Video games have captured our attention for over half a century. Almost every decade has featured exciting innovations in the industry, from game cartridges in the 70s and 8-bit graphics in the 80s to HD games in the 2000s and mobile games in the 2010s.
This decade’s contribution is blockchain-based play-to-earn (P2E) games. They’re already popular and thousands of new players join the rush every day. And, as the concept matures, the next generation of P2E games will come out stronger and take the industry to the next level.
So, what exactly should investors and gamers expect from the coming era of P2E games? Providing the best answer to this question demands an examination of how P2E games have developed over the years.
The evolution of P2E games
The idea of making money from playing games has been around for quite a while. In Web 2, players that want to make money from gaming most often do so by participating in PVP tournaments or selling highly ranked user accounts of popular games. These activities can be technically classified as playing to earn.
However, this style of earning from games has a couple of issues.
- It’s not convenient: Players have to hustle and grind in order to build accounts worth selling.
- Only the best players earn: In tournament scenarios, only the top players win money. The rest go home empty-handed.
- No open economy: There’s a lack of a truly open economy that rewards the gaming community. Even in games where players can sell accounts, the economy exists outside of the games themselves.
- Privacy issues: The Web2 gaming ecosystem requires a lot of personal and financial information. This brings with it many valid privacy concerns, like what happens when a game’s data servers are compromised.
- Players have no say: Players have no say in their favorite game’s future. Web2 platforms can change and close their games at will with little consideration for the player base.
There are also a handful of P2E games built on Web2 infrastructure. However, there’s nothing particularly spectacular about them. They either don’t work as promised or are being used as a front to run phishing schemes.
Web3 P2E games
The concept of P2E really grew with the introduction of blockchain technology. The earliest P2E gaming project built on blockchain technology, Huntercoin by Xaya, was launched in 2014. Other projects like MtGox, CryptoBots, and Spell of Genesis would follow over the next couple of years.
However, these offerings failed to shake up the existing gaming market. P2E games remained niche. But, when NFTs exploded in popularity, new projects like Axie Infinity and Alien Worlds took full advantage of the new opportunity, spearheading what is becoming known as the GameFi revolution.
These projects were all about rewarding the player. They were created with open economies, and anybody could get in and earn money despite their skill level. They allowed players to own in-game assets as NFTs and trade them for good money.
Overall, these are the most popular P2E games. They have millions of players from around the world. For example, Axie Infinity had over 2 million active daily users last year.
But, this first generation of P2E games is far from perfect. As a result, it has received a fair bit of deserved criticism. This centers around the following issues:
- The graphics: P2E blockchain games don’t have the prettiest of visuals. Their graphics don’t compare to regular games, despite most of them being multi-million-dollar projects.
- The gameplay: The gameplay of P2E games leaves a lot to be desired. Many games are either uninspiring or outright boring.
- Players still don’t have a say: Despite being built on blockchain technology, players don’t have a say in many of these projects.
- Too investor-focused: The poor graphics and uninspiring gameplay of P2E games are primarily because these games are investor-focused. They spend most of their resources trying to appeal to investors and forget the most important thing. Fun!
This last issue is expected given that the games are play-to-earn. However, the more a gaming project focuses on the investors, the less it appeals to regular gamers.
The players of these games join for the gameplay experience. Unfortunately, blockchain-based P2E games often lack this. So, as time goes by, it gets harder and harder to attract new players.
If no new players are coming in, the game stops growing. This creates a system that rewards players who join early and leave early. Once the ship starts to flounder, earnings go down and the investors are unhappy.
Many P2E games are struggling due to these factors. For instance, Axie Infinity’s player base has shrunk to just a few hundred thousand daily active players.
What’s next for P2E?
The next generation of blockchain-based P2E games will build on what the current generation got right and improve on what it didn’t. For instance, they may expand the economic ecosystems to also include tokens rather than NFTs alone. This gives users more revenue options.
Players will also be more involved in other aspects of their favorite P2E games, in much the same way that DAO members are. For example, they’ll be part of the governance process.
One upcoming game, Open League, promises to take the level of involvement further by allowing users to interact with the developers, form racing dynasties, and even create their own games.
Not only does Open League provide a fun and exciting experience, but it also provides the platform and infrastructure for much more. Rather than simply limiting themselves to developing a game, the team behind the platform has opened up a world of opportunity for other developers and GameFi enthusiasts.
This is precisely what the next generation of P2E games will need to be. Not just a game, but a platform that aims to grow and empower its community. This will ensure it continues to evolve and becomes a solid investment both monetarily and experience-wise.