Play-and-Earn: Digital Scarcity, Economies, Learn-to-Earn

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“I happily played World of Warcraft during 2007-2010, but one day Blizzard removed the damage component from my beloved warlock’s Siphon Life spell. I cried myself to sleep, and on that day I realized what horrors centralized services can bring.” — Vitalik Buterin

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💎 Why It Matters

Play-and-earn games are onboarding millions (and soon billions) of people into web3.

🔍 Problem

Gamers spend billions of hours and dollars on games. 
Without ownership, alignment or governance rights. 

💡 Solution 

Play-and-earn games give players:

  • Transferable assets
  • Strong property rights
  • The ability to participate in governance
  • The ability to exit and remix games via forks
  • The ability to build and monetize assets and experiences

Play-and-earn games give developers

  • New business models
  • Deep alignment with players
  • New ways to acquire and retain players
  • Faster development times with user-generated content

🏁 Players

Play-and-Earn Games

🔮 Predictions

  • Play-and-earn games will build increasingly complex economies. Axie Infinity has $AXS, $SLP, $RON, Axies, land and other items. Players can breed, battle, trade, lease, flip and govern virtual worlds. 
  • Learn-to-earn models will become more common. Coinbase pays users to learn about DeFi concepts and cryptocurrencies. 
  • Engage-to-earn models will become more common. Brave Browser gives BAT tokens to users that opt into ads. 
  • The play-and-earn movement will birth new game studios. Incumbents like Ubisoft face backlash from trad gamers. The same applies to Discord. New companies will attract aligned users and work from first-principles. 
  • There will be crossover between in-game and non-game economies. $SLP is used to pay for everyday products and services. Like home internet

☁️ Opportunities

🏔️ Risks

  • Complexity • Play-and-earn economies are becoming more complex. Game designers may not grasp the second-order effects of design decisions. Your assets may suffer.
  • Misinformation • Do your own research. Play games and engage with communities before investing. 

🔑 Key Lessons

  • Earning from games is not new. Traditional games have unofficial secondary markets. HQ Trivia paid players directly. The difference is that play-and-earn games have strong, irrevocable property rights, open-source code and governance tokens. 
  • Play-and-earn is a gateway drug to DeFi. In-game assets can be traded, leveraged, staked and sold. Players will come to play. Then learn what crypto has to offer. 
  • Play-and-earn will hush NFT skeptics. In-game NFTs have utility. You can’t right-click-and-save a community. Or utility.

😠 Haters

“Money takes the fun out of games.”
We play the lottery (with negative expected returns), poker and trade physical sports cards. Games are a form of escapism. Alignment improves these experiences. See PoolTogether. A no-loss lottery.

“Where’s the moat if games are open-sourced and forkable?” We’re in the age of user-owned networks. See Wolf Game and Sheep Game. Forks let you choose the reality that you want to live in. Legitimacy must be earned and maintained.

“I already own physical collectible cards.” Now you have digital scarcity too. Without a trusted third party. As we said in the DAOs report, Can’t be evil is better than don’t be evil

🔗 Links

📁 Related Reports

  • NFTs • NFTs are the common thread in most play-and-earn games. 
  • DeFi • Crypto gaming and DeFi reinforce each other. 
  • Gamification • A closer look at mechanics. 
  • DAOs • Guilds are emerging to support players. These are often formed as DAOs.
  • Paid Communities • Player-owned communities are alternative paid communities.

🙏 Thanks

Thanks Vajresh Balaji, Erwan Gallo, Prabhjot Lamba, Alex Edmonds, Ashwin, Sean Hua and Michael Munger. We had a great time jamming on this report.


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📈 What else?

Trends PRO #0077 — Play-and-Earn Games has more insights.

What you’ll get:

  • 24 Play-and-Earn Games (242% More)
  • 11 Predictions (120% More)
  • 9 Opportunities (125% More)
  • 5 Risks (150% More)
  • 6 Key Lessons (100% More)
  • 11 Links (266% More)
  • 10-minute audio episode with exclusive Play-and-Earn stories, insights and opportunities.

With Trends Pro you’ll learn:

  • (📈 Pro) How to acquire users?
  • (📈 Pro) What’s permissionless integration?
  • (📈 Pro) What are NFT primitives?
  • (📈 Pro) What are guilds?
  • (📈 Pro) Which index fund lets you invest in a basket of play-and-earn assets?
  • (📈 Pro) What challenges does Axie Infinity’s economy face?
  • (📈 Pro) How do play-and-earn games solve scaling problems?
  • (📈 Pro) Why is composability a double-edged sword?
  • (📈 Pro) What threats do play-and-earn models face?
  • (📈 Pro) Which DAO invests in play-and-earn NFTs?
  • and much more..