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Into the hobby realm
In this week’s Nexus, we explore the notion of hobby gaming and how web3 technology can be leveraged to drive long-term player engagement
Continuing from our previous discussion on collectible gaming, let's now dive into the broader concept of gaming as a hobby. While many of the collectibles we previously discussed can also fall under the category of hobby gaming, in this discussion, we explore the business strategy of hobbies within the context of web3 gaming.
By focusing on elements such as customization and social aspects, games can transition into long-term hobbies
There are a few important factors to consider when thinking about hobbies, such as the amount of time and financial resources dedicated, the acquisition of knowledge, the improvement of skills, and various forms of accumulation. Hobbies can last a weekend or a lifetime and can be as general as “gaming” and as specific as “speedrunning metroidvanias on handheld game systems”. As individuals become more deeply engaged in a hobby, they naturally want to spend more money and time on it, up to their personal limits.
When gaming is approached as a hobby, it tends to involve more specific interests beyond simply "playing games." This is especially true in physical gaming, where even the category of "board gaming" often branches out into more specific classifications such as "euro games," depending on the players' preferences and interests. In the context of hobby-style gaming, it is important to consider the revenue potential based on factors mentioned in the previous discussion on collectible gaming, but more specifically customization, tools/accessories, collection building, specialization, and social aspects. By focusing on these areas, a game can become more than just a short-term engagement and transition into a long-term hobby. This transition can greatly benefit the game's longevity, customer lifetime value, and player retention.
Players can customize their player experience in various ways, ranging from console skins and keyboards, to avatars and wallpapers
The aspect of customization in hobby gaming manifests in various ways and is closely tied to collection building. In trading card games, it typically involves customizing a deck, card sleeves, playmats, or life counters. In miniatures games, customization involves the painting of miniatures, constructing an army or team, and creating terrain or set pieces. In the realm of physical console gaming, players can customize via console and controller skins, customizable stick grips, trigger enhancements, and special headsets. In digital console gaming, customization options include choosing a gamertag, avatar, home screen wallpaper/theme, and collecting achievements. On the physical side of PC gaming, customization extends to monitor setups, LED lighting, keyboards, mice, mousepads, headsets, and microphones. These are just a few examples, as customization choices can vary widely and often involve a combination of DIY approaches and brand preferences, with brand selection itself becoming a personalization factor. Additionally, customization overlaps with accessories, which can range from storage systems and bags to items focused on enhancing comfort during gameplay. Tools, on the other hand, primarily pertain to DIY aspects such as paintbrushes, cutting tools, and similar equipment.
As players get deeper into their hobby, their desire to acquire, collect, customize, or upgrade aspects of their gaming experience naturally increases
As hobby gamers become more deeply involved in their chosen hobbies and engage in customization, it naturally leads to an increased focus on collection building and specialization. More specific specializations tend to lead to specific equipment like arcade fight sticks for fighting gamers, special keyboards and mice with macros for MMO gamers, attachable/wireless controllers for serious mobile gamers, steering wheel and pedals for racing gamers, throttles and rudders for flight sim gamers, etc. The longer a player remains engaged in the hobby, the stronger the desire becomes to acquire, collect, customize, or upgrade various aspects to enhance their overall gaming experience. In some cases, this leads them to explore customized or DIY options available on platforms like Etsy or eBay, supplementing what is available in stores or enabling them to create unique items themselves. Oftentimes the lack of new things to purchase can lead to stop the hobby, particularly in collectible driven games.
Web3 gaming has the potential to capture hobby gamers in new ways, via features such as interoperability and composability
The main focus of this discussion is to examine web3 gaming from the perspective of hobby gamers, as it has the potential to engage them in ways that web2 cannot. One key aspect is the concept of ownership, which holds great significance in hobby gaming (including the ability to resell assets when exiting a hobby!). Owning collectibles or other hobby-related assets as NFTs fosters a sense of ownership and provides the opportunity for steady accumulation, which becomes an integral part of the hobby experience. In web3 gaming, interoperability and composability are now starting to provide benefits that resemble accessories, reducing the reliance on multiple APIs that was previously necessary. A prime example can be observed with third-party platforms supporting games like Gods Unchained, Splinterlands, and Sorare. These platforms not only provide data but also introduce new services such as card renting. Imagine a scenario where both first-party and third-party NFTs can also offer various cosmetic, quality-of-life, or convenience upgrades, similar to how accessories enhance the physical side of gaming.
Customization elements powered by web3 can unlock a more immersive and personalized gaming experience
There is another area that is only beginning to explore its potential: customization in web3 gaming. While PFP options that offer some level of personalization already exist, there is room for significant expansion. This can involve alterable attributes, the combination of NFTs (such as clothing and equipment), crafting systems, the incorporation of NFT history, and even the ability to attach custom player-written lore. Often, game developers view cosmetics solely as additional content for in-game shops, rather than enabling a more comprehensive integration of cosmetics and UGC through modifying and creating NFTs.
An excellent example of a web3 game that understands this concept is Shrapnel. The game has already released tools that allow players to create custom insignia art and custom callsign NFTs. The developers of Shrapnel recognize the potential of UGC elements and how they can even lead to opportunities for commissioned work. This allows players who may have the financial means but lack the necessary skills to still obtain the desired customizations they want.
Moonbreaker, a digital miniatures game, provides an interesting example of how a web2 game can explore customization commonly associated with physical gaming. In this game, players have the opportunity to paint their miniatures, much like in real-life, to “show off” in battles. The act of showing off here extends beyond mere status symbols - it becomes a means of expressing one's personality, DIY skills, and creative ideas. In this sense, in miniature gaming, players often prioritize showcasing their paint jobs over the game itself, using it as a platform to demonstrate their creative skills.
Web3 presents significant opportunities to seamlessly transfer the habits and desires of physical hobbies into the digital gaming space
As with most of our explorations, this Nexus piece is intended to be food for thought around web3’s potential to upgrade gaming. Rather than looking at games as simple consumable entertainment products, games as a service has at least brought attention to the potential for longer term play. Web3 offers the opportunity to better translate the habits and desires of hobbies into digital gaming that have been the domain of the physical for so long. The potential rewards of successfully capturing the interest of hobbyists are significant, both in terms of player engagement and revenue generation. Hobby gamers have the potential to transform into the "everyday whale" - an audience that can be cultivated rather than simply sought after. It's about enriching players' lives by providing a blend of escapism, purpose, a sense of progression, and a community of fellow enthusiasts. Let’s stop looking at players as customers and instead as excited participants in an engrossing new world they can dive into and really appreciate what web3 can bring to the table.
Thank you for reading this piece of our weekly series “Nami’s Nexus”, where we look to decode web3 gaming and dive into the intricacies of the industry and beyond. Don't forget to subscribe to our blog and follow us on Twitter to receive more web3 gaming content!