Earn money by playing: how much is the promise of “play-to-earn” worth?

A puppy for 150 euros, pretty cheap, right? It is the French Dogami who sells it. The problem is that the dog is in 3D. This is the key to a video game scheduled for this summer and sold as “the Tamagotchi of the third millennium”. Intuitively, such a purchase is a bane. At this price we could afford three “AAA” games on PS5 and at worst, if we’re really dog ​​lovers, why not bring out our Nintendogs? This game aimed to raise a puppy on the Nintendo DS. One shot! It’s the 13thAnd best-selling title in the history of the Japanese publisher.

Except that Dogami promises you to earn money by playing. A game of chance? We call it more exactly “play to earn” (P2E), literally “play to win”. No Coubertin spirit here. In the genealogy of the economic models of video games, this profitable game would replace its illustrious predecessor, “free to play”. You already know: Candy Crush, Clash of Clans and all those mobile games, certainly free, but whose engagement mechanics do everything to bring you to microtransactions. To the point that some publishers have crossed the Rubicon by adopting outright “pay to win”, such as the famous FarmVille, where the player must go to the cashier to be able to finish the game, this abuse has burned more than one. From now on, feed the narrative of the sellers of games to earn, this new Eldorado where we would reverse the times to reward the player.

Being able to become a real game

So how does it work and can you ditch everything to breed dogs on your PC? In Dogami, each crypto-puppy is an NFT, a unique token registered in a blockchain. So you can give it away. The more quality breeding you provide, the more valuable it becomes and, we come to that, the more money you make. The local currency is the stave. This cryptocurrency allows you to buy food and accessories to take care of the dog. You can also convert your winnings into very real euros, through an intermediate conversion into bitcoin or ether.

In these games, the characters you invest in become financial resources. They therefore require a certain investment of time to prevent them from depreciating. The start-up has already sold 8,000 NFT dogs to an audience aged 12 to 72. A third of them are female, half own a dog and the same proportion are testing this type of game for the first time. The stave has a capitalization of over 195 million euros. In December, Dogami raised € 6 million from world metaverse champion Animoca Brands (The Sandbox, Decentraland) and Ubisoft. We will have to wait until this summer to see if Dogami offers a good return to its investors and its virtual dog masters. The challenge ? Being able to become a real game without being involved only in the financial dimension of the game to earn.

“Ponzi scheme”

Because to this day, many of these games are not fun at all. “If you play any game to gain game, it’s atrocious, points out Daniel Nathan, CEO of the studio Homa Games. I don’t know anyone who has enjoyed themselves on Axie Infinity. “ It is, however, the best known of its kind. With its plump and colorful monsters, it looks like Pokémon. But behind it, its mechanisms are questionable …

“Current players are paid by those who have just arrived. The more cards they buy, the more money they generate, but once the former have made their initial bet profitable, they give way to the latter. To pay off, you need new players all the time, which is like a Ponzi scheme [montage financier frauduleux, NDLR] ! “, Points out Gabriel Mamou-Mani, creator of the NFT Panda Dynasty and member of the WeAreWeb3 collective, which works for a more ethical metaverse. “Unless there is exponential growth, it is not sustainable because, to remunerate a player, the money must come from somewhere and, instead, another player loses it”, a good connoisseur abounds.

Offshoring 3.0

The game experienced a strong development during the pandemic in the Philippines, where many unemployed and confined workers found an attractive source of income in Axie. As reported by France 24 in February: “Lumabi plays two hours a day in the small house he shares with his parents and four sisters. He earns 8,000 to 10,000 pesos a month, or 155 to 195 dollars. Enough to pay college tuition and bills. “ The problem for those players hoping for additional revenue is that the in-game currency, aptly named “Smooth Love Potion”, has lost 95% of its value in one year! What to question the game to earn as a serious source of income.

At the same time, on the other side of the world, crypto-investors attracted to Axie Infinity’s revenue – but unwilling to spend the day with it – are indirectly appealing to these Filipinos to play for them. This investment goes through intermediaries, such as Blackpool Finance. Some see these “metaverse passive income collectors” as a new profession … marked with the seal of offshoring version 3.0.

Should all these games be placed in one basket? The founder of Dogami denies it. “We are forcing players to have a maximum of two dogs per account”, says Bilal El Alamy. Which, in theory, avoids setting up farms of low-paying metaverse gamers or workers. Only in theory, because nothing prevents an individual from creating multiple accounts.

Play and earn

Romain Potier, Web3 project manager of Homa Games, a young French games publisher who accelerates the game to make money, is convinced that we are in the wrong debate. “These games, and Web3 in general, primarily promise to own digital assets, not so much for making money online. I think this mechanic should be added to existing games or licenses and fun to play. “

Bilal El Alamy, who launched his metaverse just a year ago, sums it up like this: “I think that playing to earn will turn into ‘play and earn’, in other words earning money will not be the end, but an advantage for those who play a lot or for those who play well. “ To reach more players – too limited to cryptographic spheres – would even like “go towards free access to the game”. If we have followed everything, “free and earn”?

What if these terms, rather than describing a profound evolution of mobile gaming and online gaming, were actually digital marketing? In any case, this is the opinion of Gabriel Mamou-Mani. The reward mechanisms of these NFT-based games are, in his opinion, new tools for gamification and cashback, two well-known marketing tools. In this sense, these P2E games could be very useful to brands; hence their unfeigned interest? As for the games that are successful in this sector, it is because they derive directly from gambling, such as the horse racing of Zed Run or the French star Sorare, which is none other than sports betting that uses collectible football cards in NFT. . For the moment, we have not yet seen a real video game that combines narration and remuneration, a real scenario and cryptocurrencies.

But we may forget one dimension. For Romain Potier, of Homa Games, “Buying NFTs and participating in the economy of these games also means believing in an actor and supporting him, a bit like crowdfunding”. However, to reach the largest number, these new games will have to settle for mobile app stores (App Store, Google Play …) and their 30% fee … An impossible financial equation, say the most skeptical. But who said playing for publishers wasn’t a player?

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