Play-to-Earn, Play-and-Earn, Play-to-Own: A Paradigm Shift in the Making

There is a lot to look forward to as more game models are released, and it'll be fascinating to see which ones stand the test of time, and which ones fall by the wayside…

Most gamers easily recognize the terms free-to-play (F2P or FTP) and pay-to-win (P2W), but there are a number of new terms in the blockchain gaming community that are important to break down. Understanding and applying these new terms may help you in your decision to play and invest. In this article, we will go through the old, the current, and the future gaming paradigms, and each of the terms associated with them.

The Old Gaming Paradigm

Gaming for a long time had an issue with the new free-to-play model: pay-to-win. On the one side were players who would play a game without buying any in-game items, and on the other side, those who spent some money in a game, and would usually be able to boost their chances of winning in whatever type of game that was.

Free players would often complain that the paid players were buying their victories, and the paid players would contest that they were the reason free players were able to play for free! Both sides were right and had valid points. It was easy to distinguish the two, because these were really the only two types of players. Nothing else existed. 

The main issue in this gaming paradigm is that all the money spent on a game by the paid players was lost, at least to them. The game developers were the only ones benefiting monetarily. To be fair, they are the ones creating the game, and should be fairly compensated. While these two roles haven’t gone away, the gaming landscape is changing dramatically, which brings us to…

The Current Gaming Paradigm

Currently, all the rage in blockchain gaming for the past year or so is and has been on the idea of “Play-to-Earn” gaming. This idea is that you can play games and make money along the way. This term has been blanketed onto any game (often incorrectly) that uses blockchain technology, but we will get to that a little later on.

Play-to-Earn offers gamers the ability to recoup their investment in a game through cryptocurrency or NFTs that can be sold for real money. And a big difference being made here is that gamers now invest in a game, they don’t just buy in-game items. This is a distinction because investing implies the ability to make a return in some way or another.

Clickers clearly fall into this category. We can argue that they aren’t really games so you aren’t technically “playing,” but for today’s purposes, I’ll treat them like they are. To play a clicker, usually, there is an upfront fee in some sort of items that you then equip in-game to help boost your power of some sort, whether it be mining, fighting, etc. Then you do a task, earn some sort of currency (usually), and wait a select amount of time to do the task again. 

The reason why clickers are Play-to-Earn and not some of the newer terms, which I’ll get into later, is because you likely wouldn’t play them if there wasn’t an earning potential. So you are only playing them to earn more than what you started with. Which now brings us to… 

The Future Gaming Paradigm

Play-to-Earn gaming is new, but it’s already being challenged by some new terms, and for good reason. Games are starting to avoid being titled Play-to-Earn because it might suggest a downgrade in the quality of the game itself. Some are starting to use the term Play-and-Earn instead, because the emphasis shifts from only doing something for the earning potential, to enjoying the game for what it is and still profiting a little.

I touched on this in my last article about what blockchain needs to really catch on. These games focus more on player enjoyability than a strict return on investment (ROI). Of course, earning is still a big and important part of the paradigm, but the focus shifts. Play-and-Earn games go beyond clickers as you make a profit while enjoying the base game. 

Another term gaining popularity is Play-to-Own. This model goes a step further, and treats its gamers more like stakeholders. In this model, everyone gets a chance to influence the direction of the game usually through earning or holding some sort of governance token or owner’s NFT. The games that do this tend to think longer term at more of a gaming franchise or metaverse, and often have tokens that stretch across multiple games.

Of course, the landscape is new, so this isn’t seen clearly yet, but many projects that are now creating their first game, already have plans for more. This creates a great investment opportunity for players who get in early. Because it’s still early, Play-to-Own doesn’t really have examples I can point to yet. 

I don’t think Play-to-Own will be applied to all models going forward, but the benefits of Play-and-Earn are distinct from those of Play-to-Earn. There is a lot to look forward to as more game models are released, and it’ll be fascinating to see which ones stand the test of time, and which ones fall by the wayside. 

Lead image by Tima Miroshnichenko via Pexels

Mobile GameFi enthusiast, strategy lover, hot-sauce obsessed. "Resident mobile blockchain gaming expert." Primary holdings: WAXP & CSM. Secondary holdings: XTZ & ALGO.

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