BlockTime - Conceiving a hypercasual blockchain game

A P2E hypercasual game monetized with Ads.

Don’t find customers for your products, find products for your customers.
- Seth Godin

Hypercasual games represent approximately a 30% share of downloads across all apps. These games are monetized with ads and have a very fast lifecycle - meaning they are produced quickly, they take advantage of the novelty effect to reach many users, players play a couple of sessions, and move on to the next game.

Blockchain P2E games on the other hand are known for their herculean retention rates, which are sometimes 3 or 4 times the industry's average. At one time, Axie Infinite boasted a staggering 75% returning players in the second month. [1]

In this article, I explore what might be a new type of blockchain game. The mass-market blockchain hypercasual. I also took the opportunity to do some blockchain inception - the game's theme is also the blockchain, because, why not? Miners compete over blocks, and players compete over guessing when such blocks are mined.

Summary

Block Time Guessing Game - A timed-puzzle block time guessing game on the blockchain. A P2E hypercasual game monetized with Ads prototyped in 3 months.

Rationale

The 2-3 month timespan invalidates an approach similar to most blockchain-based games that rely on staking, NFTs, marketplaces, and casino elements. We need to develop a straightforward game because three months is not very long.

So the challenge here is to figure out how to monetize a hypercasual. A mass-market game that teams can produce quickly and has a gameplay that supports monetization from ads.

Since teams can make procedurally generated puzzles within tighter timespans, we started our market research in the Puzzle Game market.

Using Game IQ and Insights Generator on Data.ai we can get to a couple of conclusions:

  1. The puzzle category is performing pretty well on the revenue side;
  2. Even though Word Games have more DAUs, Hidden Object or Number Puzzles have higher session durations and capture the user’s attention for longer. Therefore, something along the lines of a Hidden Object game is more interesting for our use case.

Thus we settled on a timed-puzzle type game with a blockchain theme (because why not).

Game Concept

Miners set a timestamp field in the block header when mining a block. Due to their consensus mechanisms, blockchains can work as timekeeping devices - timestamp servers.

We’ll use that to our advantage and make a game where the player must guess when miners will mine the next block.

Although the block mining time is immutable, we can never know the exact timing beforehand. Other blockchains have different average block mining times, from a few seconds like on Ethereum to ten minutes on Bitcoin.

Table 1. Listing of block mining time for some blockchains.

To add novelty and ensure the player doesn’t need to wait long before each round of play, we must select several blockchains for the player to guess block mining times in different intervals.

Gameplay and Meta


Figure 1. Players tap to guess when the next block is mined

Players tap on the screen to lock their time estimate for when miners will mine the block.

If the player takes too long, he will miss the window to guess the block mined time. If he taps too early, his estimate will be way off.

Players compete to see who’s guess is closer to the block time. Based on their guesses, players are placed on a leaderboard, and the weekly top 3 players get BlockTime tokens.

That is mostly it as far as gameplay.

An improved version would have a pannable view of the previous and next blockchains.


Figure 2. Players can see the previous and next chains

Metagame and monetization

Like most hypercasual puzzle games, `BlockTime Guessing Game` is monetized with Ads.

Upon installation, you can link your Metamask and redeem 5 BlockTime tokens.

For every round of play, players need to spend BlockTime or watch a reward video to play. The closer you are to the actual block-time relative to other players, the more ‘BlockPoints’ you get. BlockPoints are not a token; they are just leaderboard placement points.

Why would players want to play and accumulate or buy BlockTime tokens?

A server-side service airdrops weekly cash prizes (BlockTime tokens) to top leaderboard placements. The cash prizes would be a fraction of the Ad revenue.


Figure 3. BlockTime's game economy

Roadmap

This roadmap is for a fully functional vertical prototype after three months, but the full release might take anywhere from 6 to 8 months.

In other words, there are two development phases: prototyping and polish, with a more or less equal time distribution between both phases (leaning toward more time for polish than prototyping).

The team would spend subsequent time either adding polish or iterating on feedback.

If feedback is favorable, the team will spend the time adding publish-time features such as internationalization, ASO, releasing to the AppStore, social media features, lowering build-size via addressables, improving performance, and other features and activities meant to improve the quality and stability of the game.

Month 1 - Prototyping

  • Select the collection of blockchains to use and their APIs;
  • Integrate metamask in the game engine;
  • Mint test tokens;
  • Make interactive mockups;
  • Start working on the artwork (icons, creatives, and resources we know dimensions for first).

Month 2 - Prototyping and DevOps

  • Mount pipeline to make and publish builds;
  • Prototype main game loop, playtest internally;
  • Mount backend services to support leaderboards and dispense rewards (or research and implement some SDK that already does that);
  • Integrate add network mediator;
  • Produce or acquire audio;
  • Produce artwork based on the dimensions already used in the prototype.

Month 3 - Integrate artwork and close the incentives loop

  • Add in artwork and audio;
  • Add a short tutorial;
  • Add leaderboard, test leaderboard reward dispensation.

  1. Brandon. (2021, December 1). Axie Infinity Growth Pt. 1 - approach to 10m players. Covalent. Retrieved April 20, 2022, from https://www.covalenthq.com/blog/axie-part-one/#:~:text=Player%20retention%20is%20extremely%20high,players%20have%20ever%20bred%20Axies