On November 28, one of the most anticipated GameFi projects of the last couple of years launches in front of the Epic Games Store's 230 million strong user base. The three games of the Illuvium universe promise seamless integration with Web3 components while using blockchain to expand the limits of the Web2 user experience.
Developed by Immutable using Unreal Engine 5, the RPG game has gathered a strong community of enthusiastic players due to its immersive 3D environment, multi-layer adventures, and collectable characters - the Illuvials. But are Illuvium's strengths enough to dissipate the skepticism surrounding Web3 gaming?
Web3 - A not so (far) welcome gaming evolution
Inside Web3, gaming is king.
According to a DappRadar, from July to September 2023, games continued their dominance in the ecosystem, registering 35% of all unique active wallets (UAW). In 2022, the industry was responsible for almost half of all blockchain transactions, with 60% more players than the previous year.
Outside Web3, the scenario isn't as bright. GameFi represents only a tiny fraction of the whole industry, catering to 5 million users compared with over 2.4 billion in Web2 gaming.
The first wave of blockchain gaming largely disappointed users as they had to grapple with an infrastructure and market that was still in its infancy.
Casual attempts to try out this 'new era in the evolution of gaming' came with a tedious access process, including wallet creation, buying crypto, and other technical hurdles... not to mention the basic design and below-par UX on offer.
P2E scams led to the belief that in GameFi, the financial component mattered more than the user experience - a capital sin for triple-A games fans.
Market instability eventually led to a fall in the price of NFTs, displaying the lack of utility of the first blockchain games' digital collectibles.
Can Illuvium on Epic Games mark a turning point?
Epic Games, and not Illuvium, is the true element of change in GameFI adoption.
While other marketplaces, such as Microsoft and Steam, have set non-NFT gaming policies, the developer of the mainstream hit Fortnite opened its doors to crypto games, cautiously setting up guidelines in the process.
Regarding its competitors' policy choices, Epic CEO Tim Sweeney has said " They just want to collect their 30% fees and they're blocking everybody who doesn't go along with it."
In September 2022, Epic launched its first blockchain game, Blankos: Block Party on its store. According to Epic Store's general manager Steve Allison, the game has been "pretty well-played" so far, influencing Epic's decision to announce more releases using the same technology.
God's Unchained, another successful Ethereum-based game created by Immutable, was launched on the Epic Store in June.
Blockchain games, especially the ones as ambitiously and thoroughly crafted as Illuvium, represent a promising future for the billion-dollar industry, opening the door to committed communities and empowered gamers.
Like other blockchain-based industries, they have limited growing potential while staying in the small, albeit growing, Web3 community bubble.
By exposing GameFi titles to its 34.3 million daily active users, Epic brings the critical element for success - a large and engaged user base.
Gaming studios still have to go and conquer this user base, in particular by correcting the shortcomings of the first blockchain gaming wave. For this, Illuvium, ranked as the number one GameFi project by Cointelegraph while still in its beta version, is in a better position than many other blockchain projects.