GDC 2023 has drawn to a close after a full week of panels, presentations, and networking events. We’ve heard from a range of developers in the Web3 gaming space, and it’s clear that the industry is aligning behind a common focus on building great game experiences that are enhanced by blockchain’s ability to enable new player experiences and stronger communities.
Many of the topics we covered in our earlier GDC post remained consistent themes throughout the event, with “focus on gameplay first” being a common mantra. But there was also a great deal of importance placed on building engaged communities in the Web3 space, methods of creating sustainable token economies, and the role that technological infrastructure should play in growing the player base.
Let’s take a deeper look at what developers were talking about in the second half of the event and unpack what that means for the next phase of Web3 gaming.
Empowering engaged communities
When asked what excited or surprised them most about transitioning from Web2 to Web3, one of the most consistent responses from developers was the higher degree of community engagement and the opportunities they saw for fostering stronger bonds between developers and players.
“The engagement level is really different in Web3 communities to Web2,” said Russ Harding, CCO of Emergent Entertainment. “That sense of ownership creates much more connection for players to the game and its community.”
By giving players and creators ownership over the value that they contribute to a game’s economy and community, Web3 breaks down the zero-sum relationship between developers and players. This brings them into greater alignment, as in-game marketplaces enable the secure, trustless transfer of assets and value, reducing the need for third-party markets.
This reflects one of the core principles of Forte’s vision: by rewarding developers, players, and publishers who contribute to the network’s health, a new era of community-focused game economies can emerge. We call it “Community Economics.”
The importance of community in gaming and the potential for Web3 to foster new levels of engagement has always been central to Forte’s vision for the space. We believe it enables wholly new modes of organization and interaction within those communities. It’s hugely encouraging to see both veteran game developers and newer studios begin to recognize that potential and align behind it as a core value of Web3.
The art of tokenomics
Economy design and tokenomics were two of the most commonly cited challenges that developers and game designers have encountered. While designing well-balanced and rewarding game economies in Web2 is by no means a fully solved problem, introducing real ownership and value into games with tokenized assets adds a new layer of complexity and risk to an already challenging process.
“Game economies are so complex and fragile that any change you make has all these ripple effects,” said Dan Nikolaides, CTO of Studio 369. “It’s extremely complicated to make these economies work even before you add Web3 to the mix.”
At GDC, developers consistently raised the issue of balancing the interests of a new class of economically motivated players against those of traditional, fun-seeking gamers. The consensus was that developers should focus on building strong core games that can appeal to traditional gamers. From that foundation, they are exploring ways to enable players to exchange value in a balanced way, ultimately creating opportunities for more financially motivated players, too.
The need to create a better economic balance in games with real player ownership is a key part of Forte’s work. We’re giving developers the tools to experiment with economic models and implement the one that’s right for their game, supporting them with guidance based on our own extensive research and modeling.
Developers recognize the value potential of Web3 economies and open value exchange in their games. But it’s also clear that this is uncharted territory for most teams, and they are looking to Web3 native platforms with experience in these areas for guidance. In other words, partnerships in Web3 gaming are more important than ever.
Should we talk about the tech?
An open question throughout the week was how much players want to know—or need to know—about engaging with the blockchain. Moreover, many developers wondered how they should communicate that knowledge. Developers from traditional game backgrounds advocated that Web3 gaming should not be the primary selling point when growing a community, but rather a “silent partner” that enhances, rewards, and incentivizes positive player behavior.
Bo Daly from Bazooka Tango summed it up, saying, “The tech is going to be the best when it fades into the background and we’re just doing new and exciting things for players with it.”
Forte CEO and cofounder Josh Williams agrees, explaining in a podcast interview with Naavik: “Blockchain technology, albeit revolutionary in its own right, is a means to an end in pushing the games industry to evolve to rewarding developers, players, and publishers who contribute to the network’s health, so a new era of community-focused game economies can emerge.
The unifying concept among Web3 developers at GDC was the need to shift their messaging away from the technology and onto building great games with enjoyable player experiences. Web3, they all agreed, should be used as a tool to enhance those experiences for players and provide them with new ways to engage—even without the need to understand that technology.
“Players don’t want to hear about what the game is as a model. They want to hear about what the game is as a game,” Johnny Casamassina of Plai Labs explained.
Delivering the enormous benefits of Web3 without the need for specialist knowledge among players or developers has always been part of Forte’s mission. Like most of the participants at GDC 2023, we’re dedicated to enduring change. That’s why we’re committed to supporting developers in implementing streamlined Web3 infrastructure that unlocks new player experiences and enables community-driven economies that benefit all their participants.
For more on what the Web3 gaming community was talking about at GDC 2023, check out part one of our GDC coverage.