In the ever-evolving world of video games, the ultimate goal has always been to have fun and immerse oneself in captivating virtual experiences. From the classic titles like Space Invaders and Sonic to the more recent Red Dead Redemption, players have found joy in pressing the start button and engaging with the digital realm until the game concludes. However, a new genre of games has emerged, blurring the lines between entertainment and investment opportunities. Enter the realm of play-to-earn games, such as Axie Infinity and The Sandbox, which have recently witnessed an explosive surge in popularity.
What sets these games apart from their predecessors is the incorporation of complex economic ecosystems. Similar to iconic games like Elite and The Sims, which featured in-game currencies for transactions, play-to-earn games take it a step further by introducing virtual currencies that hold real-world value. In the past, the currencies within games were confined to the virtual realm, but now players can potentially earn a living through their gameplay. Let’s delve into the mechanics and future prospects of these captivating games.
At the forefront of this emerging trend is Axie Infinity, a Pokémon-inspired game developed by the Vietnamese studio, Sky Mavis. Boasting approximately 350,000 daily active users, with a substantial player base in the Philippines, as well as in Venezuela and the United States, Axie Infinity revolves around adorable creatures called Axies. Players breed, acquire, train, and engage in battles with these furry companions. The primary objective is to acquire small love potions (SLPs), which function both as in-game items and cryptocurrencies that can be traded on crypto exchanges. Reports suggest that top players are earning up to SLP1,500 (equivalent to US$435/£317) per day from their Axies. Although the value of SLPs fluctuates against major fiat currencies like the US dollar, the overall trend has been upward, creating opportunities for players to reap significant rewards.
Notably, Axies themselves can be traded in the real world as non-fungible tokens (NFTs) on platforms like the Axie Marketplace. NFTs are digital collectibles recorded on blockchain ledgers, renowned for their recent impact on the art world. In addition to Axies, other in-game items like real estate, flowers, barrels, and lamps hold tradable value as NFTs. These transactions predominantly occur using Ethereum, the second-largest cryptocurrency after Bitcoin.
The introduction of a dedicated marketplace, NFTs, and blockchain technology in games like Axie Infinity marks a substantial improvement compared to their predecessors. Previously, games like World of Warcraft witnessed an unregulated grey market for trading in-game assets, resulting in bans for players involved in such activities. The adoption of secure and transparent systems ensures that players truly own the items they acquire within the game.
To embark on the journey of Axie Infinity, players must purchase or borrow three Axies. These digital creatures are available at an average price of around US$350 (£138), although rare or mystic Axies, as well as higher-level ones, can fetch considerably higher prices. Notably, the most expensive Axie to date was a triple mystic named Angel, which sold for ETH300 (approximately US$120,000) in late 2020. Furthermore, a piece of in-game real estate was recently sold for a staggering US$1.5 million. The monthly trading volumes for all Axie Infinity NFTs currently amount to an impressive US$170 million.
Another cryptocurrency associated with Axie Infinity is the Axie Infinity shard (AXS). Holding AXS tokens grants investors voting rights within the game’s ecosystem and offers a share of the community treasury. The value of AXS has recently
experienced a remarkable surge, multiplying its worth by sixfold in recent weeks. As the largest gaming cryptocurrency on the market, AXS demonstrates the growing potential of integrating digital currencies within gaming experiences.
Beyond Axie Infinity, another notable play-to-earn game that has garnered a substantial following is CryptoKitties. In this game, players engage in buying, breeding, and trading digital cats using Ethereum. Similar to Axie Infinity, these cats are NFTs, generating wealth not only for the developers but also for the player community. The highest-priced CryptoKitty to date, named Dragon, was sold for ETH600 (equivalent to approximately US$170,000) at the time.
Apart from the financial gains for players, play-to-earn games foster vibrant communities where gamers and creators can connect, share knowledge, and engage in transactions. The Sandbox, a game reminiscent of Minecraft, serves as a prime example of this phenomenon. Within this virtual world, players construct various structures and trade them as NFTs. Fueling this discreet economy is its native cryptocurrency, SAND. One method of acquiring SAND is through the sale of digital real estate parcels known as LAND, which players can purchase to showcase their creations and interact with visitors. In a single month, the game reported a record-breaking sale of 2,352 LAND plots, amounting to a combined value of US$2.8 million.
With the immense interest surrounding play-to-earn games, major brands have recognized the potential of this expanding metaverse. For instance, The Walking Dead franchise is preparing to open its virtual doors on the platform, allowing players to immerse themselves in a zombie-infested world within the game. This partnership signifies a step towards creating a “virtual attraction park” within The Sandbox, attracting a broader mainstream audience to the platform.
As games of this nature continue to evolve, it is evident that they are here to stay. While numerous games have fostered dedicated online communities in the past, the integration of financial incentives through play-to-earn mechanics promises even greater success for future gaming communities. If this particular genre of gaming is unfamiliar to you, it is imperative to closely monitor its growth and evolution as it reshapes the landscape of interactive entertainment.
In conclusion, the emergence of play-to-earn games introduces a thrilling fusion of fun and financial opportunities within the gaming industry. Games like Axie Infinity and CryptoKitties have paved the way for players to earn real income, while also fostering vibrant communities and digital marketplaces. With the potential for major brands to enter this space, the future of play-to-earn games appears promising. As technology advances and innovation continues, it is an exciting time for gamers and investors alike to witness the transformative power of these immersive and financially rewarding virtual experiences.