Tech & Gaming

Enter the Next Phase of Play-to-Earn Gaming

When legitimate, Play-to-Earn games are fun and engaging. The whole concept is hard to resist: there’s the incentive of learning something new while possibly making money. But what is their future real-world utility? What’s the next stage in the evolution of Play-to-Earn gaming?

Play to earn games

For over 50 years, video games have beckoned our imaginations and challenged us to explore new worlds. From the dawn of game cartridges in the 70s and 8-bit graphics a decade later, to HD gaming experiences at the turn of this century, coupled with mobile gaming phenomenons, video games have enjoyed a steady evolution throughout the decades.

And what have the 2020s brought us? Blockchain-based play-to-earn (P2E) games are the defining contribution of this decade. For the first time, players can finally earn money from their gaming efforts – rather than just spending it. Game developers have unlocked a whole new level of engagement, allowing people to invest in their games of choice and reap the rewards of their skills.

The Evolution of Play-to-Earn Games

Play-to-earn gaming is a type of gaming where players can earn real rewards in exchange for their skills, dedication, and time. This could be anything from attractive prizes like rare in-game skins, to cryptocurrency payouts.

The concept of play-to-earn gaming has been around since the 2010s, but it wasn’t until recently that the concept gained traction. Thanks to new technology and innovative game designers, play-to-earn gaming has become the dominant form of competitive gaming, and is now available on nearly every platform.

In the world of gaming, few experiences are as thrilling as playing for real rewards. That’s why over the past few years, gamers have embraced play-to-earn gaming: a unique form of digital entertainment that lets players earn real rewards in exchange for their skills, dedication, and time. Now, with more and more developers entering this space, play-to-earn gaming is poised to enter its next phase of evolution.

Web2 Games and Their Many Constraints

Before the emergence of blockchain, online games were limited to Web2. This meant that gamers had to rely on developers and publishers for their gaming experience. With Web2, players had no control over their gaming environment or the rewards they earned. Players were also limited to the platform for which they were playing, and their progress was not transferable.

There’s also no open economy,  so players could not trade in-game items with one another, nor could they sell them for real currency. As a result, many gamers had limited opportunities to promote their gaming skills and monetize their gameplay. With the extensive amount of personal and financial information associated with Web2 gaming, it is no surprise that there are many valid privacy worries. The obvious one being – what would happen if a game’s data servers were hacked into? 

Although several P2E games have been built on Web2 infrastructure, they are quite underwhelming. These games either lack the promised features or are simply scams masquerading as legitimate services.

The Emergence of Web3 Play-to-Earn Games

The advent of blockchain technology has enabled game developers to move beyond the limitations of Web2 and create innovative,  decentralized play-to-earn gaming experiences. With blockchain, game data is stored on a distributed ledger rather than centralized servers. This makes Web3 games more secure, and players have much greater control over their data.

Moreover, blockchain-based games offer an open economy where players can trade their in-game items and even sell them for real money. With Web3, gamers are also empowered to promote their skills, as they can see how their performance compares to others on the leaderboard.

P2E began to take off with the introduction of blockchain technology in 2014, exemplified by Xaya’s early P2E gaming project Huntercoin. Over the next few years, other projects such as CryptoBots, MtGox, and Spell of Genesis were developed.

Nevertheless, these products were unable to revolutionize the gaming industry, and P2E games stayed somewhat obscure. But when NFTs became the talk of the town, emerging projects like  Alien Worlds and Axie Infinity quickly seized the momentous opportunity to spearhead what is now known as the GameFi movement.

All these projects were designed to reward the players, enabling them to gain lucrative returns even if they lack expertise. An open economy was developed where anyone could participate in and reap rewards; own game assets as NFTs, and then trade them for hard cash.

In general, these are some of the most well-known P2E games. Along with having millions of players from different countries around the globe, Axie Infinity alone had more than 2 million active users last year. However, this initial generation of blockchain gaming isn’t without its flaws and has drawn a considerable amount criticism due to issues related to:

  • Scalability: Many projects are still limited by Ethereum’s scalability issues, leading to exorbitant fees and slow speeds.
  • Incentivization: Many games are still paying out NFTs in order to incentivize players, but these rewards often lack real-world value.
  • Accessibility: Most P2E games are still hard to access, especially for the casual gamer who isn’t familiar with blockchain technology.
  • Player input:  Players still don’t have a say in the final product, as most of the development decisions are made by developers and not the players.
  • Graphics and gameplay: In many cases, the graphics and gameplay are inferior to Web2 games.  They tend to be incredibly lackluster and dull, lacking the excitement and intrigue that captivate players. 
  • Investor focus:  As most P2E games are NFT-based, they tend to be investor-focused rather than player-focused.  This leads to games that are complicated to learn and master, as they often require players to have considerable knowledge of the market in order to be successful.

This issue is somewhat a given, seeing as how it’s play-to-earn. Unfortunately, as more gaming projects focus on investors, regular gamers become less interested in playing them.

As gamers come to expect more and more out of their gaming experience, blockchain-based P2E games often fail to deliver. Consequently, it becomes increasingly difficult for developers to attract new players over time.

What Comes Next for Play-to-Earn?

The next age of blockchain-based P2E games will maximize on the advantages that the current ones had, while also making essential changes to rectify its weaknesses.

To do this, developers should focus on making games that are both player-focused and investor-friendly. This means providing better graphics and gameplay to keep players engaged, while also providing rewards that have real-world value and are more accessible to the average user. This will guarantee an enduring growth and a rewarding return on investment, both financially as well as in terms of the overall experience.