Play 2 Earn — Beyond Axie Infinity

Photo by Kanchanara on Unsplash

Introduction

While it is still considered the “new” thing, truth be told, Blockchain games featuring play 2 earn has been there for more than 3 years. The early successes were Crypto Kitties and Axie Infinity. Crypto Kitties was a pureplay collection and breeding game using “Kitties” (NFTs). The next evolution was Axie Infinity which had breeding and collection of “Axies” (NFTs), but it also had an entire RPG battle element to it as a part of its core gameplay.

Anatomy of a P2E (play 2 earn) game

A play to earn game typically has the following elements.

  1. An initial buy-in — This is a set of initial NFTs that the new player has to buy from the open market in order to start playing the game
  2. In-Game Tokens — In-Game Tokens are gameplay resources. These resources have a source and a sink in the actual game and is the backbone of the game economy. These are also tokens on the blockchain and can be traded between players. Someone can grind and accumulate these tokens and sell them to someone who wishes to pay and progress.
  3. Governance Tokens — Governance tokens give token holders a say in the governance of the treasury of the game. These are also traded in the open market, used/generated in the game, but the main distinction they have with in-game tokens is that governance tokens are limited quantity and that total quantity and unlock schedule (yes, these tokens are introduced in the game in a phased manner and not all at once) is pre-committed in most games.
  4. Gameplay core-loop — Different games have different mechanics (core loops) on how players play the game / play against each other. While this may seem obvious that a game will necessarily need to have gameplay, but it is worthwhile calling this out explicitly because the gameplay mechanics form the backbone of the economy which generates demand and supply of the above mentioned “things” (tokens, NFTs)
  5. NFTs — All play 2 earn games have NFTs in the game. These are in-game items you can own. Typically these NFTs will have some properties, which would make some items more rare or more useful than others, and as a result create a perception of value differentiation. Interestingly some games are able to create an asymmetric economy where the items interact with each other in a way, which makes different items valuable to different people and, as a consequence, fuelling trade.
  6. Land — Some games also have land which is again an NFT. and the land can be “given out” for usage to other players and in return the player charges some fees. Land is really an extenstion of NFT in that its another thing you can own, buy and sell. In addition Land lets you “rent” it out.

Different game and their mechanics

Alien World

Game Overview — Alien World is a NFT game which is mainly based on land. There are multiple planets within the game and each planet is divided into land which can be owned by players. On each of these lands any player can come and mine. When you mine, you get the in game token (TLM) with a chance of discovering tools. You need to start the game with tools (NFTs),the game actually gives an entry level tool for free. The free tool has very low yield and if you want a higher yield of tokens, you need better tools which can be purchased in the marketplace using the same token (TLM). When you mine on a land (NFT), the land-owner gets a fee (a portion of the TLM that you mined). The act of mining is a single click every few minutes (the time depends on the tool). This game has a “Minecraft” vibe for me where you are in a continuous loop of, mining to get resources -> using resources and buying better tools -> using better tools and mining faster.

Pegaxy

Game Overview — Pegaxy is a game based on racing. As a player, you are the owner of “Pega”s (NFT). These Pegas have various characteristics which impact how they might perform in a race against other Pegas. Different Pegas can be bred to create new Pega which have a mixture of characteristics from the parents. Certain types of Pega are valuable based on their breed and purity. This game is also an RPG breeding game with racing as the PvP core loop. You can earn tokens by coming top 3 in the races. The races are idle races and do not need an input from players. You win/lose based on your stats.

Farmers World

Game Overview — Farmer’s World like Alien World starts with tools. You need to use tools to generate wood and gold. Your tools also need upkeep in terms of food and gold. And using these resources, you can buy chicken coops, farm plots and cow sheds. These are needed to rear chicken and cows who can then be bred. All these NFTs can be traded in the open market for someone wishing to bypass the grind. This game is an endless farming simulator.

Conclusion

Play 2 Earn is becoming popular across genres and a varied playerbase is adopting the play style. The entry barriers still remain an issue and almost all games have ROI calculators associated with the NFTs based on the market price of the tokens. Also AAA titles like Illuvium are adopting play 2 earn as the model of choice. But with all of this, it will not be surprising if a player persona is created that keep moving across new P2E games trying to profit from the early economics (which remains profitable for a while early in the games’ life). But even if that happens, they key still remains how these economies remain balanced over the long term.

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Krishnendu Mukherjee

Krishnendu Mukherjee

I write about product management, video games and personal productivity.