Play2Earn vs Play&Earn
Gaming and Immersion
If you are reading this article, odds are you are a Gamer.
So, first things first: why is it that you game? Whether you’re gaming on a PC, a console, or a mobile device. Regardless of if you’re spending 30 minutes on the subway, or committing 2 hours per day.
When you break it down to its essence, it’s about the experience. It’s about how it makes us feel. It might be because you finally beat that one level, your own high score, that impossibly difficult platform, or your buddy in a 1-on-1 fight, we all recognize the good feeling we get when we achieve our goal.
Sure, there is a culture around gaming, some of you might remember the times of running to the Arcade to see who occupied the high score, and the rest of you might have seen it in some Netflix documentary, and this culture might have been replaced with new social dynamics, but this was never what brought all the boys and girls to the yard!
So, gaming is about the experience, about the immersion of it, about diving deep into a universe and forgetting about everything around, to become deeply submerged in a cosmos intricately designed for you. Many define this as the Flow State. And it’s vital for your brain.
Figure 1: Flow, boredom, and anxiety as they relate to task difficulty and user skill level. Adapted from Csikszentmihalyi, 1990.
If we want to break this down to another level, we can take a look at what’s happening in your brain. Up there, in the Headquarters of You, every game session is, to put it very simply, a series of tasks and rewards, your brain tries to complete a task, and once it achieves it, it releases dopamine.
It is then to get a balance between the task’s difficulty and the existing skill — nothing ruins the Flow State faster than a set of really easy tasks or another one impossible to perform.
So, challenge -> completion -> dopamine -> Brain goes “Aaahhhh”. The harder (but eventually achievable) the challenge, the bigger the dopamine.
If you are curious about how psychology and the Flow State plays a huge role in game design, you can read more here.
We hope this didn’t ruin the magic for you!
“It’s all fun and games, untill…”
New business models surge
The democratisation of Smartphones started to, slowly but steadily, introduce a new chapter in the Story we tell when talking of Gaming and Gaming Culture. Before this point, a Gamer was someone who invested in a console or a PC specifically for this purpose, but from this point on, everyone had a gaming device in their pocket, and the potential to game. Now, we know some might engage in the discourse that Mobile Gaming isn’t real gaming, but today we choose to keep our horse out of that race!
So, what did come with the advent of Mobile Gaming? An array of new gamers, and an astonishing new load of amazing games, which brought with it a new business model to the market, the…
And with Free Games, come…
So. Let’s talk about it. Let’s calmly talk about the consequences of the…
Rise of Mobile Games: The Paradigm Change of How Money is Exchanged in the Gaming Industry
The gratuity of, not all, but a lot of the Mobile Games available, is great for the consumer, it means we can keep our money in our pockets and enjoy amazing Games. But we as consumers might not be very interested in answering the question, “Where is the money we’re not paying coming from?” After all, these amazing products aren’t just coming in the rain.
So, if someone is working to make these Games and you’re not paying to play them, where does the money come from? Well. This is where In-Game Purchases came in. These are any purchase or upgrade you can make to your gaming experience beyond the initial free download.
So, what’s the problem here? Is there even a problem here? Well, there are a couple of questions.
Picture a game. What kind of game, you ask? Well, don’t ask me, it’s your imagination, let it fly! Make it a game you love! Are you there? Great! Picture also, a decisive moment of this game, a tense moment, you’re breaking a sweat, your jaw is tense, your thumbs are in action, you’re about to cramp and…
No more lives… Enters… An ad for an in-game purchase. And it’s a promotional package too!
How lucky! Well, there goes the tension. Bye-bye Flow State.
Sure, it might even be a good deal, but, is it everything you dreamed of for this specific imaginary experience?
And now, let’s keep on going through this imaginary scenario, shall we? Once the In-Game purchases are at play, are all players on the same level of difficulty? Or are some playing more with their wallet than their skills? Was it expertise that unlocked that really hard level?
And just one last question, do we really enjoy gaming because it’s easy?
It is a difficult balance between keeping the Gamer Flow State and monetising parts of the experience to keep the lights on. This is probably one of the hardest problems for game developers to solve And with the adoption of blockchain technology and its inherent new models, this problem might be getting even more complex to solve.
Enters Play-to-Earn (P2E)
The first highly publicised blockchain game model is Play-to Earn. But what is a Play-to-Earn game?
A Play-to-Earn game is a game where the game(s) currency(ies) and/or its in-game items are owned by its players or other stakeholders on the blockchain. The Play-to-Earn model represent a new model where gamers play to gain more tokens or to appreciate the value of their NFTs that have a free market and can be “extracted” from the game, sold in many open marketplaces and converted to other tokens or even Fiat money (Euro, USD or other).
So why did this term, and model, get such a bad reputation? In a very short answer, we could say: loss of experience and some wrong motivations on the table.
But just for fun, let’s go with a longer answer.
Play2Earn is a very young format, it’s still in its formative years and, most likely, there are possibilities in front of us that nobody saw yet. Although, Axie Infinity propelled a period of peak inflated expectations followed by a valley of disillusionment, we are still in the infancy of the model and a lot of different experiences are taking place as we speak…
Let us dig deep. The negative connotation with P2E. Why?
Remember the importance of the Flow State? For your enjoyment of the experience of gaming, for your brain to be able to supply you with all that sweet sweet dopamine. Now, remember us talking about how in-game purchases can break the Flow State?
Well, P2E adds two layers to that. Let’s take a look, shall we?
You have had your eyes and heart set on a game, a P2E game, so you went forward, and invested in an NFT so you could play this game. But now, while playing it, and knowing there’s a possibility of monetizing your time spent here, your mind just constantly goes back to the money invested in this NFT, and getting return on this investment and… Are you enjoying the game?
Can you see a problem here? Now, to the second layer. This analysis is assuming the reason you logged on in the first place was for fun. But, regardless if you are looking to get some extra money to fix your bike or to go to the movies, there’s a solid chance it was just for the motivation of a good buck.
Now, is this really the reason why most people play games??
Didn’t the majority of gamers get into it just to be the very best?
But, getting back on track, if the reason why we play games would become more and more focused on profit, how long until we stop caring about the quality of the graphics, or the stories being told in the games? Of the characters? Or stop caring about our own achievements in-game? Some of us still might remember that time back in 2009 when we beat a friend in Soul Calibur while having no idea what they were doing, some of us might still bring that up to this very day. If it was about making some cash, would it still be a laugh-worthy moment among friends?
We’re not saying that there isn’t an audience for games that just focus on making a buck from playing games, but what happens when the core gameplay is affected by the focus on profiting, how long until the people making the Games we love stop pushing themselves too? From touching us to just moving money around?
From Play2Earn to Play&Earn
Like me, only better
So, that’s when the community starts calling for a new model: Play&Earn. Let’s not take the possibility of making some money off the table, however, it is becoming more and more vital to separate the wheat from the chaff, and to make the distinction as clear as possible.
We are not sure this is yet the right definition of the go-to model but it is certainly progress towards the right model where the core of a game isn’t monetized. This brings huge advantages by removing friction of needing an NFT to play, removing pay to win mechanics created by NFTs secondary market liquidity and allowing gamers to achieve a flow state that makes them love games.
Like Delphi Digital points out in their last report, that flow state of true player agency and freedom, unspoiled by surrounding forces vying for the human’s attention, is why great games stand the test of time. Games that follow this model, like Counter Strike, have protected themselves from the ephemerality of our contemporary digital environment. Counter Strike, for example, remains strong in its position as one of the greatest competitive shooter titles ever, whilst many others have risen and fallen around it. Much of this can be considered to be derived from how the core of the Game is not monetized but just areas surrounding the gameplay like Skins (cosmetic derivations of weapons with the same performance), competitions, digital memorabilia (Major stickers) and marketplace fees are a major source of monetization.
In the end, the core experience of Gaming should not be focused on profit. Ever heard “Don’t mix business and pleasure”? How about “Do what you love for a profit and you’ll ruin your hobby”? You never heard that one? Yeah, that one might not be all that popular! Yet!.
Does that mean the possibility of monetizing hobbies should be out? Absolutely not. But it does mean, if you ask us, that should not be the main motivation.
So, how does monetization come into the picture, if the Core of a Game should not be monetized? Let us explain.
Play and Earn can take many forms and we are seeing the breath of innovation surging. We see two major derivations:
1) Play and Earn = Free to Play + Play to Earn mode. A free game where the majority of players can immerse themselves in it without any friction or distraction but, at the same time, the option to enter a Play to Earn model where an archetype of whale players that have a desire to spend and speculators that look for NFTs secondary market can find their space.
2) Play and Earn = Free to Play + Metagames. A game that completely separates market games from the core loop itself in any mode. Monetization comes essentially from competitive modes, esports, cosmetic in-game items, etc. At Exeedme, we are creating the right environment for these Metagames to be developed.
Okay, let us get to the point then. When you sit to play games, enjoy the experience, whatever your medium, whatever your game, make the most of it, let your brain ride that sweet dopamine wave. Immerse yourself in the story. Dive in the layers, let your eyes swim in the colours of the game. And have a hell-a lot of fun!
But if you are looking to make a couple bucks? Maybe enough money to treat yourself to an ice-cream, maybe enough for dinner, and who knows, maybe enough for some real fancy new gaming gear, probably you should look to amplify the competitive spirit and enter some gaming competitions at Exeedme.
Exeedme is a P2E blockchain gaming platform and community. Using the power of DeFi and NFTs, players can earn by playing, winning, and progressing in their favorite games. Exeedme also supports traditional competitive eSports gaming for titles including CS:GO, Dota 2, and Call of Duty: Warzone.
What’s more, a variety of upcoming Web3 games will soon be accessible on Exeedme’s Web3 Gaming Launchpad. There, players will be able to access Web3 gaming tournaments, stake tokens, and get early access to upcoming Web3 games. For developers, the Launchpad offers a streamlined way to incubate, launch, and grow their Web3 game!