Remember when Grimes was all like “radical decentralised ubi […] could potentially be achieved thru crypto and gaming” and everyone took the piss? Well, she might have been on to something… kind of.
See, at the moment, a lot of people make money through staking and #HODLing crypto, while others are raking in the crypto coins through day trading. But sitting around trading all day can be both stressful and boring.
What if we told you there was a way to make a living by just smashing through some online games and battles? Sounds like a tech-bro pipe dream, right? Well, play-to-earn games are making every gamer’s dream career a reality – and they’re booming.
Hang on, rewind. What exactly is a play-to-earn game?
A play-to-earn game does what it says on the tin, really. You play the game and, if you’re any good at it, are rewarded in cold hard cryptocurrency for winning battles and/or completing tasks within the game.
Surely that’s too good to be true. What play-to-earn games are out there?
Axie Infinity is one of the main games. You may have heard of it from its cryptocoin AXS. The coin has had big returns over the last year, having increased in value by 7,554.06 per cent at the time of writing. #HODL potential aside, Axie Infinity is basically a play-to-earn game that also features a blockchain-based NFT economy and marketplace, first launched in November 2020.
Other play-to-earn crypto games can be found on Decentraland and The Sandbox, although they’re actually metaverse projects that just happen to include play-to-earn games, if we’re being technical about it.
Got it. So how does Axie Infinity work?
Axie Infinity was invented by Sky Mavis, a blockchain games studio founded in 2018. The play-to-earn game is a little like Pokémon, in that you have characters in the form of NFTs which you pit against another fighter’s NFT. The winner gets coins that can be used to unlock power upgrades in order to make your fighter more likely to win. But here’s the thing: the coins are actual crypto tokens. They’re able to gain value in the same way Bitcoin or Ethereum can, and you can cash the earnings out to use IRL.
Behind the scenes, these battles actually work in the same way as mining does on other blockchains. You have a fight and the winner gets a reward, while also incidentally doing some mining).
As well as fighting, you can race Axies (that’s those little creatures) and breed them to then sell to other game players. The rarer the breed of Axie, the more you can sell it for, but you can also keep them to do battle with if you don’t want to let go of your NFT babies. To breed, you need the Smooth Love Potion (SLP) crypto token, which you can get on Uniswap and Binance.
What makes some Axies rarer than others?
In Axie, you have nine types of creature to start with: Reptile, plant, dusk, aquatic, bird, dawn, beast, bug, and mech. There are also three other variables per creature, which borrow terminology from genes (time to recap your GCSE biology knowledge), with dominant, recessive and minor recessive traits.
As well as having in-battle pros and cons, these traits allow Axies to be made in a similar way to how The Bored Ape Yacht Club’s 10,000 digital images all have slightly different features, clothing and accessories. As with those NFTs, some Axie trait combinations are rarer (and, unlike the apes, more useful) than others. At the moment, there are 140,000 Axie in existence. Some are flogged for a few dollars, but the most valuable Axie last sold went for over a million dollars.
A million dollars? I’m in. How do I get started?
Well, you need to set up wallets, buy the relevant cryptocurrencies (AXS and Smooth Love Potion) and buy Axie NFTs (the creatures) from their marketplace. As the game gains popularity and coin prices increase, the cost to start playing will too. When you tot it all up, it costs over a grand to get set up right now.
Ouch! That’s a lot. How are people affording to play Axie Infinity?
Well, there’s this whole system within the game that allows for “managers” and “scholars”. While you can only play three Axies at a time, you can own up to 20. Managers are people who have collected loads of Axies, so lend them out to new players, who are called “scholars”. These scholars will split their earnings 60 – 40 (scholars-managers) until they’ve earned enough to buy the Axie they’ve borrowed. From there, the scholar is free to do what they want.
Here’s the big question: could I actually spend 9-5 playing this game and make a living?
So, you’re thinking of quitting your job and replacing it with playing a game from 9 – 5, Monday to Friday, to earn enough to cover rent, bills, food, clothes, candles, pints and probably eye drops from all the gameplay? Well, actually, that’s not as impossible as it sounds, but it sort of depends on how much you think you’d need to live on.
A lot of people in the Global South are making it work, specifically in the Philippines. Over there, strict lockdowns have essentially forced people to find less obvious remote working opportunities. One example is of 31-year-old RK Secretario, who earns around £18,000 playing Axie Infinity, according to Rest of World. He says this is more than he’d earn at work and it provides him with a much safer working environment. The cost of living in the Philippines is approximately £13,512, so his Axie Infinity income is enough to live on, with a little room for savings too. Nearly half of all Axie Infinity players live in the Philippines and Venezuela.
In the UK, £18,000 is a pretty nice amount of extra cash to earn if it were a case of simply swapping your Mario and Red Dead Redemption sessions for Axie Infinity. But making it work as a living might be a little more difficult. It can take a lot of hours to make decent money and you’ll probably want more than £18k if you live in an expensive area like London.
Any more catches?
Since the entire ecosystem revolves around crypto, there can be a lot of price volatility. For instance, the all-time high of AXS so far is £118.87, but at the time of writing, it’s valued at £50.61. While this is still a gain of almost 20 per cent in a day, the coin has lost over half its value from its peak.
There’s also a small risk of hacks to your wallet, which would let people play as you, sell your Axie or take the crypto from your wallet, but the blockchain makes this less likely to happen than it is in standard online gaming.
So yeah, play-to-earn games are potentially a viable way to make (at least a portion of) a living. Don’t quit your day job just yet, but it could be a lucrative alternative to playing Super Mario on the N64.