When new titles garner a certain degree of popularity, they also frequently propel the gaming industry in new directions. If a formula is proven to be successful, the market will center around it for a time in an attempt to jump on the fad. Halo and Call of Duty, for example, put first-person shooters on the map in the early 2000s, which resulted in an overabundance of FPS titles in those years. These days, cosmetic collecting is largely what makes free-to-play Battle Royale titles — the latest fad in gaming — so appealing. Most multiplayer titles within the gaming industry now function by making fans chase after the next big skin/content coming exclusively to an upcoming battle pass.
However, outside of Steam‘s community marketplace, few titles have given players the resources to buy, sell, and trade these items they’ve collected with other players. It appears Blankos: Block Party is looking to change that, while also melding the formula of several popular titles in the free-to-play market.
Blankos: Block Party is an upcoming free-to-play party MMO from game studio Mythical that allows players to meet in an online hub called The Junction, where they can take on daily challenges, go on dares, earn items, and more. The hub is decked out like an actual block party and features digital vinyl toys called Blankos, which you also play as. There’s even an old hip-hop head Blankos dressed in ‘80s b-boy attire serving as the neighborhood elder.
The meat of the game is to buy and collect these digital figurines and customize them to your liking. The vinyl figures can attain rare attributes through gameplay and players can earn accessories to build unique versions of the toy. Players can also build and customize their own digital hubs to invite friends and participate in mini-games with friends, which is another key focus of the title.
Players can repurpose building items to serve functions the dev team didn’t initially intend. For instance, someone building their own hub used a skateboard halfpipe as a platform by turning it upside down, much to the surprise of the devs. However, Mythical looks at this as a core prospect in building and wants to allow players the freedom to be creative and use items in any way they see fit.
By far, the title’s strongest aspect is all the synergy that it presents. It taps into the free-to-play market and provides yet another online platform for friends to hang out similar to Roblox and Minecraft. These titles proved their utility during the coronavirus quarantines instituted around the world this year, serving as a platform for human interaction as many were in self-isolation.
Blankos: Block Party also taps into the collectors market by utilizing the free-to-play market’s model of selling multiple cosmetic skins. The developer has stated that it will avoid loot boxes and grey markets for rare Blankos, noting “the community dictates the value of what they buy and sell.” Titles like Fortnite saw accounts sold on eBay that contained several skins, emotes and accessories bought with V-Bucks. And although nothing has been confirmed, there are rumors of several notable cosmetic collaborations slated to take place when Blankos eventually goes live. There’s no telling if the collabs will have as much range as Samsung’s “Galaxy” skin promotion, which was promoted alongside Ninja and Travis Scott, but there’s potential. As such, it appears Mythical will have a far better handle on third-party distribution than Epic Games, and will even use it to its potential benefit.
However, from what we saw gameplay-wise in a virtual demo, there is no incentive to partake in any of these enticing prospects, primarily because the gameplay looks so frustrating. In the central hub, you can partake in quests and travel around the hub location modes include “Racing, Tag, Collection and Shooting on both Mythical-created maps and player-created levels.”
Unfortunately, the controls and mechanics for the game make these modes a chore to play through. Although the gameplay we saw in the hands-off demo was in the very early stages, the fundamentals themselves look as though they’re aimed at the often young audiences attracted to the Minecraft and Roblox titles that Blankos is inspired by. We’re not sure if someone old enough to play edgier Battle Royale titles would stick around long enough to ingratiate themselves in all Blankos intends to offer when it begins firing on all cylinders. And we’re also not sure if the younger audiences would be invested enough in the rare Blankos collecting as they would be with the typical building mechanics similar titles offer.
All we can hope is that when the title releases a beta and the full project, the gameplay has been fine-tuned or revamped in a way that makes actual gameplay fun — or at least look fun to play.
Blankos Block Party is coming to PC later in 2020.