Powered by blockchain technology, play-to-earn games enable players to monetize their pastime by earning rewards and in-game assets with real-life value. As opposed to traditional games, where most gamers’ motives are pleasure and a quick escape from reality, blockchain-based play-to-earn games foster the creation of a vibrant gaming landscape that runs on a digital economy.
What are play-to-earn games?
In a nutshell, play-to-earn games reward players for playing. As part of the GameFi space, they unite gaming and finance into one. Under this gaming model, players are incentivized to spend more in-game time, develop their characters, collect valuables like skins and armor or complete different tasks. In return, they can receive digital valuables or crypto and either trade them with other players or sell them on the market, earning money as a result.
Apart from the ability to earn by playing, players can also explore a different type of reality with play-to-earn games. Play-to-earn games are one of the factors shaping the development of a truly united and interconnected Metaverse. Although there is a long way to go before we can witness a fully-fledged Metaverse, play-to-earn games are already showcasing their ability to connect users, encourage them to participate in a virtual reality and support a reliable digital financial system.
How do play-to-earn games work?
Although there are different gaming mechanisms that vary across games, there are three fundamental ways play-to-earn games work in terms of earning money – earning crypto, earning NFTs and staking.
The first earning model is fairly simple. Players are required to complete daily tasks, unlock levels, or compete against other players or the game itself. In return, they are rewarded with utility tokens. Gamers can also receive NFTs in the form of in-game items like characters, cosmetics, resources and more. On the other hand, staking enables players to secure NFTs or crypto in smart contracts, which allows them to win rewards that are usually extremely rare and valuable.
Although play-to-earn games do offer money-making opportunities, they can also have a high barrier to entry. To get started, the majority of games will require players to invest in NFTs or native tokens. Depending on the size of the game and its popularity, prices could turn out to be unaffordable for all.
How does blockchain enable play-to-earn games?
Gamers seeking to monetize their favorite hobby is a phenomenon that long predates blockchain technology’s rise to prominence. We can point to practices like “gold farming” that see players grind for in-game currency and other rewards with the intent to sell their acquired loot to other players.
When it comes to traditional gaming, however, gold farming and similar tactics are typically not supported and are often actively discouraged, by game developers, meaning that players who practice them do so in violation of the official game policy and risk punishment, including their game accounts being suspended or outright banned. Not to mention that they need to use unofficial channels like message boards to sell the goods they’ve acquired through playing.
The big innovation enabled by blockchain is that thanks to the technology, play-to-earn mechanics can now be naturally included as part of the core game loop.
The utilization of blockchain revolutionizes play-to-earn games in several ways.
Practically, NFTs are the focal point of blockchain-powered play-to-earn games. We already noted that they enable digital ownership of in-game assets like skins, characters, vehicles, armory and more. However, they also contribute to the creation of digital scarcity. Unique digital assets in the form of NFTs can’t be duplicated, separated or altered. They allow players to enjoy tamper-proof identities in a virtual reality. Best of all, NFTs can be sold on external platforms and are not limited to a specific game. This empowers players to take full control of their ownership and transform their in-game possessions into tangible assets.
Blockchain technology also allows for the creation of in-game economies fueled by native fungible tokens.
Rather than depending on a single company or authority for control, play-to-earn games are decentralized and reliant on all game participants and players. With shared control, blockchain-based play-to-earn games allow players to participate in decision-making and omit risks. For instance, under this model, it’s impossible for a gaming company to decide to cancel the game and deprive players of their assets.
Play-to-earn games function on an immutable blockchain network. Each participant has a copy of transactions made on the blockchain. This prevents risks of players changing, duplicating or erasing blockchain data in their favor.
Because blockchain successfully maintains a network based on trust and immutability, it also eliminates chances of fraud, corruption, and gaming hacks that were possible in traditional games.
Most popular play-to-earn games in 2022
The play-to-earn game space is creating hype in most parts of the world. Although there are numerous new games being created by the hour, there are a few names that stand out from the rest in 2022. The majority of play-to-earn games today run on the Ethereum blockchain.
The Sandbox is a Metaverse-like project, where denizens can explore a virtual reality and participate by taking part in play-to-earn games, buying virtual land, creating digital assets, building and more. Although the platform is not a game-only project, gaming is certainly a big part of the digital world.
Decentraland is another project attempting to strengthen the path towards a unified Metaverse. Similarly to The Sandbox, the platform recreates the physical world by offering virtual property ownership, a myriad of gaming opportunities, socializing abilities, virtual events and more.
Yet another popular name in the play-to-earn gaming market, Axie Infinity players collect NFTs in the form of virtual creatures called Axies. The Axie universe enables players to earn money by breeding, raising, battling and training Axies among each other.
Predominantly targeted at sports enthusiasts, Sorare takes football passion to the next level. Players can collect unique and limited digital cards or NFTs from nearly 250 football clubs, create their own football lineups, participate in competitions, and trade cards to earn money.
Another blockchain-based game where players can take advantage of full ownership, Gods Unchained is a free-to-play strategic card game. Players hold possession over all in-game assets and their objective is to outsmart rivals by creating a more powerful deck by utilizing combat tactics.
The future ahead
As play-to-earn games continue to evolve and grow, we need to keep in mind that this corner of the vast gaming landscape is still in its formative stage and there are still some growing pains that will have to be overcome. For example, existing tokenomics models will need to be further fleshed out and polished in order to better support the creation of well-balanced in-game economies and vibrant gaming communities. But even at this early stage, play-to-earn games are already proving popular among a growing number of gamers and are a great example of how blockchain can impact an entertainment medium that has always existed at the cutting edge of computing innovation.