Crypto NFL video game launches as developer leaves Ethereum behind

Quick Take

  • NFL Rivals is available on Apple and Android mobile devices as Mythical Games switches blockchains.
  • Mythical CEO sees NFL Rivals attracting more than 10 million gamers this year.

Mythical Games’ blockchain-enabled NFL Rivals is ready for primetime as the mobile video game is now available to the general public.

The launch of the first officially licensed NFL crypto game comes with a twist, however, with Mythical saying that it's swapping Ethereum for the Polkadot blockchain. The company is betting that the switch will help it expand both the number of users playing Mythical titles and trading their in-game digital assets, or NFTs.

By releasing a video game based on professional football, easily America’s most popular sport, Mythical CEO John Linden is bullish that NFL Rivals will be the first blockchain-powered title to tap into the highly-lucrative market of mobile gaming. Other than a handful of months during the pandemic when Axie Infinity became popular as some people stuck at home were able to make money playing the crypto game, video games that use blockchain technology have mostly failed to reach a wider audience.

“We anticipate this game will be north of 10 million players this year,” said Linden, adding that users will immediately have a digital wallet they can use to trade digital assets when they sign up to play NFL Rivals.

“Everybody has a wallet from day one and as they learn there’s a tradeable economy behind it. We think we’re going to onboard a much bigger audience than we’ve ever seen before,” he said.

All-star backers like Michael Jordan and Andreessen Horowitz

Compared to peers, Mythical has been one of the most successful, fledgling web3 gaming startups in terms of attracting financial support. The company has an illustrious roster of backers that includes NBA legend Michael Jordan and venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, nicknamed a16z. The investment firm has shown confidence in the future of blockchain game developers, investing $150 million in Mythical and creating a $600-million gaming fund last year.

NFL Rivals' users will be able to trade assets, or NFTs, with other players. Source: Mythical Games

While NFL Rivals introduces innovations related to the trading of in-game assets to the highly-popular video game sports genre, its exaggerated, arcade-style gameplay possesses elements reminiscent of classic titles like NBA Jam and Tecmo Bowl. In NFL Rivals, gamers will be able to acquire and trade real NFTs of NFL players as they build their nine-man squads.


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During the game's soft launch, Linden said that NFL Rivals attracted roughly 150,000 gamers, with about 40% playing the game again after first trying it. So far, the only other high-profile NFL-meets-crypto project, an NFT collection of video clips called NFL All Day, has performed well below expectations.

Ethereum abandoned for less-expensive Polkadot

Mythical's migration to Polkadot follows a wider trend of blockchain-powered games choosing not to operate on Ethereum. Despite being the most popular blockchain among elite NFT collections, Ethereum costs more per transaction than other blockchains, making it less attractive for game developers who want players to be able to cheaply buy and sell a high number of in-game assets.

“The decision to leave the Ethereum ecosystem is a combination of issues surrounding relatively slow transaction speeds … that ultimately will hinder Mythical’s scaling plans,” Linden said in a statement.

Björn Wagner, CEO of Parity Technologies, which contributes significantly to the Polkadot network, added the move should also encourage more developers.

“Mythical realized the only network that will truly allow gaming developers to exploit the vast opportunities of the emerging web3 is Polkadot, thanks to the network's scalability, flexibility, and interoperability,” he said.

Mythical is staffed by video game industry veterans that have worked on top-flight franchises like Call of Duty, World of Warcraft and Guitar Hero. In 2021 the company hit a valuation of $1.25 billion.

Before NFL Rivals, Mythical’s largest web3 video game release was Blankos Block Party, which launched in September 2022 and can be downloaded on the Epic Games Store. NFL Rivals can be found on the Apple and Google Play stores. 

© 2023 The Block. All Rights Reserved. This article is provided for informational purposes only. It is not offered or intended to be used as legal, tax, investment, financial, or other advice.

About Author

RT Watson is a senior reporter at The Block who covers a wide array of topics including U.S.-based companies, blockchain gaming and NFTs. Formerly covered entertainment at The Wall Street Journal, where he wrote about Disney, Netflix, Warner Bros. and the creator economy while focusing primarily on technological disruption across media. Previous to that he covered corporate, economic and political news in Brazil while at Bloomberg. RT has interviewed a diverse cast of characters including CEOs, media moguls, top influencers, politicians, blue-collar workers, drug traffickers and convicted criminals. Holds a master's degree in Digital Sociology.


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