Whenever technology leaps forward, art leaps with it and video games are no exception. Right now the space of NFT games is still early days, but as you’ll see from the examples below, it has the chance to truly shake the video game industry to its core.
The concept of a player having ownership over digital assets within a game isn’t entirely new, but it has never been backed by such a concrete system like blockchain technology.
Being able to play and earn real world money through the sale of these assets could birth an entire new ecosystem around the games that we love to play.
It’s pretty easy to see why so many large investment firms are backing these titles and why so many triple A game studios are looking to incorporate these ideas.
Here’s a compilation of the top “play to earn” games out there right now that you should keep your eyes on:
1. Axie Infinity
The fastest growing and maybe the most prominent title on the list, Axie Infinity is an ETH blockchain based game akin to Pokemon where you collect digital creatures called Axies to battle, breed, and trade.
Starting the game is as easy as buying 3 Axies on the Axie Infinity Marketplace, although some of the rarer creatures will go for quite a bit of scratch (a quad mystic Axie can cost you over $100,000).
Within the game, there are 2 main tokens: Smooth Love Potion (or SLP) which is what you use to breed your creatures and Axie Infinity Shards (or AXS) which is the main governance token.
Similar to other blockchain based games, the governance system being set up within AXS is very forward-thinking, as people with holdings of AXS can weigh in on decisions made by the company (like feature roadmaps and treasury fund allocation).
The community is expected to hold a majority of the voting power over even the creators by late 2023.
It isn’t wise to approach Axie Infinity with expectations of easily making a boat load of profit; like most well-designed games, it’s nuanced, balanced, and complex.
Instead, you should gain experience through the daily/weekly quests and the adventure mode, build up a rapport, and then venture into the PVP arena mode.
Defeating other players wins you SLP, which you can use to breed your Axies or sell on the marketplace to those who want to do the same. It’s also possible to speculate on expensive Axies you think might be a good investment.
As with any title on this list, it’s recommended to delve into the community and really absorb the surrounding culture. Every game has its own “meta” and finding it in a play to earn game like this can be valuable.
The Vietnamese studio behind this title, Sky Mavis, has been making headlines recently for its high profile investors including Mark Cuban and American venture firm Andreessen Horowitz (who, in October, pumped $152 million in series B funding into the project).
With a market cap of over $8 billion and a daily trade volume of $500 million, this game is already a juggernaut in its own right and maybe one of the best examples of the play to earn model that’s shaking up the gaming industry.
2. Crypto Kitties
Unveiled originally as a demo at ETH Waterloo (an Ethereum hackathon) in October 2017, Crypto Kitties rose to prominence as one of the first games allowing players to have ownership of in-game items as NFTs.
In this game, there is no goal other than collecting, trading, and breeding kitties, each one represented as an NFT and backed up by the ERC-721 token standard.
This was the first time such a powerful ownership mechanic was packaged in such a way.
This combined with the adorable, fun-loving exterior is what led to the creation of the massive in-game economy which accounted for 25% of all transactions on the Ethereum blockchain in late 2017 (actually congesting the Ethereum network and making miners increase the gas limit).
Many game devs on this list, including the team behind Axie Infinite, say they wouldn’t have even met if it weren’t for Cryptokitties.
Even the creation of OpenSea, one of the biggest marketplaces for buying and selling NFTs, was originally billed as an “eBay for CryptoKitties” by co-founder Devin Finzer. While the initial spike in buying and selling deflated, the influence of this game cannot be understated and its legacy will definitely live on.
3. The Sandbox
Open world can have so many meanings. Scratch the concept of running around without a quest: How about a truly open world where you own, build, and trade virtual lands?
Where you create your own digital assets, mint them as NFTs, and sell them? Where you craft your own game within a game with full control over every parameter using voxel assets? This is just scratching the surface of what The Sandbox has to offer.
This game promises to break boundaries and offer something new.
Almost like a combination of Second Life, Sony’s Dreams, and Minecraft, The Sandbox crowdsources the level design and gameplay to the community.
If your head is spinning imagining the possibilities then you’re not alone, a plot of land can be cultivated to host mini-games, virtual shops, social gatherings, and much more but it’s not cheap.
Since its inception, and especially with the announcement of Facebook’s “Metaverse”, the limited amount of space (just referred to as LAND) has been skyrocketing in value. Everything in-game is bought and sold with $SAND which is rising quick in price, with SAND now at over $4. A standard plot is always 1,011 SAND while a premium plot is 4,683 SAND which, at the current value, would put them at $4,246 and $19,668 respectively.
The Sandbox has already made some pretty large waves, securing $96 million in series B funding from SoftBank Vision Fund 2 (one of the largest technology focused investment funds). It has also had partnerships with large entertainment brands like The Smurfs, The Walking Dead, Atari, and Deadmau5.
This physical NFT marketplace is the first of its kind and will definitely be fun to watch as the community around it grows.
Sorare is a great entry point for the sports lovers in the NFT space. In this fantasy football (soccer) game, you build a virtual team made of digital player cards.
A team is comprised of 5 cards which can be classified as unique, rare, or extremely rare. You then play this fantasy team in lineups competing for the weekly prize pool of ETH and rare cards.
Because they’re tied to a real athlete’s performance, the cards shift in value which has created a large marketplace for buying and selling these as NFTs tied to the Ethereum blockchain. Juventus star, Cristiano Ronaldo, had his card sell for $290,000 in March, which beat out NBA Top Shots Lebron james basketball card at $210,000. Soccer fans took home the trophy there, but we’ll see how long that lasts.
The thing that sets Sorare apart from its competitors is that it has full licensing permissions from over 180 football organizations, including the big clubs like Liverpool and Real Madrid.
They’ve also outlined their plans to expand to the US, include more sports, and hire a batch of new staff.
To fuel this growth spurt, Sorare has successfully pulled in a whopping $680 million in series B funding from SoftBank’s Vision Fund 2, valuing the French company at $4.3 billion. Fantasy football and player card trading are massive industries, and they’ve successfully combined the two under the crypto umbrella. Even if you’re not into sports, keep your eye on Sorare.
Splinterlands is play to earn trading card game that runs on the Hive blockchain. Similar to games like Magic The Gathering and Hearthstone, you build a deck of cards (each its own NFT) and battle with other players in ranked play or tournaments.
The Monster cards you collect are placed into 4 categories based on scarcity: common, rare, epic, or legendary. As you may have guessed, those legendary cards can sell for quite a bit using the in-game currency, Dark Energy Crystals (DEC).
Finishing quests or winning battles against other players can win you DEC, potions, cards, or Splinterhards (SPS), the governance token.
To level up your deck and give your cards better attributes, you can combine your monsters with other cards. The interesting thing about this is, every time you combine cards you’re diminishing the circulating supply, driving up the scarcity of them overall.
Because of this, certain monster cards have grown in value and people have rediscovered their decks being worth tens of thousands more than when they left them.
Another interesting thing about this game is that it not only exists on its own blockchain (the Hive blockchain), but also offers cross compatibility with other blockchains like Wax, Tron, and Ethereum.
This has fostered a very open, fervent community of crypto lovers surrounding Splinterlands.
You can play this game for free, but you wont have the ability to complete the daily quests or earn Dark Energy Crystals.
To unlock the full game you have to purchase the Summoner’s Spellbook for $10, which the developers put toward the energy cost for the in-game transactions (pretty elegant solution).
6. Lost Relics
This action adventure role playing game made by Codebit Labs (and primarily worked on by the once sole-developer Cliff Cawley) was inspired by Diablo.
Similar to other RPGs, you get to choose between a knight, archer, sorcerer, or warrior as your main character.
Unlike other RPGs though, Lost Relics uses the Enjin blockchain to prove the scarcity of in-game items which you collect during quests and dungeon raids. There are also relics, which are hidden around the playable universe and are classified as uncommon, rare, epic, legendary, mythical, and Transcendent (one of a kind).
These are backed up by ENJ, the currency around the game, and can be bought and sold in a robust marketplace for real money.
With frequent updates, this game has a ton of new quests and a constant catalogue of freaky monsters being rolled out to fight.
Lost Relics is definitely worth checking out in the space of free to play, play to earn NFT games.