The crypto gaming world kicked into high gear in the first quarter of 2024, experiencing a renaissance fueled by new business models and skyrocketing user engagement.

Reports from RootData indicate that the blockchain industry as a whole attracted $2.6 billion in fresh funding and crypto games have proved to be a leading destination for investors’ funds amid innovative mechanisms like “play-to-airdrop” that have helped drive user growth.

As the crypto winter of 2023 thawed, Q1 saw blockchain gaming daily active wallets spike 59% to 2.1 million, commanding an impressive 30% share of the Web3 ecosystem’s total activity according to data from DappRadar.

Next up, we will be providing an overview of what’s moving this hot sector by highlighting four key trends to keep an eye on while we will also be presenting a curated selection of four tokens that could be positioned to reap the rewards of further waves of enthusiasm toward crypto gaming.

Trend #1 – The ‘Play-to-Airdrop’ Movement

The first quarter ushered in a new era of the “play-to-airdrop” trend, building on the prior “play-to-earn” model. An array of games – including MixMob, Kuroro Beasts, Apeiron, AI Arena, and Nifty Island – instituted creative programs that rewarded users with crypto tokens for gameplay and community engagement.

MixMob, for instance, generated buzz with its upcoming “QuantumStaking” feature that promised innovative airdrop mechanics. Kuroro Beasts cultivated a Pokémon-like following while showering KURO tokens on players. This fresh approach revitalized interest across blockchains and token ecosystems.

The shift towards a ‘play-to-airdrop’ model has helped developers integrate direct rewards into the games’ mechanics. It’s about promoting engagement while offering tangible value to the gaming experience.

Trend #2 – Chain Wars Heat Up

Amid the crypto gaming renaissance, multiple blockchain contenders fought to position themselves as the preeminent platform for developers and their projects. Polygon maintained its edge, boasting an expansive gaming catalog including QORPO WORLD and Anichess. It further solidified its gaming ambitions by unveiling the $100 million Inevitable Games Fund, which it built alongside Immutable. Thus far, the reports indicate that they have raised $30 million from investors.

polygon keeps leading the crypto gaming infrastructure blockchain landscape but ronin is getting closer
Source: DappRadar

However, Sky Mavis’ Ronin Network emerged as the disruptive force of Q1 2024. Ronin’s user activity skyrocketed thanks to the breakout success of Pixels, a social farming game that migrated from Polygon. Games like Zillion Whales’ Wild Forest followed suit, further igniting the momentum of the Ronin gaming ecosystem.

Following Pixels, other games flocked to Ronin as well, primarily attracted by increased liquidity and lower fees compared to other blockchains. This resulted in a notable shakeup in the blockchain gaming landscape.

Solana also rebounded after a rocky 2023, debuting its GameShift toolkit and luring developers with the first gaming rollup via Mirror World. Stalwarts like Star Atlas and Genopets drove consistent user activity.

BNB Chain seized opportunities as well, earmarking key upgrades like “opBNB Connect” to support Layer-2 gaming solutions. SKALE emerged as a dark horse, leveraging an Arena Games alliance and a $2 million gaming grant program.

Trend #3 – Veteran Games Keep Their Foot on the Pedal to Maintain Dominance

While groundbreaking titles animated the crypto gaming scene, stalwart franchises reasserted their dominance. Alien Worlds and Splinterlands remained atop user rankings, buoyed by deep gameplay, appealing tokenomics, and loyal followings.

Axie Infinity, the title that catalyzed the initial crypto gaming craze in 2021, regained its footing. Key developments included Axie Champions’ mobile launch, the unlocking of Axie Homeland, and season conclusion events.

Gods Unchained charted an aggressive roadmap spanning mobile deployment to mythic card introductions. DeFi Kingdoms unlocked cross-chain liquidity via Synapse integration. Meanwhile, the hybrid social dapp turned heads rewarding users for virtual pet interactions.

Finally, Alien Worlds celebrated 58 million staked TRILIUM governance tokens while spinning off new titles like Battlefleet Armageddon.

Trend #4 – Millions of Dollars Keep Flowing to New Games

On the investment front, Parallel Studios and Gunzilla Games both landed mega-raises emblematic of big bets being placed on the crypto gaming future.

Parallel secured $35 million from leading crypto funds and angel investors. The capital will fuel user acquisition efforts like the Parallel Ambassadors program along with the development of a Steam/Epic integration and the Colony expansion.

Gunzilla’s haul was $30 million for its forthcoming battle royale shooter Off the Grid, led by CoinFund and Avalanche’s Blizzard Fund. Showcased as a third-person shooter revolutionizing asset ownership, it epitomizes backing for premium Web3 gaming experiences.

“These investments underscore a strategic shift towards creating immersive, player-centric experiences in the blockchain gaming world”, DappRadar wrote in its latest State of Blockchain Gaming report.

The Rising Tide Lifts the Entire Sector

As the quarter closed, optimism reigned regarding crypto gaming’s trajectory. Activity rates soared while innovative business models unlocked new revenue streams.

Venture capitalists courted exclusive deals as triple-A franchises and genre-defining titles took the plunge into Web3 integration. Meanwhile, innovative “play-to-airdrop” initiatives sparked remarkable user growth while an ongoing ‘chain war’ prompted developers to create further aids and toolkits to help gaming labs launch top-notch gaming experiences easily.

Q1 showcased the incredible dynamism of the crypto gaming space. While certain financial constraints remain, this quarter evidenced that the industry is back on an upward trajectory powered by innovation and mainstream crossover appeal.

For an ecosystem once battered by crypto winter turbulence, the reopening of 2024 is encouraging the beginning of a new chapter of evolution and opportunity.

The Top 4 Crypto Gaming Tokens to Watch in 2024

As the blockchain gaming sector springs back to life, certain crypto assets are emerging as potential winners amidst the segment’s renaissance. Here are four of the most promising gaming tokens to keep track of in 2024.

Pixels ($PIXEL)

crypto game pixels price chart 1-year

The breakout star of Q1, this Ronin Network token powers the wildly popular social farming game Pixels. With user counts skyrocketing, $PIXEL now ranks among the top 200 cryptocurrencies with a market cap of nearly $400 million. Seamlessly integrating gameplay and token utility, Pixels’ meteoric rise signals the massive potential for thoughtfully designed Web3 gaming experiences.

Gunzilla ($GUN)

While still in development, the latest VC interest in its upcoming Off the Grid (OTG) game has attracted attention to Gunzilla Games’ ambitious aspirations. The game’s promising player-centered asset ownership model and internal economy encapsulate the evolution of crypto gaming towards mainstream appeal and immersive worlds.

Gunzilla Games could soon launch an initial coin offering (ICO) that may be worthwhile for investors’ if OTG turns out to be the home run that VCs appear to be expecting.

Yield Guild Games ($YGG)

This veteran token, born during the 2021 Axie Infinity fervor, enjoyed a Q1 resurgence thanks to its migration to the Ronin blockchain. By offering increased liquidity and low fees, $YGG’s 2024 trajectory aligns with Ronin’s ascendance as a formidable gaming ecosystem alongside scalable infrastructure buildouts.

In the past 11 months or so, $YGG has managed to quadruple its price and, at some point before the latest correction, it reached all-time highs of $1.62 per token compared to the $0.24 it traded for in May 2023.

Prime ($PRIME)

During the first quarter of the year, $PRIME jumped to all-time highs as the NFT card-battler game from Parallel Studios kept gaining popularity. The gaming lab also managed to attract as much as $35 million in funding from angel investors and leading VC firms that helped solidify its reputation as a strong player in the crypto gaming ecosystem.

The Echelon Prime Foundation describes itself as a platform that allows games to leverage the power and technical capabilities of blockchain technology. It allows gaming labs to offer rewards to users without them having to develop native tokens so they can focus entirely on developing immersive experiences.

By providing a toolkit for crypto games to take advantage of the play-to-earn and play-to-airdrop trends, $PRIME could be poised to keep increasing its value if it proves to be a suitable and practical solution to labs.