Many traditional or “Web2” video game studios around the world are developing new games that leverage blockchain networks, cryptocurrency, and NFTs. Some of the game industry’s largest studios globally are exploring blockchain games, with appetites spanning across genres and platforms—from PC shooters to mobile games and multiplayer metaverse worlds.
And a majority of the game publishers on this list are headquartered in Asia, with just a few Western firms in the mix—a dominance that echoes DappRadar’s prediction that Asia could rule the Web3 gaming space.
Japanese video game studio Square Enix—maker of the Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts titles—has been exploring NFT video games since 2019. In 2021, the company released a sold-out collection of Ethereum-based NFT trading cards. Roughly six months later, Square Enix sold off its Tomb Raider IP as well as three studios it owned to help fund its moves into blockchain and AI research and development.
Earlier this year, the studio announced that it’s planning to release an NFT game, Symbiogenesis, on Ethereum sidechain network Polygon. Square Enix calls the upcoming game a “collectible art project” with a narrative component and a mystery that players will have to solve over the course of the game.
The publisher also previously invested in metaverse game The Sandbox and announced plans to bring its Dungeon Siege IP to the game world. Square Enix also released Final Fantasy VII NFT-based trading cards on Enjin’s Efinity platform on Polkadot, tied to physical statues and collectibles.
In June, another massive video game publisher signaled plans to start playing in the NFT space when Electronic Arts said that its EA Sports brand will incorporate Nike’s .Swoosh platform.
According to EA Sports, future games from the company will integrate .Swoosh “virtual creations,” which are digital items tokenized as NFTs on Polygon. EA Sports is the publisher behind massive franchises like Madden NFL and FIFA (now EA Sports FC), so the move has the potential to open up in-game NFTs to millions more players.
We don’t know how quickly EA plans to make the move, however. But with Madden NFL 24 out in August and EA Sports FC 24 following in September, it could come very soon. EA CEO Andrew Wilson previously said in November 2021 that he saw NFTs in gaming as “an important part of the future of our industry on a go-forward basis.”
South Korea-based video game publisher Nexon is making a new MapleStory game called MapleStory Universe that will leverage Polygon NFTs. Nexon has shared that it will have its own private network or Polygon “Supernet” for the game.
The original MapleStory games have raked in over $4 billion for the publisher, and have seen over 260 million players to date. MapleStory Universe’s Group Leader Hwang Sun-Young said that the studio will work closely with Polygon Labs throughout the development and marketing process.
Sega has been playing around in the crypto space for a while, albeit at a distance. For example, the Sonic the Hedgehog maker licensed its Battle of Three Kingdoms IP to developer Double Jump.Tokyo to develop a game on the Oasys blockchain network, but Sega itself is not making the game. Furthermore, Sega’s Virtua Fighter franchise was featured in an Oasys NFT project, but again via a partnership and licensing deal.
In July 2023, Bloomberg reported that Sega Co-Chief Operating Officer Shuji Utsumi suggested in an interview that the company was pulling back from the Web3 world and wouldn’t use its biggest IP in the space—but Utsumi later told Forkast that his comments were misconstrued.
He added that it was “very strange” that Bloomberg reached such a strong conclusion, given that Sega just licensed another as-yet-unannounced IP to Line Next—a division of popular messaging app company Line—for its Game Dosi crypto gaming platform. Even amid mixed messages around Sega’s approach, the company is still involved in blockchain games.
Krafton, the South Korea-based publisher of PUBG: Battlegrounds and PUBG Mobile, plans to launch an NFT-enabled metaverse game under the working name Migaloo. Players will be able to create their own digital assets under what Krafton calls a “create-to-earn” system.
The studio has established a majority stake in a new joint-venture firm with tech company Naver Z. Together, Krafton and Naver Z will develop Migaloo and plan to release it sometime this year. In 2022, Krafton also said that it will develop games on Solana in partnership with Solana Labs.
Zynga is an American gaming company known for casual smash hits like Farmville, CityVille, and Words With Friends. Last year, Zynga announced it is developing games that use NFTs in an effort to “future-proof” its business.
While little has been announced since, Zynga appears to be moving forward with its Web3 gaming division. Its website currently lists a job posting for a software engineer for the department, with the goal of creating “enduring Web3 games” for the studio.
Zynga’s parent company Take-Two Interactive is one of the biggest game publishers in the world, with franchises like Grand Theft Auto, NBA 2K, and Red Dead Redemption in its portfolio. Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick has spoken of opportunities in the Web3 world, and the firm invested in Web3 game developer Horizon in 2022.
French game publisher Ubisoft is one of the few western video game studios openly exploring NFTs in its games. Back in 2021, it launched free Tezos NFTs for Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Breakpoint. While those NFTs were aesthetically plain and launched in a game with few active players remaining, it still triggered massive backlash online from angry gamers who dislike the idea of NFTs in games.
In response, Ubisoft said that NFTs in gaming are a “major change that will take time” and has continued developing blockchain integrations for upcoming games. In 2022, Ubisoft said it was still researching how NFTs could be implemented into its titles.
This year, Ubisoft released NFTs based on its Rabbids game IP in the metaverse game The Sandbox and launched “Smart Collectibles” from Assassin’s Creed—a move which blends physical collectibles with digital NFT components. Ubisoft is also working on a new blockchain game called Champions Tactics: Grimoire Chronicles, built on Oasys.
Korean game publisher NCSoft is the maker of titles like Guild Wars, Blade & Soul, and the Lineage series. It invested in blockchain firm Mysten Labs’ $300 million Series B funding round last year, and has shared plans to develop NFT games on the newly-launched Sui blockchain.
Mysten Labs is building infrastructure for the Sui network and believes that Sui is well-optimized for video games that use crypto transactions and NFTs. Numerous games are launching on Sui in the near future, although NCSoft still has yet to reveal its specific plans.
Bandai Namco is another traditional gaming giant that’s building on Oasys, joining Ubisoft and Sega, and the publisher behind Pac-Man, Tekken, and Elden Ring is getting hands-on.
In July, Bandai Namco Research teamed with Double Jump.Tokyo and startup Attructure to release RYUZO, a virtual pet game built around NFTs on Oasys. It’s a relatively rudimentary project as part of the blockchain’s Oasyx NFT project, but it shows how major publishers in the space are getting involved and experimenting with crypto games.
Com2us is the South Korean game developer and publisher behind Summoners War. But the studio has expressed strong interest in blockchain games and is developing games that offer NFTs and crypto integrations via the XPLA blockchain.
The company’s U.S. President Kyu Lee told Decrypt in a message that the studio plans to release roughly 10 to 15 blockchain games per year and that most of them will be on mobile.
Korean game publisher Wemade just released World Fishing Championship, a play-and-earn fishing game for Android mobile phones. It also plans to release two more blockchain games this year: R1B and Night Crows. R1B is a baseball game, and Night Crows is a high-concept fantasy MMORPG that’s being adapted into a Web3 game for global audiences.
Wemade also promoted its crypto gaming platform Wemix Play at the Game Developers Conference in March 2023. A Wemade representative told Decrypt via email that Wemix Play is intended to be like a Steam store for crypto games.
Wemix Play currently offers an NFT marketplace and has over 50 games from external indie developers planned for its platform, many of which offer players the ability to “play and earn” various crypto tokens. At time of writing, Wemix has 28 different gaming tokens listed on its platform as well as fan tokens. The majority of Wemix’s most popular live games are RPGs, but a few puzzle and strategy games also cracked its top 20 list.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on May 29, 2023 and last updated with new entries and information on August 8, 2023.