Goodbye ‘Play-to-Earn’, Hello Play AND Earn

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Web3 gaming has skyrocketed in popularity over the last three years and is predicted to reach approximately $65.7 billion by 2027, up from $4.6 billion in 2022. While the Web3 games that initially gained international attention were play-to-earn like Axie Infinity, gamers across the world don’t just game for passive income.

While play-to-earn has largely disrupted the blockchain industry and onboarded many users into the Web3 space, Web3 games need to transition away from this model and embrace a play and earn ethos that focuses on user experience first.

Kelsey McGuire is chief growth officer at Shardeum. She previously served as chief marketing officer at crypto investment firm CoinFund, managed partner marketing at Celo and worked in marketing leadership roles at ConsenSys.

Web3 gaming turned a lot of traditional gamers and developers off of Web3 because of poor user experience and lack of in-game creativity. In other words, often the perception of Web3 games is that they are simply not fun. The payment rails can be difficult to navigate and gas fees are added on top of the price of non-fungible tokens (NFT) or in-game assets.

Adding to the hassle and expense, any on-chain action requires gas fees to be recorded — an expense that traditional gamers are not accustomed to having to pay.

Though some Web3 games may have not made the greatest first impression on gamers, there is plenty of room for hope.

As a first step to getting traditional gamers interested in exploring Web3, games need to move away from the play-to-earn model to a vision that more fully embraces the original gaming ethos: fun! This means that before Web3 games can offer players ownership of in-game assets, game developers need to focus on the elements that draw players to games in the first place: evocative worlds, great storytelling, frictionless game-play experience, a sense of community and the ability to hone in-game skills.

If Web3 games are fun first and foremost, then they have the freedom to add novel experiences like ownership of in-game assets that provides the true differentiation between Web2 and Web3 games.

Gaming already has a long tradition of in-game assets with games like “World of Warcraft and Eve Online” introducing tokens and in-game currencies as early as 2008. The opportunity within Web3 is offering in-game assets that have value both in and outside the game world.

This is one of the original use cases for non-fungible tokens (NFTs): turning in-game skins and weapons into do dedo assets that can be bought and sold on secondary trading platforms, potentially rewarding the asset creators with royalties on each sale as well.

Empowering players with a greater voice in the development process through governance is another point of differentiation that could attract traditional gamers to the space. Gamers can offer creators valuable feedback about the utility of a certain tool or weapon in the game.

By taking discussion forums to the next level and granting players the ability to impact decisions through decentralized governance participation, Web3 games could attract many more players. There’s also value in fostering a vibrant and engaging community outside of the game itself that is inviting to traditional gamers, developers, and those new to the space entirely.

The good news is that a focus on user experience is already underway with major mobile game developer Zynga’s launch of “Sugartown” whose world involves three animals who unlock a wormhole to another dimension — now we’re starting to see the creation of fun game lore.

DappRadar’s State of Blockchain Gaming in Q3 2023 report shows other positive indicators of growth for the Web3 gaming vertical, including a 12% increase in unique wallets since Q2 2023 and $600 million from venture capitalists pouring into Web3 games.

The objective for Web3 games shouldn’t be to replace traditional gaming with decentralized gaming. After all, traditional games are not going anywhere. They have their avid fanbase and generate $281.77 billion worldwide. The goal should be to create a space that is wholly new and exciting with its own ethos backed by user asset ownership and a voice in the ecosystems with which they participate.

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