Splinterlands | Investment or Game (Part 1)

After playing Splinterlands for over a year, it feels like it is in somewhat of a struggle between wanting to be a Game and an Investment having a hard time to balance between both making it all less enjoyable to play...


 


Splinterlands is trying something completely new in the gaming industry using some very smart mechanics to give in-game items value rewarding its players/investors in the process. I, along with many others see it as having big potential as a lot of things are being done right.




  • It's an actual game that is build pretty well and has the potential to rival similar types of games (Hearthstone) even from a gameplay perspective.


  • Everything Works Properly as the sign-up procedure is really easy without any knowledge of Blockchain to get started while the game itself has fast and free transactions which is awesome.


  • The Economics Work Properly and have some really clever mechanics to keep prices relatively stable. The fact that everything in-game can be bought with DEC which is pegged in the store to 1$ for 1000 DEC while cards can be burned for specific DEC values is simply brilliant. This makes many players (including myself) comfortable holding on to a card collection without feeling the need to sell.


  • The Blogging Integration also works quite nicely and allows for some good community engagement that on top can be rewarded by both the team and other players while it acts as a good way to promote the game.


  • The Rewards are Great at least for those who are somewhat invested in the game and play it smart even though oftentimes the rewards feel rather empty. When you play daily and run the numbers monthly (See October Earnings Report) you will see it all does add up over time.


  • Collecting cards and growing your account is fun and taps into a core human instinct. The mechanic where players can spend money knowing it's not fully lost with even the potential to make a profit on the investment can be quite addictive. Even at times when it doesn't make all too much sense, the game still gives the drive to continue getting more cards somehow.


That being said, I can't help but feel that the Money & Greed aspect (from both Devs & Players) has come at the cost of the actual Fun & Gameplay of the actual card game. Pretty much all focus seems to be on earning money and making sure card & DEC values at least stay stable keeping the whales happy all in the short run while the actual gaming experience is totally neglected.




Money & Greed


Wanting to earn money by running a business or playing the game is perfectly fine and by no means a crime. It's just when the short term greed comes at the cost of long term potential that something is bound to go wrong. Right now, when it comes down to Splinterlands, I feel players are mostly investing and playing with an eye to earn instead of playing the actual game and the developers are trying to exploit their "license to print" instead of making the best most fun game they possibly can.


Development & Greed

The recent Development (Collection Power & League Rankings, Land Sale,...) all seem to be done more with an eye on improving the game economics (which are important) while extracting more money from existing players completely neglecting the actual fun of the game.


1. Collection Power
This basically made it so that as a player you need a certain investment in the game to get to higher earning potential. While it certainly is needed to keep the game economy healthy, the way it was done makes players feel like they are blatantly put behind a paywall like no other game does also taking away a big sense of progression.


2. League Rankings
This update basically split the already quite small player base also forcing players to make a lose-lose choice (play low rank get easy wins & possibly some leaderboard chests vs getting higher daily rewards playing against stronger opponents which brings more frustration). After this upgrade, the game has felt more pay2win than ever because it broke the matchmaking system. It is just not fun to play against opponents that are way weaker or way stronger in the card levels. Up to 8 out of 10 games right now are like this depending on where you are on the leaderboard.


3. Land Expansion
I see the entire narrative of "We allow players to mint the cards themselves letting them make the money instead of us printing and selling the cards" as "NFT Land sales are hot in crypto right now, so we came up with something similar in order to get all the money now before the start of the next big bull run". This doesn't mean the idea can't work though.


4. Land Pre-Sale
They could not have handled the pre-sale of the land in a worse way. Instead of making sure all loyal players were able to get their hands on at least 5-10 plots, they targetted the whales as they earn the most from them leaving most players without a chance to get any land in the first pre-sale. There were many that have been playing the game for a long time, invested a lot in it, saved and bought DEC in advance, putting it into the Uniswap Liquidity Pool paying high gas fees for it. Got them out in time paying more gas fees for it to be ready in anticipation for the clock to go down to zero just to see the site crash and the remaining land being sold out within seconds. You would rage quit for less ...


5. Side Projects
The team behind Splinterlands also is responsible for Hive-Engine and recently launched a new 'game' called farmfarmer.farm which in essence is them selling a bunch of worthless NFT Jpegs which can be staked. That results in the mining of FARM tokens which again can be staked to mine FARMGOV tokens which can be used to burn and increase the rate he NFT can mine FARM (See Post).





The crazy part is that some of them have sold out as buyers anticipate that it will actually make them some money by getting in early as there is extreme greed in the market. To make things even more extreme, just weeks later they came with a 2nd game called mythical.farm which basically is the same things with other worthless Jpegs and different coin names (See Post).




All these 5 things bring in a ton of money. The Collection Power & League rankings has players buying and hodling more cards because they have to, the Land Expansion pre-sale made them a ton of money and also had players buying more cards in anticipation for when the land goes live. The Value of DEC also went up because of it. People also for some reason seem to buy into the farmfarmer scheme in the hope to profit.


 




The negative side effects for the actual game are quite bad though. The Collection Power makes new players feel like they are instantly behind a paywall, the League Leaderboard makes the game feel like pay2win more than ever since you rarely get to play fair matchups. The Land Expansion Pre-Sale screwed over a lot of loyal players making them rage quit. The farmfarmer scheme (which they dare to call a game) pretty much shows their main intention which badly damages the trust players can have in the team to do the right thing instead of what makes them the most.




Splinterlands as a Game


Looking at Splinterlands as a game right now, it is just got fun enough and it all seems to be about money & greed at the cost of Fun & Gameplay. Looking at the active daily users, there is basically no growth whatsoever with the number remaining around 5000-6000 (of which at least half are bots).





There is also no exposure whatsoever among real gamers and all marketing is done toward the crypto crowd in the hope they see it as an investment. The new tutorial (which is painfully boring) and the 'big partnership' with Brave Browers (again not aimed at gamers but crypto people) so far have not done anything in terms of attracting new players and many I know are fed up with the game no longer enjoying it playing just for the rewards or having quit already.


 




Conclusion


It is just hard to look past the facts that everything that is being done with the game and the development seems to be aimed towards earnings and rewards getting 'investors' on board instead of actual gamers. The game itself has suffered a lot because of these changes to the point where it really has become a daily task just to grind out some rewards instead of a daily gaming experience with some rewards as a nice bonus. The good thing is that not so much needs to be changed in order to make things much better again, the hardest part is having the Devs switch their mindset from being on the economical side to making sure the game itself is as fun for players as it possibly can be!


 


Part 2: Making Splinterlands More Fun
I will make a post probably next week with some arguments on things that make the game less fun and things that could be done to make everything more enjoyable.




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