Will Play to Earn be the new Free to Play?
Before the age of Satoshi, meme coins, and the overwhelming rejection of acronyms like NFT, we MMORPG players were treated to another awkward choice in monetization schemes. The rise of the once hated but now widely accepted free-to-play model has proven its worth. Will Play to Earn work the same way?
Orbit young MMORPGers and hear the fable of an online gaming world entirely based on subscriptions. Yes, there was once the golden age of MMORPGs, when the vast majority of online gaming smorgasbord consisted of a single monetization model – subscription. It’s been more than two decades since that time and your elders speak fondly of it, but here we are in 2022, where you have flexible monetization options like Free to Play, Buy to Play, Subscriptions, Cash Shops and now the upcoming Play to Earn , leaving you inevitably free to choose how you want to contribute to the ongoing development of your favorite games.
However, over the past 2 decades, it may surprise the younger crowd to learn that each and every one of these monetization switches has been met with vehement distrust, skepticism, and overwhelming rejection. Even the popular free-to-play model was looked down on, and in some cases still is. If you were first introduced to MMORPGs in the post-2010 MMO era, this is all you know. Not surprisingly, as stagnant as the MMORPG genre has been over the past decade, the truth of the matter is that MMORPGs are more popular than ever. There are literally hundreds of MMORPGs out there across PC, console and mobile, with millions of players signing up every day. Crushing a niche player base is the best most new games can ask for, and to remain competitive many games need to offer a wider range of options.
We see this not only in monetization, but also in platforms. A lot of games have often gotten used to the largest sect of gamers on the planet, the mobile gamers. Who could blame them from a business standpoint? And of course, who could forget the many games that benefit from most monetization models at the same time. They will provide a free-to-play version where they will roll out a season pass subscription alongside extensive RNG lootbox monetization and then consolidate everything into a dedicated cash shop. It could easily be argued that this development is exactly what gaming monetization protesters have been worried about.
In the same breath, however, the use of these models has resulted in many games being shut down, additional funding allocated to ongoing development, and many games being made far more accessible to a wider range of gamers. More importantly, despite a small fraction of indie games promising only subscription options, putting the monetization genie back in the bottle would be nearly impossible. I think at this point it would be just as hard for players to sell accepting the no longer free to play ideology.
But here we are in 2022, and what lies ahead is a new monetization model that has rightly been questioned, poorly understood and coveted by an eager breed of gamer alongside a growing number of accommodating development studios. It may come as no surprise to be the author of our MMONFT series and the only collaborator to have done so investigated these games that I’m not an anti-blockchain guy. I consider myself blockchain curious. In my opinion, there are some very valid uses for the technology, some unproven claims about the technology’s capabilities, and some outright fraudulent uses. However, this article is not about my opinion on the technology, but about perceptions of how companies could impact the technology on their bottom line. It’s no secret that games that have fallen out of favor with players are often desperate for ways to move on. The problem is that it’s difficult to come up with new ways to achieve this when so many other games already offer many, if not all, of them. of the same properties.
A recent case is that of blessing unleashed. It would be hard for anyone to argue that the game isn’t in trouble. At least despite bless online never quite live up to expectations blessing unleashed, which was an entirely new game unrelated to the first, still couldn’t shake the perception that it had improved in any way over the first game. The game currently has a miserable mixed rating on Steam of 51%, with an average daily peak player count of 2000 players, down from the all-time high of 76,000 during the August 2021 Steam release. While the game is also available on both Xbox and PlayStation consoles, it’s difficult to see the game as a resounding success at this point.
Now, watch the curtain rise on a deal with Wemade, the developer and publisher behind the “popular” blockchain title MIR4. For the unknown MIR4 is a fantasy blockchain game based on the To me Series of games available on both mobile and PC platforms. While its popularity is undeniable, largely because it’s one of the most active MMORPGs on Steam and has over 5 million downloads on Android, the game itself is lackluster at best in my humble opinion – and that’s me, kindly to choose my words. The most important unique factor of MIR4 is that it implemented play-to-earn features and made them available to everyone. This has led to a high bot count (which Wemade has tried to be fair) and some very questionable motives for players to even play when there are so many far bigger games out there, even when it comes to blockchain.
And yet we circle back to the bottom line. The ability to earn some semblance of real money, seemingly just from your time spent in-game, is a major factor in keeping players coming back. Even in the worst case, when bots farm Darksteel to get Dracos for sale, the developers benefit as long as someone buys them. If you look at MIR4 and think, Well, here’s a game with few unique features, with generally poor player ratings and a simplified game system – could you describe blessing unleashed exactly. So when Wemade teamed up with Valofe to retrofit blessing unleashed To operate within a blockchain platform, complete with tokens, NFTs and DeFi systems, there really wasn’t a big question as to whether it was possible that the game could see a reversal in popularity. That’s exactly what you saw MIR4.
We already know that there are many developers looking for different ways to implement blockchain games, but the monetization model swap is one that is particularly peculiar. If blessing unleashed completely turning around and roaring to new simultaneous Steam player increases, we already know how this is going to end. Any game pushed to the end of its rope would be willing to consider implementing this system. While few gamers likely care what happens to an unpopular game and how they stay afloat, we can’t underestimate these trends and the monetization metrics these companies base their decisions on. In the end, as players who have proven useless in the battle against Free to Play, Gacha and Cash Shops, we might find that ten years from now, Play to Earn will be just another Free to Play.
https://www.mmorpg.com/editorials/will-play-to-earn-become-the-new-free-to-play-2000124949 Will Play to Earn be the new Free to Play?