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One of the most popular forms of metaverse games at the moment is play-to-earn (P2E) games. But if you’re still out of the loop, P2E games are exactly what they sound like—games where users can earn cryptocurrencies and/or NFTs.

On paper, P2E games sound like a great idea as players can enjoy a game while making money.

However, the question is, how sustainable are these kinds of games?

During a panel discussion at Wild Digital SEA 2022, a tech conference by Catcha Group, three crypto experts shared their thoughts on the topic. Namely, the panellists were:

  • Cora Chen, Head of China at Polygon
  • U-Zyn Chua, Co-Founder and CTO at Singapore-based Cake DeFi
  • Cheng Guo, Founder and CEO of StepVR
Wild Digital is a Southeast Asian digital tech conference

It’s currently more about earning, less playing

Considering the relative newness of blockchain tech in the mainstream, its stability and sustainability have naturally been under speculation.

This is something metaverse-related games have not escaped from, especially when it comes to P2E games, which are not without their own controversies, as U-Zyn from Cake DeFi revealed during the discussion.

“We see a lot of users playing it not so much for the fun of that, but more to farm the economy, so you play more to earn money rather than for fun,” U-Zyn shared.

He continued to explain that a lot of these games are funded by inflation—the more you play the game, the more tokens you generate, and you attract more people to join the game.

However, according to him, in the early days, blockchain had been created with a core game, which was mining.

Cake DeFi is a startup providing decentralised finance DeFi) services / Image Credit: Wild Digital Southeast Asia

“Mining is actually a game where you do something and enrich yourself but that something that you do ends up enriching the ecosystem,” U-Zyn reasoned. “Because the mine that you do ends up securing the blockchain and makes it more robust and secure.”

But he hasn’t seen this concept of enrichment in P2E gaming yet. To him, whenever someone farms on a P2E game, they’re taking something away from the rest of the community, hurting everyone else that’s playing the game.

“It’s a race, kind of the bottom,” he concluded.

As such, U-Zyn hopes to see play-to-earn games come up with a solution so that players to do something within the game ends up enriching everyone in the ecosystem—like a real-world economy.

More playable P2E games, please

For China-based StepVR’s Cheng Guo, the most important thing for a P2E game is that it has to actually be playable.

StepVR is a virtual reality (VR) hardware maker based in China / Image Credit: Wild Digital Southeast Asia

He added, “This revolution will only happen in the metaverse because if we build a game now, we’re competing with [studios like] Blizzard and Activision, who invest billions of dollars every year on a few games. That’s a huge amount of money to develop a game.”

Due to this difference in funding, Cheng believes that it’s unreasonable to expect NFT-related games to compete with those games in terms of playability.

Instead, he believes that the infrastructure must first be improved before it can disrupt the gaming industry with new ways to play, such as StepVR’s technology, which the founder likens to the tech in Steven Spielberg’s sci-fi film, Ready Player One.

Cora from Polygon, a platform for Ethereum scaling and infrastructure development and Web3, thinks that the main problem with P2E games is that that creators don’t know how to balance the gaming experience, earning, and sustainability.

Polygon is a decentralised Ethereum scaling platform / Image Credit: Wild Digital Southeast Asia

“A lot of players in the Web2 gaming industry that enter Web3 will immediately think about building the tokenomics and they don’t really think about improving the quality of the gaming,” she said.

She also pointed out that Web3 games’ lifecycles are shorter, as people just want to get to the profits but don’t really try to enjoy the game.

U-Zyn agreed, once again highlighting the importance of the game’s quality. He said that in order to make more sustainable, developers should think about creating something in-game that actually benefits the users rather than inflating the economy.

Disrupting traditional gaming

So far, the panellists seem to have been focusing on the aspect of playability and quality. But what really defines a good game?

Considering the subjective nature of this topic, there were some dissenting opinions even from the panel itself.

“Seeking good gameplay is much more difficult compared to conquering the technical difficulties of building the metaverse,” Cheng started.

The StepVR founder believes inventing new gameplay is much harder compared to building a metaverse version of existing game formats. So, instead of challenging yourself to cook up new gameplay, his advice is to just “change another way to play it”.  

“People love it when you reuse the gameplay of Counterstrike, reuse the gameplay of League of Legends, reuse the gameplay of PUBG,” he shared.  “Imagine people running around in the metaverse world to play PUBG, that’s what happens in our arena.”

He added, “Then, we have the opportunity to insert the tokenomics inside. Because then, it’s playable. It’s fun to play.”

This is a theory that Cheng said StepVR has confirmed and verified through their practice, having built a Counterstrike-like game last year, which he said was “very easy to build”. According to the founder, the game had hosted more than 700,000 players in a single game within StepVR’s VR arena.

However, Cora’s opinion is slightly different. Especially to promote mass adoption of the metaverse, she believes it’s important to have crypto-native IP.  

She shared that she has met crypto gaming startups before who claim they want to build the Web3 Counterstrike, or the Web3 PUBG. But to these kinds of startups, she has some questions.

The panel discussion was titled Web 3.0: What’s next in the metaverse gaming paradigm / Image Credit: Wild Digital Southeast Asia

“Are you confident you can attract many Web2 users to your platform?” she begins. “What’s the reason they want to come to your platform? How many of them want to play a similar game or exactly the same game again?”

Cora looked to Axie Infinity, a popular P2E game, as an example of a crypto-native game that did well.

Future of metaverse gaming

Playability aside, one of the next steps forward for the community as a whole is mass adoption.

For Cheng, the way to promote mass adoption is by focusing on the infrastructure and getting the tech into households everywhere.

As for Cora, since Polygon has collaborated with big names like EA, Activision, and more, they’ll definitely be playing a part in promoting mass adoption of the future of gaming.

Looking to the potential of blockchain technology, U-Zyn shared that he’d like to see people utilising more of the tech.

“NFTs leverage immutability,” he said. “The other part of blockchains is open execution and open global stake machine. I think that point is not being used right now.”

As such, U-Zyn thinks the future of GameFi (decentralised gaming and finance) are games that not only do NFTs and stake them outside of the game, but instead games that are done on an open global stake machine that players can trust.

“We’re losing a huge chunk of the benefit of blockchain by doing only NFT for GameFi and the metaverse,” he concluded.

While it sounds like these panellists are not fully confident in current state of P2E titles, especially when it comes to their playability, they certainly seem to have hope still for the industry as a whole.

As stated by Myrtle Anne, the panel’s moderator as well as founder and CEO of Block Tides and co-founder and CEO of PlaceWar, it’s not just about “play to earn”, but rather, “play and earn”.

  • Learn more about Wild Digital here.
  • Read other NFT-related articles we’ve written here.

Featured Image Credit: StepVR / Wild Digital Southeast Asia

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Vulcan Post aims to be the knowledge hub of Singapore and Malaysia.

© 2021 GRVTY Media Pte. Ltd.
(UEN 201431998C.)