You’ve probably heard about play-to-earn games, even if you’ve never taken the plunge with one yourself. And on paper, the concept of making money from participating in your favorite hobby sounds like a no-brainer.
So is this emerging niche all that it’s cracked up to be, or are there things you need to know before you go all-in and a ton of hidden risks no one wants to tell you about?
Introducing play-to-earn games
In order to play play-to-earn games you will need to get your hands on some cryptocurreny to get started – these currencies are used to for your initial “buy in” which in theory will allow you to earn more later. There are a few ways to get your hands on digital currencies. You can buy crypto coins with a payment card. You can receive them as rewards on certain exchanges for staking your assets or even participating in simple surveys. And now, you can even get them for playing games.
Or at least, that’s how play-to-earn games pitch themselves. The reality is that this cash isn’t being conjured out of thin air, but rather that the in-game assets are growing in value because of a steady stream of new players joining the fray. And to get in on the ground floor you need to pay.
How the initial investment works
The key concept to grasp is that in order to get the ball rolling in most play-to-earn titles, newcomers must invest some of their own capital. This is risky and should be taken with extreme caution.
Let’s take the example of the hugely popular Axie Infinity, which is a Pokemon-style game where people can collect, breed and battle their cute critters.
Every Axie, the umbrella name given to the beasts in the game, is a non-fungible token (NFT). That means when you buy it, you own it outright, and can train it, trade it, sell it or do whatever else you wish.
Of course you have to buy the first Axie, and the pricing of doing so has come down over time. In order to make any returns on your initial investment, you’re incentivized to play the game and earn its currency, AXS. This can then be used to make purchases, perhaps netting you a more desirable Axie, or cashed out for a fiat currency payday.
Billions of dollars have been traded on the Axie Infinity marketplace, and there are millions of active players getting involved daily. Whether or not you think this particular play-to-earn title is worthy of your investment, of course, is down to you to decide.
Understanding the risks of play-to-earn games
We’ve already touched on the main concern regarding games in this genre, which is that while there may be rewards available down the line, new players are expected to pump cash into the game before they can get anything out of it.
This is quite different to the free-to-play model or even standard PC games of where there are plenty of amazing new titles. In the new era of gaming in-game currencies are used to reward players for their actions, and there’s no base level requirement to spend a penny if you don’t want to.
The other point of concern relates to the volatility of the crypto assets that are associated with play-to-earn titles. Axie Infinity is a case in point; its secondary token, SLP, plunged in value from dizzy heights, and while this didn’t derail the game entirely, it did leave some of the latecomers who’d bought in at the peak feeling hard done by.
Then there’s the question of the necessarily grind-focused gameplay that a lot of these titles rely upon. It’s not a new problem, particularly in the free-to-play era, but the idea of gaming becoming more like a job than a pastime is not that appealing if you think about it for a moment.
Sure, a you don’t need much and a budget laptop will be enough to start your play-to-earn journey, but you have to be certain that it’s a route you want to take in the first place.
The best ways to invest in play-to-earn games
It’s definitely possible to have fun and earn rewards as part of the play-to-earn ecosystem, but only if you’re able to afford the buy-in costs and you actually choose games which are enjoyable to play in the first place.
There’s no point settling in for long, grind-intensive play sessions if you’re not having fun, because you could be making more money turning your attention to something else. Most games also have low system requirements meaning you won’t need to invest in the latest and greatest gaming laptop just to get started – a $300 laptop with reasonable integrated graphics should do just fine.
If you’re investing your time and getting entertainment out on the other side, as well as a small but pleasant payout in crypto as well, then you’ll be making the most of any play-to-earn title you get into.
Don’t fall for the idea that blockchain games, or any crypto investment, is a quick way to earn cash, as that’s simply not the case.