The last two years in crypto has been a watershed moment for “decentralized finance” (DeFi), with all kinds of distributed or decentralized (as arguable as that term can be) liquidity models sprouting across various networks and attracting tens of thousands of crypto holders to participate in open financial products and services like lending, staking and trading.
Equally growing at pace as well, however, is the blockchain gaming industry. As gamers flock to blockchain and crypto alternatives alongside improving technology, burgeoning profits are enticing new developers and wider competition.
The emergence of “PlayToEarn”
Perhaps the most important factor attracting players and developers to blockchain gaming is the economic model found in many crypto-based games, which continuously attempt to redress the imbalance currently favouring game developers or production houses.
In the past, games have always been perceived as a hobbyist activity. Gamers play to have fun and interact with others and developers find new ways to encourage players to spend more time and money on playing those games. The fact that fewer single-player games are being developed, and multiplayer or Player-versus-Player (PvP) titles are the majority of game styles online seemed to signal a trend that action and interaction were now the priorities of gamers — more so than engaging storylines and plot-driven narratives that were the mainstay of popular titles in previous decades.
But once in-game trading emerged, it became obvious that economic incentive was also attractive to gamers. And now, with crypto-based games, a new class of games is hogging the limelight, attempting to still provide fun and entertainment, with an aspect of earning and investment.
Dubbed “play-to-earn”, games such as The Sandbox and Axie Infinity are gaining huge followings all over the world, especially in emerging markets in Southeast Asia, where crypto earnings from in-game financial models may have significantly higher purchasing power.
The problem with playing to earn
The problem with playing to earn is… it’s just playing to earn.
We now observe that the familiar rinse-and-cycle pattern of crypto hype is already rearing its head in new iterations of these P2E games. Open up any of these games and it’s the same mindless grinding of gameplay to earn more, or to encounter rarer items and NFTs that have arbitrary prices based entirely on speculative value, since even these NFTs and game tokens have absolutely no utility other than tokenized versions of static game items.
Literally, people are coming to play these games, not to play them for fun, as was the original motivation to play games, but to earn.
Even looking up P2E games online reveals the drive behind them. Instead of reviews about the game quality, graphics, gameplay, or other regular game aspects, you get reviews talking about market research angled at investments. Calculating time, money and potential profit. Daily farming or speculative buying.
If this is the future of blockchain gaming, it honestly doesn’t look very promising for the spirit of gaming.
Experiential games: returning to gaming basics
We can’t pretend to have the answer to the very complex problems and issues of blockchain gaming or, indeed, gaming as a whole. The industry, rightfully so, follows the money.
But we believe that there is still a way to produce games that reward players with financial incentives, create new revenue streams for both players and developers, while at the same time being able to truly break new grounds in the industry in terms of quality and innovation.
As we build Cradles as a blockchain-based game, we use a technological foundation, using an entirely new protocol to create a token that makes possible unique gameplay aspects we feel are missing from games in general. This ERC3664 token unshackles the static NFT, allowing evolving characteristics of game items and environments to enable entropy for the first time in a game. To create a true “time-lapsing” game universe that responds to player interaction.
We believe that blockchain gaming should be more than just “PlayToEarn”. A lot more. Blockchain gaming should be one of the answers to many issues in the broader gaming universe. The ability for players to earn was a good answer, but it should not be the final say. It would be a shame if an awesome technology like blockchain were to reach its limits in mere token economics, wrapped in hype and speculative interest.
In Cradles, we want gamers to remember what it was like to pick up a game to play for fun. We want gamers and crypto users to “Play to Experience” in an immersive world and “Experience to Earn” through a fair and engaging financial incentive model that doesn’t just reward the grinders but gamers of every kind.
We’re not there yet, but we invite you to watch Cradles take its first steps of gaming built around experience.
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