Play-to-Earn: Everything to Know

By  Beluga Research August 10, 2023

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  • Play-to-earn enables users to earn digital assets by participating in blockchain-based games and virtual economies
  • Play-to-earn games originated from the concept of "gold farming" in early online games, where players could sell in-game currency or items for real money.
  • Play-to-earn games allow players to earn rewards in the form of tokens or NFTs through gameplay and the sale of in-game assets
  • Challenges include skill and time requirements, volatility and risk, regulatory uncertainty and environmental impact.


Play-to-earn enables users to earn digital assets by participating in blockchain-based games and virtual economies. This refers to the practice of earning cryptocurrencies by playing video games.

Traditional gaming often involves players investing time and effort into a game without any tangible rewards. However, with play-to-earn, players have the opportunity to earn digital assets, such as tokens or non-fungible tokens (NFTs), that hold real-world value. This creates a new dynamic where gaming becomes a means of generating income.

A Brief History

The roots of play-to-earn can be traced back to the concept of "gold farming" in early online games. In these games, players would spend countless hours accumulating in-game currency or items, which they could then sell to other players for real money. This informal economy gave rise to the idea that virtual assets could hold value beyond the game itself.

The introduction of blockchain technology and smart contracts paved the way for the development of play-to-earn ecosystems. Ethereum, with its programmability and decentralized nature, became a popular choice for creating these gaming platforms. Projects like Axie Infinity, launched in 2018, gained significant attention for play-to-earn mechanics, allowing players to earn rewards through gameplay and the sale of in-game assets.

Play-to-Earn: Everything to Know

In play-to-earn games, players typically take on various roles, such as adventurers, warrior, or traders within a virtual world. They can complete quests, battle opponents or engage in economic activities to earn rewards. These rewards often come in the form of tokens or NFTs, which can be traded or sold on cryptocurrency exchanges or marketplaces.

To participate in play-to-earn games, players usually need to acquire the native tokens or NFTs associated with the game. These assets can be obtained through gameplay, purchased from other players, or acquired through initial token sales or airdrops. Owning these assets grants players access to the in-game economy and the ability to earn rewards.

The play-to-earn model also benefits game developers by creating a sustainable ecosystem. Instead of relying solely on upfront game sales or in-game purchases, developers can generate revenue through transaction fees, marketplace fees or by holding a portion of the token supply. This incentivizes developers to create engaging and immersive gaming experiences to attract players and ensure the growth of the ecosystem.

Play-to-earn has gained significant popularity, especially in regions where traditional job opportunities may be limited. It has provided individuals with an alternative way to earn income and participate in the global digital economy. In some cases, play-to-earn has even surpassed the average income in certain countries, making it a viable livelihood for many.

Getting Started

First and foremost, play-to-earn requires a digital wallet to store cryptocurrencies and in-game assets securely. Wallets come in various forms, including web-based, mobile, and hardware options. It's crucial to choose a reputable wallet that supports the specific cryptocurrencies used in play-to-earn games.

With a wallet in place, the next step is to identify play-to-earn games. It's essential to understand the gameplay mechanics, tokenomics and overall ecosystem of each game before diving in.

Unique Aspects

One of the key aspects that sets play-to-earn apart is the ability for players to earn real-world value while enjoying their favorite games. In traditional gaming, the time and effort invested by players rarely translate into tangible rewards outside the virtual world. However, with play-to-earn, players can accumulate valuable assets that can be traded or sold for cryptocurrencies, providing a pathway to actual earnings.

Play-to-earn games also leverage blockchain technology to ensure transparency and security. By utilizing smart contracts, the gameplay mechanics and reward distribution become decentralized and trustless. This means that players can have confidence in the fairness of the game, as the rules are predefined and enforced by the blockchain.

Furthermore, play-to-earn games often incorporate decentralized finance (DeFi) elements. This allows players to stake their in-game assets, provide liquidity, or participate in yield farming, thereby maximizing their earnings potential. The integration of DeFi within play-to-earn ecosystems creates additional opportunities for players to generate passive income streams.


  • Financial Incentives - Play-to-earn enables gamers to earn cryptocurrencies as they play, providing a financial incentive for their time and effort. This can be particularly appealing for individuals in regions with limited job opportunities or unstable economies.
  • Accessibility - Play-to-earn games are often built on blockchain platforms, which are accessible to anyone with an internet connection. This opens up opportunities for players from all around the world to participate and earn, regardless of geographical location or socioeconomic background.
  • Ownership of In-Game Assets - In traditional gaming, players do not truly own the virtual assets they acquire. However, in play-to-earn games, assets are usually represented as non-fungible tokens (NFTs) on the blockchain, granting players true ownership. This allows players to freely trade, sell, or utilize their in-game assets outside of the game ecosystem.
  • Decentralization - Play-to-earn games are typically built on decentralized blockchain networks, eliminating the need for intermediaries and centralized control. This decentralization ensures transparency, security, and immutability of game data, providing a fair and trustless environment for players.
  • Economic Empowerment - Play-to-earn can empower individuals by providing them with the opportunity to earn a living through gaming. Players can generate income by participating in these games, potentially transforming gaming into a viable career path.


  • Skill and Time Requirements - Earning significant amounts of cryptocurrency through play-to-earn games often requires a considerable amount of skill and time investment. Players must dedicate substantial effort to master the game mechanics and compete with others to earn rewards. This may not be suitable for casual gamers or those with limited time availability.
  • Volatility and Risk - Cryptocurrencies are known for their price volatility, and play-to-earn rewards are often paid out in cryptocurrencies. The value of these rewards can fluctuate significantly, which introduces risk for players who rely on them for income. Additionally, players may face risks such as hacking, scams or technical vulnerabilities associated with blockchain platforms.
  • Regulatory Uncertainty - The regulatory landscape surrounding cryptocurrencies and play-to-earn games is still evolving in many jurisdictions. Uncertainty regarding taxation, licensing and legal frameworks can create challenges and potential risks for both players and game developers.
  • Environmental Impact - Some play-to-earn games utilize proof-of-work (PoW) or proof-of-stake (PoS) consensus algorithms, which require significant computational power and energy consumption. This can contribute to environmental concerns, as the energy consumption associated with cryptocurrency mining and gaming increases.