Penguin and Webkinz shut down to the great disappointment of their players, who have been building up characters and collecting pets for years.
Though it might seem safe and familiar, Web 2.0 games face erosion of players and ideas, making it necessary for online games to evolve.
Web 2.5 — Bridging the Gap
Web 2.5 starts the shift away from centralized gaming towards giving players more control over their data and game-acquired assets. Now we see the introduction of blockchain technology and tokenized assets in games like Illuvium and Gods Unchained.
In particular, NFTs (non-fungible tokens) have proven essential in giving users control, providing the ability to own and trade in-game assets as they wish. This has opened up avenues for play-to-earn as assets can be traded for cryptocurrency and vice-versa. To facilitate trading, players have been introduced to a new tool: crypto wallets, which allow you to store, track, and perform transactions with your tokens and cryptocurrencies.
Web 2.5 sees a more decentralized form of gaming, but is only partially so. The developers still control how in-game assets work, the values of all items, the effectiveness of weapons, the structure of their player community, and so on. The risks associated with Web 2.0 games haven’t been fully mitigated—in fact, some are more likely to occur, as several Web 2.0 parties still actively and purposely avoid a shift towards Web 3.0. As such, even a successful game like F1 Delta Time was eventually shut down after it failed to renew its license, wiping out hundreds of thousands of dollars from its NFT holders.
Web 3.0 — The Decentralized Future
There is a misconception that Web 3.0 games are simply Web 2.0 with NFTs. In truth, the third generation of the internet promises so much more. Web 3.0 aims to push boundaries to provide players with greater security, stability, and freedom.
Firstly, decentralized games are independent, requiring no cloud infrastructure or single server. Instead, they are hosted on a network of computers, or nodes. These nodes validate and record transactions on the blockchain. Imagine the opposite scenario where Bitcoin depended on centralized servers—it would have been hacked into oblivion.
But this distributed structure makes it difficult to hack or bring down the entire service all at once—if one part of the node network should fail, the others keep the game going. Thus, Web 3.0 creates a transparent and truly “always-online” service for sharing data or conducting various transactions.
Of course, there are some caveats to Web 3.0, one of which is that it’s not as easy to use as Web 2.0. Given that this new generation of games is made for players who are already familiar with crypto and NFTs, the technology involved with blockchain, wallets, seed phrases, and public and private keys can pose a learning curve for a typical user who is more accustomed to Web 2.0 games, which is why the transition phase of Web 2.5 is so critical.
Another issue with Web 3.0 games is that blockchains aren’t suitable for real-time data—storing information on a ledger can be expensive and not every type of data has to be stored. Scalability also poses a problem. The bigger a blockchain grows, the more resources it consumes and there are limits to the amount of transactions that can be handled per block.
While still in its infancy, we are seeing Web 3.0 change the landscape of gaming already: titles such as Axie Infinity, Decentraland, The Beacon, and The Sandbox are leading the charge, but several new titles promise even more innovations.
The upcoming game, Cryptopia, pioneers advanced features like an integrated wallet for a seamless gaming experience and an innovative player-driven P2P node network for real-time gameplay while remaining fully decentralized. It smartly partitions data: vital, stateful information (the gamestate) is stored on-chain, while real-time data flows through the P2P network. This is a game-changer for Web 3.0 gaming, offering the seamless interaction gamers expect. Plus, developers rejoice: their integrated wallet and P2P node will be available as SDKs for both Unity and Unreal!
We’ll fully explore this technology as well as the pros and cons of these generations of the web in another article. Suffice it to say, the trajectory of online games remains the same: to do away with the “middlemen” and put control where it belongs—to the players.