One of the most exciting use cases for blockchain technology is gaming, where it has enabled the nascent concept of “play-to-earn” NFT-based games where players can complete challenges and battle opponents and earn cryptocurrency as a reward for doing so.
So-called P2E games are a relatively new thing, having emerged over the past couple of years. Yet, the space has boomed to such an extent that it already provides a steady income for gamers in developing nations such as the Philippines and Venezuela.
The concept is simple enough. You take a video game and build it on blockchain infrastructure that makes it possible to embed cryptocurrency and NFT technology elements into it. Players are often required to purchase an NFT first – which usually, but not always, represents their in-game character – and can then earn additional NFTs and the game’s native crypto token as a reward when they successfully complete challenges or beat their opponents.
This makes it possible for players in some games to actually earn a living just by playing. The cryptocurrency and NFTs they earn can then be traded on a secondary exchange or marketplace. So it’s possible to sell those rewards for Bitcoin or Ethereum and then cash out for real-world currency.
The thought of earning money just from playing video games has long been a dream for many a teenager, and blockchain has finally made it become a reality. It’s little surprise then that the concept is rapidly catching on. In 2021, venture capitalists collectively invested more than $4 billion into emerging P2E games, according to DappRadar’s 2021 crypto industry report. That explains the steady stream of new P2E titles going live each month. Competition is heating up and every major blockchain platform seems to be getting in on the action. What follows is our pick of the top P2E games to watch this year on each of the major blockchain gaming platforms – Binance, Ethereum, Hive, Polygon and Solana.
Binance Chain: Mobland
Anyone who’s ever played the hit franchise Grand Theft Auto will be right at home in Mobland, an exciting Mafia-as-a-Dao metaverse that enables players to embark on a career with the infamous La Cosa Nostra. With Mobland, gamers get access to an immersive criminal underworld, where they join forces with a powerful crime syndicate and strive to become a “made man” while accumulating money and power through various illicit activities.
Mobland, which rebranded from its original name Syn City, sees players engage in activities such as running protection rackets, drug dealing, contract killing and more, while simultaneously engaging in an unending war with rival mafia clans. Players are also tasked with managing, trading and acquiring NFT-based items that will grow the power of their own character and also their syndicate.
What’s especially attractive about Mobland is its accessibility. The game is genuinely free-to-play for beginners, unlike popular P2E games such as Axie Infinity, where the NFTs required to start playing can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Mobland, rather than focus on the earnings aspect, instead aims to provide an exciting, crime-themed metaverse world to explore, with the rewards being more of an added bonus.
Also notable is its governance, which is based on the idea of a decentralized autonomous organization, or DAO. Through this model, the game’s players get to vote on issues such as new updates and game features.
Mobland, which also famously raised $3.5 million via an Initial Game Offering in December, has plans to continue expanding its metaverse via a partnership with Nduja Labs and Wormhole. That partnership introduced a unique technology that relies on a novel method of cross-chain communication similar to sharding, to enable faster transactions and greater utility for players.
As a result, Mobland players can stake SYNR governance tokens and other Mobland NFT assets on Ethereum’s DeFi network, then mint new in-game assets cross-chain on Binance and other chains. In this way, Mobland enales the seamless transfer of value and information across multiple blockchains and metaverses.
The popularity of Splinterlands boils down to its simple-but-highly-addictive gameplay mechanics that sees players face off, pitting their teams of monsters against those of their rivals in a series of one-on-one battles.
Splinterlands is in the battle trading card game genre of video game, where players have to collect cards that represent different monsters, each of which has unique abilities. They can then train their monsters, breed them, sell them and use them to fight other players. Crucially, the variety of cards on offer is huge, with 249 individual monsters and another 40 “summoners”.
Adding to the game’s popularity is that, initially, it’s free to play. However to tap into the P2E aspects it’s necessary to buy an NFT-based Summoner’s book, which provides access to various quests each day and allows players to earn Dark Energy Crystals, the game’s native cryptocurrency.
There’s every reason to think that Splinterlands will keep on growing, even though its prominence in the P2E gaming world is arguably unmatched by any other game. The game continues to set new milestones on an almost monthly basis. In March it surpassed an incredible two billion games played, shortly after hosting a $1 million unboxing event that was designed to boost its scholarship rewards program.
One month later, Splinterlands hit the headlines again by recording 2.32 million daily rentals, a new record for blockchain NFT game rentals. Renting NFTs to play the game is popular because Splinterlands NFTs are hard to come by, resulting in crazy-high prices. Not every player can afford to purchase one, and moreover, not every player who owns one wants to sell it, preferring instead to earn passive income by renting it out.
More recently, in May, Splinterlands saw its $4 million validator nodes presale sell out within just minutes of launching. The game reportedly sold 2,000 validator licenses within just 11 minutes. The licenses are in demand because those who run Splinterland’s free node software get the chance to earn rewards in SPS tokens, which is the game’s native governance token.
Polygon: Infinity Skies
Described as a mix of The Sims, Diablo and Animal Cross, Infinity Skies is an open, sandbox-style game that combines the individual creativity and imagination of players with their social economic abilities and action-based game mechanics.
Gameplay in Infinity Skies revolves around the idea of building an enormous fantasy castle in the sky. Each player owns their own floating island, and this becomes the hub of their creativity, with players able to modify their islands, build structures and host social gatherings. There are four distinct gameplay elements – build, adventure, socialize and trade. Most importantly, players have to build and decorate their unique castle using thousands of NFTs. Every single block and each item of furniture used to construct the castle is an NFT, and the more advanced the castle becomes, the more income it can earn. The castle NFTs come in eight different rarities, with “Common” NFTs being the least valuable, and “Royal” NFTs being extremely rare and very difficult to come by.
To earn tokens to purchase these NFTs, players can host events on their islands, take part in strategy games where they attempt to win political conquests, they can go on quests to fight monsters, or even dive into the dungeons with friends to complete challenges.
There’s also a unique prestige system that’s central to the game. Rewards are based on the prestige points obtained by each castle, and the most prestigious will receive incredibly rare NFTs as rewards at the end of each month, after which their prestige score is reset to zero. To obtain prestige points players need to create incentives for others to come and visit their castle and utilize it, hence the social aspect of the gameplay is of critical importance.
It’s easy to see why Illuvium is currently ranked as one of the fastest-growing P2E games on Ethereum. It’s an open-world adventure game where aspects of decentralized finance meet squarely with the world of RPG-based gaming.
The big draw of Illuvium is its immersive gameplay, for its founders Kieran and Aaron Warwicj have come up with a truly fascinating concept and storyline. Players will find themselves absorbed in an intergalactic world, where they are the sole survivor of a spacecraft crash, finding themselves alone on a destroyed planet known as Illuvium.
Illuvium is home to strange creatures called Illuvials, which possess some god-like powers. They also hold the key to knowing what happened to Illuvium, and it’s the players job to work it out. New players will discover a registry known as the Illuviary which catalogs all of the Illuviums that exist on the planet. However, the Illuviary is locked, so players are forced to capture Illuvials first to unlock it. By unlocking an Illuvial that’s never been captured before, the player’s name will be forever inscribed on the game’s database alongside their discovery, making the game more engaging and competitive.
Capturing Illuvials isn’t easy though, and players will be forced to develop different strategies and tactics to do so.
By capturing an Illuvial, players can also earn ILV tokens that have both utility and governance capabilities. ILV tokens can also be used to purchase in-game NFTs (items), for staking, paying medical fees to revive a character faster, and to travel to different parts of the planet.
A fantasy-inspired P2E game that takes place in a wacky, wonderful and colorful futuristic world, MixMob is both a classic card trading/battle game and a metaverse, where players fight against a mysterious artificial intelligence that has seized control of humanity.
The AI has enslaved the human race with an army of bots, and has employed a strange energy field to wipe everyone’s memories. As a result, humanity has lost its culture. MixMob sees a select number of humans who try fight back against the AI by escaping into the Subdomains where they can hide, regroup and go on the offensive as they bid to reclaim their culture.
The game itself has two distinct game modes – the first part of the game is centered on card strategy battles, with players able to trade cards, remix NFTs and then face off against each other to win daily rewards. Then, once they’re ready, they get to enter an MMO-style battle royale that takes place in an enormous, 3D virtual world.
As with most P2E games, players must first purchase or rent a “Mask” NFT. However, MixMob is notable for its use of mutable NFTs, which can evolve as the player makes his way through the game and ‘levels up’ his or her abilities. Each NFT mask is unique, made from more than 200 different components.
The idea with MixMob’s mutable NFTs is that it allows players to earn rewards for winning battles and races and completing challenges. The rewards enable players to gain new attributes that make their characters more unique, and stronger. Another element of the game is MixBots, which can be thought of as pets that aid each player in the game.
The important thing about mutable NFTs is that they enable players to evolve over time, becoming stronger and more valuable as they devote time to the game, something that isn’t possible with regular NFTs.