Playing For Value: The Play-To-Earn Model And Top 5 Blockchain Games

Playing For Value: The Play-To-Earn Model And Top 5 Blockchain Games

January 8, 2022

If there were a sheriff in gaming country, he better be worried, cause there is a new player in town.

Most gamers would be familiar with pay-to-win (P2W), an insidious game mechanic that enables faster progress to those who fork out real cash. Players can acquire more powerful weapons or equipment, extra health allocation, etc. -for a price-, thus giving these ‘premium’ players an unfair advantage over fellow gamers who choose not to spend their hard-earned money. P2W dynamics are particularly widespread in mobile gaming.

Then there’s free-to-play (F2P). In this modality, gamers can access a fully functional game, but are incentivized to purchase additional content via microtransactions. These are often purely cosmetic and do not affect gameplay. (Epic’s Fortnite is a perfect example of F2P. The game is entirely free, but players can purchase new skins for their avatar or their weaponry. Fortnite generated $1.8bn in revenue in 2019.)

Enter Play-to-Earn: how it works

In P2W and F2P business models, the revenue generated only goes one way: towards the game’s developers. Gamers themselves do not benefit financially. Play-to-Earn turns this one-way street concept on its head by enabling gamers to financially benefit from the value they create.

Play-to-Earn leverages the power of blockchain to create a fair and open economy environment where value is distributed among gamers.

This model centers around ownership of in-game assets. A core tenet of P2W and F2P is that, while gamers can purchase assets like weapons, skins, magic items, etc., they do not actually own them. The game’s developer retains ownership. What the gamer is purchasing is the right to use those assets in their game only. This means the gamer cannot trade these assets, and crucially, cannot use them in any other game.

Blockchain technology subverts that concept. Blockchain is decentralized technology, which means there is no one single authority in control. And it further means that in-game assets are not stored in a centralized server, as is the case with P2W and F2P. Instead, assets are stored on all the nodes (computers) running that blockchain.

In Play-to-Earn games, the gamers own the assets, which can increase in value in the game’s open economy. The more you play the game, the more value is generated, and the bigger the rewards for the player. These rewards can be additional in-game assets or resources or cryptocurrencies, all of which are tokenized in the blockchain. This is a key point. By tokenizing assets, the gamers can use them elsewhere. In another blockchain-based game, for instance, or by creating non-fungible tokens (NFTs), which can be traded. All this generates more and more value for the blockchain gaming environment and for the players.

Top 5 blockchain games

There currently are well over one hundred blockchain games in operation, with themes as eclectic as card trading, Battle Royale-style, arcade, or farming simulators. Such diversity makes it almost impossible to distill a ‘top 5’ games, because everyone’s top 5 of anything is likely to be as unique disparate as the preferences of every human mind. Put in another way, it’s a very subjective matter. So for the purpose of this particular top 5 list, we’re going to take a measurably objective approach. This is a list of the 5 blockchain games most played during November 15-22, 2021. All the data was provided by

  • Splinterlands – A collectible trading multiplayer card game played on the Hive blockchain, with 602,050 unique active wallets.
  • Alien Worlds – An NFT-based metaverse-style game played on the WAX blockchain, with 554,510 unique active wallets.
  • Axie Infinity – An NFT-based collectibles game played on the Ronin chain, with 364,460 unique active wallets.
  • CryptoMines – Players collect NFT Workers and Spaceships, which they can use to travel the game universe to obtain $ETERNAL tokens. The game is played on the BSC blockchain, with 184,630 unique active wallets.
  • Upland – A property trading game played on the EOS chain, with 116,820 unique active wallets.


We have recently published a series of articles on the emergence of NFT for several use cases: supply chains, the travel industry, real estate, and of course, gaming.

Blockchain gaming is a rising phenomenon, currently worth around $1.5bn. This figure is expected to rise significantly as more and more blockchain games are developed, and more and more gamers become part of this growing community. The larger the community, the larger the value. And with this value come more rewards for the players themselves, who through their effort and dedication, have turned gaming into the leading industry that it is today.

And for the first time, players see their efforts and time rewarded with tangible value, something that had long been overdue.

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