Play-to-Earn (P2E) games have been revolutionary to blockchain gaming and it is possible they will continue that trend with gaming at large. However, this trend has also brought with it difficulties and questions. The possibilities of being able to earn money while playing a game are thrilling, but it’s far from cut and dry.
Token Gamer and NFT Insider have decided to combine forces to launch a weekly podcast, WAX Lyrical. John Nichols of NFT Insider and I will discuss a new topic every week, as well as feature special guests. If there’s a topic you’d like us to cover, make sure you let us know through the Token Gamer Discord or Twitter, or the NFT Insider Discord or Twitter.
In last week’s episode, John and I enjoyed our first rant-based recording. It had been a long time coming and was just as cathartic as we’d hoped. This week, it is less rant-driven, but not void of them. Questions of P2E’s direction and role within gaming elicit some passionate responses, as well as a discussion of Vitalik Buterin’s “soulbound” NFTs idea.
Episode 16: Play-to-Earn Versus Play-for-Fun
When I joined blockchain gaming in 2018, there wasn’t much talk of P2E, if any at all. The buzz that surrounded the concept and that sold it to many, myself included, was digital item ownership. Gamers imagined the thousands of hours they had dumped into games with nothing to show for it being a thing of the past. And, perhaps, one day, your items will not only stay in your wallet, but come with you from game to game.
While the idea of digital item ownership from the games you play through NFTs was and is a valuable one, it wasn’t getting the attention it deserves, and 4 years later, it still isn’t. Multiple times since I have been in the space have I found myself wondering if I’m just wrong. Or worse, if I’m right but it never comes to fruition. How many millions of times must that have happened with various innovations?
Then, towards the tail end of 2020, 2021, and ever since, blockchain gaming caught the wind it needed. It erupted into the public eye, and alongside the metaverse, became a hot topic. However, this was almost entirely a result of the genre of P2E — and it is a genre. It is here the problem lies for me.
P2E has fantastic power and it can be an important tool inside and outside of gaming. What Axie Infinity did in the Philippines, for instance, is evidence of that. But, what I believe it was intended to be is a mechanic — even if a fundamental one — within games, not a genre in and of itself. This is where the question of whether many of these clicker P2E projects are really games at all. They are important, they are use-cases, and they are popular, but are they games?
Furthermore, in more traditional games where P2E is possible, what will the playerbase gravitate towards? Will they want to play for fun and be happy with whatever they get out of that? Truthfully, probably not. And so P2E elements could begin to corrode the very reason gamers play games in the first place: enjoyment.
There’s a lot to say on this topic and John and I could barely scratch the surface in an hour and 25 minutes, but we covered a lot of ground.
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