Gaming is a serious business these days. The best gamers in the world get sponsorships like athletes, with the very best finding lucrative careers playing first-person shooters or vehicular soccer contests. Howeer, for those who love gaming but aren’t quite good enough to go pro, there’s still a way to turn gaming into a side hustle, at the very least: Play-To-Earn (P2E) NFT games. While there is often an upfront cost before you can start playing, P2E games can offer users a solid income stream.
What is an NFT?
An NFT, or non-fungible token, is a token that exists on the blockchain and cannot be replicated or replaced, because of the underlying metadata attached to it. An NFT can be anything from an image, video, song, or in-game accessory. This is not to say that the image, video, or song is what makes the NFT irreplicable; rather it’s the metadata that indicates that the NFT is, in fact, verifiably what it claims. Anyone can download the content associated with an NFT and then mint a new NFT with the same content, but only the original NFT, whether a one-off or limited quantity run with serial numbers, is the real one. The authenticity of which can always be verified by checking something like a block explorer or the history of transfers of the NFT.
The way NFTs work is in contrast to how a fungible token such as Bitcoin works, where there is no distinct difference between one Bitcoin and another. This means that if you have 1 BTC, it can be swapped for another 1 BTC with no change in what you have.
What is Play-To-Earn (P2E)?
Play-To-Earn or P2E, is a new type of gaming where the users are rewarded for playing a game with cryptocurrency tokens. These tokens can be the in-game currency used in the game’s marketplace or an NFT that is a vehicle, weapon, accessory, etc. The player can then trade these tokens for other crypto assets, sell them, hold them, use them for gameplay, etc.
How Play-To-Earn Works
There are a few different P2E models. Some games reward users for simply playing the game, regardless of winning something like a person versus person (PVP) match. Other games only reward users when they win a PVP match or battle, complete a quest, etc. Most games use a combination of both, rewarding players for simply playing and rewarding players for winning. Often for these games, you get the in-game currency for playing and rarer items/NFTs for winning PVP. This creates a good balance between casual players and those more invested in the game.
This is the next aspect of P2E games, investment. Many P2E games have an upfront cost associated with actually being able to start playing and earning. For example, to play Axie Infinity, you need a team of Axies to battle an opponent or play adventure mode. Without a team, you can’t play the game and earn anything. The only way to get Axies to fight with is to buy Axies from the marketplace using something like Ethereum (ETH), meaning you’ll need to pay money to play the game. To be fair, this is how many mainstream video games work anyways. However, the cost can be pretty high, comparatively. The big difference, however, is that it’s actually possible to recoup your expenses and make money with a P2E game. In contrast, a mainstream game immediately loses value when you open the package.
Best Play-To-Earn NFT Games
We’ve assembled a list of some of the best P2E games on the market today, in no particular order. All the games listed here are already functional games, meaning you can actually play them today if you want. There are lots of interesting games still being developed, which will be touched on at the end of the piece.
One of the most popular P2E games on the market is Axie Infinity, which is built on Ethereum. In this game, players battle teams of three Axies in a turn-based card game. Axies can be thought of like Pokémon, as they have stats, traits, strengths, and weaknesses. The game has three components that can be sold/traded: Axies (NFTs), AXS (in-game currency, fungible token), and SLP (in-game token, fungible token). Users can use AXS and SLP to breed Axies to create new, better ones, or sell the tokens on an exchange.
Another game on the Ethereum blockchain, Decentraland, is a virtual world platform that functions like a metaverse. Players can purchase land and turn it into almost anything they wish, giving the game a Minecraft or Roblox type of comparison. There are two tokens within Decentraland: MANA (in-game currency, fungible token) and LAND (NFT). To get LAND, which is the NFT required to entitle yourself to a parcel of land in the game, you have to burn MANA. MANA can also be used to buy other in-game items like wearables, avatars, and more.
Another game similar to Minecraft is The Sandbox, a blockchain P2E on the Ethereum blockchain. The voxel-based game allows players to create voxel art that can then be sold in the game or used on LAND. Players can also create games and experiences within the game that can then be monetized. The Sandbox has two tokens associated with it: SAND (in-game currency, fungible) and LAND (NFT). SAND is the utility token of the game and is used for just about everything. LAND can be used to host games, build multiplayer experiences, create housing, or offer social experiences to the community, and it has a much more finite supply than SAND (3 Billion SAND vs. 166k LAND).
Splinterlands is a digital, collectible card game based on the Hive blockchain. It’s inspired by deck-building card games like Magic the Gathering and Hearthstone. Splinterlands is a game where players can buy, sell, and trade their in-game assets just as they would with physical trading card games. Splinterlands has two tokens: Splintershards (SPS – governance token, fungible) and Dark Energy Crystals (DEC – in-game currency, fungible). The cards used to play the game are the NFTs, and they are bought and sold in the marketplace for either crypto or fiat. Users only have to pay $10 to begin playing Splinterlands, then can start earning based on their gameplay.
Another popular P2E on the Ethereum blockchain, CryptoKitties is a NeoPets-style game where players can collect cats, breed, play games, and more. Unlike many of the other games mentioned on this list, there are no in-game currency assets for CryptoKitties. Instead, the kitties themselves are NFTs that have to be purchased with ETH. Players can then sell the kitties that they breed to generate income. While perhaps not as financially alluring as other games on this list, CryptoKitties is a lower-cost game that may be perfectly suited for casual, cat-loving gamers.
More of a move-to-earn than a true P2E, STEPN is an NFT-based game built on Solana. Users purchase pairs of sneakers in the form of NFTs and then simply have the app running as they walk, jog, or run around during their day-to-day life. There are a variety of sneakers, each with specific uses, such as walkers, joggers, and runners. Apart from the sneaker NFTs, there are two tokens used in STEPN: GST (in-game currency, fungible) and GMT (governance token, fungible). GST is what is earned for moving around. It has no cap on its supply but is used for many in-game functions to reduce any inflation. GMT is only earned once you have a pair of sneakers at level 30 and has a finite supply of 6 billion. Both GST and GMT can be bought and sold on crypto exchanges.
Future P2E NFT Games
While the list above is current P2E NFT games, there are tons of games still in development. Unfortunately, many of them have already had presales for their land and are sold out, but they are games you can keep an eye on, join the Discord, or get email notifications for.
Built on the Cardano blockchain, Cornucopias is an ambitious P2E that will have multiple ways for players to earn through gameplay. The in-game items like land, vehicles, and buildings are the NFTs, while the fungible token COPI is the in-game currency and governance token. It will be used for all aspects of the game and has a fixed supply of about 3.8 billion.
Being built on its own Monsta Chain blockchain, Monsta Infinite is similar to Axie Infinity and therefore similar to Pokemon. You have a team of Monstas that you can battle with, each with its own traits, strengths, and weaknesses. The Monstas are the NFTs, MONI is the fungible governance token, and STT is the in-game fungible token. As the game has yet to launch on the Monsta Chain, the tokens are currently available on the Binance Smart Chain and will later be able to be bridged.
Big Time is another ambitious P2E in development on Ethereum. The game will involve an in-game currency that has yet to be released, though it will also not be pre-sold and can only be earned by playing the game. Nearly everything else in the game is an NFT that players can buy or sell, and these NFTs have been pre-sold. There are Cosmetic NFTs (wearables), Utility NFTs (used for crafting), and SPACE NFTs (used for showcasing and producing in-game NFTs). SPACE is not required to play the game but gives players an extra avenue to earn income.
Is P2E the Future of Gaming?
It’s too early to tell if the P2E model of gaming is something that will be adopted by mainstream gamers and developers. The reality is that P2E games give users the most money in their pockets, which isn’t a big incentive for mainstream game studios, as they’d prefer to get that money themselves. It would certainly be a benefit for gamers if that skin they spent their hard-earned money on could be sold again. Still, unless the money stops flowing towards mainstream games and their current income models, blockchain P2E may only ever be a niche.