Some of the biggest hits in blockchain gaming with the Play To Earn model have convinced a flurry of entrepreneurs that Web3 games are the future. While P2E games have attracted millions of players and billions of dollars from investors, veterans of the gaming industry argue that they are fundamentally unsustainable.

They say that these games are the brainchild of financial engineers aiming to get rich quickly rather than experienced developers building time-honoured works.

A vivid example is Axie Inifity’s dramatic rise and fall. After peaking at $754 million in November when bitcoin hit an all-time high, the game’s monthly sales volume plummeted to $4.5 million in July.

Most GameFi developers are not game developers.

Maciej Burno, CBDO Reality Metaverse

Maciej Burno is among a spate of blockchain-believing gaming veterans worldwide trying to take blockchain games to the mainstream. They want to build fun and sustainable games while introducing cryptocurrencies as a novel way to incentivize gamers and creators.

Side note: players are leaving Axie Infinity.

Play to earn or Pay to play?

In Axie Infinity, users buy and breed cute blob-like creatures called Axies in the form of non-fungible tokens that are authenticated on the blockchain. Sales from the NFTs then go towards funding rewards for those who earn tokens by playing, and the tokens, the game’s native cryptocurrency, can, in turn, be cashed out.

That means for the game to be sustainable, it must have a constant influx of new users or lose its financing source. That’s why critics compare P2E games to pyramid schemes.

The problem with P2E is that users have to spend money upfront to start playing. Many of the P2E titles aren’t really games by strict definition. They are more akin to decentralized finance, or DeFi, products with gamified features. Hardcore gamers dismiss Axie Infinity as “simple” or even “boring”, not unlike the free-to-play, mindless mobile games that they have opposed for years.

See Wan Toong, CTO of web3 gaming startup Red Door Digital

But for those living in developing countries, the prospect of making several hundred dollars per month by clicking on a computer screen can be tempting. That’s largely why Axie Infinity took off in countries like the Philippines during the pandemic when many people lost jobs. To them, the game is more like work than fun.

Play and earn

blockchain блокчейн

Games can be both fun to play and lucrative. It’s not news that gamers are motivated to make money.

When you look at a traditional game, people are putting millions or billions of dollars into the gateway, but it’s on the other extreme. They don’t get any value back.

See Wan Toong

People want to play for fun and they are willing to spend money that makes them feel happy, but there are also those who want to invest, so you can give them a tool to invest.

Macej Burno

Developers are also promised greater rewards from blockchain-integrated games. In free-to-play games, a common monetization model of today, developers earn income by pushing an update every six to eight weeks. Users get annoyed that you’re trying to squeeze money out of them every two months. In Web3 games, in contrast, developers get a small percentage of every in-game transaction recorded on the blockchain.

So the only thing you have to worry about is creating a game that people want to keep playing for a very long time and creating value for those assets of the players who want to trade between themselves.

Simon Davis, CEO of Mighty Bear Games

Tokenomics

To make a blockchain game sustainable, Toong’s Red Door Digital is taking a different approach from Axie Infinity. Users don’t need to buy the platform’s tokens to start playing – unless they want to start earning or have real value in their assets.

When a game sustains a recurring user base, the value of the game will increase and external investors will join. All this increase in value then goes to the people who are playing to get financial returns.

See Wan Toong

Like many Web3 games, Red Door Digital’s platform offers utility tokens, which are used like in-game currencies for purchasing skins, items, and so on, as well as governance tokens. Users who contribute to the game will get governance tokens and be able to vote on critical project decisions. The utility tokens can be traded, while the governance tokens have no liquidity to strip them of any speculative value.