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P2E Explained

Jan 11, 2023
6 min read

This blog post will cover:

  • Play-to-earn explained
  • Some of the leading P2E game projects
  • The future of play-to-earn gaming
  • A cautiously optimistic future

The advent of blockchain technology and NFTs has led us to the intersection of a hitherto novel concept in the gaming industry: play-to-earn (P2E) gaming. P2E has opened new income streams for investors, speculators, and gamers. The appeal of earning an income in crypto while playing, apart from NFT ownership, is understandable.

P2E gaming goes beyond conventional computer video gaming by paying people for the time and effort that they spend playing games, often in cryptocurrency, non-fungible tokens (NFTs), or an appreciation of the value of the in-game NFTs a player holds.

Play-to-earn explained

The premise behind the P2E model is exactly as the name implies: a gaming model where users are incentivized to get cryptocurrencies or digital assets by playing a game. The P2E model’s drawing power lies in its irresistible psychological incentives – based on two human desires as old as time: entertainment and reward.

The crux of P2E is that the players are incentivized as they invest more time and endeavour in playing the game, hence becoming part and parcel of the in-game economy through tokenomics. This allows them to create financial value for themselves (in the format of crypto with the potential to appreciate in price over time), not to mention fellow players, game devs, and funders.

Some of the leading P2E game projects

The epic NFT Summer of 2021 saw P2E gaming peak in popularity, leading to a slew of great (and not-so-great) crypto games emerging and building their dedicated followings. Some of the more prominent P2E games are as follows:

Axie Infinity

Axie Infinity (AXS) is perhaps the most well-known crypto/NFT P2E game so far. It allows users to own and trade creatures known as Axies, which are NFTs they can breed, battle, and play with to earn tokens. Axie Infinity’s popularity allowed many individuals to earn, apart from introducing millions to their first taste of the crypto scene.


Cryptokitties is another P2E staple allowing players to breed, buy, and sell one-of-a-kind cats, build NFT collections, level up their cats’ talents, and compete against other players in puzzle games for prizes. The number of crypto players can gain is commensurate with how well you achieve the game’s objectives and how much effort you put into it.

The Sandbox

The Sandbox (SAND) is a decentralized blockchain P2E game made of a complex, interconnected virtual world offering novel gaming experiences. Players can create and monetize their own metagames with the Sandbox Game Maker or earn by taking part in other users’ games. Alternatively, gamers are able to earn an income by renting out their virtual plots of land or by increasing their value by creating content with them.

Gods Unchained

Gods Unchained (GODS) is a P2E collectible card game based on the Ethereum network that’s completely free to play and effortless to begin with. Not to mention one of the games with excellent graphics and gameplay. The project’s leader is a former Magic: the Gathering Arena game director. And much like MTG, Gods Unchained offers competitive 1v1 or multiplayer battles and tournaments where players test out the decks and strategies they construct. Players can earn by selling cards and earning rewards from its native token airdrop.


Illuvium (ILV) was touted as one of the most hotly anticipated P2E games for 2022. It’s an open-world role-playing game where the objective is for gamers to investigate and capture beings called Illuvials. Illuvials and in-game items are NFTs that can be sold or traded for a profit. Players can also earn the game’s native tokens by participating in quests.

Crypto Legions

Crypto Legions is positioned as the 1st P2E NFT game with an Omni-balanced Oracle system made to support the stable economy. The plot of this P2E is built around survival and hunting. The team provides gamers an opportunity to play Crypto Legions every day and earn BLST tokens, which further can be swapped into any currency they want. The in-game assets also serve as a reward, as a payment for hunting tools and purchasing NFTs.

The future of play-to-earn gaming

Granted, the concept of play-to-earn gaming has demonstrated massive potential, as seen by the meteoric rise, fall, and cautious recovery of games like Axie Infinity.

However, the never-ending hype train around this niche gaming sector that causes its problems is a reminder that there is yet plenty of room for improvement.

For instance, the premise of relying on P2E as a stable source of income drastically loses water if the native in-game tokens don’t perform well, since there is little motivation for the players to continue playing with no reward. It’s worse when the games themselves are unimaginative or just not fun at all.

Moreover, the movers and shakers in the P2E business seem to forget that the main reason why gamers play is that they want to be entertained. Therefore, high-quality gameplay should be the primary concern of game publishers, rather than tokenomics or profit. It should take a back seat if a game should be sustainable over the long run.

Games designed solely around tokenomics or NFTs are entirely at the mercy of market forces no one has any control over. This leads to a proliferation of financial speculators with zero interest in the game, piling in early to pump token values and then leaving a trail of fiery, inflationary devastation in the wake of cashing out their bags.

These are the main considerations that P2E game publishers and operators should keep in mind towards building a sustainable future for the sector. Otherwise, it could spell curtains for the entire industry before it’s even had a crack at mainstream acceptance.

A cautiously optimistic future

Ultimately, the P2E gaming model is still at an embryonic stage and will take time to mature. Continuous evolution towards sustainability is what it needs to attain mass adoption and go beyond the P2E category it finds itself boxed in.

Before the P2E industry reaches mainstream adoption, it should have become normal for gamers to play computer games that are, above all, fun to play, free to participate in and possess tokens or assets that remain valuable outside the game.

But since we are currently deep in the throes of extended crypto winter, and since crypto prices are intertwined with the metaverse and P2E industries, it is understandable that there is significantly less hype and activity in these spaces at the time of this writing.

But just like Rome wasn’t built in a day, it is a foregone conclusion that there is still plenty of unrealized growth to go around in this sector. Watch this space – blink and you might just miss it.

SimpleSwap reminds you that this article is provided for informational purposes only and does not provide investment advice. All purchases and cryptocurrency investments are your own responsibility.

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