Picture this: You’ve been playing your favorite battle royale game for a few years, and by this point have a treasure trove of skins and other cosmetics unlocked. Problem is, the game has lost its luster, and now that virtual wardrobe is essentially worthless.
Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be that way anymore. With the advent of play-to-earn (P2E) games, practically anything you earn in the digital realm can be exchanged for real currency. People have even begun playing titles as a means of making a full-time income in our coronavirus-ravaged world. Cool, right?
P2E might sound like something new, but it’s been around a lot longer than you might think.
The Story So Far
P2E has been around since the days of gold farming in MMOs like Everquest and World of Warcraft. Players would spend countless hours leveling up their toons or grinding for gold, then, after hitting a certain level or account balance, sell the entire account on eBay for a tidy profit.
The same goes for skins for games like Counterstrike: GO, or Steam trading cards. The problem there is you’re left dealing directly with the seller, and you may or may not actually get what’s advertised. So goes the gray market. That’s not to say there aren’t trustworthy people online, it’s just that the risk for getting scammed or something else going awry increases without a trusted intermediary.
Games People Play
Right now, P2E games are in their infancy. Most are just clickers that are barely more than early Facebook games like Farmville. While a majority of the games currently on offer are simplistic, there are a handful that tease the future potential of what a P2E game can be.
Card games are among the most common P2E games available right now. Which makes sense, given that a vast majority of NFTs are digital art cards. The twist is that you can do more with these than look at them or post them to social media. Don’t let the simplicity fool you, though.
Splinterlands, for instance, has the most players of any game on the blockchain by a huge margin at the present time. Players seem to have taken to the game’s Pokémon-like concept. Nova Rally puts a sci-fi spin on auto racing, Space Heroes digs into a bit of role-playing in the great beyond.
What sets Splinterlands apart from other digital card games is that thanks to its basis in NFTs, you can trade and sell your collection with friends after a match. It doesn’t cost an arm and a leg to get started either: the $10 Summoner’s Spellbook is all you’ll need. Think of it like the Pokémon or Magic: The Gathering trading card games in that you collect creatures then put them to battle for fun and (potential) profit. There’s an active tournament scene, and it recently dethroned Alien Worlds — also on the WAX Blockchain — as having the most daily users of any blockchain game.
If you have a bunch of idle time while sitting at your desk during the day, these games are a way to earn passive income with minimal effort. Games like Farmers World and Prospectors share similarities with NFT card games, and reward you with NFTs and crypto by watching a timer like a hawk, then clicking it to restart the cycle. If you’re on the hunt for something fun and exciting to spend your time with, you’re better off looking elsewhere. If all you’re after is a (mostly) passive way to earn income these are for you.
Unlike the rest of the categories we’re discussing, these most resemble traditional console and PC games. A perfect example of this is HODLGOD.
HodlGod might be the best peek at what the future of P2E games looks like. It’s a medieval battle royale made with Unreal Engine, that just happens to use the blockchain for its loot system. Meaning, you can buy, sell and trade different in-game items for crypto. And because your loot (with real-world value) is at stake during each battle, it’s all the more thrilling. You can even loan out the NFTs you’ve earned to friends giving them a preview of what it’s like to use, say, a high-powered sword before they buy it.
The Future ofP2E
As the P2E business model matures, expect to see the games themselves do the same. It’s just going to take time — much like it did for free-to-play. Live games (MMOs, battle royales, competitive shooters and shared world experiences) are likely to be where P2E makes the most sense, but we could see them crop up in traditional offline single-player games as well. Think horse armor in 2006’s Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion.
While it may be more than a few years before we see a full P2E implementation happen in the domestic AAA space, there are already hints of what that will look like in Asia and Eastern Europe.
Within the next five years, we should see P2E mature to the point where it’s accepted as another business model for live games the same way battlepasses and microtransactions are today. It’s a matter of balancing the economy, gameplay, and perhaps most importantly, figuring out how to educate players about this exciting future.