“The next big thing will start out looking like a game”
When the first mobile video games came out, Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft weren't worried. Consoles delivered immersive experiences with stunning graphics, while mobile games looked like a throwback to Web 1.0. The difference was that you could play a mobile game anywhere—and people did. Today mobile games account for over 50% of revenue in the global gaming industry.
Crypto games on platforms like Bitcoin, Ethereum, and EOS look a lot like early mobile games. The graphics often primitive. Playing decentralized games is stop-and-go, as players have to sign each transaction with a wallet. Yet in spite of this, gaming is one of the biggest drivers of adoption for crypto.
SatoshiDICE, an early Bitcoin dicing game, controls an address with the highest number of transaction outputs on the Bitcoin network. On decentralized computing platforms like Ethereum and EOS, games are the only category of applications—besides exchanges—with any meaningful level of daily usage.
Decentralized games allow you to do a number of things that weren't possible previously. With games on decentralized networks, you can actually own the characters and items that you develop in-game—and no one can take them away from you. These games have the advantage of a built-in native currency. Because they live on the blockchain, developers can build new applications that complement existing games—one day you might even be able to trade items between games.
While there's a lot of potential in the space, it's still early. The hype around crypto games often ignores the most important question: whether they're actually fun. We put together this guide by testing dozens of games across Ethereum, EOS, and Bitcoin to help you pick the best decentralized platform for gaming.
Table of Contents
- 🏆 Ethereum: Best Overall and Best for Collectibles
- 🏄 EOS: Best for Near-Realtime Gaming
- 🎲 Bitcoin: Best for Gambling
🏆 Ethereum: Best Overall and Best for Collectibles
Ethereum is our top pick because it had the biggest collection of titles, with 379 games. Only 10 of these games have over 100 daily active users—but that's still far more than the competition. Games on Ethereum also benefit from a growing ecosystem of tools and standards that allow you to do cool things like view all your collectibles across games in a single place or modify items purchased in one game in another game.
Top 10 Ethereum Games by Daily Active Users (12/5/18)
|Game||Daily Active Users (24h)||Volume in ETH (7d)||Mobile Friendly||Status|
|My Crypto Heroes||345||755.06||✅||Released|
|Gods Unchained TCG||256||882.97||✅||Pre-sale|
|World of Ether||61||5.85||❌||Beta|
Data sourced from State of the Dapps
Ethereum excels at “collectibles” games, where players can buy and own digital items that live on Ethereum's decentralized "world computer." Unlike traditional games like World of Warcraft or Neopets where your characters and items are controlled by the game publisher, you actually own collectibles on Ethereum. That means you can transfer and even modify them beyond the game you purchased them in. This is thanks to the fact that Ethereum has a uniform standard for digital assets—known as “non-fungible-tokens.”
The downside to Ethereum is that each transaction costs a small network fee—currently at around 10¢. Transactions on Ethereum also take at least 15 seconds to settle and can take 30 minutes or more when the network is busy, which means that the network can't support real-time gaming today.
“The beauty of building an application on Ethereum is that its decentralized, permissionless and open nature allows complementary applications to seamlessly integrate with each other as first class citizens.”
Building a game on Ethereum gives it a built-in marketplace for items and characters, which means that many games try to incentivize participation by paying out money. But if you look at old-school games like EverQuest or World of Warcraft, secondary markets evolved around items and characters because the games were genuinely fun, and people were invested in a rich storyline and character evolution—not the possibility of selling their characters for money. While Ethereum provides players with a novel way to own digital assets, the narrative and “fun” component is still lacking on games today.
The Best Games on Ethereum
An Omnom dukes it out with a Kyari in Etheremon's practice mode.
Etheremon is a collectible game on Ethereum that allows you to collect Pokemon-like creatures called Mons, form them into teams, and battle against other players. Much like with Pokemon, you can collect rare Mons with powerful skills and level them up over time.
Etheremon gives you three Mons for free to get started playing the game—all you need is to pay a transaction fee of around 11¢, wait a couple minutes for the transaction to confirm, and you can be on your way.
To begin a battle on Ethermon, you have to confirm an attack on the Ethereum network.
In the Battle mode of Etheremon, you select a team of up to six Mons. Each Mon has a type that is strong against one type and weak against another. A fire Mon, for example, has an advantage of iron but is weak to water. To start the battle, you need to sign a transaction on the Ethereum network and wait for it to confirm. When we tested Etheremon, this typically took less than a minute—but players have reported waiting 30 minutes or more during times of high network activity.
In adventure mode, you can drop off your Mons at the mystery gate. They'll return a couple hours later with experience and items.
Etheremon has an interactive “Adventure Mode” where you can move your avatar around on the map with arrow keys—but that's as interactive as it gerts. All this lets you do is walk your character to a “mystery gate” where you select a Mon to go exploring. After a couple of hours, your Mon will return with experience and loot.
The name Etheremon is itself a tongue-in-cheek reference to Pokemon, and it shares a lot of the same mechanics. When you play Etheremon, you can't help but compare the two—and finding Ethermon lacking. In Pokemon, you're not simply collecting different Pokemon for the joy of it. You're progressing through a storyline, defeating gym trainers, and interacting with a rich universe of characters that exist across games, TV shows, and books.
Etheremon lacks the narrative and storytelling that made Pokemon so compelling. I'll always remember the Charmander who carried me through Pokemon Red—I can't say the same for my Mintol.
The CryptoKitties dashboard shows a list of kitties you own.
CryptoKitties is a collectible game on Ethereum backed by Union Square Ventures and a16z. At one point the game was responsible for 25% of all activity on the network—driving up transaction fees for everyone using Ethereum. The game centers around buying, selling, and breeding cute digital kittens.
The cost of breeding two CryptoKitties in the transaction above was $1.01. The birthing fee—or cost to write the new Kitty onto the Ethereum blockchain—is 94¢, while the network transaction fee is 7¢.
You can get started buying a CryptoKitty for around $0.5 ETH plus a transaction fee of around .00011 Eth, which at today's prices comes out to a total of 47¢. You'll need at least two CryptoKitties to start breeding, which translates to around $1 to really play the game. By selecting the right combination of genes between two kitties, you can breed new and rare kitties.
Left: A CryptoKitty wearing a pearl necklace and spiked cuffs. Right: A team of CryptoKitties dukes it out against an automated team.
Beyond the CryptoKitties game itself, there's an emergent ecosystem where you can modify your digital kittens and play other games on Ethereum.
- KittyHats: Purchase cute hats, jewelry, and other accessories for your kitties. While these accessories are added to the token contract for your kitten, you have to install a Chrome extension to view them outside the KittyHats website.
- KittyBattles: Form your kitties into a team and battle other teams. While KittyBattles is intended as a turn-based player-vs-player game, the game is still in alpha and we had a hard time finding real people to battle with. Even though there aren't that many people playing KittyBattles, you always have the option of playing against a computer.
- CryptoKittydex: A community-created tool that maps out CryptoKitty genes. You can use the CryptoKittydex to identify the attributes you need to breed specific kitties and also find kitties for sale with these attributes.
While CryptoKitties is strictly a collectible game, games like Etherbots mix a collectible component to more traditional gaming. On Etherbots, you control a robot that's made out of five unique parts. You can upgrade these parts, level them up over time, and swap them out. Getting started isn't cheap—each Etherbot requires five different parts, which you have to purchase. The cheapest parts cost .07 Eth, which means getting started will set you back around $36.
On Etherbots, players have to batch attacks into sets of five moves at a time.
Etherbots is a cool concept with fun animations and design, it also shows the limits of the Ethereum network. Playing through the tutorial requires signing five different transactions alone.
To mitigate transaction fees in battle mode, Etherbots forces players to select five moves at a time—you might queue, for example, three strikes with your plasma sword and two blocks with your surfboard shield. This helps mitigate transactions fees, since you don't have to pay for each move and wait for it to settle on the network. But it also means you can't respond and counter opponents turn by turn, making battling feel artificial.
OpenSea allows you to view and trade items you've purchased in Ethereum games in one place. It also has a browsing feature that's helpful for finding new games to play.
A big reason why Ethereum is our top pick for decentralized gaming is the ecosystem of tools around that make it easy to find games to play and then actually play the games.
To discover games to play, you can use the following tools:
- OpenSea: OpenSea is a decentralized marketplace that helps you find new games and manage the collectibles you've previously purchased in Ethereum games. It allows you to manage all your collectibles on Ethereum in a single place. You can also buy and sell these collectibles directly within OpenSea rather than having to go through the game itself.
- State of the Dapps: State of the Dapps is a registry of decentralized applications on Ethereum, EOS, and POA. You can use it to find games on the Ethereum network and sort them by metrics like daily active users and transaction volume.
Left: Purchasing a deck of cards in Gods Unchained via Metamask. Right: Signing an Ethermon transaction on mobile using Coinbase Wallet.
To play games:
- MetaMask Wallet: MetaMask Wallet is a browser extension that allows you to sign, send, and receive transactions directly from your browser—without having to leave the game.
- Coinbase Wallet: Coinbase Wallet is a mobile wallet that allows you to play games on Ethereum on your phone. If you've started playing games with a MetaMask Wallet, simply import your seed key to get started playing on your phone. A number of the most popular Ethereum games, such as CryptoKitties and Etheremon, are designed responsively for mobile.
The daily active user count for games on Ethereum spiked at 14,000 last December and has declined to 2,850 today.
Daily active users for games on Ethereum peaked briefly last December, at just over 14,000 users at the peak of the CryptoKitties craze. Since then, it's gradually declined to 2,850 users.
The average transaction fee on Ethereum is currently around 10¢, down from a high of $5 in May.
All transactions on Ethereum cost a small transaction fee, which then needs to be signed and verified using a wallet like MetaMask. Currently, the average transaction fee on Ethereum is around 16¢, but it's spiked to as high as $5 during times of high network usage. Even with cheap transaction fees, however, it can be really annoying to click and approve each transaction in MetaMask every time you want to launch an attack in a PVP game or change your avatar's outfit.
Many Ethereum games have developed a workaround for this by settling the action or battle parts of a game off-chain. On Etheremon, for example, battles with other players happen off-chain to minimize transaction costs. You can sync your XP and items won through battles back onto Ethereum as needed rather than having to pay a fee for each battle.
The image on the left shows a purchase of Etheremon's in-game currency, Energy via MetaMask. The image on the left shows an Etheremon battle. Instead of charging a transaction fee, you simply have to sign a transaction to initiate the battle.
Part of the reason why you don't see a lot of daily active users on Ethereum probably has to do with the fact that the gaming experience still isn't great—you have to set up a MetaMask Wallet to get started, sign each transaction, and wait for transactions to settle.
More importantly, the games that do exist simply aren't that fun yet. While you can do a lot of cool things playing Ethereum games, games typically lack a developed narrative and storyline that get you invested in the game and make it fun.
For games on Ethereum to really take off, they can't rely on simply being “decentralized” or “paying out money”—they have to actually be fun to play. While we didn't find any games on Ethereum that currently provide a compelling narrative experience, some upcoming games look promising, such as the Hearthstone inspired Gods Unchained trading card game as well as the Zombie Battleground game in development by Loom Network.
🏄 EOS: Best for Near-Realtime Gaming
EOS is our number-two pick for best decentralized platform for gaming. The main reason is there are few games to choose from. While the top EOS game, EOS Knights, has 10x the daily active users of the top game on Ethereum, there are only two games with more than 100 daily active users and 17 games total. That said, because the EOS network doesn't charge transaction fees, and transactions settle almost instantly, it offers the ability to play games in close to real-time—which isn't possible on Ethereum.
Top 10 EOS Games by Daily Active Users (12/5/18)
|Game||Daily Active Users (24h)||Volume in EOS (7d)||Volume in USD (7d)||Mobile Friendly||Status|
Data sourced from DappRadar
Because there aren't transaction fees, players can take more actions in games that live on the EOS network—say selecting a characters attack in a PVP battle. If you buy an item in a game, it shows up in your account instantly.
EOS is designed from the ground up to be scalable, user-friendly, and fast.....EOS is making a strong play in a specific market sector—high throughput, no fee, user-facing dApps.
That means that on EOS, you can actually play games in close to real-time, without having to wait for each transaction to settle. The current problem with EOS is that it lacks an equivalent of a shared standard for digital assets—like ERC-721 for Ethereum. That means that while you can play decentralized games on EOS at real-time speeds, the characters and items you buy can't integrate across applications like they can on Ethereum.
The Best Games on EOS
EOS Knights is the standout game on EOS—with 3,910 daily active users, it's currently the most popular non-gambling game across all platforms. EOS Knights is an idle role-playing game where you defend a village from goblins through the characters of a knight, an archer, and a goblin. While there's no real story or narrative behind the game to speak of, and the game mechanics are pretty primitive, the game is surprisingly addictive thanks to a well-built crafting and item system and a thriving marketplace for exchanging goods.
Most of the action in EOS Knights happens on autopilot.
“Idle” means that you can't control the movement of your characters or pick the attacks they make—the action part of the game all happens on autopilot. Your characters basically spend the whole game thwacking away at goblins who endlessly respawn. With every 10 goblins you kill, you make it to a new “floor.” The higher the floor you can get to before your characters die, the better chance you have of getting a rare item drop. Once your characters die, you hit the “rebirth” button, and they start all over again.
The marketplace on EOS Knights allows you to buy and sell new items to improve the stats of your characters.
Despite these drawbacks, the fun part of EOS Knights comes from outfitting your characters with new and improved weapons and armor. Killing goblins drops raw materials that you can use to craft items. You can also buy and sell raw materials and items in the game's thriving marketplace—which had over 6,000 total listings at the time this guide was written. It's possible to make money selling items on the marketplace—the top user on the game's leaderboard made over 1,200 EOS.
Wizards.one is another early game developed for EOS, and it's very similar to the crypto-collectible games that you find on Ethereum. You collect and buy Wizards that you can then pit against other players in player vs. player battles.
You can outfit your Wizard with different items that will give it better stats and increase the chances you'll defeat other Wizards in battle. Wizards.one also holds periodic tournaments between players, where the top three players receive a reward in EOS. In the most recent tournament, the total prize pool was 118 EOS, or $354.
The main problem with Wizards.one is the same one facing a lot of decentralized games—there simply aren't that many people playing. When we took Wizards.one on a trial run, we couldn't find anyone to match with for a battle.
The ecosystem of tools around EOS is less developed compared to Ethereum, and the tools that do exist, like Scatter, are often buggy and glitchy. While you can use a Dapp registry like State of the Dapps or DappRadar to find games on EOS, there isn't really the equivalent of an app store like OpenSea that you can use to find and manage your games.
Signing a transaction for Farm Eos by using Scatter. EOS gives you the option to whitelist contract actions, so you don't have to manually sign repetitive actions.
- Scatter: Scatter allows you to sign transactions while playing games on EOS, similar to MetaMask for Ethereum. Scatter is usable but is often buggy and compared to intuitive MetaMask on Ethereum.
- MEET.ONE: An iOS and Android wallet that lets you manage your EOS account from your mobile phone. You can also use it to approve dApp transactions on your phone. The caveat is that you'll be unable to whitelist smart contract actions, and it can be inconvenient while gaming to approve each transaction.
- CPU Emergency: If you run out of EOS to stake for gaming, CPU Emergency will stake EOS for free to your account. All you have to do is enter your EOS account name and use CPU Emergency's referral link to play specific games.
While the majority of games on EOS have a meager number of daily active users, EOS Knights is again the standout exception and has continued to grow users month over month since launch.
EOS Knights has 3,891 daily active users, with a weekly transaction volume of 22,112 EOS—or over $47,000.
EOS Knights is currently responsible for 90% of daily active users of all games on the platform. Since the game was launched this past August, its daily active user count has steadily risen week over week from 1,113 at the end of August to 3,891 at the time this guide was written.
EOS Knights, however, is the exception rather than the norm. Most games on EOS never rise above 100 daily active users, let alone 1,000.
Wizards.one peaked at 128 daily active users in September and has fallen to a low of 10 daily active users today.
Part of this has to do with the fact that it's not that easy to actually get started playing games on EOS. Once you buy EOS on an exchange, you have to go through a convoluted account creation process to get started playing games—it took us around an hour to figure out.
And while EOS does away with transaction fees, it replaces fees with a complicated system of RAM, NET, and CPU—which can be hard for new users to understand. Instead of paying a fee for the network to process your transaction, you put some of your EOS in escrow—or stake it—in exchange for CPU time. The more EOS you stake, the more transactions you can complete on the network. You can also unstake your EOS at any time and get it all back in three days. Read this post to learn more about how RAM, CPU, and staking works in EOS.
Left: A dashboard in EOS Knights that shows the CPU and NET availability for an EOS account. Right: A low CPU message on EOS Knights.
For example, EOS Knights recommends staking at least 15 EOS to play the game without running out of CPU—which comes out to around $68. While you can unstake EOS and get it back within three days, it's a substantial amount to lock up just to play a game. And even with 20 EOS staked, there were a lot of points where we had used up our available CPU power and had to wait for more to free up to continue playing.
The ecosystem around EOS gaming is also a lot less developed than Ethereum's, which limits what's possible with games on the platform today. While EOS permits real-time gaming, to beat out Ethereum, EOS needs to play a lot of catch up both in terms of attracting more developers to develop new games and tools as well as creating standards that allow for interoperability between games.
🎲 Bitcoin: Best for Gambling
While you can find a ton of gambling games on newer platforms for decentralized computing like Ethereum and EOS, the biggest jackpots are still found by betting with Bitcoin. That's why Bitcoin is our top pick for those who love to roll the dice.
The Top 8 Dice Sites on Bitcoin by Total Wagered (12/5/18)
|Game||Total BTC Wagered||Max Payout in BTC|
Data sourced from DiceSites.
Gambling on a cryptocurrency like Bitcoin has a couple of advantages.
The first is that through cryptography, games can be proven to generate results that are actually random—and which players can check. With a traditional online gambling service, you have to take it on trust that the house is playing by the rules.
The second is that online gambling is highly regulated and often illegal in a lot of countries. Credit card companies like Visa and Mastercard, for example, don't allow gambling transactions. With Bitcoin, nobody can stop you from sending a transaction. While some Bitcoin gambling sites restrict access to specific countries, all you need to play is a VPN.
Finally, some Bitcoin gambling sites actually allow players to bankroll the house and cut themselves in on a slice of the winnings by investing some of their Bitcoin into the site. This typically pays out a percentage of winnings to investors—but it also means that they also lose when the house loses.
The Best Bitcoin Gambling Games
Bustabit is an insanely addictive Bitcoin dicing game that occurs in real-time. According to DiceSites, it's one of the most popular dicing games on the network—98,980 BTC (north of $800 million) have been wagered on the site since it opened in 2017.
The way it works is really simple. You can get started by sending Bitcoin to a deposit address provided by the site. Bustabit has no minimum deposit requirements, and the maximum profit you can make per bet is 34.98 BTC.
Once a round has started, players can cash out at any time. If they cash out before the round busts, they get their original bet multiplied by the multiplier at the time of cash out. Cashing out on the 100 bit (1 bit = .000001 BTC) above leads to winning 55 bits.
Gambling on Bustabit occurs in rounds. Before a round begins, players place wagers in Bitcoin. As the round starts, a multiplier begins from 1x and ticks higher and higher. You can cash out at any point after the multiplier starts ticking and win your original bet times the multiplier at the time you cash out. But with each tick—from 1.1x to 10000x—the round also has a chance of busting. Once a round goes bust, you lose your bet.
In the game above, the round “busted” at a multiplier of 66.73.
Playing Bustabit is an exercise in constantly balancing out risk and reward. Unlike a lot of dicing games, where you place a bet and then roll a number randomly, the cash-out mechanic on bustabit means that you spend each round at the edge of your seat. You can choose to cash out early for a low multiplier or risk it all in the hopes of getting an elusive 1000x multiplier.
LuckyBit is one of the oldest and most popular Bitcoin gambling games still in operation. The LuckyBit hot wallet is the third most popular address on the Bitcoin network measured by total transaction outputs. A total of 33,732 BTC have been sent to the LuckyBit hot wallet—or nearly $135 million at today's prices.
To play LuckyBit, you select a game based on the maximum you want to bet and send Bitcoin to the associated address.
While the game isn't particularly well-designed, it has some of the highest potential payouts of all the games that we researched.
The way that LuckyBit works is pretty simple. It takes the form of a “bean machine” or what's known as a Pachinko game in Japan. There are four games you can play: a blue game, a green game, a yellow game and a red game. Each game has different maximum bets permitted. The maximum for a single bet on LuckyBit is 7.5BTC, or $30,000.
A description of how odds work in LuckyBit.
To play, you simply send Bitcoin to an address based on what bracket the value of your bet falls into. When you make a bet, your bet randomly falls onto one of 16 different multipliers. If your bet lands on .2x, for example, you receive .2x of your initial bet.
Bitcoin has a limited ecosystem of tools for playing games.
There aren't any great options for finding Bitcoin gambling games—search Google for “Bitcoin gambling games” and you'll run up against dozens of listicles with spammy affiliate links. The only good option is looking through DiceSites, which provides data around Bitcoin dicing sites, listing the top ones by metrics such as total bets, total wagered, and the maximum payout. It also has a tool that helps you verify that a game is in fact “provably fair.”
Bitcoin also lacks the equivalent of an in-browser wallet such as MetaMask or Scatter that allows you to sign and send transactions in-game. Instead, players typically have to send Bitcoin manually to a game's address to start playing and provide a receiving address where payouts are sent to.
Here are a couple of gambling-compatible wallets that you can choose from:
- Blockchain.com: Blockchain.com runs one of the most popular wallets for Bitcoin. It provides a web wallet as well as iOS and Android applications that allow you to manage your Bitcoin from anywhere. Signing up for Blockchain.com, however, requires providing a name, which you may want to avoid if gambling is illegal in your country.
- Electrum: Electrum is a popular open source Bitcoin wallet that you can run on your desktop. The advantage to using Electrum is that you don't need to give any personal information to use it, but it can be slower and less convenient than using a managed service like Blockchain.com.
The one thing to keep in mind when choosing a wallet is to select one where you control your own private key rather than using a service like Coinbase—otherwise, you risk losing your payouts.
The daily amount wagered on Bitcoin dicing sites has declined slowly over the past year. Daily BTC wagered on the top site, bustabit, has declined from a high of 28,649 BTC on July 19th to 769 today.
While Bitcoin is the best coin for gambling, the total amount wagered per day has declined over the past year. According to DiceSites, the top Bitcoin gambling site, bustabit, peaked at a high of 28,649 BTC in July and has fallen to a low of 708 BTC today.
While the total amount wagered has declined drastically, the number of bets per day has fallen more slowly—from a high of over 400,000 in January on Bustabit to 252,390 today.
It's impossible to say what factors are driving this decline. One reason might be that Bitcoin's prices have plummeted over the past year from $15,000 in January to $3,900 today. With lower prices, it's possible that some people are holding onto their Bitcoin hoping that the price rises back up rather than gambling it away. Another reason might be the rise of gambling games on other coins such as Ethereum, EOS, and Litecoin, which are chipping away at Bitcoin's market share.