How to Develop an NFT Game? Your 6-Step Guide

So you've created your NFT collection, or even more — managed to mint your NFT assets. Now they are successfully being sold on OpenSea or any other NFT marketplace. Cool! What next? It seems logical to make your own NFT game, doesn't it?

How to enable your collectors to use their NFTs while playing your game? How much will the NFT game development cost? How much time will it take? I bet your questions do not end here.

Based on our experience in building an arcade NFT game for Wasted Wales and a blockchain-based metaverse Xmanna for sports teams and their fans, we’d like to make this subject simple and clear for you — so we've prepared this article.

Here, you’ll find out what mechanisms are at the heart of smoothly running NFT games, get a rough project estimate, and — what is vital for your project success — figure out how to lay the right NFT game economy to ensure your collectibles' price-stable growth.

Testing the waters: NFT gaming statistics

Before joining the ranks of entrepreneurial NFT game founders, let’s ensure the market is worth entering.

According to Industry Research, the global play-to-earn NFT games market size is expected to reach $3.6 billion by 2028 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 21.3% from 2022 to 2028.

Seems like sheer numbers until you compare them with the rates of other industries. For example, the automotive motor market size is supposed to grow at a CAGR of 6,55% by 2027, the online gambling & betting market size at a CAGR of 10.9% by 2028, and global travel & tourism — at a CAGR of 8.46% by 2026.

So by looking to venture into NFT game development, you’ll enter one of the fastest-growing industries in the world. However, having strong ties to the crypto world, the NFT market is no stranger to booms and busts.

NFT marketplace monthly volume

You’ve probably heard of the NFTs sale peak at the beginning of 2022 when the trading volume increased from $2.67 billion in December 2021 to $16.6 billion in January 2022over a sixfold rise in a month. The majority came from the NFT collection sales of the blockchain games including Axie Infinity, CryptoPunks, and Bored Ape Yacht Club.

After a significant spike in January, however, NFT trading volumes have consistently declined with their worst 12-month performance of $1B in June 2022. Experts say it’s because NFTs are being affected by the buzz surrounding the possible bitcoin crash. On June 18, 2022, the bitcoin value plummeted to $17,567 — the lowest price since December 2020. Alongside this, the key trading platform Binance has suspended bitcoin withdrawals.

Is it all a forerunner to the total breakdown of the NFT gaming industry? Hardly ever.

The thing is that non-fungible tokens built on the blockchain solve the biggest pet peeve of millions of gamers worldwide: ensure their ownership of the game collectibles they paid for. We at Mind Studios believe that this technology gamers — and we among them — have been waiting for for over 20 years is destined to succeed.

As a founder of crypto investment company Mythos Capital and crypto media company Bankless Ryan Sean Adams stated, we live in “the earliest of early days” of the NFT market that someday will have a trillion-dollar size which “we’re just .01% of the way in”.

So being at the root of the emerging NFT gaming market, you have all chances to develop a highly profitable business despite any ebbs and flows. The major role here is the expertise of your NFT game development team. The reliable partner will help you with everything from creating an NFT game and laying a good game economy to picking the right time for launch and initiating a powerful marketing campaign.

How do NFT games work?

Three main components of an NFT game

To ensure your NFT game creation process will run seamlessly, you and your team should have the same understanding of how NFT games operate.

First, you can enable your players to start playing your NFT game in two ways: 1) without having any native NFT collectibles in their crypto wallets; 2) requiring native NFT collectibles bought beforehand.

Below, we’ll focus on the second type when your players need to have native NFT items to start playing your game. In this case, to make things clear, let’s trace three stages your intended players will pass through playing this type of game:

Stage 1 — Buying NFTs. To start playing your game, players first need to buy items from your NFT collection on marketplaces like OpenSea or Rarible. For this, players need to register and connect with one of the available crypto wallets on the marketplace. After purchasing NFTs for fiat currency or cryptocurrency, your collectors have these items stored in their crypto wallets.

Stage 2 — Registering in the game. When entering your game, players need to register and connect with their cryptocurrency wallets. It makes it possible to identify NFT assets from your NFT collection available in the players’ crypto wallets that players can then use in your game.

Stage 3 — Playing the game. While playing the game, your players will want to somehow utilize their NFT collectibles meaning to obtain, swap, or trade them within your game. This is possible by introducing smart contracts — self-executed programs run on the blockchain — into the game.

As you see, there are three main components of an NFT game: an NFT collection itself, a crypto wallet, and a smart contract. Let’s dive deeper into the ins and outs of each of them.

Component #1. NFT collection

If your NFT collection is already sold on OpenSea or Rarible, you may skip this section. However, if you’re just working on a style concept for your NFT project, read on to figure out how to tokenize your art buildout.

As you may know, an NFT is a digital certificate of ownership with a unique ID attached to a particular file: image, video, audio, GIF, etc. You can turn any of your game items including characters, avatars, skins, achievements, artifacts, cards, and whatever else into NFTs.

By putting up your NFTs for sale, you vouch that no two exactly same items were created, each one is a single copy and limited edition. By purchasing your NFTs, collectors are assured they're the sole owners of these in-game items.

NFT is built on a decentralized blockchain network, mostly on Ethereum, where tokenizing non-fungible game items is subject to the following standards:

  • ERC-721. This standard is used for single assets and performs two main tasks: it registers copyright ownership and streamlines royalty payments every time the resale of the NFT takes place.
  • ERC-1155. This standard is used for the NFT collections since it can transfer numerous assets in a single transaction thereby reducing network congestion and cutting "gas" fees.

The steps to turn any drawn in-game items into an NFT collection look like this:

How to turn in-game items into the NFT collection

Component #2. Crypto wallet

As you’ve figured, a crypto wallet is a constant companion when building an NFT game. You need a crypto wallet while deploying your in-game assets on the NFT marketplaces; a collector needs a crypto wallet to be able to purchase your NFTs; a player needs a crypto wallet to start playing native NFT items in your game.

A simplified way to understand how a cryptocurrency wallet works is to compare it with an online banking app. Like the app stores your bank account number and login credentials, the same way your crypto wallet stores your public keys (known as “wallet addresses”) and private keys. Using the app, you’re able to check the balance of your bank account and send or receive transactions, just like a cryptocurrency wallet allows you to check your balances and send or receive crypto. However, you can only send the same type of cryptocurrency to a wallet address or public key that supports that particular cryptocurrency.

In case of creating an Ethereum NFT game, both you and your players need to have crypto wallets that allow you to send and receive Ethereum-based cryptocurrencies and store NFTs; we recommend using MetaMask as the most popular wallet of its kind.

MetaMask is a non-custodial hot wallet, meaning it doesn’t keep any user data on a central database. MetaMask can be seamlessly integrated with any blockchain that exposes an Ethereum-compatible JSON RPC API and major crypto websites including NFT marketplaces like OpenSea and decentralized exchanges like 1inch. You can download its browser extension for Google Chrome, Firefox, Microsoft Edge, and Brave or its phone app for Android and iOS.

Component #3. Smart contract

Smart contracts are just lines of code that allow transactions in trades and exchanges to happen under conditions dictated by developers/traders.

In terms of developing NFT games with a play-to-earn model, smart contracts are not always mandatory. For example, if you plan to create an arcade game where players can simply use their NFT items (without obtaining, selling, or exchanging them), you don’t need smart contracts.

The basic in-game scenarios that require smart contracts are as follows:

Scenario 1 — A player wins. When the player beats the game, they get an NFT they’ve targeted from the game’s treasury. In this case, for instance, you’ll need to set up a smart contract to ensure the ownership of a particular NFT is transferred from the game owner to the winner.

Scenario 2 — A player loses. When the player loses the game, it means they send their targeted NFTs back to the game’s treasury. Here, you’ll also need smart contracts to ensure that the ownership of a particular NFT is back to the game owner.

Scenario 3 — A player sells or exchanges an NFT. While gaming, the player sells or exchanges their NFT assets with the game’s admin or with other players. A smart contract is required to ensure the seller of an in-game collectible transfers their ownership of this item only after the receiver pays for it. Smart contracts also control that the seller gets paid during this transaction.

Moreover, thanks to smart contracts, the original NFTs’ owner can receive royalties that will be deposited into their crypto wallet every time players resell the native NFTs.

Smart contracts can enrich the functionality of any NFT game. However, remember that you’ll need to hire extra highly experienced (and highly expensive, as a rule) blockchain developers. They must be adept at writing code on Solidity for implementing smart contracts in your Ethereum-based NFT game.

As you may have guessed, building an arcade-like game where there’s no transfer of in-game NFT items’ ownership and, therefore, no smart contracts needed, is much faster and cheaper than building the NFT games backed by smart contracts.

What’s the value of NFT games? P2E phenomenon

Up to now, we’ve got you to look at the NFT game development from the perspective of gaming. What if we look from the perspective of earning?

Picture this: You bought three mystic skins worth $1,000 and after a month decided to quit the game since you got bored with it, or worse, the game suddenly shut down. What would be your skins' destiny if it was a regular game? You wouldn't be able to use these collectibles anymore. And your money, well... No one would pay them back to you.

Unlike traditional games, with your own NFT game, you’ll allow your players to immutably own acquired in-game collectibles that remained in players’ crypto wallets even if they quit the game.

But what’s more revolutionary is that thanks to building an NFT game, you can offer your players an opportunity to earn money through playing.

In brief, there are two monetization models with blockchain games:

  1. Play-to-earn implies earning in-game currency by winning tokens in the battles, reaching certain levels, or completing challenges.
  2. Collecting in-game NFTs that players can sell for cryptocurrency or cash out, or rent out for a profit on NFT marketplaces.

However, today many blockchain games use versatile combinations of P2E and in-game NFT models. For example, Axie Infinity has fungible game tokens like their Small Love Potion (SLP) which players receive for every battle won, and an Axie Infinity Shard (AXS) which the top players across all 19 seasons are awarded. In addition, a player can breed a new one-of-a-kind Axie from two different ones, thus getting their NFT characters either to use in the game or sell on the marketplace. More so, players can invest in Axie Infinity’s Lunacia land plots, which are also valued as NFTs, or establish their own Axie scholarship program.

According to a report, an average Axie Infinity player can earn from $10 to $50 worth of digital items per day. Seems unimpressive until you compare these numbers with the average daily minimum wage in developing countries. For example, it’ll be no wonder if the majority of local people in the Philippines someday turn into Axie Infinity’s bred-in-the-bound gamers since their average daily minimum wage is just about $5 -10 dollars.

What also attracts players to NFT games is that with more users joining a game, the higher the cost of assets they own. Deals like Sandbox’s plot of land being sold for $4.3 million or CryptoKitties’ Dragon being sold for 600 ETH (≅$720K at the time of writing) lead gamers to be highly stimulated to earn NFTs through playing.

About 56% of surveyed players stated they would be interested in earning opportunities NFT games offer even when faced with debate regarding the environmental impact NFTs have or regarding scammers in NFT trading.

So if you manage to build your NFT game app with steady economics that allows players to earn enough money to match their needs, you’ll get a two-in-one product — highly competitive and marketable.

How to create an NFT game step-by-step?

Six steps to create an NFT game

Did you know that the quality of the pre-development preparation has more to do with the success of your NFT game than the development itself? According to our experience in creating numerous gaming projects, we’ve highlighted six core steps you'll need to take to bring your NFT project to life with little to no hassle.

Step 1 — Clearly define your NFT game concept

At first sight, it seems that the NFT gaming market is now one wide open blue ocean teeming with opportunities, so that any NFT game, properly promoted, can become a hit in no time.

However, if you wonder how to make an NFT game successful in the long run, it’s worthwhile to be well-prepared. First, conduct thorough market research. You need to ensure that there’s room for your idea. For this, you need to identify and study your main competitors. By analyzing competitors, you’ll get a clear picture of their strengths and weaknesses not only in the game mechanics and functionality but also in the game economy and marketing campaigns. More so, you’ll be able to analyze competitors' user reviews and dive deeper into your target audience’s pains and wants.

Here and beyond, your established NFT collectors can be a storehouse of valuable insights. Once you’ve created your NFT collection and people begin to buy your items, you can appeal to them to ask their opinion at any stage of your game development.

Thanks to this preliminary research, you’ll get vast data that will help you turn your nebulous idea into a clearly defined NFT game concept including game type, blockchain, and platform for launch.

NFT game types to choose from

If you’ve already decided on your game genre and your NFT collection style — awesome. If not, you might come up with some fruitful ideas by learning from popular NFT games in 2022. To name a few:

  • Role-playing games (RPG) like Six Dragons or My Crypto Heroes
  • Massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPG) like Legends of Bezogia or DoRac
  • Multiplayer online battle arena games (MOBA) like Thetan Arena or Brawl Stars
  • Card battle games like Gods Unchained or Sorare
  • Metaverse video games like Sandbox 3D or Alien Worlds
  • Player versus player (PvP) and player versus environment (PvE) games like RaceFi or Star Atlas
  • Creature breeding sims like Axie Infinity or Crypto Kitties
  • Arcade games with a lot of mini-games included like Wasted Whales or Crypto Shooter

Examples of different arcade mini-games in the Wasted Whales metaverse

Read also: Process and cost to make a game like Brawl Stars

Platforms for launch

Games can be played on mobile devices, desktops, consoles, and web browsers. In theory, all four options are valid for NFT game development as well. However, it’s not all that smooth in practice.

As long as the NFT market is ill-regulated, there are some obstacles to distributing NFT games. For example, Apple App Store and Google Play Store are now suspicious of games incorporating NFT items because of their fraud concerns. However, neither App Store nor Play Store clearly define their policies on whether they allow or deny NFT games. Because of this, NFT games on app stores are a rarity.

You can build your NFT game app but whether you could eventually launch it on the app stores will depend on the human factor of each particular app store reviewer.
In terms of desktops, Steam, the ultimate gaming platform that holds 75% of the market share for PC games, also banned crypto NFT games on October 15, 2021.
All these roadblocks lead the majority of founders to develop their NFT games as progressive web apps (PWA) and distribute them via their websites.

We at Mind Studios use the Unity engine for NFT game development. We do it because it’s cross-platform, which means we can build NFT games for different platforms effortlessly. For example, after we develop the game for a web browser using the WebGL build option when required, we can easily build a mobile version of this game — by slightly tweaking UI and control panel.

Blockchains for NFT game integration

In addition to choosing the platform for launch, you need to define the blockchain on which you’ll build your NFT game. You need to make this decision right from the start because in the midst of the development process it'll be rather hard to switch to another blockchain.

Before, we’ve mentioned the Ethereum blockchain as the most commonly used option, although not the only one. We’ve broken down popular blockchain networks by five key criteria and compared them in the chart below:

Blockchain comparison chart as of July 20, 2022

Depending on your game type, data received from your market research, and with the help of an experienced project manager, you’ll be able to pick the right blockchain for launching your NFT game.

Step 2 — Lay the right game economy

The most important task of this step is to design game mechanics so that it facilitates your NFT assets’ growth. A poor game economy could cause inflation and significant NFT cost decline.

Let’s hypothesize an example. You announced the start of your NFT sword sales: a one-of-a-kind sword for $100 each. In a year, you launched your NFT game in which a player needed to collect 10,000 crystals and open a trunk to get one of those swords from your NFT collection. The more players play your game, the more meet the required conditions, and the more get cherished swords. With the increase in the number of these swords, their cost will fall from $100 per sword to some miserable 5 cents.

You need to keep valuable items valuable — it’s vital for your NFT game's successful long life.

How to develop NFT apps that support native NFT collectibles’ growth in value? Managing a virtual game economy isn’t as easy as one would think, however, we have a couple of proven tactics up our sleeve:

  • Create different in-game items’ scarcities
  • Implement extra in-game currencies
  • Develop more games where the same NFT collectibles can be used

Since every project is unique with different requirements, the ways to lay the right game economy could vary case to case. If we take your project into development, our project manager will offer you several options, by discussing which you'll choose the one that best suits your requirements.

Step 3 — Work on UI/UX design concept

At this step, together with your game development team, you’ll create your NFT game prototype that visualizes the game’s structure and basic features. Actually, there will most likely be several prototypes among which you’ll choose the most winning one.

While we're in the dark about the specifics of the NFT project on your mind, we offer you to itemize the basic features that form the backbone of every NFT game. We can discuss everything extra during our consultation.

Crucial features for your NFT game

In the end, your team will compound a game design document that will highlight both functional and non-functional requirements that are needed for subsequent development. A GDD often includes:

  • Description of game scenarios
  • Description of game collectibles
  • The use of non-fungible tokens
  • The UI design concept with agreed-upon game prototype
  • The game architecture with required tech stack

Step 4 — Develop the game

The full-cycle NFT game development includes linking frontend, backend, and crypto wallets for those games where it’s supposed only to use NFT items, not selling or exchanging them.

If you plan to allow players to obtain, buy, sell, or exchange NFT items within the game, in addition, you’ll need to integrate smart contracts into the game to run it on the blockchain.

Three steps below will demonstrate how to create NFT games using Unity, WebGL, and MetaMask:

  1. To enable your Unity content to run in a web browser, you need to select WebGL in Unity’s main menu and switch platforms. The WebGL build option transforms Unity content into JavaScript programs backed by HTML5 and APIs suitable for web browsers.
  2. Use the Unity platform and WebGL build mode to create your game graphics, avatars, 2D or 3D scenes, etc., and develop your front-end part.
  3. Set up a Web3 authentication via MetaMask to identify the NFT items available in players’ crypto wallets.

Step 5 — Test and improve

How to make an NFT game bug-free before launching it on a website? Like any other software, you need to test your NFT game. For this, our developers and quality assurance engineers conduct four main stages of testing:

  1. Smart contracts testing (if you integrate them) to ensure your dapp game mechanics, transactions, NFT trading, etc. run on the blockchain alright. For this, tools like Ropsten from the Truffle suit are often used.
  2. Unit testing to identify and fix critical bugs immediately during development.
  3. Alpha testing to assure the game meets all previously set functional and non-functional requirements according to the GDD.
  4. Beta testing to pass inspection made by genuine users when they actually play the game, record bugs they bump into, and give reports to QA specialists.

Step 6 — Launch and promote

After the above-described steps are taken, you’re ready to launch your NFT game in the market. As for promotion, we suggest making the buzz around your NFT game launch and building a marketing strategy prior to development and NFT collection pre-sale.

Once you start to get collectors — buyers of your NFT collection — you also need to continuously fuel their interest in your plan-to-develop NFT game. You can conduct different polls, ask for their feedback, use them as your beta testers, and inform them about the game development progress.

The more closely you’ll work with your target audience throughout the game development process, the more stunning results you’ll ultimately achieve starting from the number of downloads to return on investment to your brand awareness.

Read our other tips on how to market an app successfully

How much time and money does it take to create an NFT game?

To let you know how much the NFT game development process would cost and how much time it would take, we need to be aware of all inputs including:

  • whether you have a ready-made NFT collection
  • whether it’ll be 2D or 3D graphics and how detailed the graphics will be
  • the tech stack your project will require
  • the complexity of your NFT game functionality, and more

To kick off, building a 2D NFT arcade game requires bringing in the following specialists:

  • 1 project manager
  • 1 UI/UX designer
  • 1 2D/3D artist & animator
  • 1 Unity developer
  • 1 Ethereum blockchain developer (optional)
  • 1 quality assurance specialist

The cost to build an Ethereum-based NFT game with simple-ish graphics and no smart contract implementation will start from the following values:

Stage Time, hours Cost, USD
Discovery optional 0–$1,200
Game design & Wireframing 40–80 $1,000–$2,000
2D/3D Art & Animations 40–160 $1,000–$4,000
Unity development 160–320 $5,000–$10,000
Backend development optional 0–$3,000
Testing & Deployment 40–80 $1,000–$2,000
Total 400–800 $10,000–$20,000

In case you’ll need extra 2D/3D artists and animators (for characters, items, backgrounds, etc.) or blockchain developers to implement smart contracts, the cost to develop an NFT game will increase under these conditions.

The Mind Studios experience

Here, we’ll share a couple of our recent projects including an arcade NFT game Flappy Whales and a blockchain-based metaverse for sports teams and their fans Xmanna.

Flappy Whales: a 2D arcade NFT game

2D arcade NFT game Flappy Whales made by Mind Studios

In April 2022, a co-founder at Wasted Whales appealed to us to build a 2D game based on their collection of sea creatures. At that moment, they already had the base characters designed and illustrated as artwork on OpenSea.

Within a month, we successfully deployed the Flappy Whales arcade — an NFT game for web browsers that is just the first one from the series of arcade machines planned by our client.

Since Metamask seamlessly works with browsers, we used it for player authorization. Once a player gets authorized, the system identifies the NFT sea creatures that the player has bought on OpenSea and allows the player to play them and gain super bonuses, achievements, and top leaderboards.

To create this 2D NFT game, we used the Unity engine which is perfect for building 2D and 3D applications and WebGL which is a JavaScript API for implementing interactive 2D and 3D graphics in any compatible web browser without the use of plug-ins.

Thanks to the effective collaboration, our client expressed his wish to move on to develop a slightly more complex multiplayer NFT game, so we’re in expectation of this project.

Xmanna: a blockchain gaming project

The Xmanna blockchain gaming project made by Mind STudios

Our developers also took part in developing a blockchain-based project Xmanna — an advanced gaming ecosystem where various sports teams can digitize their stadiums and deliver a completely new type of engaging experience for their sports fans, sponsors, clubs, etc.

We’re involved in creating the MannaVerse with its Sports Team partner land areas where users can take part in a myriad of events and achieve rewards. More so, the Xmanna software provides loyalty applications — white-label solutions for teams that they can customize depending on what they want to bring to their fans and what actions they want their fans to take.

If you’re interested in our other game development projects, see our portfolio page or read the following articles:

Final thoughts

NFT game creation challenges any game development company. Since it’s fairly new, finding a studio with relevant expertise to boldly undertake an NFT game development project might pose a challenge. But fear not!

In 2022, Mind Studios successfully developed an NFT game for the Web3 studio Wasted Whales, and we’re delighted to try our skills in the next NFT project.

However, not everyone who comes to us will become our client.

NFT market is highly profitable and hyped. Today, there are numerous reliable web3 studios aimed at creating workable NFT games, but NFT scammers also flood the market. Then and there, we witness massive sales of NFT collections for the ostensibly plan-to-develop games or fake game developers who just capitalize on the NFT trading without any interest in the game itself.

For us as a reputable game development provider, it’s of utmost importance to ensure that the prospect with whom we'll shake hands belongs to the ranks of real game admirers inspired by the Oasis metaverse and Web3 capabilities.

So if you’re determined to develop a crypto NFT game that will match your players' expectations and your success criteria in the long run — you're welcome to fill in our contact form.