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What are Play-to-Earn Games?

Play-to-earn (P2E) games are the future of gaming, and a direct evolution of classic gaming.

The difference between other games and play-to-earn games is that the latter has found a way to pollinate the idea of gaming for fun with the realities of real-life economies. A few years ago, it’d be an absurd notion that gaming rewards could have any sort of value outside of the fantasy worlds they existed in. But today, with play-to-earn games, gamers can make a living with them. In 2020, unemployment rates shot up to an alarming 40%, so many Filipinos turned to playing to earn games like Axie Infinity to sustain themselves. Some players were making close to four times their average monthly salary. The Philippine players were earning so much from the game that the government demanded they pay taxes on their earnings.

In the play-to-earn gaming model, there are two ways to get these in-game rewards:

  1. Players earn these rewards by playing, winning tasks, advancing levels, completing tasks, or
  2. By buying these rewards off someone who has earned them organically through playing the game.

Types of P2E Games

There are two types of play-to-earn games based on the reward gotten, and they are:

Play-to-earn NFT Games

Play-to-earn NFT games are simply play-to-earn games that offer NFTs as rewards. These NFTs represent in-game assets such as weapons, skin, improved character features, land, etc. These NFT assets also have real-world value. For example, in Axie’s Infinity, the NFTs of Axie monster can be sold for as much as 300 ETH, which is more than 340,000 dollars at the time of this article and has been worth as much as $600,000 at some point.

Play-to-earn Crypto Games

Play-to-earn Crypto games are blockchain games that offer players crypto tokens as rewards for completing levels or winning battles. There are two ways play-to-earn games can award crypto tokens to players. One is creating a native cryptocurrency token currency for the game, as you’d find in games like Decentraland and SANDBOX, which have the MANA and SAND tokens, respectively.

Games operating their own native token rely on a blockchain network, which uses smart contracts to approve crypto-related game activities. This might be a bit difficult, so some games toe the other line. They use already existing cryptocurrencies like Ethereum, Bitcoin, Dogecoin, etc. Most of these games are named after the cryptocurrency tokens like Ethermon. However, these games can take players a while to earn a substantial amount of crypto. Regardless of the token in use, players can trade these tokens for other cryptocurrencies or fiat currencies.

Some games combine both NFT and Crypto rewards and offer their players both. Decentraland is an example. Players could get the MANA native crypto and virtual plots of land represented by NFTs.

Main Characteristics of P2E Crypto Games

There are 3 main aspects that distinguish P2E Crypto Games, and these are:

  • Play-to-earn Games Are Built on Blockchain Technology

Play-to-earn games are built on blockchain technology, and this is what makes the play-to-earn model possible. Blockchain technology allows players to be rewarded with cryptocurrency tokens when they have hit a milestone or completed a task. It also provides for Ethereum-based NFTs to be given to players as rewards. Traditional games are centralized, so all assets are owned by the gaming company and can be removed at any time.

  • They Use NFTs to Grant Players Full Ownership

Traditional game assets are assigned to players as long as they play the game or the game exists. However, gaming assets in a play-to-earn environment are not tied to any developer and reside on the blockchain, becoming valuable outside the game environment.

  • Players Can Trade Their NFTs Outside of the Game Platforms

In traditional games, in-game assets were sold to make money, but this wasn’t one of the options made available by the gaming company. In addition to that, the assets weren’t available outside of the game ecosystem. So instead, play-to-earn games use NFTs, which exist not only as individual tokens on the blockchain but can also be listed and sold on NFT marketplaces.

How do Play to Earn Games Work?

Play-to-earn games fall under GameFi, an aspect of blockchain technology that incorporates gaming and finance.

In play-to-earn games, when a player is awarded NFTs, ownership is transferred to their digital wallet.

There are two primary ways that players can earn income from play-to-earn games.

Many Play-to-Earn Games Allow You to Earn, Own, Lend and Sell NFTs

There are many ways to earn money from these game NFTs. One of them is through trading them.

  • Players can list and sell weapons, skins, or other valuable assets on online marketplaces like OpenSea to other players. Depending on the game’s popularity and the importance of the asset, these NFTs can be expensive. For example, the most expensive in-game asset, Planet Calypso from Entropia, was sold for 6 million dollars. Some players can also improve their assets, sell them for higher amounts, or earn interest. For example, in Sandbox, players can develop virtual real estate purchases, sell them for higher amounts, or lease them out for rent.
  • Lending game assets is another way to earn an income off play-to-earn games. This opportunity emerged in response to some play-to-earn games’ high entry barrier. To gain access to the game environment, new players must purchase NFTs, which are often expensive. To solve this problem, lending guilds have sprung up where established players can lend their assets to new players and earn a percentage of their rewards.
  • Another way to earn from play-to-earn game NFTs is through staking. Some NFT games allow players to lock up their NFTs in smart contracts to provide liquidity for a set period. These assets earn interest or rewards at intervals determined by the games. For example, Axie Infinity stakers earn AXS in a percentage determined by the amount staked, while MOBOX rewards stakers with MOMO NFT mystery boxes. In addition, some games reward their players with governance and voting rights. Many of the biggest play-to-earn games provide staking opportunities – Axie Infinity, Mobox, Sandbox, Polychain Monsters, and Splinterlands.

Play Free Online Games to Earn Money

Asides from NFTs, many play-to-earn games offer money in the form of cryptocurrencies. Players get these rewards when they play the game and complete tasks such as advancing to a new level or hitting in-game milestones. These cryptocurrencies could either be the native cryptocurrency of the gaming platform or other general cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. There are many ways to earn from these cryptocurrencies – the easiest of them is through trading. Unlike NFTs that are non-fungible, cryptocurrencies can be equated to each other. So, if the native currency is in Dogecoin, it can be converted on a decentralized crypto exchange into its Bitcoin equivalent.

Another way of earning money is through staking. Players can provide liquidity for the gaming platform by staking their crypto tokens for a preset period while earning rewards.

So, how do you know what play-to-earn games to play? Let’s see below.

How to Pick the Right Play-to-Earn Game?

Many blockchain games operate on a play-to-earn model but choosing the right one boils down to what you want. So, before picking, you need to know the essential things like what kind of rewards you want, how rewards are paid out, and how to monetize said rewards. Here are four factors to consider when picking a suitable blockchain game.

Decide Your Goal: Coins, NFTs, or Both

Play-to-earn games give two types of rewards – cryptocurrencies or NFTs. Some of them give out both. So, before choosing a blockchain game, you must know what they offer. Also, it’s important to note what type of cryptocurrency they offer. Some games provide native cryptocurrencies. These cryptocurrencies are not in-game assets. They are listed on decentralized exchanges and can be traded on these exchanges. Like other cryptocurrencies, these native cryptocurrencies also have values that grow and fall according to the blockchain market. Some games can offer two different types of crypto tokens. A good example is Axie Infinity which offers SLS and AXS.

Find Out How Easy It is to Cashout

Many gamers pushing play-to-earn games often omit to focus on it because players might earn rewards that can be converted to money, but cashing out is complex and, depending on the game platform, not worth it. In addition, players must consider the cashout process for the crypto coin rewards offered by these games. Cashing out delays and rules are more prevalent in games that reward users with popular coins such as Bitcoin and Ether. They may not require as much trading as other native cryptocurrencies might do or be of as much worth as they do, but they have other essential benefits. Another problem associated with cashing out is the crypto volatility which ultimately affects the price of a player’s earnings. In-game cryptocurrencies are often sensitive to value fluctuations, which can be a problem for gamers looking to earn a sustainable income from gaming.

How Much is the Entry Fee to Play?

Play-to-earn games might be an excellent way to earn money, but some require you to invest in them before you can play-to-earn. They are built on the pay-to-play game model that requires new players to pay an entry fee to play. This entry fee can be anything from buying new assets as you have in Axie Infinity to paying a fee to be able to play. Before you choose a play-to-earn game, consider how much the entry fee is. Some of them are expensive and can cost as much as 1000 dollars. If you can’t afford an entry fee, many great blockchain games are free to play and offer users rewards after playing. One of them is Sandbox.

Picking the Right Play-to-earn Game

Now that you’ve narrowed down your search parameters according to what type of reward, it’s time to find a suitable game. It all boils down to research. There are over 400 blockchain games, and the industry keeps delivering more advanced and UI-friendly games. It all boils down to where you search and how you search. Consider using keywords from the parameters you’re considering. Examples of keywords to use include the following:

  • Free play-to-earn games
  • Play-to-earn games with fair cashout policies
  • Play-to-earn games with NFTs and Cryptocurrency rewards

Types of Play-to-Earn Games

Just as there are many types of traditional games, there are many types of blockchain playing to earn games. So we’ll be looking at a few categories.

Card Playing to Earn

Card games have always been a thing in the gaming industry. They have lasted through the different innovations in gaming. Card games are popular as physical assets and board games and now mostly as blockchain games. With blockchain play-to-earn gaming models, card games have advanced to a new level. Players in card play-to-earn games build powerful card deck collections that they trade, use to complete tasks or battle with other players. These cards are non-fungible tokens and can either be gotten as in-game rewards or bought. Some of the more popular card play-to-earn games are:

Real Estate Play-to-Earn Games

Real estate play-to-earn games are blockchain games where users can buy up plots of land. Real estate play-to-earn games are tightly linked to the multiverse. Players of these games can buy up land in these game multiverses and develop them just like they can do in the real world. They can also earn by selling their land, developing it, and leasing it out for rent. Some of the popular real estate play-to-earn games in existence are:

  • Decentraland
  • Sandbox
  • DecentWorld

Racing P2E Games

Racing P2E games are blockchain racing video games that simulate arcade or kart races. These games are high stake games with many challenges and rewards to win. Players earn rewards for winning races. Popular racer P2E games include:

Adventure Play-to-earn Games

In adventure play-to-earn games, players travel and play in a fantasy land where they complete tasks, fight battles or conquer places. The top adventure play-to-earn games are:

  • Coin Hunt World
  • Undead Blocks
  • Crypto Pirates

Move to Earn Apps

Move-to-earn games are blockchain play-to-earn games that reward players for working out. Players get rewarded for moving around and going about their daily activities. Unlike other games that require you to sit at a place to engage in in-game activities, move-to-earn games do the opposite. Players passively play the game to earn in-game rewards.

This game model would work perfectly if you love being outdoors and taking walks. How does it work? The game records your movements and rewards you for them. Some of them require players to complete a workout task before getting the rewards.

But before playing most move-to-earn games, users have to purchase an NFT. The top five move-to-earn games are:

  • Dotmoovs (Moovs)
  • Sweatcoin (SWEAT)
  • Genopets (GENE)

Benefits of Playing P2E Games

Earn Cryptocurrency or NFT

Earning cryptocurrency and NFTs has to be the most glaring of the benefits. Play-to-earn games allow users to be rewarded with either or both cryptocurrencies and NFTs. Players who may not be able to afford cryptocurrencies on their own can start their collection by winning them in games.

Earn Income

Really good players can start earning income as professional gamers, similar to how the process is done in traditional gaming. However, play-to-earn offers higher incentives because it relies on crypto and NFTs and doesn’t require any middleman or sponsors to compete and earn. In places like the Philippines, people are already earning steady incomes as gamers.

Builds Social Bonds

Play-to-earn NFT games foster socialization. Just like social media platforms, play-to-earn metaverse games encourage socialization and connection. Games like Decentraland and Sandbox can connect players from around the world. The gaming community would benefit from these new social bonds and a socially inclusive ecosystem.

Growth of Blockchain and DeFi

Blockchain is still a long way from total acceptance. However, now industries are adopting blockchain at their own pace, and GameFi & other blockchain gaming features are leading the forefront as GameFi. Play-to-earn games play a role in building society’s trust in blockchain and DeFi.

Growth of the Gaming Market

The gaming market thrives on inclusion and participation. It can only grow when more people start playing games. Therefore, it is even more critical for GameFi that more people are participating and helping the ecosystem grow. More players mean more interaction with the game ecosystem and increased value for the native currency. These, in turn, boost the gaming market and help it grow.

Play to Earn Game NFTs

Play-to-earn game NFTs refer to P2E games that reward players with NFTs. These are very common P2E games. NFTs can be traded, loaned, or sold for fiat currency. Some P2E games give both NFTs and cryptocurrencies. Some of the best play-to-earn games with great NFT games include:

  • Gods Unchained
  • Axie Infinity
  • Splinterlands
  • Decentraland
  • SandBox

Play-to-Earn Game Cryptocurrencies

Play-to-earn game cryptocurrencies are P2E games that reward players with cryptocurrencies. These crypto coins could be native coins from the game or more popular coins like Bitcoin and Dogecoin. These cryptocurrencies can be traded for your local fiat currency and used in the real world. Most P2E games with cryptocurrency rewards also give NFT rewards. An example of play-to-earn game cryptocurrencies include:

  • Star Atlas
  • Spider Tanks
  • Axie Infinity
  • Decentraland

How Can I find Existing and Upcoming Games?

Some websites track and curate a directory of new and existing play-to-earn games. You can always hit them up for the newest games on the block. Check for existing and upcoming play-to-earn games on these websites:

  • DappRadar
  • CoinMarketCap
  • Finder
  • dappGambl

Do You Really Own Your In-Game Assets?

Yes, and yes. Play-to-earn games are very different from traditional games because they run on Blockchain technology. This means that in-game assets are either cryptocurrencies or NFTs, which belong entirely to the user once they have ‘earned’ them. To play, users must have crypto wallets which they’ll need to pay the entry fee if the game requires it and also store their in-game assets. When players earn a reward on play-to-earn games, the cryptocurrencies automatically get stored in their wallets which they have complete control over. Once an asset is there, any other transaction on the asset, including selling, revoking, or lending, can only be done only by using the wallet’s private key.

The cryptocurrencies used in blockchain games are listed on decentralized crypto exchanges, while NFTs can be sold on open marketplaces. The right to trade, sell, or lend in-game assets proves that with play-to-earn games, in-game assets belong to the player.


How Easy is to Cash Out Your Coins?

Cashing out your coins isn’t a complex process. First, you’ll need a decentralized exchange that lists your play-to-earn crypto. Then, you can either trade your play-to-earn crypto tokens for other more popular crypto tokens like Ethereum or, if you want to get your money in fiat currency, you can also look for an exchange pair with the stablecoin, such as USDT. To do this, you may have to make two conversions—one to a more stable cryptocurrency like Bitcoin and then to USDT.

The last option is to use a crypto card. With crypto cards, you don’t have to exchange your game’s native currency. Instead, the card automatically makes the transactions, and you can withdraw dollars from your local ATM or pay for services using a POS. Cashing out your NFT rewards is equally as easy. You only need to trade them for cryptocurrency on an NFT marketplace like Rarible or OpenSea.

How Much Should You Spend to Get Started?

Say you’re ready to start playing play-to-earn games. How much should you spend to get started? Is there an average amount for the beginning, and are there other options for new players?

There is no fixed amount of money required to get started, and this is because some play-to-earn games are free of charge, while others need players to buy an NFT upfront. Games that fall under the second category are known as pay-to-play-to-earn games.

You can earn from these games, but you must make an investment upfront. How much you spend on these games depends on what the game requires as an entry fee. Axie Infinity, for instance, requires players to have three Axie monsters. An average Axie monster costs about $200. Getting three good Axie monsters would cost anywhere between $600 and $1000. The entry price for Axie Infinity is high because the game is very popular.

You’d likely spend less depending on the game you’re trying to play, its entry fee demand, and how popular it is.

Where to Play P2E Games?

Where can you play P2E games? Play-to-earn games are played by downloading the game onto your device. Many play-to-earn games are played on desktops, either Windows or Mac. But now, more games are branching out to mobile device options.

You can download them on Android and iOS devices, yet not all games are mobile-friendly, so it’s better to ensure that you have a computer to compete against other players.

Play-to-Earn Games on iOS & Android

People spend a lot of time on their mobile devices, so it makes sense that blockchain P2E games would start being available on mobile devices. But unfortunately, many NFT games are still only available on a desktop or laptop. Still, with big game names in the GameFi industry releasing mobile versions, there will be more mobile P2E games in the future. But for now, what play-to-earn games are available on iOS and Android?

  • Axie Infinity
  • Sorare
  • Gods Unchained
  • CryptoKitties
  • The SandBox
  • Illuvium

Upcoming Play-to-Earn Games

The GameFi movement is growing by leaps and bounds. Already, there are hundreds of P2E games existing, and more are still being designed. In case you haven’t seen anything you like yet, new play-to-earn games are always coming out, and you can get in early before they gain popularity. Here’s a list of the top five upcoming play-to-earn games of 2022.

  • Silks – NFT Metaverse Horse Racing P2E Game
  • Chosen Ones – Auto-Battler P2E Game
  • RaceFi – AI/ML Integrated Racing Game on Solana
  • Guild of Guardians – Free P2E role-playing game
  • Phantom Galaxies – Mercha Starfighter Battle P2E Game

Bottom Line: How Profitable are Play-to-Earn Crypto Games

The average amount of money earned by play-to-earn gamers is close to $1600 per week. This value is not fixed and would vary based on the value of the cryptocurrencies at the time of exchange. Nevertheless, this amount is a tidy sum for players who play on the side as a hobby.

Play-to-earn games can also be very profitable. It depends on how much time a player is willing to spend playing.

The way play-to-earn games work, players who spend more time playing complete more tasks and have higher chances of earning more. If you plan to earn very high amounts from play-to-earn games, then prepare to be a professional gamer able to dedicate long hours to play. Until then, play-to-earn games pay a substantial amount for players who are playing to have fun.


It’s difficult to pick the best play-to-earn games but based on public opinion and popularity, the best games are SandBox, Decentraland, Illuvium, Axie Infinity, and CryptoKitties.

Play-to-earn games are as legitimate and legal as they come. There are no laws that say you can’t play play-to-earn games. However, some countries might have tax laws for the earnings from these games, so be sure to do your research.

All play-to-earn games allow players to earn money. Earnings are in cryptocurrencies and NFTs, which can be traded for your local currency.

Play-to-earn games work by rewarding players for their activities with in-game assets. These assets are either cryptocurrencies, NFTs, or both. These assets can be traded, sold, or lent for money.

Vlad Hategan

Vlad Hategan

Author | NFT Gaming Specialist

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