Has The Big Play To Earn Phase Died Out?

The phenomenon seemed to have so much promise

Play to earn, money for gaming

Playing video games for monetary game is no new concept. Even back in the early 90s companies such as Blockbuster Video would have gaming competitions in the stores. The winners would go on to play in the Blockbuster Video Game Championships. Interesting enough, that competition is set to make a comeback next month. That competition went on to help in creating the fan base for Dr. Disrespect, one of the biggest online gaming personalities today. Dr. Disrespect allegedly earned the title of Champion in 1993 and 1994 a fact that is still unknown if true or false but has been a major talking point when speaking of the eccentric streamer.

Competition for money 

Other more prominent gaming competitions would be the exciting and yearly EVO (Evolution Championship Series) a competition that is focused on Fighting games such as TEKKEN, Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, Killer Instinct, Super Smash Bros, and more. The competition is open to anyone that wants to try and has some of the highest numbers when it comes to attendance.

There are many more competitions that have an active player and fan base such as the Call of Duty World League Championship, Overwatch World Cup, Free Fire World Series, Intel Extreme Masters, Fortnite World Cup, The International (which has the highest prize pool at $40 million), League of Legends World Championship, and a few smaller ones.

Those that cannot get to the competitions have also found success in gaming on platforms such as Twitter or YouTube Gaming garnering fans and sponsorships or donations. Players such as Ninja have been able to make millions just from playing Fortnite on Twitch, there are multiple other players who have been able to do the same thing. With all of these avenues for making money by playing there are still walls to entry, enter play-to-earn. 

Play To Earn

The play to earn phenomenon actually gained traction when Mavis Sky introduced their cute little characters that battle each other in the game Axie Infinity. The game saw a lot of traction and adoption when it was introduced as it allowed players to earn SLP tokens that could be traded for real money. This system created a flurry of new players in East Asia, mostly in the Philippines , during the height of the Covid pandemic. 

Play To Earn

Axie Infinity was the original Play-to-earn giant that brought forth a sort of pseudo economy 

Many players saw this game as an opportunity to make money during the pandemic , some making more playing the game than they did at their actual job. The “work” was considered flexible but was a grind nonetheless. Many played the game not because it was fun, it wasn’t , but because they needed money.

Profit over Purpose

The game Axie Infinity was seen as very monotonous for many. There was not much to it , characters faced off against each other, chose a chard, hoped for the best, and repeated this process over and over to victory. The game became a job and less of a game for many players.

In order to play Axie players had to purchase the NFT monsters and the barrier to entry was high. A team of 3 Axie at the height of the game’s attention required a purchase of over $1500, a very high price for some just to play a game with Pokémon-inspired fuzzies. This saw those that adopted the game early or those that could afford it have a large library of monsters to play with.  This created what would be known as the gaming gig economy, one that included “scholars and scholarships.”

The “Scholars” were those chosen by those “whales’ with multiple Axies. The “scholars” were then tasked with playing the game for the whales and earning a small percentage of the SLP that was earned during their time playing.  This created a sort of pseudo-economy that many say could be viewed as predatory. A spokesperson for Sky Mavis said the game was not meant to be play-to-earn but that goes in direct contracts with what the website says:

“Join the blockchain gaming play to earn revolution with Axie Infinity”

Not the best blessing

There are many players that believed they were blessed with the opportunity to play and earn while others could not work during the pandemic, However that was a double edged sword as they were also stressed about being dropped for not meeting quotas… yes quotas. 

Each “scholar” was given a daily quota of SLP that had to be earned through gameplay, this usually resulted in the scholar having to play for more than 8 hours a day just in order to meet that quota, removing the ability for the “scholar” to do anything else. Players would record a lack of sleep, irritability, and general annoyance.  There were of course deep concerns about exploitation of labor as this was stated to be a clear example of just that.

Games like Star Atlas promise a future of earning with Stellar AAA graphics and gameplay


More games are being developed with tokenomics and promises given but not many are claiming to be play-to-earn, instead these games are focusing on changing the wording a bit and making it “Play-and-earn.” NFTs are the main currency now as some games have made everything in-game an asset that can be saved, changed, sold, or traded.

The focus on most of these games is not the earning portion but more so the game itself. Fun factor is always a focus when creating a game , you must create a sense of immersion and interest for a game to be successful.  As more games focus on this, tokenomics becomes a secondary aspect. 

Play-to-earn or Play-and-earn is possible but depends directly on how positively it can be implemented , one thing is certain there is a call for these games to find ways to combat labor exploitation and create an environment that is truly for the gamers.

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