Crypto-enabled games saw continued growth last month, reaching one million daily unique active wallets (DUAWs) on multiple dates in October, according to a report published Thursday from DappRadar.
In September, blockchain games collectively amassed more than one million DUAWs on three days. In October, blockchain games saw more than one million DUAWs on four days, according to a chart from the crypto data firm, as the overall daily average appeared to tick up gradually over the course of the month.
It’s a modest increase overall compared to the previous month, but DappRadar’s report comes as some of the biggest games in crypto are trying to battle against a surge in automated bots.
Such a high number of users connecting their crypto wallets to blockchain games on a daily basis has happened before, such as in late 2021 and early 2022, when games like Splinterlands, Alien Worlds, and Axie Infinity pushed numbers past the one million DAU mark. User counts also spiked to similar heights in April this year, according to DappRadar data.
But over the years, games like Alien Worlds have been plagued with bot accounts—making it unclear as to how many of its users are real humans.
Malicious actors might deploy bots in blockchain games to automate and multiply their token rewards without having to “grind” or actually play the game for hours on end. It’s been a longstanding problem with blockchain games that have real-world financial incentives—even Axie Infinity had to reckon with “bot farms” in 2021.
Last month, Alien Worlds’ official Twitter account reported that at least 1.6 million accounts using its game were bot accounts, which may have contributed to October’s inflated totals. Alien Worlds did not immediately respond to Decrypt’s request for comment.
In the past month, games like Alien Worlds, Sweat Economy, SecondLive, Splinterlands, and Battle Left Center Right (BLCR) registered the highest numbers of daily unique active wallets, according to DappRadar’s report.
While some of Alien Worlds’ roughly 133,000 daily UAWs could be bot accounts, Sweat Economy Cofounder Oleg Fomenko, whose game took the second-highest spot with about 73,000 DAUWs, told Decrypt via email in October that it’s highly unlikely the “move-to-earn” title has many bots—or users otherwise tricking the game.
“Given that we have spent nine years working on the movement verification, we are confident that the number of bots earning SWEAT is close to zero,” Fomenko told Decrypt, referring to the game’s SWEAT token. “It is not zero because there is always someone trying to test some new shaking patterns or mimicking Monty Python’s ‘Ministry of Silly Walks’ sketches,” the co-founder shared.
“But what we know is that they can never scale and our models are incredibly good at detecting if the walking/running data is genuine. We are constantly monitoring for such activity and have seen everything from automated walking, cradles, shaking, dogs, metronomes, fans, and even dishwashers used,” Fomenko continued.
In recent weeks, the casual pixelated MMORPG and farming game Pixels also saw a spike in activity. In October, Pixels saw virtually zero users according to DappRadar data. But on October 30, the game migrated to Axie Infinity’s Ethereum sidechain, Ronin, and saw nearly 6,000 UAW connecting to the game.
From November 6 to 10, Pixels saw roughly 50,000 unique active wallets connecting to its platform, but that peak has since declined, per DappRadar data.
But Axie Infinity co-founder Jeffrey “Jiho” Zirlin posted a chart late Wednesday claiming that Pixels has actually surpassed 100,000 daily active users.
Reached for comment, Zirlin told Decrypt that an issue occurred with the game’s on-chain tracker. As a result, DappRadar’s chart may be underrepresenting actual player numbers. DappRadar has not yet responded to Decrypt’s request for clarification.
Regardless, botting or automated account creation is inflating Pixels’ numbers at least somewhat, according to reports from Pixels players and the game’s founder, Luke Barwikowski.
Barwikowski shared Sunday that the Pixels team has “silently caught” a bunch of bot accounts, and added Monday that the team is already developing and rolling out countermeasures to prevent the proliferation of bot accounts.
Developing a system that is better & more fair than the current ban/appeal system we have for bot prevention / detection.
Hoping to ship it in ~a week.
Another small tweak coming today as well though!
— Luke Barwikowski 🚜 (@whatslukedoing) November 13, 2023
Gaming research and consulting firm Naavik argued in a lengthy Alien Worlds blog post last year that unique wallet figures in general are “prone to bots,” and that any UAW numbers should be “taken with a pinch of salt.” Instead, Naavik analyst Karan Gaikward argued that transaction volume is a better metric to gauge authentic user activity.
Web3 really needs to stop counting wallets as users. It’s painful how obviously botted these numbers are and we all need to stop pretending they’re not.
— charlie (@c__blackstock) November 16, 2023
DappRadar’s report release coincided with broad discussion on social media of how valuable (or not) such figures are, and whether they paint a realistic picture of the kind of demand seen for blockchain games.
While DappRadar found that gaming made up 33% of decentralized app (Dapp) activity last month, it’s nearly impossible to determine exactly how much of that activity was real, individual human users—and how many are bots on the blockchain.
Edited by Andrew Hayward