online games where people win by playing is transforming the game

The ultimate goal of video games has always been to have fun. Whether it’s Space Invaders or Sonic or Red Dead Redemption, you hit the start button and do your thing until the game ends – then you probably wipe the sweat off your hands and start over.

But a new class of games is emerging where playing is an investment opportunity – and even potentially a means of making a living. The so-called games to win like Infinite Axis and The sandbox have recently exploded in popularity.

What they have in common with many previous classics is that they include complex economic ecosystems. In the The blockbuster Elite of the 80s, for example, players traveled from planet to planet, trying to increase their credits by buying and selling things like weapons and goods. Or in The Sims life simulation franchise, players buy everything from pizza to homes with simoleons.

But in those older games, the in-game currency had no real world value. There have also been games like World of warcraft or a gray market to trade in-game items and characters have grown up around them. But the games to be won take that to a whole new level. So how do these games work and where do they go?

To infinity …

The leader of this new space is Axie Infinity, a Pokemon-style of play created by Vietnamese developer Sky Mavis. He has some 350,000 daily active users, about 40% of which in the Philippines, Venezuela and the United States being the next two largest markets.

The game revolves around cute furry creatures called Axies, which players breed, acquire, train, use for challenges, and battle online. The object of the game is to obtain small love potions (SLP), which can be used to create new Axies which can then be deployed in the game.

SLPs also serve as cryptocurrencies that can be bought and sold on a crypto exchange. The best players are would win 1,500 SLPs ($ 435 / £ 317) per day of their Axies, although the price of SLPs against the US dollar is constantly changing. This has largely has been increasing since 2020, so there is an argument to hang on to – or else, sell while all is well.

The axes themselves can be swapped out in real life to the tastes of the Axie Market like NFT (non-fungible tokens). NFTs are digital collectibles that exist on online ledgers called blockchains, and are best known for recently take over the art world by the storm.

In addition to Axies, other in-game items such as real estate, flowers, barrels, and lamps are also tradable as NFTs. These are all bought and sold using ethereum, which is the second largest cryptocurrency after bitcoin.

This is a welcome improvement over predecessors such as World of Warcraft where trading in gold and game assets took place on unaffiliated auction sites, and was patterns for being banned from the game for an extended period. By introducing a dedicated marketplace, NFTs, and blockchain, trading around Axie Infinity and similar games is more secure and means players actually own the items in question.

To get started on Axie Infinity, players need to purchase (or borrow) three Axes. They are available from 190 USD (£ 138), although the
current average is around $ 350 USD, and higher level, rare, or mystical Axies can sell for a lot more.

The most expensive Axie of all time, a triple mystic called Angel, sold for ETH300 at the end of 2020, which was around US $ 120,000 at the time. Meanwhile, part of the real estate in the game went for 1.5 million US dollars earlier in 2021. Monthly transaction volumes for all Axie Infinity NFTs currently stand at US $ 170 million.

Finally, there is another cryptocurrency associated with this game called the Axie Infinity Shard (AXS). Investors in AXS have a vote in the governance of the gaming ecosystem and can also use it to get a share of the community’s cash. AXS has also seen an impressive increase recently, up to about six times these last weeks. It’s the largest gaming cryptocurrency on the market.

…And beyond

Besides Axie Infinity, CryptoKitties is another up-and-coming game that has amassed a significant following. In this game, players buy, breed, and trade digital cats using Ethereum. Again, these chats are NFTs, which generate wealth not only for the developers but for the gaming community as well. The Very expensive CryptoKitty sold to date, which was called Dragon, went for ETH600 (around US $ 170,000 at the time).

In addition to generating real income for players, up for grabs also create communities where players and creators can meet, share their wisdom, and make deals with each other. A good example of this is The sandbox, a game similar to Minecraft where players build things and trade with them as an NFT.

This low-key economy is driven by its own cryptocurrency, SAND. One way to do SAND is to sell plots of digital real estate known as LAND, which players can buy for their storefront to share their experiences with visitors around the world. In February alone, the announced game that a record 2,352 plots of land had been sold for a combined amount of US $ 2.8 million.

With such interest, big brands see the potential to take a share of this expanding metaverse. For example, The walking dead will soon open its doors on the platform, allowing players to enter a zombie world within the game, in which Sandbox says is a step towards a “virtual amusement park”. Brands like these are presumably likely to attract a larger audience to the platform.

Now that games like these are possible, it seems likely that they are here to stay. Many games have supported online communities in the past, but by adding the potential for financial gain, money making games will potentially lead to even more prosperous communities in the future. If this corner of the game is new to you, it’s time to start taking a close look.


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