Against all odds, GameFi has survived the crypto winter.
While token prices may be down across the board as compared to 2021 record-breaking highs, all major GameFi projects are in the same boat with equally low averages. When comparing all-time high and low prices, the Axie Infinity and Sandbox tokens dropped by around 90% and most other projects fared similarly.
And despite the bearish crypto economy in past months, GameFi now dominates blockchain usage. In fact, Web3 games generate 23 times more on-chain transactions than DeFi, according to an April 2023 a16z crypto report. Eddy Lazzarin, Andreesen Horowitz CTO, said that their research shows the blockchain gaming industry is healthier than market prices indicate, explaining that we are currently in a period of development.
Eventually the market will rebound, and those projects that have been developing the strongest will likely have an advantage over the ones that haven’t. With this in mind, let’s take a look at a few promising GameFi tokens from projects with ambitious enough goals to possibly set them up for even greater future success.
In analyzing which tokens should get a spot on this list, only projects building their platforms extensively were considered, with the listing further broken down into information about each platform, the owning company and the utility of the token itself. Projects with compelling achievements and goals in each of these three categories earned a spot in the top five, as detailed below:
$AXS — Axie Infinity
The Platform: By now, almost everybody has probably heard of Axie Infinity, GameFi’s first big success story. In the Axie Infinity game, players collect and fight with cute Pokemon-style monsters called “Axies”, which are represented by NFTs that can be combined to mint new Axies. Sky Mavis also has big goals for the franchise to become a much larger platform. They have since added NFT land plots for Axies to inhabit and minigames that players can join with their Axies.
The Company: Sky Mavis launched the Axie Infinity game in 2018 in a more traditional Web2 format, and later added the “Shards” $AXS Play-and-Earn (P&E) tokens in 2020. Within a year and a half, the game’s revenue skyrocketed to US$1.2 billion—even higher than Roblox and Candy Crush.
The Token: Players can earn the AXS token by playing the main game, trade it on major exchanges, and spend it on Axie Infinity NFTs. They can also stake the token on the platform for yield or hold it to claim governance rights and access special sales.
$SAND — The Sandbox
The Platform: The Sandbox is a massive 3D metaverse with over 166,000 interconnected NFT land plots. Players traverse these land plots with cute pixelated avatars just like they would walk across neighborhoods in real cities, playing user-generated (or company-created) minigames and exploring unique locations. The NFTs represent high-priced real estate, with the record sale going to Republic Realm for an astonishing US$4.3 million. Some of the biggest brands own land in The Sandbox, including Atari, Playboy, Adidas, The Walking Dead and Gucci Vault. There are also many influencers with a second home in the metaverse, such as Snoop Dogg, Tony Hawk, Steve Aoki and Paris Hilton.
The Company: Similar to Axie Infinity, the Sandbox also started as a traditional mobile game. Animoca Brands acquired the game developer Pixowl in 2018 for over US$4.8 million, with an announcement that they were bringing the project to the metaverse. The $SAND token and NFTs launched three years later in 2021.
The Token: Many of the minigames in The Sandbox are free to play, but landowners can opt to include content that must be paid with SAND in order to play. Players can earn SAND with P&E tokenomics by playing minigames, and then spend them on new land NFTs. SAND can also be spent to create in-game items called ASSET NFTs, or to stake for yield on the Polygon network.
$IMX — Immutable X
The Platform: A layer-2 blockchain and GameFi platform, Immutable empowers game studios to build blockchain games on the Ethereum network. It is possible to mint and trade NFTs on Immutable without incurring any gas fees. One of the most famous games on the platform is Gods Unchained, a P&E game that is free to play. Gods Unchained is also available on the Epic Games store, which has the distinction of also hosting Fortnite, the biggest battle royale game in the world.
The Company: Immutable is a unicorn startup based in Australia. In 2022, Immutable launched a US$500 million fund with the aim of supporting Web3 game developers launching on the Immutable platform. This kicked off a flurry of development—within half a year, the platform went from five games to over 100 projects.
The Token: The IMX token is not a P&E token like others in this list. Instead, IMX is a native utility token used to pay 20% of platform transaction fees. The token is auto-staked to generate rewards and acts as a governance token for holders. People can purchase IMX on major exchanges and earn it by trading NFTs.
$DEP — PlayMining
The Platform: PlayMining is a GameFi platform with more than 2.8 million users. The platform features a number of P&E games, including the popular card battler JobTribes, as well as two NFT marketplaces and a metaverse project. Many of the projects notably team up with famous Japanese pop culture artists to create custom content for the NFT markets.
The Company: PlayMining was launched in 2020 by Digital Entertainment Asset (DEA), a GameFi company based in Singapore. The company earns a spot on our list for the great strides they are taking to build out GameFi’s P&E mechanics beyond just gaming. Some examples include AdTech innovations such as “Answer-to-Earn” Web3 ad surveys, product placement NFTs and “Watch-and-Earn” streaming video. The company is also solving real-world problems in the heavy industries sector by ‘gamifying work’ to alleviate labor shortages—a unique innovation that will see regular people earn DEP tokens by performing real-world job tasks via remote controlled robots, all while enjoying a video game in the comfort of their own homes. For example, they have two P&E games in development that help to alleviate labor shortages in waste and public utility management.
The company has a number of big partnerships in place to chase more such B2B opportunities, including: TEPCO Power Grid (the largest electric power company in Japan and fourth largest in the world), Rakuten (a technology conglomerate and the largest e-commerce site in Japan), KDDI (the second-largest telecom operator in Japan), and TV Tokyo (one of the biggest television stations in Japan).
The Token: People can earn the DEP token by playing PlayMining P&E games, spend it on PlayMining’s two NFT markets, and trade it on popular exchanges. Players can also improve their chances of earning DEP by using PlayMining utility NFTs in their games to unlock new strategies.
$OAS — Oasys
The Platform: Another notable DEA partner is Oasys, a layer-1 blockchain platform that is dedicated to Web3 games. Oasys allows developers to launch games in their own configurable “Verses”, which operate on a special second layer of the blockchain. There are currently more than 30 games being developed on the platform, since its launch in early 2022.
The Company: Oasys is based in Japan, the world’s third largest gaming market in 2021 with a value of US$29 billion. As a testament to Oasys’ traction in Japan, they have partnered with a number of high-profile gaming companies, most of which are from Japan and east Asia: Triple-A gaming companies Bandai Namco, SEGA and Ubisoft are developing games to launch on Oasys, and other large companies have joined the network, including Square Enix, Nexon, SoftBank, Yield Guild Games, Neowiz and Netmarble.
The Token: Oasys offers developers the freedom to incorporate a multi-token economy, using Oasys’ OAS token to pay gas fees alongside their own game/Verse tokenomics. Players can purchase OAS on popular exchanges, stake it to earn rewards, and hold it participate in governance.
Development is Bullish #BUIDL
The primary theme in all of the above-listed tokens is that they are connected to companies that are actively developing something big and grandiose. By building large entertainment platforms that appeal to the masses and solving real-world problems, these projects just might have a real shot at making it in the end. For this reason, Axie Infinity, The Sandbox, Immutable X, PlayMining and Oasys are GameFi projects worth paying attention to as the market shifts toward a more bullish future.