Getting to Grips With Play-2-Earn Gaming
The takeaway from today’s dispatch is…Donkey Kong.
As usual, though, we’ll come back to that.
Not long after I’d finished my crypto presentation at the International Living conference in Las Vegas last Sunday, a group of attendees hit me up with a series of questions that generally started with some version of: “Help me get my head around this…”
What they wanted to get their heads around was one of the big disruptions I see reshaping society over the reminder of the decade—a disruption known as play-2-earn gaming, or p2e. It’s the idea that people will increasingly earn a livable wage by, well, playing video games in the cryptoconomy.
It’s already happening, actually. Let me give you one example…
Gamers of all ages are right now earning a cryptocurrency called Axie by playing a video game called Axie Infinity. That Axie can be converted into US Dollar Coin or US Dollar Token, so-called stablecoins that tightly track the U.S. dollar. Those stablecoins can, in turn, be easily converted into real dollars.
How much can Axie Infinity players earn?
Many are earning $10 to $15 per day, some as much as $500 a month, depending on the power of the Axie creatures they own. (That may not be a livable wage in the U.S., but it’s more than enough in many countries around the world.)
The thing is, you and I can collect some of that money too, passively, by owning the Axie creatures and leasing them to gamers who want to play the game and earn money, but who can’t yet afford to buy an Axie of their own.
And it’s the entirety of that last paragraph that throws 95% of the people I talk to about p2e gaming.
Which is where I call Donkey Kong to the witness stand…
I assume you remember that arcade-game staple from the 1980s—Luigi ascending a construction site, leaping over barrels and avoiding fireballs as he tries to save his girlfriend, Pauline, from the pixelated ape known as Donkey Kong.
You deposit your quarter, play the game, run out of lives at some point, and that’s that. Who made the money in that transaction? The arcade operator who owned the Donkey Kong machine, and Nintendo, the company that designed the game.
Now, let’s tweak those dynamics.
Imagine for every barrel and fireball Luigi avoids, you, the gamer, earn 10 cents. For every barrel or fireball that knocks him down, you lose 15 cents. For every level you complete you earn $1. And you can use part of your earnings to make Luigi slightly stronger, faster, nimbler, and more resilient to the barrels and fireballs so that you have a better ability to progress to higher levels, where the earning potential is greater.
But—and this is crucial—to play the game…you have to own one of a limited number of digital Luigis that exist inside the Donkey Kong game.
And imagine that in 1982 dollars, each Luigi cost $350 (the equivalent of about $1,000 today).
Some people could afford a Luigi at that price, and they’d use it to play the game and they’d eventually earn back all their investment plus much more by playing the game for hours on end every day.
But some people could not afford a Luigi because that initial entry cost is too high. They can, however, pay to lease a Luigi from someone else, then they go play the game and earn, say, $10 per day or $300 per month ($865 today).
When they’re done playing for the day, they return their Luigi to its rightful owner, sharing with that owner a portion of the day’s earnings—maybe $3 for every $10 earned.
So, the player is making $210 per month ($600), while Luigi’s owner is making $90 ($260) for doing nothing but providing a game-asset leasing service.
Now here’s my question: Would you own a Luigi?
Would you pay $350 to own that pixelated character and lease it out every day, knowing there is 24/7/365 demand for the game globally? And knowing that you’re going to earn back all of your investment in three or four months, and that every penny after that is free cash dumping into your bank account every month?
You never have to lift a finger. You never have to play the game. You simply own the in-game asset—Luigi himself—that others need access to so they can play the game. And you get paid. The quintessential example of passive income.
That is p2e gaming. And it promises to be huge as the rest of this decade plays out.
It turns the gaming model upside down. Instead of Nintendo and Atari and Sony owning everything in the game and keeping all the money, the games of today now allow us to own the assets.
We can generate income by leasing them to other players. We can play the game ourselves and grow Luigi into a stronger hero who earns even more money at some point because of his enhanced skill set.
And we can turn around and sell our Donkey Kong asset into a highly liquid marketplace, where other gamers are eager to buy their own Luigi—particularly one which has powers that earn him a bigger payout.
Those marketplaces exist today, creating near-instant liquidity if we wish to raise some cash by selling our asset.
This is why I own a spaceship in one upcoming video game (which I’ve written about…read my past column on that here). It’s why I own an apartment in an upcoming metaverse. And why I own an underwater sea shanty in a different gaming system being built out right now (also wrote about that one here). And why I just recently bought a parcel of digital land in a new metaverse called Heaven Land.
Each represents a very real asset. Some are already generating very real U.S. dollars. Others will do so soon.
This is what I tried to explain to those conference attendees. And when I used the Donkey Kong example, the lightbulbs went off. Suddenly, it made sense to them.
Now, I am hoping it makes sense to you, too. Because p2e gaming is a trend you don’t want to sleep on.
Much wealth is already flowing through these games.