Many game founders have failed to realize their dream vision: “For years, players have spent their hard-earned money without getting anything in return, and Crypto has changed that by allowing all players to earn NFTs and Tokens of real value in the game, truly earning while they play. At the same time, the game can benefit from this and continue to be successful.”
Unfortunately, Crypto isn’t a panacea and doesn’t work for everyone, so it’s time to rethink the “make money” philosophy of many short-lived game economies. I’ll explain these two concepts further and discuss why “play first, earn later” is leading us astray, what business model should be appropriate for “earn first” games, and how to build the future of “play first” games.
“Play-and-earn” is leading us astray
“Play and Earn describes an ideal state where players feel good about the game and then get rewarded for playing it. In reality, like its predecessor, Play to Earn, these games are all about “earning”. However, behind their short-lived financial incentives, there are not really many real players. The first problem is that the word ‘earn’ is inherently inappropriate for game promotion, which, like calling poker a ‘tabletop play-to-earn card game’, would directly discolor the game itself. However, most games are being promoted with slogans like “earn while you X”. And, more importantly, the word “earn” is heavily tainted with profit, so using such a word to promote the game will only end up attracting people who are only interested in making money rather than real gamers.
P2E is not a detour of the chain tour-iNFTnews
Once players identify with the “play first, earn later” game mechanic, they will naturally create unrealistic expectations, thus putting constant sales pressure on the native Token. In my opinion, what game economists should really be doing is re-examining the viability of “play first, earn later” games, rather than spending a lot of time thinking about how to optimize the pool, increase taxes, and deal with sales pressure. So it is more important for game developers to clarify the specifics than to implement concepts like ‘play first, earn later’, so as to avoid lulling players into unrealistic expectations, while also enhancing the robustness of the game economy and developing brand effects.
Provide permanent payments for players
For games, making most players earn money would have been a wrong concept, as permanent payments are necessarily not sustainable.
No matter how much money is added to the pool, how much Token or NFT is raised, the game economy will soon be out of balance if the game keeps paying the majority of players. Whether it’s a video game, Crypto game or traditional game, you need to manage your economy to make ends meet. We have to admit that any game that gives out Tokens or NFTs is paying players with some of their money. Game creators have been tempted by terms like ‘player-owned’ to overpay early adopters with negative customer lifetime values as a way to build a loyal gaming community. Most of these early players are speculators and airborne hunters who mostly invest only for that upfront revenue and will leave the ecosystem if they can’t net more money later on, and this is why many money-making games are short-lived. As a result, games not only overpay for such players, but they also scare away the true fans of the game. Furthermore, if players expect to earn more than their investment, then isn’t that investment not an asset of the game but a liability? If this continues, then game developers will keep losing money and the real Token/NFT investors will come late.
“Play First” or “Earn First”?
When making a game, founders must always pay attention to the difference between the pre-conceived idea and the finished product. Too often, founders think they’ve created a “play-first” game, but in reality they’ve set up all the same marketing strategies as the “money-first” games. However, it’s entirely possible to judge this by the percentage of tweets posted by the game account, to see if there is more content related to the game itself or Crypto-related content. Game developers can fall into the misconception that a game can be a “make money first” game and then shift to a “play first” game. While this may sound attractive, in fact neither type of player will be satisfied if this model is followed. It’s like those who want to create and then complete a decentralized blockchain afterwards, and it usually doesn’t work.
A similar situation arises with Free to Play games, which are either built to handle microtransactions or are built for entertainment, with the latter generally building on the former. For example, Fortnite started out as a completely free to play game and only added the cash mechanic after it became popular, while games like Farmville were created with cash in mind first and gameplay second. But according to Brooks Brown, if a game is “money first,” then it won’t be very game-like.
If the game wants to be successful in a short period of time, then they may be more willing to develop a “money-first” Crypto game at the moment. However, if the developers want to build a “play first” game, then they either try to diffuse the community’s distaste for Crypto games or build the game well enough to attract the community to it. In the long run, using excessive rewards to get daily active users is not a good thing for “play first” games.
The Future of “Earn First” Games
For “play-first” games to be successful, “revenue generation” must be a priority, because the process of earning money is fun. Throughout history, people have always enjoyed the process of making money, and direct income always ignites our passion, even if we occasionally have some small losses we don’t care so much.
In the near future, we are likely to see more X-side earning programs that mimic StepN. While it’s true that these games didn’t last long, Ponzi-like games are here to stay and attract attention. The reason for this is that these types of games tend to be more flexible and fun before you start losing money. In other words, these types of games can make you happy in the process of making money. In addition, every game has its own shelf life, and some games have a much shorter shelf life compared to others.
For games that have been around longer, they are more likely to follow tried and true business models, such as those found in eSports or casino games. In general, earning games can be sustained as long as they are sufficiently solvent. Funding in games may come from
- Players willing to invest in rewards
- Sponsors who wish to host the game
- Spectators who tip or place bets on the sidelines
- Other users who pay taxes
Both poker and competitive games can provide food for thought for the ‘earn-first’ category of games – which can have both social attributes and unlock competitive features. That is, gaming companies can set up pots and host tournaments, players can make money by winning pots, coaches are paid to teach, skilled people can earn income by building equipment, and speculators can watch and bet on tournaments. This economy offers better stability because it creates an intuitive pathway of value exchange between players, sponsors, and spectators. In this model, people are able to engage in a variety of revenue-driven activities and build an economy accordingly.
Where will the “play first” category go?
For the past year, we’ve been trying to make ‘earning’ the core competency of ‘play-first’ games, but it hasn’t worked. That’s because we’ve moved in the direction of over-financialization before we could prove that Crypto could be the icing on the cake for traditional games. In this section, I’ll share some high-level frameworks that promise to help us design a more seamless game economy.
Traditional games vs. money-making games
First of all, introducing Token at any time gives games economic properties. The introduction of Tokens or NFTs breaks down this boundary and brings the game into line with the real economy. For those who love money-making metagames (metagame), they should have the right to choose their own games without being tricked into playing a specific game.
In the past year, these two types of games have tried to combine together, but the results have been unsatisfactory. Axie, for example, was ostensibly a cute turn-based strategy game, but after incorporating NFT and Token into the game, players came to value only the economics of the game. xie ended up being an “earn-first” type of game with a pyramidal economic mechanic, where each player who joined had to pay NFT up front in the hopes of trying to become a seller before everyone else, and through SLPs and Axies are sold to make money. When the economic factor is too closely integrated with the game, it replaces the fun of the game as the motivation for players to participate in the game.
Therefore, for developers, they should consider the entertainment function of the game separately from the economic function when designing the game in the future, and integrate Crypto into the game in an innovative way without letting it prevail.
A good example of this is the Pokémon card game, which is both a trading card game and a collectible earning game. Likewise, athletes can make money participating in sporting events without compromising their sport itself. If players have to decide where to move and how to hit the ball based on the different earnings for each action, then there is something to be said for that. Players should focus on the sporting event itself, not on external factors like money – this is what makes the ‘play-first’ category different from the ‘earn-first’ category.
The economy that truly serves the game itself
Playing a game is not the same thing as participating in it, and in the long run, innovation within Crypto games is not really about rewarding players, but about rewarding those who bring value to the game and to the players. In many ways, the game creators play the role of a central bank and treasury, as they set the reward schedule in much the same way that a central bank manages the distribution of tax dollars. I use this analogy to show that players don’t really have any advantage if the game’s native Token is over-inflated. With this in mind, game developers should only reward participants who can directly or indirectly bring financial rewards and increase the GDP of their ecosystem. Currently, most game economies set aside 30-60% of their total Token supply to reward every kind of player in the ecosystem (see the image on the left). However, a vibrant economy should be able to empower people to exchange goods and services with each other (see right).
Instead of using vault funds to mobilize the game economy, game developers should create an ecosystem that builds a platform for game participants to create and exchange value. In this way, Tokens can become a true medium of exchange. For example, if the game wants designers to build different game worlds, then the system should reward them with the opportunity to share in future revenues. Similarly, instead of adopting an “influence first, make money later” business model, where the game pays weblebrities, the game should allow those with high enough influence to reap a pool of fans who voluntarily reward them.
In this way, people can be rewarded multiple times for creating virtual goods and services, instead of working for upfront and unsustainable revenues. In addition, direct exchange creates more earning opportunities for users willing to pay and increases economic efficiency. Like any other economy, the gaming economy is real and complex, and can only thrive with a favorable employment environment and revenue growth.
Last year, there was a huge wave of retail and investor money in the Crypto gaming market. As this market grows, we must not leave empty-handed and must face the promise we once made to drive the prosperity of that market for the better. Today, we need to take a serious look at “play first, earn later” and perpetual payments, figure out the role Crypto plays in the game, and design a more complete game economy.